Now that there have been sixty partridge eggs laid, the process of incubating is taking on the air of a production line. Three broodies are sitting (not including the clutch that went to the keeper next door), and the morning routine of letting them out for a drink and some food has become a real pleasure. They come growling out of their boxes and walk solemnly around the garden until vast clocker droppings come tumbling out from the fluffy behinds. On a dry day, they will dash into the potato patch for a quick dustbath, then grab as much food and water as possible before instincts force them back onto the eggs again. On a wet day like this morning, they meander moodily around the garden, trilling and shrieking.
It’s always very satisfying to see their mental alarm clocks go off, and they can be in the middle of doing something perfectly normal when they are suddenly reminded of the need to sit on the eggs, sprinting frantically back to their little nests. There has been some friction between the broodies, and the small pekin x dutch bantam was initially very aggressive to the other two light sussex x silkies. She’s settling down now, but I did wonder if I was going to have to stagger their morning meals so that they could be kept separate.
Both of the silkie crosses are sitting on thirteen partridge eggs. I don’t know if that is the right number, but I put too many pheasant eggs under a silkie x sussex last year and ended up with a very poor hatch rate. Although I know that there is space for a few more under each, I’ve erred on the side of caution.
I placed thirteen eggs in the incubator when the time came to set a clutch for the little black pekin x dutch bantam, but I have only put eight of them under her. I know that since she is the size of a partridge she could probably stand to cover double that number, but this is her first year and I don’t want to push my luck. The other five eggs are still in the incubator, and I’ll either slip them under her when they start pipping or just foster the chicks onto her when they are moved from the sitting box into the run.
As of this morning, I have another clutch of eggs ready to go. With perfect timing, another of my silkie x sussex hens is now broody and ready to take on the challenge, and a pekin is not far behind her. There is plenty more joinery work on the cards in order to accommodate these projected birds, and with the first sparks of summer starting to appear on the horizon, things are looking up.