Monday, 23 March 2009

The Best Spot

There are two nest boxes in 'The Convent'. Guidelines for hen keepers recommend one nestbox per four hens, so two should be more than enough. Five chickens should be able to share two nestboxes no problems. Except, of course, they can't. The four currently laying hens all favour the right hand nestbox. So, this morning, all hell broke loose.

Belinda is on the verge of going broody. She sits in the nestbox, lays her egg, and then sits on it. If I open the lid and peer in at her, she doesn't so much as ruffle a feather. Belinda is in the zone. Her chicken eyes stare vacantly in to the distance, her wings are spread over the nest and her little feathery bum is stuck up in the air as she balances on the definitely infertile egg she has just laid. This has been going on for a few days, and the amount of time she has spent on the nest is gradually increasing. I'll allow her to sit for a little while, and then unceremoniously boot her out with the others. Up until today, she has taken this good naturedly and toddled off to eat worms. Today, however, the broodiness is taking hold.

I knew that she was in the nestbox, as I could see the others pooing/munching/bokking their way around the garden. I peeked in on her, only to be met with that peculiar stoned stare. Tutting to myself, I shut the lid and let her get on with laying her egg.

Five minutes later, there arose such a racket I thought we might have been visited by a fox. Rushing outside, I counted two hens. Not good. I yanked open the door to the coop, and was greeted with a ridiculous sight. Belinda was sticking fast to her position in the nest, but Mabel absolutely could not wait. So, instead of using the perfectly acceptable other nestbox, she decided to wedge herself in beside Belinda. Mabel is twice the size of Belinda, so it was a little cramped.

Sniggering at the daft hens, I suddenly realised I was still one hen down. After a quick and fruitless recce of the garden, I peered more closely into the nestbox. Yep, there was Mini. It seems that Mini had been first to climb in next to Belinda. Mabel obviously came across this arrangement, decided that Mini was only practicing egg laying at the moment, and was also bottom hen. So she sat on her. All that was visible of little Mini was a beak, jutting out from underneath Mabel's matronly bosom. Shoving the humungous Mabel aside, I rescued the slightly flat adolescent and stood her on the ground to check for squashing injuries. She looked a little dazed, gave herself a shake and then speedily legged it back up the ramp and into the nestbox. Clambering over Mabel and Belinda, she wedged herself at the back. All the while, the perfectly clean and comfy adjacent nestbox sat empty.

Chickens: not MENSA candidates.

Qick update: Mini has laid her first egg!! It's my first five egg day! Woo hoo!

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