Friday, 19 August 2011

The Professional Mother

Vera is a brilliant chicken. A brilliant, and tiny, chicken. She gets up to all sorts of mischief, torments the pekins and regularly breaks in to the house to steal stray cheerios. In short, she has character. She looked after her serama eggs brilliantly, and proved herself to be a caring and attentive mother. Ok, so when one of her babies died and the other one was rehomed she didn't bat an eyelid, but when they were right in front of her, she cared. So I probably shouldn't be too surprised by this turn of events.

When the broody domino effect was in full swing a couple of weeks ago, Vera jumped on the bandwagon. I caged her for two days at the beginning of this week and on her release she appeared cured. So it was odd to hear her doing the 'broody chunter' from the garage as I was pottering in the garden. I don't want Vera to be broody really. I worry about her. She has tons of personality, but only 275 grams of physical presence. I walked towards the garage mentally preparing the broody cage. But Vera was not in the nest box. Oh no. Vera was sitting on Flo and Winnie.

The baby pekins were huddled in the corner of the serama hutch and Vera was balanced on top of them like an ill fitting hat. I can't be entirely certain that the pekins were comfortable with this arrangement. But Vera seemed exceedingly pleased with her position, and stared happily in to the distance, riding a sea of maternal hormones. Flo gingerly attempted to rise to her feet and was greeted with a disciplinarian shriek of warning and a scrubby wing thrown over her head. Mother had decided it was bed time. At 4.30 in the afternoon. Oh dear.

When we first collected Flo and Winnie, Flo was about the size of the serama, and Winnie a bit smaller. But they've been here 5 weeks now. Flo is currently twice the size of the would-be mother, and Winnie a little bigger. In short, they tower over the silkied serama hen, and don't really need to be shoved under anyone's wings to sleep. Especially wings that barely stretch across their heads, let alone their abundantly feathered bodies. I lifted Vera from her awkward perch and allowed the pekin babies to escape. Vera muttered with concern as her young charges waddled out in to the sunlight. As soon as I put her down, she charged off after her adopted chicks, chuntering and fussing like the proverbial mother hen. Betsy watched this from the border dust bath with her beak open. I'm sure she was just panting in the heat, but it did really look like her gob was hanging open in disbelief.

Flo and Winnie seem to have accepted Vera's attentions with mostly good grace. They aren't so keen on being sat on, but are quite happy if their adoptive mother finds something delicious,  breaks it in to pieces and calls them to eat it. Vera watches them hoover up the treats and chunters encouragement. She then herds them from food to dustbath and back to the garage. I had to rescue them this morning from the serama nest box where she sat guarding the doorway. This is the first time I have had a broody hen take mothering duties upon herself. Usually, my broodies get over their hormonal mentalness and start chasing any newbies about in order to restore the status quo.

I think she'll have her work cut out when they hit the teenage rebelliious weeks.

1 comment:

  1. lol lol lol

    Did I say lol?

    I have a geriatric, newly gone feral Marans to deal with at the moment -we have a Fox on constant "drive by eatery" mode...I have lost 7 hens in the last 6 weeks....and Sweetie Pie the mad broody grandma has decided she "wants to break free..."

    I despair, I really do...