I’m a henkeeper. That’s a grand way of saying I have a few hens in the backyard. They keep themselves really. The current flock are getting on a bit now – they turned three a couple of months ago which is elderly in hen terms. I came back from a few days away yesterday to find one had gone broody. Of course this quite natural and often useful, but the two drawbacks this hen faces are that firstly there is no cockerel (therefore no fertile eggs) and secondly, because they are getting on a bit now, some of the eggs are quite delicate. Yesterday she was sitting on four whole eggs and one crushed one.
I confess I wasn’t very sympathetic. She tried to state her case, but I took the eggs out from under her and washed the nestbox. Despite her intense desire to carry on brooding, she couldn’t, so reluctantly rejoined the flock. I’m looking at her now and she’s a mess. She’s lost weight as she hasn’t eaten, she’s pulled out a large proportion of her chest feathers to line her nest, and she’s caked in raw egg from the broken one, which she’s trying to preen off with little success. She’s also lost status in the pecking order which is so important to the functioning of a flock.
Looking at it objectively, you have to ask why? What a complete waste of time, energy, weight, beauty and social comfort, for something so unimportant, and in the end pointless. But not to her. Maple (that’s her name, she’s a rather beautiful dark and speckley Welsummer cross) was quite prepared and even happy to sacrifice these things for something that to her was important and deeply instinctive. Although now she’s off the nest I’m not sure she feels the same way, who knows? But what’s ‘important’ may perhaps benefit from reassessing from time to time.