The broody death stare

We walked down to the allotment really late today in order to try to do a few jobs without meeting too many people. My husband made a start on feeding the chicks whilst I wrestled with the shackles on the sail. The very high wind that had been blowing all day yesterday continues and I was worried for the shed. Not the sail. Part of me had visions of my shed sailing off into the distance. Sail down and put safely in the shed, I breathed a sign of relief.

Over in the distance, I saw my husband kneeling by Leia and Rey’s coop. I dashed across to see him being glared at by a very grumpy Leia who was still sitting determinedly in the nest box. Leia’s expression was more than slightly reminiscent of Emily’s. I call it the Broody Death Stare. I know that Leia isn’t biologically Emily’s daughter. But judging from her Broody Death Stare, Leia is channelling Emily’s strongest (and most scary!) broody instincts!

We stopped to have a chat about what we would do about eggs for Leia. Previous years we have ordered online and they have come through the post. With current post issues due to the pandemic, it seemed more risky than usual. The hatching rate of fertile eggs sent through the post is, rather unsurprisingly, significantly lower than if we got hatching eggs locally. All it needs is for one part of the postal process to be delayed and the chance of a successful hatch are minimal. A further complication was that there aren’t many hatching eggs available in the breeds I particularly wanted to try. We spent some time going back and forth before Phil stopped by and suggested we try for white leghorns. He also generously offered to let us have some eggs from his white leghorns. If we chose those hatching eggs, it would mean the furthest the eggs would travel would be the length of the community garden. It was too good an offer to miss and we went to collect the eggs.

My husband disappeared off to collect the eggs from the smaller coop on Phil’s plot whilst I went into Mick the Greek’s coop to do battle with the cockerel in there. Some cockerels, like the one on Phil’s plot, are lovely and gentle. Some, on the other hand, have a seriously evil look and can terrorise their owners. The other cockerel in Mick the Greek’s coop has a serious attitude problem. I have had a run in with it before so I knew what to expect. I got into the coop easily enough, and kept a close eye on the cockerel. I have informally decided to call him Mussolini. He took extreme exception to my trainers and spent several minutes repeatedly trying to attack my feet. Despite his best efforts, I managed to collect two eggs and escaped with impunity.

Next job was to take Leia off her nest and put in the new eggs. Neither of us liked the idea of having to reach into the nest box and extract an irate chicken. Courageously, my husband reached in and managed to drag Leia out of the nest box. She wasn’t impressed. Quickly reaching in, I placed eight white leghorn eggs around the sole egg Leia had already been sitting on. It was one of Rey’s and clearly would never hatch, but broody chickens will sit on any egg they can find. An interest fact about broody chickens is that they prefer to sit on an odd number of eggs. Between us, we had managed to collect eight hatching eggs so I left Rey’s egg in the nest to make it up to nine total.

Carefully, my husband placed Leia back in the nest box. Rey was oggling the eggs, looking confused about how suddenly there could be so many white eggs. We shut the door and left them for a couple of minutes so Leia could peacefully go back to her eggs. A few minutes later, I slowly opened the door to the nest box a crack. Leia was standing over the eggs, cautiously moving them around with her beak. Then with a loud ruffling of feathers, she lowered herself onto the eggs, giving me the broody death stare as she did so. Rey just stood near the door looking rather nonplussed about the entire process.

And there you have it folks! We will know in three weeks whether Leia has successfully managed to hatch her first chicks!

Tomorrow’s jobs include putting a new pallet in the main coop to put the food bins on as well as moving the broody coop. I am still trying to source decking boards for the beds on the plot. I can find them but can’t seem to get the delivered or even collect them from the store. Such are the joys of living life during the COVID19 pandemic.

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