And then there were 5!

Today was incredibly exciting. There really isn’t anything quite like the excitement of waiting to see if a broody has been successful. When I first arrived this morning, I spotted one eggshell so I knew Leia has managed to hatch one. Considering how she mucked about at the start, I was amazed she had got one at all! I settled in to see if anymore would appear.

About half an hour later, as Leia shuffled around, I thought I spotted a leg. I wasn’t sure and there was no way I was going to put my hand in to check! When Leia next moved, I spotted it! There were definitely two chicks! Using a long stick, I managed to extract the old eggshell. The stick received several nasty pecks from Leia! It’s important to remove the eggshell as it can impede other chicks from getting out. Cliff unfortunately lost one of his chicks when an old eggshell enclosed another unhatched egg. When the chick tried to get out, it couldn’t get through both shells. When both fluffy chicks stuck their heads out from underneath Leia, it was such a beautiful sight.

Bradley called me over to see his new pond – he has worked really hard on it and it looks great. He has added bedding plants around the edge as well as artistically adding branches around and over the pond. Rather inspired, I decided to try and do something similar for the mini pond. But knowing Leia may have got more chicks out, I popped back to see what was happening.

Again Leia shuffled around on her nest and I spotted one egg being shifted around easily as both chicks clambered over it. Seized with a suspicion, I used the stick again and rolled the egg out. It was empty, meaning there must be another chick hidden under Leia somewhere. A little while later, I was lucky enough to see all three peeking out between Leia’s feathers.

I spent quite a while happily watching the chicks play with Leia when suddenly something moved. I couldn’t believe it when I spotted a fourth chick, still slightly damp stick its head out from between Leia’s feathers. Four chicks from eight eggs under a broody is an excellent hatch rate and equalled the highest hatch rate we have ever had.

Steve appeared and asked how it was going. Bravely (or foolishly depending on your viewpoint) he reached in and furtled under Leia. She took extreme exception to being moved, pecking him several times. As Steve moved her, I counted five balls of yellow fluff! He removed the old eggshells and the remaining eggs. One at a time, he listened to the two fertile eggs, to see if he could hear any cheeping or tapping from inside the eggs. Steve thought he heard a tap from one but wasn’t sure about the other. He replaced the two fertile eggs and we got rid of Rey’s old egg. I left Leia to her chicks as she had been disturbed enough for one day. The remaining two eggs may hatch by tomorrow but if they don’t they will need removing so that Leia will focus on her chicks rather than trying to hatch the eggs.

Inspired by Bradley’s pond, I set about organising the branches I had scavenged last night. I used some of the bigger ones to create a wooden barrier at the end of the bog garden and another to form a wooden bridge across the pond. The remaining smaller sticks and branches I used to build up the frog house. It will look better once there are more plants in between the stones and branches. But I am pleased with how the bog garden is developing. The mini pond needs some plants in it besides the oxygenating plant I put in. I have debated about a dwarf water lily but they like still water and I want to have a pond pump like in the big pond. Oh well, a conundrum for another day.

The sun had made an appearance and I walked up to the pond to see how the pump was doing. It has worked intermittently with cloud cover but in the sun, the fountain runs continuously at a height of nearly 2 foot. It makes a beautiful sound as the water cascades back into the pond.

Remembering Phil’s suggestion about making a stumpery for the allotment, I ambled home to do some research. Apparently, it’s quite easy to build, made of different logs, branches and sticks of all shapes, sizes and types. Ideally a stumpery should be built in a shady area and the addition of ferns and other shade loving plants planted around the logs will create a dramatic effect. There is a perfect spot for a stumpery on our plot, behind the willow arch in a small triangular bed. The decking boards will mark the edge of stumpery and stop any of the ferns spreading. I’ve asked Bradley and another friend to keep an eye out for old logs or branches that would be suitable for a stumpery. Hopefully we will be able to source enough wood to build the stumpery this summer.

So the plan for tomorrow is to check if Leia has produced anymore chicks, do some weeding and a full hive check if the weather doesn’t close in.

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