A Self-confessed Addiction
I have an addiction. It’s a self-confessed, over the top, even in a teeny tiny backyard, full blown addiction!
About mid-2018 we were living on a seven-acre lifestyle block and one of the first things I did when we moved there two years previously was purchase a small flock of mixed breed chickens (on moving day of course – how practical is that!?) That initial flock extended to a larger flock of heritage breeds and along with that some of the hens decided that they were natural mothers and went broody fairly regularly to which I, being a New Zealander, became fairly adapt at removing and excommunicating to a wire box those “jolly clucky chooks”! For those that need that terminology explaining – nobody that I know of in New Zealand keeps “hens” or “chickens” – we all keep “chooks”.
Well, me being a nice person didn’t want to deprive some of the more insistent of the flock and allowed some of them to incubate the eggs and that is where my addiction began. Chickens are incubated for around a 21-day period, which is long enough to allow for the anticipation of the wait but not long enough to let the patience run out! There is nothing cuter than opening the broody box on day 22 and finding mummy hen all puffed up, voicing warning clucks and seeing 5 or 6 little balls of fluff peaking out from underneath her warm coat! Then when she is ready being able to watch the nature study of her teaching the chicks to find the tastiest grubs and grasses, always on the lookout for signs of danger and seeing the babies respond immediately when she spots something she thinks may be predatory and they hear her emit a special warning cluck. Within seconds they are scrambling under her and the human in me wonders how she got such obedient children!
Once my addiction to chickees’ became apparent I then brought an incubator and decided that I was going to be a “mama chook” myself. Seven eggs and 21 days later, I had seven small balls of down that I popped under a brooder heat pad and promptly became mother hen to them. It is fun, but I am warning you now that if you do become surrogate mother, a percentage of those bundles of cuteness will turn into testosterone filled rooster’s which you will need to have a plan for – dumping on the side of some road in the countryside, even if others have done so, is not an option!
After 2 years of chicken collecting, we sold our lifestyle and my chickens went with it. The people that brought our property were as chicken dotty as I am and I left in no doubt that my flock of girls would be probably looked after even better than I managed too! Try as I might though, I could not bring myself to get rid of either the incubator and the brooder heat pad. There was always “what if” in the back of my mind and now exactly one year later I am sitting on another batch of eggs patiently waiting for them to hatch and yes, I only have a teeny tiny backyard!