Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Goldie is a mommy – AT LAST!

Two and a half years ago I wrote a post about Goldie the broody hen. Although much has happened in the neighbourhood flocks since then, this hasn’t included Goldie hatching out chicks.

Poor Goldie hasn’t had much fun. L’s rooster didn’t take to her (and so never fertilized her eggs, poor dear) but, worse, his harem absolutely hated her. They pecked her and harried her until she found a way back over the high fence dividing our properties and settled herself back in the henhouse (okay, the dog kennel – but that’s another story; if you want, you can read it here).

In time, L’s flock next door became unruly – there were, quite literally, simply too many roosters in that henhouse. L and her husband also became very busy with a thriving catering business and growing extended family, and decided that the chooks had to go. So they were all farmed out to new homes.

Except for Goldie, who continued living a quiet and hermit-like existence on my property – and who continued to lay huge clutches of unfertilized eggs and sit on them for months at a time. (There were two reasons I stopped collecting Goldie’s eggs: 1, she pecks; and 2, she went into such a terrible decline after each collection that it became a matter of ‘what’s worse’: allowing her to sit tight, albeit fruitlessly, on utterly unviable eggs, or removing her eggs and then watching her amble aimlessly and miserably around the garden, cluck-clucking quietly to herself in a patently depressed way.)

Anyway, finally, about a month ago, we decided Something Had To Be Done. Goldie was not going to be dissuaded from her deep-seated need for motherhood, no matter what – and we knew that she wasn’t going to be able to take much more of the fasting that sitting for months on eggs requires. So Johann donated three fertilized eggs from his flock, and was brave enough to remove Goldie from the henhouse (wrapped in a towel) while I slipped the (hopefully) viable eggs into the nest. (Johann, who was the first person in some time to get close enough to Goldie to actually examine her, reported her to be woefully thin and dehydrated.)

So you can imagine our delight when Goldie emerged from the henhouse on Valentine’s Day with two perfect little day-old chicks. (The third had also hatched, but seemed to have died immediately.) Goldie’s babies look nothing like her, of course (Johann’s chooks are black-and-white bantams), but you have never seen a prouder mom. And she is wonderfully protective – the two resident dogs and the four cats are, naturally, fascinated by (and probably hungry for) the miniature fast-food that has suddenly appeared right in front of their eyes, but if any of them goes near them, Goldie puffs herself up to about four times her normal size, instructs her babies to get under her wings, and prepares for battle. So, thus far, they are being left well alone to peck about the garden.

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