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Thwarted Motherhood March 28, 2007

Posted by Laura in Farm.

Betsy and Martha gave it their best shot, but were unsuccessful novice mothers-to-be.  The dutifully set their eggs for weeks, but maybe too devotedly.  The two hunkered down in the same chicken-sized nesting box, side by side, with their necks bent at terrible angles and their tails hanging completely out.  I never did see them get out of the box, and the amount of droppings would indicate that they only got up once or twice.  (That alone is amazing to me.  HOW can they survive all that time- a month or more- on just a couple mouthfuls of food and water?!  God has certainly given His creatures marvelous abilities, especially when it comes to raising young).

When we relocated Betsy and Martha to a chicken tractor, we gave them some fertile chicken eggs as long as they seemed intent on setting.  After the 21 days necessary to incubate them passed, I began listening for peeping sounds.  I let a couple more days go by, just in case, but the girls were obviously not going to hatch anything.  I suspect that since they weren’t getting up for food and water, that they also weren’t turning the eggs.  That may explain why they didn’t hatch.  (Normally, a hen will turn her eggs by rolling them with her beak.  This is thought to prevent the embryo from “sticking” to the inside of the shell and aid in even development). 


As the baby chicks began to outgrow their brooder, we needed that chicken tractor for them.  Joe and I gloved up and went out under cover of darkness to take the turkeys off their eggs.  We opened up the boxes and Betsy began to hiss.  I got Martha out and we were assaulted by the smell of rotten eggs.  After almost 4 weeks of being kept at 100 degrees but not developing into chicks, the eggs had turned bad.  To worsen that, the weight of the two birds had crushed some of them and they were both coated with rotten yolk.  It was a mighty aromatic walk back to the henhouse!

When we returned for Betsy, she was determined not to be wrested away from her eggs.  Her warnings didn’t intimidate me, so I reached right in.  She went for my gloved hands with her sharp beak, but once I got them around her, she went for the exposed arms.  One ugly bruise and some scratches (on me) later, she too was back in the henhouse. 

I expected that the turkeys would be pacing at the chicken tractor at first light, trying to get back on their eggs, but by morning, they seemed to have forgotten all about being mothers.  They spent the next couple days not straying far from the henhouse, just eating and resting.  Then yesterday, I noticed them trying to sweet talk Percy again.  They were up to their old tricks of flanking him, nudging him with their heads, then running in front of him and squatting down, side by side.  I’m going to have to talk to them about not being so forward- it’s hard to raise a lady these days!



1. Becky - March 28, 2007

My hat’s off to you. You are one brave woman! Having been pecked by a chicken as a child, I still have vivid flashbacks…….probably similar to TSD. I prefer to wait until the chicken leaves the nest to gather the eggs.

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