Almost exactly one year ago I posted a blog about our broody hen, Elsie. We had procured some fertile eggs from farmer friends and anxiously awaited the sound of tender young peeps. At the time I asked folks to stay tuned for a blog update while Elsie sat vigil on those eggs. That next post never came with an update. The outcome, for me, was just too sad. Elsie hadn't failed as a mother but I had failed completely as a caretaker. Not one egg hatched successfully. I failed my girl and I was too embarrassed to speak of it.
Here we are a year later. Elsie (late in March) went broody yet again. It would be the third time since we've had her. Persistence seem is her strong suit. Turns out that is not her only strong suit.
The signs are obvious when my darling Elsie turns broody. The growling. The insistence on sitting on EVERYONE'S eggs. The complete refusal to leave the nesting box. Elsie means business and Elsie wanted her own babies. I wanted her to have her own babies and this year, God willing, I would NOT fail her. All I needed was a little help from my friends. A call was placed to Solace Farms, home of The Fancy Chicken. Even though I blew it last year with every bad call in the hatching book, Mark and Michael, owners of The Fancy Chicken, entrusted me with a dozen fertile eggs for Elsie.
A day before the fertile eggs arrive, Elsie is moved from the coop to her own "maternity" ward inside our home office. An extra large dog crate became her make-shift coop with a comfy nesting box, temperature controlled environment, plenty of food, water and peace. Peace and quiet.
The eggs arrive. A crazy assortment of blue, light and dark brown eggs get placed in Elsie's nesting box. Being the good mamma, she carefully arranges each and every egg under her feathered body and hunkers down for the long haul. Mamma is content.
While mamma is content, I am not. I am the pacing, worry-wart, over-thinker who blew it last year. I have 20 days to worry they may not hatch. I pray that if just one little peep hatches it will be a true miracle and a complete success. I can't bare another failure. Not for me or for Elsie.
The wait begins. Elsie sits. She sits A LOT. She is still sitting. I'm pacing. I'm peeking. She is sitting. Will this bird ever get up and eat? Take one lousy drink? Stretch a leg? How is she not cramping up? Is there a chicken version of a charlie horse? Apparently not since she continues to sit....days go by. She sits. And sits. Roughly day five hits and I hear a rustling and a bit of commotion and smell a smell of the dead. My heart sinks... have I blown it again? I peek in to see my dear, sweet girl getting a quick drink and a much needed bite to eat. And, my dear has left me the biggest, smelliest chicken pooh EVER. And its back to sitting....
I am tempted to copy and past the previous paragraph over and over so you can read it over and over and over, just the way it happened in my office. Sitting, sitting, rustle, quick drink, stinky poop, sitting. I will save you that and skip forward to the night before her due date. Clearly I am on edge. We are hovering over the due date and this time I've done better. I've been hands off. I'm hoping I've done it right. Elsie has done all the important work. I continue to pray for just one egg before going to sleep...And then I dream and in that dream we hatch two fried eggs, a sparrow and a Wiemaraner puppy. (Don't ask, it was a dream. A very bad dream where at least I hatched something. albeit a sparrow and a puppy )
Day 20. My husband and I are sitting in our home office before work. No doubt we are both on Facebook or checking bank balances when my husband says...did you hear that? I clearly heard Elsie shifting about so yes, I heard that. Again my husband says No, listen, did you hear that? I stop. I listen. And there it is...the tiniest, sweetest little peep. Its real. It is the one egg I needed to not be failures. I peek in at Elsie. She is content, quiet, unaffected. I can hear the peep but I can't see it. I'm in tears and Elsie is a mom.
Over the next 24 to 36 hours my dear sweet Elsie becomes a mom over and over. I peek in later and there are three...then five, wait six. Our final count comes in at EIGHT! It is ridiculous that I have spent a good portion of that time near happy tears. Elsie has conquered motherhood and done it very successfully without my help. In the weeks to come I learn far more from Mamma bird.