My friend arrived at my house with her gumboots and a determination to find Aunt Dorrie and her eggs. I have shared with her over the last 10 months or so, the saga and the stories of Dorrie and my attempts to help her hatch her chicks and have them survive.
The search area we had to work with is large and treacherous (prickly gorse and dense vegetation including cutty grass and slippery clay banks). So with our gumboots on and the sun shining, we began our search.
We started where I had been searching the day before, near the lone egg. A little further down the bank from where I had been searching, my friend spotted a nest with three of Dorrie’s eggs. Why on earth didn’t I see this yesterday. Maybe because the sun wasn’t shining yesterday. There they were sitting just under the ferns with the sun shining right through and the eggs glowing beautifully in the dappled sun. But these eggs were stone cold. We were pretty sure this was not Dorrie’s broody nest.
So we spread out a little and my friend was very brave and forced her way up another steep slippery hill through tight and treacherous vegetation. There she found lots and lots of broken egg shells. She had found Dorrie’s last broody nest and her chicks had obviously hatched but not survived. (This is a very experienced chicken friend who has hatched lots of chicks and knows what a hatched eggshell looks like.) This made me all the more determined to find her current broody nest. I needed to get her and her eggs into a safe coop so that when the chicks hatch, they have a chance of survival.
So after searching this particular hill to no avail, we moved to another area that was perhaps less likely for her to be in but easier to search as the vegetation was a lot less treacherous and not as steep.
We searched for another thirty minutes with nothing. So we moved further down the hill. As my friend climbed the fence to search the vegetation on the roadside, I was starting to become a bit despondent. There are so many places that she could have her nest where we would never see her. She is so small and her colouring is camouflaged against the ferns and bushes.
And then I turned and there she was. I couldn’t believe my eyes. She was sitting under a few straggly bushes and was barely sheltered at all. She was all fluffed up sitting tightly on her babies-to-be.
I called my friend over. This is so exciting and I was so glad she was here to help me and to share the excitement. The plan had been to find Dorrie and then to come back at night to move her and her eggs as that is the best time to move a broody without the risk of her abandoning the eggs.
But we agreed that it would be too difficult to get back down here in the dark, so we made a decision to move her now.
I gently scooped her up (remember this is a bantam who has never been held and lives “in the wild”) and she sat quietly. She was in her broody trance, thank goodness. I carried her as quickly as I could up the hill, through the trees and bushes and vegetation and up the steep slippery clay bank and onto the lawn in front of the house. I carried her across the lawn and she started struggling and squawking! I am so glad that King George, the rooster was way down the hill on the other side of the house. He started calling out when he heard her distressed screeching and then the rest of the girls started squawking. We finally got to the maternity coop without any mishaps, my friend opened the door and in Dorrie was placed.
Yes, we should have had a bucket with us on our search to collect the eggs and bring them up at the same time but remember the plan was to get Dorrie and the eggs after dark. So we ran off to the garage, got a bucket, ran back down the steep slippery clay bank, down the hill and through the vegetation and back to the nest.
We collected up eighteen eggs and carried them back to the maternity coop and gently placed them in the clean, dry wood shavings. Aunt Dorrie was pacing up and down in the run and after a while she went into the house and found her eggs. She came in and out a few times but after a while she stayed in the house, hopefully sitting on her eggs.
Now it is a waiting game but so far so good. This is what I like to see. A maternity coop with no sign of the broody mum out and about.
Thanks you Trish for helping me search for Dorrie. I couldn’t have done it without you.