Don’t ask me why the title of that movie (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) came into my mind as I looked at the little black hen sitting on nine turkey eggs. It just did. From that moment on, she became Miss Jean Broody to me.
Unlike the original Miss Brodie, there’s no manipulation in this hen’s heart. She’s a mother through and through. Her first brood was a single chicken egg that she laid among thirty-some turkey eggs. She had joined the two turkey hens that were already sitting on those eggs. Neither turkey seemed to mind the help of a chicken half their size. It was pretty funny watching Miss Broody try to spread herself across all those eggs while the two turkey girls were getting a bite to eat. Her little egg hatched (a rooster, of course) as did most of the turkey eggs. (That was prior to the raven invasion that’s cost me this year’s hatchlings.) Miss Broody did adopt one of the little turkey poults, raising her alongside her guy. That was the first of my Tur-ckens.
Then two years ago, just after I’d slaughtered that nasty little jungle fowl/Astralorp mix rooster, I found Miss Broody in an unused trough, sitting on eight eggs. Since I wasn’t certain when she laid or how long she’d been sitting, I let her stay on them. Three roosters (gone now) and five hens! Her five girls are still laying for me.
Last year, she tried again to co-sit with a turkey–I’m guessing it was the hen she raised, but I don’t really know that for certain. Once again, she adopted a little poult out of those hatchlings, and I once again had a turkey determined to hang out in the chicken coop. Both of them went with the great slaughter last November.
Although Miss Broody is now five years old and no longer laying eggs, her broody gene just won’t let her rest. She started in May, co-sitting with another turkey hen. Twice, something disturbed their nest, stealing eggs. I could smell skunk. By the way, Moosie smelled like skunk three days ago–well, he still smells like skunk, so I’m hopeful that he finally caught the varmint. Although Miss Broody did her best, the last couple rotted under her. And, still, she didn’t leave the nest.
A few days later that same stinky varmint went after my “red” turkey hen. She’s a strawberry blonde, that one, and because she looks different, the other hens aren’t kind to her. They either steal her eggs by pushing her off her nest and taking her place, or they steal her babies after they’re hatched. This batch was her second for the year. One of the other moms had stolen her first two poults, including the only one that looks Narragansett this year. Red found another spot, well away from where her tormentors hang out, only to have the skunk attack and steal a few eggs. That upset her so much she didn’t return to the nest. For the record, she is now co-parenting her stolen children.
That’s when I took a hand in it. I know Red is a good producer and usually hatches out most of her eggs. So, I gathered up her eggs and put them in the barn near Miss Broody, then left her to consider them. She did better than consider. She made herself right at home, and now she earned her rightful reward.
Five of her nine eggs have already hatched and all the babies are doing well. Number six is working on breaking free of the shell, but may not make it. Hatching is a touch-and-go sort of experience and any helping from the audience only screws it up. Number seven is beginning to peck from the inside. Wouldn’t that be something if she managed to hatch all nine?
And as for Miss Broody, she couldn’t be prouder or happier. Never mind that little Australorp babies are black with yellow stripes and these much bigger guys are all yellow. She hasn’t stopped talking to her adopted children, leading the older ones around the turkey coop, showing them the waterers and pointing out places to peck for food. Good mama!
I’m going to have to talk to those turkey girls. It’s really bad when an old Astralorp can out-hatch them on eggs that aren’t her own. Yep, Miss Jean Broody is definitely in her prime.