Two weeks ago we schlepped out the back of Sydney somewhere and picked up a dozen fertilised Light Sussex eggs. Cappers carefully marked them with a small X and then we placed 8 of them in the ‘unfavourite’ nesting box for Benjamin, our broody Wynandotte bantum hen, to discover.
She has been in seventh heaven ever since. She’s going to be a mum! She diligently turns her eggs over every morning and every evening and squawks madly if anyone approaches her stash. She waits patiently in a tranquil state, only getting up to have a quick meal and to make sure she doesn’t soil her nest.
Even though the nesting box that Benjamin is sitting in is the one that the hens usually avoid for reasons known only to them (preferring to lay all their eggs in one basket, it would seem), the other girls have taken to laying their eggs in Benji’s nest. When she gets up in the morning, they slip in and add to her brood. Perhaps they’re cheekily trying for a surrogacy, but Benji doesn’t seem to mind. We found her sitting on 11 eggs this morning – not bad for a little bantum mumma. Cappers thinks that the other hens are sitting on the eggs to “give Benjamin a break”. I like to think that’s true.
One day we came out too the coop and noticed that one of the X eggs had curiously been moved across to the other nesting box. Strange. We marked it with a red dot and quickly put it back under Benjamin (who pecked my hand sharply in gratitude). The next day we discovered that the red-dot egg was broken under Benjamin. It seems she was doing a little culling of her own and we got in her way the day before. We had to move her out while we cleaned up her nest. She went completely bonkers and only went quiet when she was back on her eggs. I’m fascinated that she instinctively knows what to do. Mothering, huh?
So, there she sits, out in the hen house, waiting and waiting for 21 days while life goes on around her. A mum to be of seven, we hope. Her babies will grow bigger than she is within the week, all oddly white and black and looking nothing at all like their mother whatsoever. But she won’t mind a bit.