I've never been much of a fan of your average domestic fowl. When I was four years old, I was pecked hard on the finger by a neighbour's white Leghorn and that probably has a lot to do with it. Until fairly recently, I considered chooks stupid, vicious and uninspiring. But then we got hens of our own and everything changed.
I've watched them run amok at Muntanui since the beginning of the year and can now say in all honesty that I love our girls. They're diligent, dependable and very, very droll. I could sit with them for hours. Their behaviour is fascinating and their vocal range, remarkable. Sometimes they dust-bathe under the house and the noise they make falls somewhere between a trill and a purr. It's a lovely thing, the sound of a contented chook.
All through winter, our five Brown Shaver girls each laid one beautiful, brown egg a day. They barely moulted and even when one or two did start looking a little tatty, their laying capabilities never faltered. So when production suddenly dropped over a couple of weeks to four, then three, then two eggs a day, I grew worried. Were they finally going through a serious moult? If so, why so late? If not, were they sick? Were they just... finished?
The answer lay in our dwindling hay supply -- or rather, behind it. I was getting ready to feed out the cows, grabbed a bale at the back of the stack and found... this:
THIRTEEN of them, the treacherous little devils.
We're not sure why some of the girls abandoned their nesting boxes. We keep a couple of fake wooden eggs in there, which is supposed to stop hens laying elsewhere -- obviously unsuccessful. We began keeping the chooks locked in their yard until mid-morning so they had nowhere else to go. When we got a bit slack and let them out earlier, one started laying in the paddock. We never did find the eggs.
Beautiful, brown eggs are still disappearing from Muntanui, even now, but for a totally different reason: I finally plucked up the nerve last week to start selling them. Demand has been so high that we've had to boost the flock with a couple of new chooks. We collected them from the supplier this morning. One of them couldn't wait to get to work; she laid an egg in the box on the way home. And that's our girls for you: diligent. Dedicated. Droll.
Posted by Farmer Nik
About Ewan and Niki
Scottish mechanical engineer with a deep and abiding passion for good food. Outstanding cook. Builder of lots of stuff. Cattle whisperer. Connoisseur of beer. A lover rather than a fighter.
Kiwi writer and broadcaster who hates cabbage, even though she knows it's good for her. Chook wrangler. Grower of food and flowers. Maker of fine preserves. Lover of dancing and wine. Definitely a fighter.