By Lou Bull, Seed Savers Albury-Wodonga
Chooks are so much a part of my family’s life. I reflected on this just recently as we proudly stood by our clucky hen and counted down the 21 days (20 in this case) then hours until the chicks hatched. This dedicated hen (this is her 4th brood) sat on her eggs not eating or drinking until she was sure all the eggs had hatched that would.
We had a high success rate this time – 12 of 13 eggs hatched. We’d purchased fertile eggs from a breeder of Araucana chooks – something fun for us as this breed lay eggs that are a blue green colour. The kids and I picked up the eggs on one wet and wild Saturday, placed them under the hen then waited.
Of course when it came close to delivery day we were looking every hour for any signs of life. We could hear the chicks cheeping before there was even a crack in an egg. We then watched the chicks crack through the shells and slowly dry out, snuggled under the warmth of the mothers body. Mother hen stayed put for 3 days until she was sure the chicks were ready to move and head out to eat. With luck this hatching occurred on a weekend – perfect timing for the kids to spend hours in the chook pen watching, cuddling and observing these fluffy delights.
The kids watched as the chicks would fall asleep in an instant – falling on their faces when tired. They heard mother hen cluck in different ways to indicate food or safety. They watched as the chicks tried very hard to scratch like their mother but would often topple over in their exuberance.
Sadly one chick died – I was impressed by the resilience my kids showed about this and pondered on their understanding of the natural cycles of life. I love that we have these animals in our backyard, that we have hens that go clucky (not all breeds do) and that the kids get to experience the joys and sorrows of life.
I also laugh that we have one old bantam hen that has now learnt to come to the back door when the kids get home from school. I rely on the eggs our chooks give us so regularly as part of meals and cooking but I love even more what they teach my kids without them even being aware.