lundi 11 juin 2012
Summer has suddenly arrived in the Bayous, the view from my sun lounge, trying out my (still new to me) camera. Zooming over across the water, 'Thalictrum Black Stockings', pleases my eye. Plenty of wild flowers around the pond this year and the dominating colour is yellow. Even the huge blue iris we always admired, has turned yellow - a phenomenon nobody could explain us, so far. The farmer is busy making hay, the air is full of that special sweet smell, the Saltire has the same blue colour than the sky. Fräulein Susanne is ready to serve cold drinks. The chocolate dog likes the shade, he loves to be close to daddy. The wee cat observes from his sunny bench. Delicious 'tarte aux abricots' is served, all is peaceful and quiet. A group of 22 garden ladies is expected to visit the 'brocante à la ferme' and preparations are taking place. But there are strange things happening in the chicken shed. Two hens are sitting on the same nest and plenty of eggs and a third one joins. The more, the merrier? I get some ideas from the farmer who comes to woffle the hay from our fields and he invites me to come to his place to see how he has installed his chicken nursery. I come back with clear ideas and kick EG into action. A lot of the weekend is spent to build a nursery a part. The farmer thinks, it is better to only take one hen if ever there were chicken to hatch. He explains that he takes a pot, relocates the nest on the pot into the new nursery and let her do. Next morning just when I want to move the nest, I see this empty egg shell, in the box under the nest box. It takes me a while to realize that there must be a chicken somewhere. In the dark corner, I find a wee naked creature looking like a chicken but so cold and I presume it to be dead. I watch it, I put it on the potting table and inspect the two ladies above. Some minutes later I suddenly see the chicken's leg moving. It's still alive! I try to find out what to do next, look up the internet, carrying the chicken in a small towel on my breast. Finally, I decide to go to our farm food supplier and show her the wee chicken. She says, don't give up, they sometimes look like dead because they went cold but it might be able to be rescued. I buy a red heating lamp and bring the chicken home. The neighbour tells me that they put new born farm animals sometimes in the warm oven at 35°C with open door. I immediately prepare a small cardboard box and do as instructed. My friend comes round to help for the brocante, inspects the chicken and declares it dead. I still leave it in the warm, I can't believe it. We prepare the nursery, get the hens from the eggs and decide to take the black hen, Edith to finish the job. Edith won't think of any eggs anymore, she only wants to escape from the nursery and gets very excited. My friend proposes to put the second hen, Fanny, with her and immediately, both hens go again on the eggs and sit together peacefully. Some time later, when checking the hens, we see that one egg is broken but the wee chicken is dead, it has head injuries, picked by a hen. Immediately, we both think that Fanny, the aggressive one, is the killer hen and boot her out of the nursery. Edith seems to do a good job and continues sitting peacefully alone. The farmer comes to check and finds her ok. We hear beeping from an egg and hope that at least one chicken will be born. Some time later in the evening, I check the hen and see that 2 eggs are hatching. I even have the camera handy and make photographs of the happy event. I continue watching and see that Edith is picking up the egg, I become scared. My friend says, no, don't worry, they do that, they help the chicken to come out. I stay watching, anxiously and can see that a wee black chicken is sitting under her wing. After a while, I come back to check the hen and see that a very small naked chicken is laying there, half dead. I scream for EG who comes immediately and takes the wee naked creature into his hands and tries to warm it. I take the black chicken out and prepare a box with the red light over it. I call the farmer, telling him that the black hen is the killer and he is very astonished having thought that the hen looked ok. He advises me to kick out the black hen and get the last joker, the white hen, Yvette, who is still sitting on some fake eggs. He tells me to put her on the nest when it is dark and put a bucket over her and the nest. I have no bucket with holes but I have a plastic folding box with holes which I put over her all night. In the morning, Yvette sits quietly and when I take the box from her, she looks happy and continues to brood. I feed her with banana and other delicious food. I check the hen all the time and during the day, two more eggs hatch. Yvette is nice, gentle and immediately ready for her mother tasks, looks after them and puts her wings over them so that they keep warm. The farmer calls for news and I explain him that it seems ok now with the white hen. I am busy watching the wee black chicken which is born on D-day, the 6th June -our wedding day- and call him Patton. The other little fellow was much too young and picked out of his egg prematurely, he sadly doesn't survive the night. The farmer advises me to wait for 10 o'clock at night to get the black chicken and put it under her wings. EG comes and gives a hand -and calms my nerves, I don't want that very chicken to be also hurt- he pushes the wee black chick under her wings. The wee one is so happy to feel those warm, soft feathers, it makes noises of joy and Yvette looks alert and checks but she cannot see what has been pushed under her wings. They soon settle, everybody gets quiet in the dark. Next morning, when I come in, this is how they welcome me: The wee Patton is running to me as he recognises my voice and Yvette makes strange noises like 'don't you talk to strangers!' As he is an obedient little guy, he runs straight back to her. I am starting to believe that we are on the good way now. During the day, another egg hatches and it is another grey chicken, but a bit more yellow. Now there is only one egg left and it is possible that we will stay with 4 wee chicks as not all eggs may have been fertile. But on Saturday morning, this egg also transforms into a tiny, feathery chicken. I cannot believe how perfectly finished a new chicken can be born in only 21 days. Being able to eat and drink from the first moment of its life. Starting all this specific chicken behavior like scratching and cleaning feathers almost immediately. It reminds me of the guinea pigs I had. They also are immediately autonomous after been born. Yvette is now with 5 children and does a great job. The other ladies have gone back to normal and run round in the compound as before. The nursery will be the family home for 5 weeks and then we shall see how the first 'day out' will be for them. I will have time to transform the compound into a camouflaged army training camp so that my wee ones are save and secure from so many predators. Saturday was very busy due to my special day 'brocante à la ferme' when 22 garden freaks (21 ladies and one man) arrived much earlier than foreseen in order to visit my flea market and garden. The weather was fine, a bit windy but dry and luckily there were the chicks to amuse and to sidetrack from the wilderness which is called garden. There was one nice lady who explained to have had the same drama when her hens decided to brood together and she left them do. However, I am still very upset with myself having been so ignorant for not having had a more pro-active attitude. Here are the garden stickers/toadstools which I tried to promote for a dear friend, she is such a talented artist! (web address: http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/unpeuloufoque/product/ceramic-toadstools ) I hope I can get back to some less excitement before the next event: our summer party in late June.