Dads on duty: A poultry adventure

Published 9:59 am Tuesday, May 14, 2024

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True to form, my little flock is expecting again. This time, Madge, a Bardrock mix, is the broody hen and proud papa, Chanticleer, has lost his tiny mind with the onset of his fatherly urge to protect the little mother, potential babies and, in fact, the entire flock.

The situation is comical and a bit like watching episodes of “Sister Wives.” Madge is not the seemingly favorite wife, That honor belongs to Fred’s mother Perty. But when it comes to hatching chicks, favorite or not, the expectant mother receives all the care and attention a feisty rooster can muster.

He has become unusually aggressive, charging with spurs out when I enter the run to feed them or lift the nesting box covers to remove fresh eggs. Last week I found myself stealing eggs from my own henhouse, snatching one at a time while fending off Chanti’s protective advances.

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Then, there is young Fred. We are not entirely sure Fred has explored becoming a father yet, but he is also on heightened alert, certain both eggs contain potential progeny. Just today I found Fred giving Madge a break and guarding the eggs while she left the nest for food and water.

All this is probably normal poultry behavior, but as my first attempt at backyard chicken farming, I find it infinitely interesting. We, as humans, could learn a few lessons by studying the way a small flock helps one another, with even the dads on duty to help.

We started the process with four eggs. Two disappeared and I am still searching for them, but Madge is dedicated to hatching the two that are left. If my predictions are accurate, we expect the babies on or around May 18 and I am excitedly praying for at least one hen. I don’t think our small flock can handle three roosters on guard duty.