The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

We’ll have Leghorns in three months time, if all goes well.

Photo: Mrs Boss on the nest2

Photo: Mrs Boss on the nest2

I miss Mrs Boss. Somehow that small grubby bantam got under my skin. When I let the hens out each morning I miss her skippy feathered feet and her enthusiasm for the morning corn. All our flock are precious but Mrs Boss was special.

Her tendency to go broody drove us nuts in the early years. We didn’t want to raise more stock but learnt a lot about how to stop a hen from being broody .  I also discovered that some chickens have very strong personalities. A flock of hens are not a demure group of Stepford wives. They are a gaggle of birds that can be as interesting as a rock band and their groupies. Their pecking order is flexible. I reckon that true courage guarantees a decent place of safety. For all her independence and headstrong ways, Mrs Boss would collapse under fire. That is why she hung out at the bottom of the pecking order for most of her life.

Mrs Boss loathed the weeks that she spent in the anti broody coup and would hop up and down with rage. When she was confined at Her Majesty’s Pleasure she even learnt how to force the wooden peg ‘locks’ to open to door. Unfortunately she was battling with a human being who was equally stubborn.

She was finally happy when we decided to raise stock. For the last couple of years of her short six year life, she moved several rungs up the pecking order. Free to safely fraternise with old enemies and make new friends. She also raised Guinea Fowl, Indian Runner Ducks and a clutch of mixed bantams.

We had planned to let her raise a clutch of Leghorn bantam eggs this spring. Most commercial hens are Leghorns as they are excellent layers. They are available in a range of colours and, whatever the colour, all Leghorns produce white eggs. I do like the look of a brown egg but have discovered that the white eggs produced by our flock are just as delicious.

Bantam eggs have a far larger yolk to white ratio than an egg from a standard sized hen. This is why these eggs sell for a premium in London.

The plan was not to supply the citizens of London but just increase the yield from our flock. We have enough space to make another run if necessary. We don’t kill off the hens that have come to the end of their laying life. They are pets and have a home here until they go to that great meadow in the sky.

I was hoping that Mrs Squeaky might go broody but no such luck. Then Caroline left a comment on the blog. She offered to raise a clutch for us, under her broody hen.

Our initial reaction was No. The flock was too unsettled. On further reflection, I realised that the flock probably would be fine to welcome a few new arrivals in three months time. It was just us that were unsettled – missing Mrs Boss.

When pressed, we changed our minds and said. ”Yes. Please!”
Last night we ventured onto eBay and chose this seller – Robert . He no longer has browm Leghorn eggs on offer but I’m sure that he will have these in time. The eggs will be arriving very soon and a whole new chapter of The Cottage Smallholder is waiting in the wings.  As my fingers fly across the keyboard these six eggs are travelling across the UK to a broody hen that is longing to hatch and tend brood of chicks.

Thank you so much Caroline. You are giving us and our flock a new lease of life.


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7 Comments

  1. hi fiona ,
    how are u please tell me whats wrong with mrs.Boss is she ok ,
    my poblem for today is that i have a broody hen we placed 4 eggs under her she roled 2 eggs out of her clutch they fell down and broke now 2 eggs are left she has been sitting on them for 15 days now i have recently discovered that the 2 remaining eggs are also dead eggs.i want to share this tip with u too see after 7 to 10 days of incubation under a broody hen the eggs that are developing will become slightly heavy and when u shake them gently u will feel no movement or no gentle rattling sound on the other hand the dead eggs if shaken gently will produce a soft rattling sound like if a ball is moving from side to side inside the eggs now my problem is what should i do with the hen will she realize this that here eggs are dead and would get up from them or should i do some thing?help please

  2. Peacefulmom

    I absolutely love your blog! I found you about a month ago and check every week for updates.
    I’m sorry to hear about Mrs. Boss. My favorite pet was Oreo…a black and white cochin bantam. She had a HUGE personality. I think she was broody most of her life and was a great “mom”. She would follow me around the yard to garden or hang out laundry when she wasn’t sitting. She’d cluck and make her noises and talk to me when I’d come to gather the eggs. Oreo would brood undaunted. Daily, I’d come and chuck her under the chin and talk to her about the day’s events. She’d coo & chuckle and lift herself up just the littlest bit in protest to my snatching her precious eggs. Sadly, she drowned in the pond and I lost my favorite girl. I still miss her after 3 years…I understand your grief.
    I’ve been greatly inspired by your eating marked down foods…We’re doing it here now too. I love it! Its forcing me to be more creative.
    Keep up the good work!

  3. moonroot

    “A flock of hens are not a demure group of Stepford wives. They are a gaggle of birds that can be as interesting as a rock band and their groupies.”

    This is fabulous, and so true!

  4. ChickPea

    Thank you as ever for your fabulous blog.

    I am curiuous about the ‘morning corn’ – our chooks get suppertime corn, but I’d not come across corn feeding in the morning…….but maybe that’s why our Feathered Friends shout their faces off in the morning when we’d rather still be asleep…..

    Looking forward to hearing more news of your imminent hatchlings…….

  5. How lovely, it will be good to read how they all get on. I always like to hear about their different characters and which ones emerge as top of the flock.

  6. magic cochin

    My fingers and toes are crossed for Caroline’s broody and Robert’s eggs 🙂 What a lovely thing to look forward to.

    Our hens are hybrids and don’t seem to have the intense broody instinct. But Nutmeg, one of our new Legbar/Aracauna hybrids, is having short broody moody moments most afternoons. She waits until there are a couple of eggs in the nest, then sits tight on them. If another hen wants to lay she puffs up her feathers and growls ferociously, they push in next to her and lay – adding to her precious clutch. On Sunday I had time to sit and watch – Phoebe had been ousted from the nest numerous times by Nutmeg’s increasingly fierce display and was pretty desperate to lay (of course there’s a vacant nest box, but she wouldn’t want to use that – too easy). Eventually, to my astonishment, Phoebe called on head-hen Ruby to sort out young Nutmeg! After much squawking and thumping noises from the hut I just had to check what was going on. Phoebe was smugly sitting on the nest and Ruby was standing over a submissive Nutmeg nearby.

    They never fail to amaze me!

    Celia
    x

  7. How exciting about the prospect of new chickens. I had no idea that Mrs Boss was so old! I always buy banty eggs when I see them as I’m really not that keen on egg white but love the yolks. I had some food allergy testing done a few years ago and discovered I am allergic to egg white! I felt totally vindicated in my life-long dislike of the whites. My mum used to fry two yolks for me when I was little. I guess we must have eaten lots of meringues!

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