From Our Archives
GENE LOGSDON (1931 – 2016)
The Contrary Farmer
The odds were against Uno ever coming into existence. With the cost of chicks from hatcheries getting higher, we decided to try to get one of our hens to hatch the few chicks we needed every year to replenish our little flock. But the commercial breeds of chickens we were raising have had the hatching instinct all but bred out of them. Egg factories do not want hens that quit laying every year to hatch out a clutch of eggs as nature intended hens to do. So we started experimenting with old fashioned breeds that still carry the mothering instinct. We tried Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds and finally Buff Orphingtons but not with much luck. A hen might start to set on eggs, but grow disinterested before the 21-day hatching period was up. Or if I separated a setting hen and eggs away from the other hens to keep them from bothering her, she would get antsy for company and not stay on the nest.
But this Spring, Buffy, one of our Buff Orphingtons, finally got serious about hatching some eggs. She took over one of the three nests in the coop and would not budge off the eggs in it. Other hens squeezed in beside her and laid more eggs and Buffy appropriated them too. I thought about marking the first dozen eggs and taking out the rest, but I didn’t want to bother her and since we had more eggs than we needed anyway, I just let nature take her course, hit or miss. Eventually Buffy got so cross that the other hens went to the other nests to lay their eggs. By then there were 18 eggs under Buffy, laid over a period of a week or so. Obviously, not all of them were going to hatch at the same time if they hatched at all. How would Buffy handle that?
In the prescribed time, one of the eggs hatched. I knew when I discovered Buffy down on the floor of the coop guarding that one tiny chick from the other hens. How the chick got to the floor, three feet from the nest, I don’t know. The other eggs were in various stages of development, but Buffy was totally taken up with her one chick and no longer interested in them. Out of 18 eggs, one chick. So I named it Uno. Turned out it was a she.
Uno was still in a precarious situation, what with a dozen hens not at all appreciating a cheeping baby in their midst. Uno stayed under Buffy most of the time for the first two weeks, warm, snug, and obviously happy. Often she stuck her head out Buffy’s protective feathers and occasionally, just for fun it seemed, she would dart out and streak around the coop, dodging hens and cheeping piercingly if one of them threatened to peck her. The cheep would bring Buffy to the rescue, her feathers ruffled up threateningly. Uno, back in the safe refuge under Buffy’s wings, seemed to be almost sticking her tongue out at the other hens. I decided to put Buffy and Uno with the pullets separated from the hens in the other side of the coop. The younger chickens were a little more accommodating.