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Mother hens for all seasons

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What do you tell a chicken who starts sitting on a pile of eggs just as the weather starts getting cooler?

What do you tell her sister who moves in next to her in the row of laying nests on her own pile of eggs?

Spring is the perfect time, days are getting longer, everything is starting to grow. These chickens, however, are sitting tight in their roosts, watching the earlier sunsets.

Our latest batch of chickens came of age last month. Up until this roosting rebellion, they were giving us four or five eggs a day. One or two must have been a rooster. Our plan all along had been to weed out the roosters as soon as they crowed.

Roosters protect their brood, sometimes attacking anyone who comes too close to their girls, to feed them, or fill the water tank, or ... collect the eggs.

Discovering the nesting chickens, my daughter noted the scientific significance, and announced we were keeping the roosters and letting the momma hens stay glued to their piles. We bought eggs for the first time in months last week.

Our wooden and wire chicken house has but four laying nests, nice straw filled cubbies, three feet off the ground with a panoramic view of the coop. Cracked corn and fresh water are close by. There's an old ladder they climb to reach their nests.

Since the mommas have staked their claim to half of the house sites, the 10 other chickens have been raising a ruckus. "Where are we supposed to go?" and "How are we going to get there?"

I built another ladder just for them, so they can reach the remaining nests without having to get pecked by the old-timer nesters as they tip-toe across the front of the little boxes. Pecking order was invented in the chicken coop. Not in ours, though. Usually the top chicken rushes the compost bucket when I take them breakfast. She's the first to the left-overs. But now the regal queen mothers (to-be) sit in their high rises watching the action. Are they the big bosses? What about the rooster, watching, waiting, but not yet waking the neighborhood at dawn? Isn't he the King B or C?

When I asked the second sister for an egg that first day she started her copy cat sit-in, she pecked my extended hand. Gently I lifted her up to see if she was putting me on. She was tending one egg. She wanted to keep it.

What do you tell a chicken who starts sitting on a pile of eggs just as the weather starts getting cooler?

You just move the cracked corn and water bottle a little closer to her.

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