|Still a magnificent fowl|
Eleven years ago Jean visited a small backyard breeder in Raymond Terrace who had a sign out the front offering pullets for sale. Wanting to select a few different birds, Jean joined Les in the backyard pen to point out which girls she wanted. The first girl chosen of course received the name Leslie and then a few more were chosen and stayed nameless. One pullet in particular caught Jean's attention. She was an Isa Brown and had identical markings to her recently deceased favourite hen called Henny. She was added to the collection.
All the new girls brought home went straight into the chicken run and eventually settled into their new home.
Not long afterwards one girl in particular would jump the fence between the Orchard and the house yard, find a good spot, lay an egg and return to the Orchard. This behaviour went on for some months until one day she didn't go home. Repeatedly, we would return her to the chicken run at night and repeatedly she came back the next day and stayed.
We noticed that during the day she had taken control of the couple of house yard chickens and was leading them about dictating where to scratch, nest and sit. At this point she was given the full name of Bossy Boots Yard Supervisor.
Of course she stayed as a permanent resident. No point in fighting nature. As with the other residents she learnt quickly that vegetable beds are not for scratching. Occasionally she would pop into the house via an open door, head into the kitchen to perform a little house work with the dogs food bowls and exit quietly.
On a regular basis, she would go broody and raise a clutch (for some years there was a retired cockerel in the yard who could still manage some work). A relentless sitter, she would put up with all weather conditions and then as soon as the last egg hatched they were off and running. The morning circuit around the edges of the house to clean up any ground level spiders. Then wider circuits to find other delicacies. A rare and occasional rest under some bushes before returning to the feeding circuit. Discipline was robust. No straying out of sight and no bad behaviour. At the prescribed number of weeks they would be weaned. No mucking around. At that point, we would collect and transfer the young adults to the chicken run.
Once the rooster had retired to the great chicken run in the sky, the eggs laid were barren. Whenever Bootsie, became broody we would either exchange the eggs for fertilised ones or let her sit for a couple of weeks and after dark slip some day olds under her, simultaneously removing the eggs. She was so adept at taking on day olds that eventually we just handed them over. On one occasion, she even pinched some of Burbles' chicks. She just loves babies!
Today when we look out into the Orchard it is almost impossible to see a chicken or rooster which was not raised by Bootsie. She is certainly The Mother of Most.
After eleven years she still lays eggs. Not every day but at least once or twice each week.
Last week she suffered some mild strokes and her left side is slightly impaired, imparting a limp. There is also some swelling around one eye. The visit to the vet confirmed Jean's diagnosis. There is no successful treatment, these lovely creatures with their highly active metabolism are subject to strokes in latter years. She may continue on for quite some time or she may suffer additional strokes. Either way, a little less active but still going strong she continues managing the house yard.
|Notice the curled toes on the left fot|