If you haven't been keeping up with events at Spring Rock or have forgotten who George is, you can read about her early months of life and her camping adventures here.
When Aunty Brown, our aged Chinese Silky became broody yet again I took pity on her and placed some of Isis' duck eggs under her. Isis isn't showing any signs of being brood, and even when she does, I have plenty of eligible eggs to put under her too. Aunty Brown has had so many broody times with no fertile eggs under her, that I felt sorry for her and decided she deserved at least one go at motherhood. She and the other Silkies live in a male free part of the chook yard. The two Silky roosters, now confined to the aviary because of bad behaviour only managed to upset the Silkies and had them hiding under the nesting boxes to get away from them. So with no fertile Silky eggs, and to tell the truth, not wanting any more roosters causing strife in my life (and roosters nearly always do) I decided duck eggs were the way to go. All three drakes live in harmony with Isis. There is one dominant drake, Adonis, the lucky fellow developed the neck ring decoration and became top drake, while the other two boys are happy as the beta drakes. I'm hoping any more drakes to come along will also be able to fit in happily. Time will tell.
Aunty Brown protected the eggs from all comers for the first few days and was then joined by George (who is only into her second or third broody session). The two shared the egg incubation duties and day after day sat in companionable silence working away at growing babies. The fact that I'm sure they thought they were growing little, fluffy chickens may come back to bite us all, but at the moment the little and fluffy boxes have been ticked and the babies are too little to turn their thoughts to swimming.
Once the first egg hatched Aunty Brown pulled the age and experience card and became very bossy. True, she only had broody experience and not mothering experience to wave under George's beak, but she won the day and took control of the duckling. The next day a little black duckling joined the family and Aunty Brown scooped that one in too, leaving George with the as yet unhatched eggs, with no promise that she wouldn't take possession of any fluffy creatures emerging from those. George didn't feel compensated and sat quietly weaving her plans. She came up with her cunning plan yesterday, and frankly I had no faith at all in it working. She sat as close as she could to Aunty Brown with her wing held out ready to give shelter to one or both of her babies - and it worked! George scooped in a duckling. When I went down to feed everyone this afternoon, after two days of offering that wing as a fluffy baby shelter she snagged a duckling. It's very hot outside so I'm surprised her baby enticing strategy worked but the photo above shows her success.
Aunty Brown is showing that broody experience and age do not necessarily add up to good mothering techniques. She had her little yellow "chicken" out on the ground while she browsed this morning's sunflower seed offerings. The duckling stuck close and I was admiring Aunty Brown enjoying motherhood. Then, as I was about to leave the chook yard I noticed Aunty Brown had returned to the nesting box. I wondered how the duckling had got back in as it is a fair height off the ground (something I'm going to have to address tomorrow obviously). I lifted Aunty Brown, no duckling. I lifted George, just the little black duckling. I looked around the Silky yard, no yellow ball of fluff. Then I saw it, outside the Silky pen, introducing itself to D'Artagnon, the big Faverolle rooster. He was looking down at the yellow ball of fluff and trying to figure out exactly what it was. I'm sure the duckling thought it had found Dad.
After a short but spirited chase around the chook yard I managed to get hold of the duckling and return it to Aunty Brown. Aunty Brown looked at it rather vaguely, remembered she had had a little fluffy companion and surely there was some latent instinct trying to get through that suggested she keep the fluffball close? So she tucked the duckling under her chest and tried to look like it had always been with her and she hadn't had to be reminded of her motherly duties.
George just tsked quietly, making comments about old age and forgetfulness under her breath, and knew she'd do better when she took her baby for its first outing.