Spring is in the air, even here in the tropics. And what does spring mean? Renewal! New life! Babies!
We have 4 out of 6 female turkeys out in the jungle, we presume, sitting on nests. At first we thought something had happened to them, but then we would see them occasionally come out of the forest and get a bite to eat and evacuate their bowels in a HUGE way (yes, they hold it for hours and hours!). They preen their feathers and roll around in a dirt bath and then head back to the nest. We have tried to watch where they go so that we can check on them and the eggs, but they are smart. They wait until we are not watching and then just disappear back where they came.
Then just a little over a week ago we noticed one of the chickens wouldn’t get out of one of the nesting boxes in the chicken coop. I didn’t really think anything of it because it was a Leghorn and they are known as the least broody type of bird. But lo and behold, she stayed put! And she stands her ground when other chickens try to get her to leave the box. This is actually the second time we’ve had a Leghorn go broody, though in Greeley she was sitting on unfertilized eggs.
Going broody is a huge commitment for the birds. They must sit and incubate the eggs for 23 1/2 hours a day rain or shine (and we’ve had a lot of rain lately!) with just a few minutes of break to get a bite to eat, drink and do their business. They also must rotate the eggs and remove any broken or rotten ones from the bunch. It is pretty incredible this innate knowledge and the willingness of the mother to do this for the future generation. Upon discussing broody birds, a mother of a couple of children asked why would any bird sign up for that job? I just smiled and said, “Why would any human?” For some, the sacrifice is more than worth it. It is how nature works, perpetually giving for the next generation as their mother (and father) did for them.
The turkey eggs take 28 days to incubate before they will start pipping (breaking out of the shells) and chickens only take 21. We are anticipating a bunch of little baby birds in approximately one week or so. We are still not sure how hands-on we will be in the raising of this 2nd generation since we know how vulnerable the babies are to hawks and rats. I am curious to see how well the mothers and fathers do in protecting them. The roosters and turkey toms will get to show their fatherhood skills once these little peeps pop out. To me, it is so fun and interesting to be both an observer and a participant in the life stories of these creatures.