This is my pet hen, Stripey.
She’s not looking too plump right now. Her usually cherry-red comb has faded and her eyes are dull.
She’d not sick, Thank G-d. It’s just that she’s been sitting on a nest full of eggs for the last 16 days. During that period, she’s barely eaten or drunk. She rises briefly only once a day to stretch her wings and do her business. Then she sits right back down.
Average incubation time is 21 days, so we’re almost at the finish line! The big day is around next Monday.
See this video, filmed on Day 6.
Seeing Stripey live out her maternal urges fills me with awe. Like most heritage-bred chickens, Stripey was hatched in an incubator and never knew her mother.
The dedicated and skilled care she’s providing to her eggs is purely from instinct! She’s never seen a mother hen nor read a parenting book!
But I have secret. I will tell you, if you promise not to tell Stripey.
Her eggs are most likely “duds.”
On Day 10 I snuck out the eggs from her nest and “candled” them. This is a recommended procedure whereby you shine a flashlight through incubating eggs in order to determine which ones contain developing chicks.
As far as I could tell from my repeated candling efforts, NONE of Stripey’s eggs are viable. It is not unusual to get a hatch rate as low as 30%, but 0% is extremely disappointing.
I bought the eggs from a breeder, since we don’t have a rooster. So I contacted the breeder to tell him. He said this happens sometimes. He’s a mensch, so he immediately offered to compensate me with either fresh eggs or newly hatched chicks.
He said I should throw the current batch away, lest they turn into “rotten eggs” and stink up my place.
Even though it makes sense to cut our losses and take a few chicks instead, I couldn’t do it.
I’m too moved by her dedication to her goal of motherhood.
I ignored the breeder’s advice. Instead of taking her eggs away, everyday I visit Stripey and coo encouraging words to her as she sits and sits in the stifling July heat. I tell her I’m proud of her.
Why? Because I’ve been there.
In the saggy middle of a long, exhausting project with increasingly unpromising prospects – holding on to faith that this will somehow, miraculously work out.
As an entrepreneur, activist, adventurer and creative type, that’s pretty much the story of my life.
I have been so grateful to the people who’ve stood by me and encouraged me when, logically, all was lost. They believed in me not one iota less even when whatever I’d started was shaping up to be a total flop.
And sometimes they were right! Sometimes amazing things hatched out of my endeavors (often not the outcome I expected, but amazing things nevertheless).
I want to be that person for Stripey.
It may be nonsensical, yet it’s meaningful to me.
And what will happen after Day 21?
Stay tuned if you want to find out.
My name is Naomi and this is my tiny little farm in the heart of the rapidly growing city of Beit Shemesh, Israel. I enjoy growing, making and processing as much of my family's food and household essentials as possible, while nurturing a biodiverse ecosystem filled with beauty and life.