We heard cheeping from the hay bales yesterday and found this hen with 17 chicks!
We moved her and her brood to the hen house where they'll be safe from magpies for a while.
When we know the hen's sitting, we move the barrel gently into a big cage inside the chicken shed so that she can be left in peace and not disturbed by the other hens, who often creep in beside a sitting hen to lay.
If we don't control this, the chick inside the egg doesn't get the necessary 21 days to hatch and dies inside the egg. If the hen is a particularly good mother and waits until all her eggs are hatched before moving from her nest, the older chicks go further and further away from her and are very vulnerable. Once the late chick hatches and leaves the nest, he's expected to join in with his older siblings, just can't keep up and often dies.
Yesterday I got a lovely present of a dozen really dark big Marans eggs. I wanted some pure Marans eggs this year because our Marans have been crossed with our last cock George who was a Bramah and of course his offspring don't lay the dark brown eggs which are so pretty.
In this photo you can see the difference between our red hens' eggs - that's the light egg, our cross Bramah/Marans - the spotty egg on the right and the pure Marans egg - a dark chocolate brown. The next time we've a hen who starts sitting I'm going to practice our own form of genetic engineering and swop her eggs for the Marans.