Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live with my family in rural Herefordshire. We have nearly four acres of garden and woodland, all managed organically and to Permaculture principles, which we share with Chickens, Cats and assorted wildlife. We also grow a lot of our own food, run courses in all sorts of things and make a lot of compost!

I am a Master Composter and have spent more than a decade as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council.
I'm a self employed Environmental Educator so I run workshops and events where I talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. I also run crafts workshops and Forest School/outdoor play sessions in our wood.

We try to live a more self sufficient lifestyle here, as best we can, while still having a comfortable life and lots of fun.

To learn more about us click on the About Compostwoman tab and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!

Thursday 17 October 2013

RIP Nutmeg Hen - who laid down her life in defence of her chicks.

I write this post with enormous sadness but also enormous admiration.

Nutmeg Hen, the elderly "generic ginger hybrid"  hen, all broodiness supposed to be bred out of her, went broody for the very first time a few months back and, as regular readers may remember, I put some fertile eggs under her. And they hatched! 

She was the most attentive Mother Hen I have ever seen, really astonishingly devoted to her two chicks and her devotion showed in their rapid growth -

they look at least two weeks older than they actually are, due to her good feeding and care.

I took this photo of them all on the chicks 7 week birthday, and am very proud of it.

But it is a bittersweet feeling as later that same afternoon I found the two chicks cowering under a bush crying disconsolately for Nutmeg, who was nowhere to be seen or heard. The Younger Hens were squawking and scanning the skies nervously, in a way that I knew meant "airborne trouble" -  they do this for planes, crows, buzzards and hawks in general. The old ex batt Gang Hens (now sadly down to just two members, Babs and Bunty) were muttering worriedly, whilst hiding deep under a Rose of Sharon bush - their favourite place to flee when scared.

I looked around and eventually found a pile of ginger and white feathers near the Broody Ark along with a few black feathers from Blackie the Copper Marans chick.

Nutmeg was gone.

I am guessing from the feathers ( and a bald patch on Blackie's back) that a Buzzard swooped down on Blackie and Nutmeg tried to defend her chick and so was taken, instead.

As I posted on my personal Facebook Wall

"RIP Nutmeg Hen, brave and loyal girl, last surviving member of the original Spice Girl gang of five, survivor of 5 fox attacks, Top Hen who ruled with a velvet claw and a kind "cluck"

who gave up her life today to defend her two chicks."

In the aftermath the chicklets were very distressed, crying out and looking around for Nutmeg, and I had the problem of where to put them to be warm and safe without her.  I could not give them to one of the other hens to foster as hens do not work that way, instead of mothering them, they would attack the chicklets. So the rest of the afternoon was spent re arranging various runs and houses and the chicklets were moved into a large run with the Eglu attached, as it is the most insulated house. 

I think it was one of "our" Buzzards who must have taken Nutmeg  as I heard a lot of commotion earlier on, then went out and found the two chicks calling in distress and no Nutmeg, just the few feathers. All the other hens were all hiding under things and this makes me think Buzzard rather than Fox, as when it is Fox all the hens tend to go up things.

At least the chicklets know how to feed themselves and are so big and strong and well feathered that they are ok without a Hen to brood them any more.

 Nutmeg's legacy of strong, healthy chicklets. But, such a shame :(


  1. We have constant attention from Buzzards, but have yet to lose a hen. A sad tale, especially for her two chicks.

    1. I might be wrong Cro, but judging by the way they are all behaving I think it must have been

  2. Ah that is a shame but as awful as it sounds, she died well!

    1. I agree! And she loved being a Mother Hen :)

  3. I don't think there is anything more content and happy than a hen with chicks to raise. Such a hero she was.

  4. awww, I am so sorry, this made me so sad reading it. Poor little Chicks. RIP Nutmeg

    Sharon x

  5. Awww how sad....poor little chicks. RIP Nutmeg.

  6. Oh Sarah, I'm so sorry to hear about Nutmeg, what a shame, poor little lady and poor little chicks.

    .I guess it's some comfort that, at 7 weeks old, the chicklets would have been leaving her care very soon anyway; and that she had such a happy and fulfulling end to her life.

    What a super picture to remember her by,

    1. It is a good picture, and she had a very long and happy life.


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