One of my Narragansett hens has hidden her nest in our orchard and is hatching out her poults there. Every morning we see her emerge from a different point of the orchard – as if she is intentionally trying to hide where she is coming from by emerging from a different place every day. After eating, drinking, and taking a dust bath she heads back to the orchard taking a very strange and windy path. She has done a good job keeping the location of her nest hidden.
This past weekend I happened to be enjoying a cup of coffee on the front porch with a group of juevenille turkeys surrounding me when the nesting hen showed up carrying an egg! When she got close to the group she dropped the egg and then proceeded to head to the water bowl. Of course the other birds immediately ate the egg. I was fascinated – not only did the turkey hen know that particular egg was not fertile – but she knew that if it exploded it would stink up her nest and expose it to predators. So she purposely picked it up and “threw it away”. And even more than that – she made sure her discard was cleaned up by taking it so close to the other birds.
How did she know to do this? What sort of instincts guide this type of behavior? There is so much more to the animals that share our lives than we ever could have expected. I hope this hen is successful and hatches her poults – she would be a great Mom.