All of my chickens, turkeys, peacocks & ducks are free range at this point. They wander the farm all day & make nests & lay where they please. I've had 2 hens.... friends ~ya know girlfriends .... actively working together to incubate a batch of 10 eggs. "Belinda" the beautiful small bantam grey hen & "Ginger" the beautiful big red hen. The ladies have a strict active coordination taking shifts covering the eggs. In the morning at feeding time they are together turning the eggs & having a active loud conversation about it. They make distinct sounds when discussing eggs & nest features that they don't make anywhere else. Then one hen sits & the other gets a few hours to run around, socialize, eat & nap while the other mom works. Then by lunch time or early afternoon they've switched places. These shifts continue over night as well with a different hen sitting every morning with the other up in the barn rafters with the other chickens having the night off.
Last week I interrupted Belinda as she sat to collect her (now 15 eggs) to go into a classroom incubator. She was completely distraught & paced the aisle for hours making a chatter of different concerned noises I had never heard. When Ginger returned for her shift later the 2 hens stood by the empty nest looking at it & cocking their heads & chattering loudly. The 2 main big Americauna roosters that stay near these girls at all times ("Brewster" & his son "Pheobe/Phil") chattered with the females as well about the loss. The 4 chickens stood there at least an hour discussing the missing eggs. I felt really bad for Belinda. I can't imagine how she felt losing the eggs on HER shift. I wonder if the others were calling her out on her failed responsibilities. I watched as the 2 active roosters helped kick straw around in the nest... feeling with their feet for buried eggs. They searched in every nook & cranny of the room while muttering a quiet chatter. Then they helped the 2 hens sit & repair the nest. Each of the 4 took turns digging out the nest & sculpting it into a small dish shape in the straw. Its amazing to watch the thought process unfold & the concern, the search, the problem solving & the teamwork between these 4.
So I've since replaced fresh random chicken eggs under Belinda (who seems to be on punishment taking longer shifts & with more over nights) ~plus with their newly laid eggs they now have a full nest again. She's extra vocal when I come near her but I dare not take any more eggs. The females continue to take shifts but now one rooster stands vigil at all times. He won't leave within 5 feet of the hen on shift.
In 21 days.... I can't wait to see the teamwork between the mothers unfold as chicks start to hatch. Come to the farm and watch these hens work together yourself..... see it for yourself.... you'll never look at chickens the same way again....