A Good Day

Sometimes you just know a day is going to be good, don’t you? Everything seems to work well together, and even unrelated events turn out well. And sometimes, the opposite is true, and we go to bed wishing we had never got out of it because everything we have attempted has gone wrong.

Today, is a good day. I wasn’t sure it would be, because when I got home yesterday, tired from a day at college and a long drive, my back was hurting. I went to check on the animals, and there was lots of movement in the nest on the pond, and definite sounds of cheeping. Mother duck wasn’t moving, and when she saw me looking, she tried to cover herself with dirt—not sure whether she was trying to hide or was securing a hatchling that wanted to escape.

A duck will stay on the nest until the first hatchlings decide to leave the nest, then she’ll abandon any unhatched eggs (even if they’re nearly hatched) and take the ducklings to water. After they have fed, she’ll relocate to a new place and gather her ducklings under her. Any ducklings that haven’t managed to keep up will drown or be eaten by all the predators that swoop in as soon as they hear the cheeping. Of say, 25 eggs she lays, about half will hatch, and of those 13, maybe one will survive to adulthood. It’s a tough world out there.

Anyway, last night I had a choice: 1. I could leave them to their fate. 2. I could risk drowning and try to catch the mother, put her into the chicken coop and then try to catch the ducklings. Mother would then raise the ducklings in safety. 3. I could leave the mother (because she is the hardest to catch) and remove the ducklings. I would then have to raise the ducklings myself in the garage, which is a lot of work and I have an essay to write. What would you have done?

I decided that my back hurt too much, plus I was tired, so I left them. I would reassess the situation in the morning.

Today, I woke about 6:30 and went straight to the pond. A miracle! It looked as if the mother had only just left the nest. She was on the pond with 10 ducklings, but there were no predators, she was very relaxed, and the ducklings were still full of energy. I went to collect Husband (who muttered about ‘Husband-abuse’ and having to wade into pond before 7 a.m.) We knew the drill: First, secure the area (cats locked into workshop while one of us stayed at the pond to deter flying predators). In the few minutes it took to lock up the cats, the trees filled with crows and magpies. Collect big bucket as dumping place for ducklings. Catch mother. (Unless you have ever caught an angry duck on a big pond, you have no idea how miraculous this was.) Put mother into chicken coop, and turf out grumpy chickens (will have to combine the flocks this evening, which will cause them some angst.) Catch remaining ducklings, reunite ducklings and mother. Make coop safe, put down fresh food and water, leave them to settle. Phew! All achieved before my morning coffee. I put my pyjamas into the wash and made a drink.

When the post arrived, there was a little package. It was a painting that I bought online. I have often seen the artist’s work on twitter, and he does some tiny paintings, the size of a coin, and some slightly bigger. This one was of London (I happen to like his London ones best) and it was being sold on a tiny easel. It’s the perfect size to brighten up a dark corner of my study, and only cost £15 including postage, so I followed the link to Etsy and bought it. I wasn’t sure what to expect, it’s hard to assess a painting online. But it really is perfect, and such good value for an acrylic.

http://www.acmart.co.uk is worth a peek.

As I said, today is going to be a good day. Hope your day is good too.
Thank you for reading.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

Thanks for reading:
Anne E. Thompson
Thank you for reading anneethompson.com Why not sign up to follow my blog?

Duck World

Duckling World

We had a mini crisis. I had managed to safely hatch a couple of ducks and one chick, but the rest of the eggs had died (I suspect this was due to being placed over a rather shaky washing-machine—I will rethink the position next time.) Anyway, the hatchlings were safely in a plastic crate under the red heat-lamp, and we were walking the dog when Husband happened to glance through our hedge. There on the pond was a tiny yellow duckling.

Now, I knew that one of the ducks was sitting on a nest in a hutch, and I had in fact been barricading her in with balanced paving stones and old bricks because there were signs of the fox trying to dig her out at night. But I had decided that if she managed to hatch any, I would leave them to take their chances on the pond. I decide this every year. I never do.

We rushed back into the garden, with the dog trailing behind us looking confused and wondering if we had forgotten we were going on a walk.

On the pond, the mother duck was swimming around, followed by four ducklings. All very cute. But I wasn’t sure whether she would protect them when the crows heard and swooped in for a snack. We stood, watching.

Mother Duck and Four Ducklings Struggling to Stay With Her

Mother duck went up onto the island. The ducklings swam round, wanting to join her but not understanding about the ramp. One found it and struggled up, the others cheeped in alarm, all the while getting more tired and water-logged. A duckling has the oils from the mother’s feathers to waterproof it for a while, but as that wears off they get soaked and cold and sink. We decided to intervene and Husband went inside for his waders while I stood guard. As soon as he entered the pond, mother duck jumped off, and he managed to grab the duckling on the island. He also spotted another one, lying on a ramp, cold and still. We thought it was dead, but it managed to lift its head when it heard the mother, so we grabbed that one too and I rushed it to the incubator, which was luckily still warm.

When I returned, mother duck had found a spot on the bank, and two ducklings were underneath her. I realised that she would probably stay there for the night, making easy-pickings for the fox. The only safe place is the island, and the ducklings couldn’t get up there. Ducks never return to the nest once the last egg has hatched (it usually has at least one dead egg in it and a lot of smelly egg shell). I approached the mother, and she jumped into the pond, leaving the ducklings on the bank. I put them in my pocket, and watched to see how she would react. She went on the island, and started to clean her feathers, apparently unperturbed. I took the ducklings inside.

I checked a few times, but the mother seemed happy without her ducklings, and was busy swimming or resting—she certainly wasn’t looking for them. I decided to keep them (well of course I did!)

The nearly-dead duckling continued to look nearly dead for a couple of hours, but then perked up, so I added him to the plastic crate in the garage. Ducks are lovely birds, when you introduce a new one they come to investigate, but I have never known them to be anything other than accepting.

The mother duck was white. I’m not sure if that is the reason, but the new ducklings adopted the chick as their mother, and tried to sit under her. She was rather bemused—especially as they were bigger than her. After a day, she seemed to accept her role, and continues to sit on top of the ducklings. I suppose that when you were curled up in an egg a few hours ago, the whole world seems strange; having fluffy ducklings climbing under you is probably no more strange than everything else. The chick (am really hoping it’s not a cockerel) mainly looks perturbed when the ducklings splash in the water. I have noticed it always drinks after the others have finished.

They adopted the chick as mother.
She accepted her role…
Drinking is a shared experience.

Hope your world is not too weird today. Take care.

Thanks for reading.
Love, Anne x

A Flaming Nuisance

A Flaming Nuisance

Sometimes life doesn’t go to plan, does it? In fact, sometimes, quite major things can go wrong, and part of life is deciding what to do next when disaster strikes. This week has been a little like that.

One disaster was due to the hot weather we’ve been having. My mum, having survived a week in Camber with me, then phoned in bit of a panic, as the trees near her house were on fire. I went down to see if it was safe for her to stay there, and found the whole area filled with smoke and the smell of charred wood. There was a fire engine, and a lot of people, mainly neighbours who had come out to watch. The people who lived right next to the fire had been evacuated, and the other neighbours were finding them chairs and cups of tea, holding their hands and being generally helpful. Sometimes people are very nice.

I decided to bring Mum to my house, mainly so she didn’t have to breathe all the fumes, and also so she could recover from the shock somewhere peaceful. Animals are quite calming, and I have lots of animals. Her own house wasn’t damaged, so after a few hours of being climbed on by cats and bounced by the dog and watching the ducks and chickens, I took her home. Mum is fine, but the trees look very sad.

(When I went to collect her, I needed to drive over a fire hose, and I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to. So I asked a fireman, who said: “Where are you parked sweetheart?” I don’t get called sweetheart by beefy firemen very often. So that made my day!)

My other disaster was a chicken massacre. Usually the fox is too scared to come into my garden because it gets chased by the dog. So my chickens roam freely all day, and I shut them in at night. But when I went up to shut them into the cage, only one hen appeared. I shut her in, and went to investigate. The compost heap and orchard were covered with feathers. Not a good sign. While I was searching, the fox came back, presumably for the hen I’d shut away, and the dog chased it away. But I couldn’t find the other chickens.

Later that evening, the cockerel turned up at the kitchen window, looking a bit lost. I picked him up and put him in the cage. Am guessing he hid when the fox came (not exactly the chicken equivalent of beefy fireman, as he let the girls get eaten).

So now I only have one cockerel, and the hen who escaped. What a shame. The fox has visited a few times since, so I’m guessing it’s raising cubs and has become more daring. I will leave the birds in cages for a few weeks. They are not happy.

On a lighter note, the duckling that the hen hatched is still doing well. I am now trying to teach it that it is a duck, not a chicken. I moved it into the big aviary and caught a duck from the pond to keep it company. The duckling spent a whole evening crying for his ‘mum’, which was rather sad. I have now moved the other ducks inside, so he is getting used to being with ducks. I’m hoping that in a couple of weeks, when all the birds are free again, he will want to go on the pond, and not into the chicken coop.

When the egg first hatched, it was hard to see if the hen had hatched a chick or a duckling!

As the duckling grew, mother hen was rather perturbed every time it jumped into the drinking water.



Feathers start to appear after a couple of weeks.

At 4 weeks, fully grown, though not yet fully feathered. Moved into a cage with ducks from the pond, so he can learn how to be a duck.








Hope you have a week that is free of disasters. Thank you for reading.

Take care,
Anne x

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Do you want an interesting book to read on holiday? An easy read novel, full of excitement and interesting ideas? Why not buy a copy of CLARA? Available in bookshops and Amazon, as both paperback and ebook, this book will both entertain and challenge you. You can order copies directly from me, for the reduced price of £7.95*, simply use the contact form below.


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by Anne E. Thompson.
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Mother Hen

My broody hen has done rather well. Yesterday, when I went to let out the chickens, I could hear someone cheeping from the nest. I tried to see, but mother hen wasn’t moving, and I am wary of her beak. I checked several times during the day, but although there was often cheeping, there was no sign of any hatchlings. I wondered what it would be.

You might remember me telling you, a few weeks ago, one hen went broody and made a nest. I don’t want any more chickens, especially as at least half are cockerels, so I decided to remove the eggs. But a broody hen gets very upset when you take her eggs, and will sometimes disappear in an attempt to hide a nest. I do want some more ducks, and I had some duck eggs in the fridge, so as I removed the chicken eggs, I replaced with them with duck eggs. Mother hen hissed at me, but continued to sit.

Chicken eggs take exactly 3 weeks to hatch. Duck eggs take exactly 4 weeks to hatch – the cheeps were heard after 3½ weeks. So I had no idea what it was, duckling or chick?

Had the mother laid a sneaky egg after I’d removed them? Or had one of the other hens dumped an egg in the nest? I checked several times, but she wouldn’t budge. A very good mummy, but frustrating for me!

Finally, today, they had emerged from the nest. There were two empty shells, (and two dead eggs). I only saw one hatchling – who was being shy. I still couldn’t be sure if it was a duckling or a chick! 





Eventually, they started to move around. The duckling watched the mother, copying what she did. She learned how to eat the chick crumb, and drink from the water pot. I’m still not sure if there’s a second duckling – if not, I’ve no idea what happened to the other hatchling (perhaps they ate it!) I will let you know if it turns up (the hen hasn’t actually left the cage, so it could be hiding underneath her).


The mother hen was a bit perturbed when her ‘chick’ insisted on climbing into the water drinker, rather than just drinking from it. I fear she has a few water related surprises ahead. And she’s going to be very disappointed when her chick can’t fly this time next week. But so far, she’s doing brilliantly.

Thank you for reading. I hope your day is full of happy surprises.

Take care,

Anne x


You can follow my blog at: anneethompson.com

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book. You can find her work in bookshops and Amazon.

Bees, Builders and Babies……

Hi, how was your week?
Now, could you let these babies die? I decided that I could. The mother duck had nested in a particularly hard place to get to, she is not an especially pretty duck, and I have 3 other nests being sat on – I don’t need more ducks. I decided I would, absolutely, let them take their chances. If the mother couldn’t protect them, I would not interfere. Definitely. Except, of course, when I found 3 abandoned ducklings left in the nest, and 2 more frantic on the pond looking for their mother, and another 2 desperately trying to keep up with her as she climbed over tree stumps while the crows circled and the cats moved closer…..well, it was hard to not get involved…. After crawling through hedges and brambles and wading through muddy water, I need a cup of tea. Fraught mother is safely in a cage with 7 ugly ducklings. The mother is completely ungrateful, and makes a sort of hissing noise through her nose whenever I go near. But she is looking after them now, which is a relief as I don’t have to bother with heat lamps.

The bees have decided to nest in the cavity wall, right next to a door. They are surprisingly scary when you want to use the door. They go and in and out of an air-brick, which leads to a grill into the larder (keeps the food cold). My understanding is that we are not meant to kill bees (despite their scariness) and so we are trying to persuade them to move house. I have been playing music to them, via the grill in the larder (Radio Kent, at full full volume – it would make me want to move out). Dog unimpressed. Bees refusing to move.

 Not sure if you can see fuzzy bees waiting outside for queen to emerge.




As I write this, we also have builders here. Can life get more fun? They arrived at 7:50 this morning, van loads of them. They’re building some shelves, replacing a shower screen and tiles, and putting in an extractor fan – I was expecting one bloke (husband organised this, not me – I was completely happy with a slightly dangerous shower door and having to open a window afterwards.) They are now everywhere, they emerge from unexpected places. And leave doors open. All of them. Why is it necessary for the front door to be wide open at all times, even while they’re in the loft, and the bathroom, and bringing mugs back to the kitchen, and eating sandwiches in the garden. The only one who seems to be enjoying them is the dog (so I suspect she may have shared the sandwiches). To be fair, they are doing their best. It is not, I suppose, possible to drill and saw quietly. They also put down dust sheets to protect the carpet when they arrived (though I have a sneaky suspicion that when they leave I will have all the dust from the previous jobs on my carpets – they do not look like they get put in the washing machine overly often.) I do hope they finish soon and aren’t here for days on end. Otherwise I too might start hissing through my nose….


Hope you have a good week.
Take care,
Anne x


If we can’t see you, you don’t exist.

Thank you for reading. Is it too soon to buy something new to read on holiday?

JOANNA, available from bookshops and Amazon .



There seem to be sunflowers growing in the corn field…..!



Ducklings and Mothers…

Hello, did you have a good week? I hope so. I thought I’d give you a quick update on life in my crazy bit of the world.

First, ducklings. Now, it doesn’t matter how often I tell myself that I shouldn’t interfere, if I see a mother behaving badly, I just can’t stop myself. And some ducks are truly terrible mothers (so are some humans, actually, but that’s another story). At the moment, I have a couple of duck families living in the aviary. The mother with the first clutch is proving to be a good mother – she has 5 ducklings, all healthy, and stays with them at all times. She is loose in the aviary, and finds somewhere sheltered to settle with them at night or on cold days, keeping them warm.

Then there is the other mother. The other mother managed to hatch 2 ducklings : one yellow, one black. She was sitting on a whole heap of different eggs; I’m not sure if any were actually hers, but none of the other ducks were interested, so I guess she should take some credit for trying. Now, however, she is awful. She does not like being in a cage, and is on a mission to escape back to the pond. Which means she is completely ignoring her ducklings, even to the point of stepping on them if they get in her way. I did try letting her have the run of the aviary, but that didn’t work at all. She flew onto a log, where the ducklings couldn’t reach her and sat there, hissing at the other mother. The yellow duckling decided it would join the other family, even though they’re all much bigger, so just followed them around and snuggled under their mother when it was cold. The black duckling wanted to stay with its own mum. Whenever I went to check, it was running round after her, or sitting as near to her as it could when she was up high. Poor little thing. We had one really cold damp day, and it stood shivering all alone. I didn’t rate its chances. So I shut negligent mother duck into the dog cage, with hay, water and food. She’s extremely angry. But the ducklings fit through the bars, so when they’re cold, they can go under her and she can’t escape. (I am not sure of the morality of this – or if sometimes we ought to do this with human mothers – but it did save the life of the ducklings.)

I have also tried to be a good mother this week. The boys are back in town. My fridge is empty. My house is full of music, and laughter, and strong political views, and extremely long discussions about physics. Some of those things are excellent.

Son 1 had an interview (he wants to do marketing in the non-profit sector, which is not easy to get into). It was an online interview, so was filmed. Obviously, for marketing, it’s important to stand out. So I figured he should do the interview, completely seriously, but with a cockerel in the room. He could ignore it, and concentrate on the interviewers questions, but in the background, would be a cockerel, flying around, and crowing. Definitely would make him memorable. He wasn’t keen though. Shame, my children never seem to take my advice these days…

Other son has decided to apply for a Masters, so needs to find his certificates. Always a fun game. We do have a ‘system’ (I am married to an accountant, remember?) We keep all the education certificates in a section of the filing cabinet, where they’ll be safe. Except, sometimes people forget to put them in there. I do remember one child searching desperately prior to applying to uni, and all he could find was his GCSE Spoken English and 900 of his brother’s music certificates. It was not a stress free event.

I did hear of a job opportunity this week. It involved digging holes. A chap in the area runs his own business, and has more work than he can cope with, so is looking for help with digging holes. He will then plant trees. (Under the trees will be dead bodies, but we can concentrate on the ‘holes for trees’ aspect). None of my family were interested. Shame – it would’ve been kinda cool to have a grave-digger in the family.

At the time of writing this, I have just spent a ridiculous amount of money on a haircut. I was rather pleased with it. Both boys inform me it looks no different at all. Am hoping my daughter will be more encouraging – if not, I shall ask my mother. My mother will tell me it looks lovely whatever it looks like. Now she’s a good mother….


Thank you for reading.

I have been thinking about mothers a lot lately – not just due to the ducks. My latest book, Joanna, examines how a mother feels when her child ‘goes wrong’. An easy read novel, it’s available from bookshops and Amazon. The link is below. It’s always nice when you write a book to receive feedback – these are some of the comments people have made:

“I couldn’t stop reading it once I’d started”

“Anyone who enjoyed ‘The Girl on the Train’ is going to love this book!”

“I bought it for my friend but then I couldn’t stop reading. Please can I buy another 4 copies” (That might be my favourite comment so far!)



Book Launch and Animals (not a great combo)

Hello, how was your week? Mine was extremely busy! I had the book launch for JOANNA, of course, and I’ll tell you about that in a minute. First, I will tell you about the animals (because they were quite high impact this week).

Do you remember me telling you that the ducks had nested in random places hidden around the pond? Well, last Sunday, when I went up to feed them, there was a mother on the bank, completely traumatised, with 5 ducklings and a ring of cats. I had told myself, that if the ducks chose to nest in weird places, I would let nature take its course, and they could take their chances with all the predators. When it came to it, there was no way I could let 5 ducklings be eaten if I could help. So I called husband, told Mum (who had arrived for a relaxing Mother’s Day lunch) that dinner would be late, and we attempted to catch them. Never easy. I grabbed the cats, one of which was angry when he realised I was heading for the workshop, and who stuck out his claws. (Which meant when I got to the book launch I had big scratches down both arms.)

Anyway, we managed to catch all 5 ducklings AND the mother, which was brilliant. They’re all now safely in the aviary until they’re big enough to survive on the pond.

On the day of the book launch, my daughter kindly came home to help. She wanted to see the ducklings, so went up to the pond. For some reason, when the chickens saw her, they freaked. Perhaps they’ve forgotten her – they’re not the most intelligent of animals. Anyway, all 8 chickens scattered – some flying into trees, some running into their cage, and one cockerel headed onto the bank of the pond, paused for a second, spotted the island in the middle of the pond, and decided to fly to it. Cockerels are not great at flying a distance. He got about half way, then crashed, loudly, into the pond. Great. I assume chickens can’t swim, so prepared to wade into the muddy water (this was not what I was hoping to be doing an hour before my book launch). However, he managed to use his wings like oars, and to propel himself, getting ever lower in the water, up to the island. He hauled himself up and stood there, completely bedraggled, making “I don’t know what to do now” noises.

I decided he could stay there for the night, and went to get everything ready for the evening. When I went up to the pond later, he saw me and decided he could now fly back to the bank. He couldn’t. He again landed in the pond, but managed to clamber onto an over-hanging bush. I waded out, picked him up and shoved him into the cage for the night. Stupid bird! He did look completely forlorn, dripping wet on his perch. (He was fine by the next day, in case you’re wondering).

The book launch went well. I will add a section to the bottom of the “how to publish a book” page on the main blog, explaining what I did, and how the costs worked out. My family were brilliant, helping me set up the hall and serving drinks and selling books. About 60 people came, which was a relief (I was terrified it would just be me and my Mum!) I fed them wine and cupcakes, and did a short talk about why I wrote JOANNA.

I explained that we are all influenced by our family, and I wanted to show how having a psychopath in the family affects everyone else. I told them that part of the book is written in the first person, so the reader sees the world through Joanna’s eyes, they will see what motivates a psychopath, how she thinks and feels. The rest of the book shows how those around her cope with living with her, loving her, being hurt by her. The story examines the idea of choices and forgiveness, and what those things actually mean.

There was one funny moment, when a man walked in, marched purposefully through the group of people chatting, and then went and stood still, staring at a wall. I suggested Husband should check he was okay. Apparently, he had come to see the art exhibition that was advertised outside!

I managed to sell lots of books, which was wonderful. Chloe Hughes, the brilliant young photographer who did the cover photo for me, was there, so it was nice for people to meet her too. She’s very talented. (Even if people don’t like the book, they should buy it just to own a Chloe Hughes photo – she’ll be famous one day!) Now I’m hoping everyone loves the story, and tells their friends and neighbours about it. Nothing sells books like other people talking about it, so I hope they do. (I am not very ‘laid back’ about sales. Whenever an Amazon order comes through, I get very excited and walk around smiling! Honestly, every single time. It is so exciting!)

Thanks for reading. If you would like to buy your own copy of JOANNA, the link is below.



Letter to a Sister – Bird Brain

So, a few disasters this week. I’ll gloss over them quickly. First was on Monday, at Aunt and Uncle’s Golden Wedding Anniversary. It was a lovely event, saw most of the extended family, food was beautiful, everyone seemed happy. I felt somewhat of a plonka, having taken the “Dress Code: Sixties” bit to heart. Thought I ought to make an effort. Most other people had taken the “optional” bit to heart. Felt rather silly in mini dress and false eye lashes. Especially as there were a few non-family guests present, who possibly thought I usually dressed up like an ageing drag queen.

Next disaster was Wednesday. After a couple of days of high winds, the tree outside our bathroom window had scraped roof tiles onto the ground. The tree acts as curtains – we don’t have nets at that window – but those branches needed to be trimmed before they did more damage. Husband then phoned trusted builder to come and repair hole in roof. Which he did. Early on Wednesday. When I was just about to have shower in now uncurtained bathroom. That would have been good information to know in advance…..

Lets move on to some animal updates:

Before we went away, the sitting duck hatched her eggs. Ducks are generally terrible mothers – they have a tendency to sit somewhere the ducklings can’t reach them, or squash them by mistake. She had nested in a big plastic crate (nicely rat proof) so I lifted out the eleven hatchlings and put them with the mother into the dog cage in a corner of the aviary. She was furious with me, but I did manage one photo:


They were sharing the aviary with the earlier two ducklings. The mother hissed at them whenever they went near, so I had to keep them separate. This wasn’t difficult, as really all they wanted to do was be with the chicks that they’d been raised with. They wandered up and down the edge of the aviary, cheeping at them. It was hard not to put them back together, but I know it would cause big problems later.

The big chickens (nasty, nasty, creatures) kept attacking the new chicks. They will be so much safer if they manage to form a unified flock, so I don’t want to move them out. Instead, I positioned lots of crates so they had areas they could escape to when attacked, and hoped for the best.

When we returned from Sri Lanka, I couldn’t believe how big they all were. They were, unexpectedly, all still alive (the house sitter did very well.) The chicks are now small chickens. They have still not exactly ‘bonded’ with the existing flock, but at least they’re not being attacked. They’re also copying them, sitting on the crates at night as an attempt to roost.


The big ducklings look full grown. As soon as their wings feathers have grown, I’ll clip them and put them on the pond. You only clip one wing – it’s like having your nails cut, it doesn’t hurt. But they won’t fly if they’re lopsided, so I can shut them onto the pond at night and they can’t sleep on the bank and be eaten.

The eleven ducklings are also much bigger. Am pretty sure the mother stole one of those eggs – there’s one completely black duckling, very beautiful.


Looking after the birds helps me forget about publishing – publishing a book is a LOT of hassle – nowhere near as much fun as writing them. I was hoping that Hidden Faces would be in the bookshops in July, ready for the summer holiday readers. That looks unlikely now, more likely September. Which might mean fewer sales, or might mean people will enjoy it and then buy it for someone else for Christmas. Hard to know. I am trying to be patient, to remind myself that God helped me write this book, if he wants people to read it then editors, typesetters and printers won’t ruin the time plan. But at times I want to scream!

Take care,

love, Anne

How to Hatch an Egg

How to Hatch an Egg


by Anne E Thompson

To hatch an egg, first you need a fertilised egg (which the eggs you buy in the supermarket might be but probably are not). To obtain a fertilised egg, you either need one of these:


(a male of the species you hope to hatch!)




or you can buy them.


I buy them from ebay and they are posted to me in clever polystyrene boxes. When you have your eggs, you either have to begin growing it at once, or keep it somewhere cool (like a garage) and turn it once a day. Fresh eggs have much the best chance of survival. However, I did once want to fill a half-empty incubator and used an egg that had been in the fridge for two weeks. It hatched into a perfectly healthy duckling which we named ‘Cupcake’.


In the wild, the mother bird will lay one egg per day in the nest and leave them until she has enough to sit on. Ducks will sit on about twenty. So, should you find a nest in the wild with cold eggs in, do not assume they have been abandoned, it could be that the hen has not yet finished laying.

When you start warming the eggs, the embryo will begin to develop. Once this has begun, you must keep them warm all the time or they will die. To warm them you need one of these:


(An incubator)




Or a female who is broody.IMG_1715

To encourage a hen to become broody, give her a nest of eggs to sit on. This can be annoying if it’s not intentional and you have just not collected them for a few days, as a broody hen will stop laying and refuse to budge from the nest except to eat and swim (if she is a duck. Chickens are not keen swimmers.) If you have bought eggs, put them right next to the hen. She will see them, assume they are hers and push them into the nest. A broody hen will adopt pretty much anything. Not sure about other species, but certainly ducks will hatch chickens and vice versa.

The temperature and timing depends on the bird to be hatched. A chicken takes 3 weeks to grow and a duck takes 4 weeks. At first a chicken egg needs to be kept at 37℃ for 19 days and a duck egg for 25 days. It also needs to be kept humid. In an incubator you can add water. A duck will go for regular swims. Presumably chickens sweat a lot. A chicken egg needs to be kept at 45% humidity for the 19 days. The eggs also need to be turned, roughly every hour. This stops them sticking to the side of the egg and being deformed. Most incubators do this for you. I have no idea how how a hen knows all this, pretty amazing really.

As the embryo develops, it ‘eats’ the egg yolk, which it is attached to by an umbilical cord. Yes, ducklings and chicks do have tummy buttons! The yolk does not (as many people think) turn into the chick, it is just food. You can check on how the egg is developing after a week. If you shine a very bright torch onto the shell, you should be able to see lots of tiny blood vessels spreading out from a black dot. In the olden days they used candles but when I tried that I burnt my fingers and dropped the egg. I felt like a murderer. Any eggs that have not developed are probably not fertile and should be thrown away or they might go bad and the fumes will kill the other eggs. I check the eggs every few days after the first week. The black dot gets bigger until it is the only thing you can see other than the air space. But, if the air space starts to get bigger or the gunge inside the egg looks like it has separated, throw the egg away. It means the chick has died.

After 19 days, stop turning the eggs. They should hatch in 3 days. The temperature needs to be 37℃ and the humidity should be 60% . The eggs may begin to shake or even crack any time now. The bird inside is moving around, first into the air space inside the egg and then uses the little bump on its beak to begin to crack the egg. Sometimes you can hear them cheeping from inside the egg, which is very exciting! I have found that ducklings often begin to hatch fairly soon after after you stop turning the eggs and chicks do not really start until the end of the three days.


If you are a sensible person, you will do nothing during this period. You will not remove the lid of the incubator or help a hatchling that has got stuck. Any bird that is too weak to hatch is probably not very strong and is likely to die within a few days of hatching.


However, if like me, you are not particularly sensible and are more ‘mummy’ than ‘farmer’, then it is possible to help. The two things to remember are that the hatchling needs air and that it must absorb the remaining yolk. Sometimes a chick is too weak to crack the shell. If, after two days of watching an egg shake and hearing it cheep, it still has not made a hole, I tend to help it (with a skewer or sweetcorn fork!) Make a tiny hole in the air space of the egg (use a torch to check the chick is not in that bit.) I then, very slowly remove pieces of shell, about 3㎟ every five minutes, letting the chick rest in between. Do not ever remove the chick completely, just the shell around the head which will be folded over but will straighten as you remove shell. The yolk needs to stay moist, so when the chick’s head is free, I sometimes add warm water to the remaining half of shell (nowhere near the head or it might drown) so the yolk does not dry out. Then I leave it. Sometimes a chick will sit in a half hatched state for over a day. If it is warm, has air and the yolk remains moist, it will be fine.


Once it has got enough strength (from absorbing the yolk) it will hatch the rest of the way itself. Obviously this is rather time consuming, so do not begin to ‘help’ (or interfere as my children put it) unless you have alot of time and do not mind a bit of gore (there are a lot of capillaries around the shell and yolk, so expect a bit of blood. It does not seem to come from the bird, which is usually fine, but it looks a bit unpleasant.) When the bird has fully hatched, leave it in the incubator for about 12 hours. It will rest (and look like it has died) for a few hours, then will dry out and start bouncing around.


When it is fully mobile, move it to the next stage. This will either be a brooder – a box with a heat lamp, or a mother hen. I have read that it is difficult to introduce new hens to an established flock (because they fight, unlike ducks, who will welcome anyone.) It is therefore much better to give the new hatchlings to your broody hen to raise. I simply carry them outside and put them next to her nesting box. She will look extremely surprised for a few minutes, then when no one else claims the chick, she will push it underneath her and you can relax!

If I am raising the chicks or ducklings, I put them into a large plastic crate lined with hay. They need a heat lamp, water and food. I experiment with the height of the heat lamp – if they are huddled directly underneath it is too high, if they are in a far corner, it is too low. The water needs to be in a very shallow container so they can not drown (they are cute but stupid.) I feed them chick crumb. Some people give chicks medicated chick crumb because chicks are prone to infections (It’s not unusual for an apparently healthy chick to suddenly die.) However, I think it is better not to introduce antibiotics unless an animal is actually ill and I would prefer to risk the odd bird by giving them a more natural chick crumb. You cannot feed medicated chick crumb to ducklings or they will die.


In an emergency, if you have no chick crumb, you can feed egg yolk to the hatchling.

I keep the hatchlings very clean. I throw away the hay as soon as it is dirty or damp and keep their food and water fresh. However, outside raised chicks are constantly muddy, the mother hen will put grubs and corn on the ground for them to eat and will kick dirt into all the food. They seem to survive.

A duckling can swim the same day that it hatches. It is kept waterproof by the oils that transfer from the mother when they sit under her. If they are raised in a brooder, they can still swim but after a few minutes will become water logged and should be returned to the lamp to dry out. They love water and try to splash in any water that they see, so it can be hard to keep their drinking water clean unless you buy a special drinking dispenser.

Chicks do not like water! If you hatch ducklings and chicks together, the chicks will follow the ducklings to the water bowl and then look very cross when they get splashed. However, within a week, chicks have grown wing feathers and are beginning to flutter out of the box (so it needs a lid or to be in a dog cage.) You should then add a perch to the container and encourage them to roost at night (by removing the hay so the ground is not so comfortable.) When they are a few weeks old they will always roost on a perch. As most of their poop arrives when they are asleep, it makes keeping the cage clean much easier and if they are free range they are safer if they sleep on a perch.


After about seven months, you will need to provide a hay box so the females can lay their eggs. Then it all starts again…

IMG_1604 From this to this IMG_0499in 4 weeks – enough evidence for me that there is a God!





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