To suggest that Burriss residents Tom and Shirley Morrish have a little something invested in a “nest egg” isn’t so far from the truth when they talk about the future.
In fact, come mid-April, that “nest egg” will have multiplied into a warm and fuzzy instalment of baby chicks, which will face an influx of school children there to experience one of the many aspects of a farm tour.
But the Morrishes don’t “outshop” for their chicks. They own two roosters and 50-60 chickens—making for an ample and fertile supply of eggs to choose from.
“We have very happy roosters out there,” Morrish laughed, adding that in addition to the eggs she picks for hatching, the hen house always produces enough others for her family’s consumption and some to sell if neighbours come calling.
But not all the chickens in the coop are capable of carrying out the brooding process, which takes 21 days. A chicken has to be “in the mood” to mother and is rarely the layer of the eggs she keeps warm.
"It has to be a clucking hen who wants to sit on the eggs all the time, Morrish explained, noting the constant clucking sound was a way to tell if a hen was looking to nest.
Morrish said clucking hens even will take duck or goose eggs to the hatching point. And if need be, a brooding duck or goose would hatch chicken eggs if given the chance.
But having tried that scenario once, Morrish was quick to suggest it wouldn’t be repeated.
“Once the ravens and magpies went into the coop and stole the goose and duck eggs and ate them. One of the ducks was still broody so we stuck chicken eggs underneath her,” she recalled.
“But we won’t do that again. Once the chicks hatched, the mother duck took them down to the pond to teach them to swim and most of them drowned,” she added.
In addition to the baby chicks, the Morrishes have been sharing other creatures—great and small—with visiting school children during the spring months.
Shetland ponies, goats, sheep, cattle, rabbits, horses, dogs, and cats also are plentiful there. “We also have a couple of pigs, wild turkeys, and even a guinea bird," she noted jovially. "It’s quite educational.”
Just last week, two goats were born on the farm, with others due very soon.
Morrish said the idea of holding farm tours was sparked 25 years ago when school teacher Lois Maher (now retired) inquired about bringing her class out for a visit after one of their own children told Maher about all the animals on the farm.
“They came back every year after that and the word just spread to [other schools],” she smiled.