Productivity lessons from my hen

hens in transit

Two of my hens went broody recently. After weeks of trying to coax them out of it – since we don’t have a cockerel and they are deluding themselves that anything is going to hatch without one – I’ve given in to their maternal instinct.

I spoke to the very helpful Emma at the Rainbow Egg Company and bought a selection of fertile eggs.

Now my white hen, Candyfloss, is a deep broody trance. She knows what she’s doing, having raised two broods of chicks successfully last summer.

Candyfloss in coop

She flattens herself across the eggs and appears to be in an altered state of consciousness. Zen hen. But if anyone goes near – human or chicken – she’s fiercely defensive. She’ll peck and squawk till the daft intruder realises they should back off, right now. Once a day, she hops off to eat, stretch, drink and poo. For fifteen minutes, she crams in all these activities, then she’s back on the eggs. That hen multi-tasks like a pro, getting done in one short break what might usually take her hours.

I’m deeply inspired by her focus. She knows what she needs to do. She knows it requires huge effort. She defends her nest with all she’s got. Everything else is secondary. When she needs to shift focus, she works with impressive efficiency – with an internal timer that tells her exactly when to stop.

As a writer, I can learn from this. I need to set a target and focus on it, not shifting till it’s done.

My other broody hen, little grey Madam Pomfrey (yeah, you guessed it, my kids name the hens) is more like me. I guessed this might be the case, so I only gave her two eggs to sit on.

Each time someone approaches her nestbox, she hops off her eggs to say hi. Normally I love her sociable, curious personality, but not this week. ‘Duh! Lady, your eggs are going cold – get back on there!’ She’s a flittertigibbet and those eggs are not going to hatch.

hens in garden

I only have so much writing time each week, but right now, I’m not using it efficiently. My worst distractions are the sociable ones - Twitter, seeing friends – and the necessary ones – housework, dog-walking. If I really tried, I could work like a broody hen and cram these into brief, productive sessions.

In three weeks, all being well, Candyfloss will be raising her next brood of chicks. So, dear friends, you don’t mind if I copy her and go all fierce and anti-social for a while do you? I’ll see you when I’ve nursed this book idea into life…

new chick