It’s a quiet, rainy night here at the Abbey. Chickens are tucked up on their roost, heads nestled in soft feathers. Cats are being silly, wrestling and charging around after eating their final meal of the day. And out in the darkness, in the gravelly dirt of one of the pastures, some baby box turtles are incubating. We saw Mama Turtle excavating a nest hole with her hind legs a few evenings ago. We had guests for dinner and everyone had trooped out to see the chickens, the garden, and whether there were any massive snakes under the manure pile. Unfortunately for poor Mama Turtle, the line of trooping involved everyone walking right past the quiet spot she had chosen in the field. After exclaiming over her work we all gave her a respectful distance, though by then she must have been wondering why she had decided to lay in the middle of Grand Central Terminal. When I returned the next morning, only the faintest pile of disturbed dirt indicated where the nest is located. Guess we won’t be mowing this pasture for at least 70 days (approximate length of incubation, though this varies widely). We are definitely going to set up the game camera when the time approaches.
Meanwhile, check out these photos of a box turtle hatchling from a few years ago, plus his mama. Mama Turtle laid her eggs right near the chickens’ run. She lingered there for a few days after I saw her scratching out the nest. Our old flock was in residence then, and when I went out in the evenings to close their stall door it would seem to me as if Mama Turtle were hanging out chatting with Dreamer, my chicken BFF and guardian angel (more on Dreamer forthcoming). One rainy morning about 3 months later, I happened to look down as I walked out to the barn and narrowly missed stepping on this little guy. I can’t believe I even noticed him in the first place, and I wonder what became of his siblings, assuming they hatched (box turtles have a very high egg and nestling mortality rate, which doesn’t surprise me, given the totally random places I’ve now seen them lay). So I anticipate much insane cuteness when this new clutch hatches. Fingers crossed for them!