Monday, August 20, 2012

The Great Egg Caper

For awhile now I have not been letting the hens out of their run until I would find an egg in the nesting box - or at least until sufficient time had passed to where there normally would be an egg.  Since the egg production has been quite spotty as of late, I wasn't expecting anything this morning.  However, I was intrigued as I approached the coop, and Beulah seemed excited (or agitated) for me to be there.  She hopped up into the coop, and as I opened the door to the nesting box, was happy to find an egg in there.  I also found Beulah poking her head out, and making her chicken sounds.  I thought she was just anxious to get out of the run.

Well, she truly was anxious to get out of the run, but not for the reason I thought.  They really don't like being cooped up in the three foot by six foot run all day.  So, I thought she was just anxious to get out and forage around the yard.  I opened the door to the run, and they both scurried out.  I didn't think anything of it, and set out to move the coop.  I remove the hanging water container so it doesn't spill all over during the move.  I  was preoccupied for a few minutes getting everything set again.

I then heard the chicken sounds from around the house, but couldn't see either hen.  I looked under the back entryway where they like to go in the heat of the day.  They weren't there.  I then looked over by the garage and garden.  Not there, either.  I then spotted a cat meowing a couple of houses away from ours, and decided to see if I could get it to come over.  All the while I'm hearing the chicken cooing sounds coming from the back of the house.  After spending a minute or two scratching the cat's head, I decided to go and find who was making all the noise once and for all.  I went back and looked under the entryway, and still no chickens were under there.  I finally decided to look in the bushes next to the rear stoop.

Egg stash under the bushes.
The start of a nest
Sure enough, Beulah was just lying there under the plant leaves.  I thought that was odd, since it is nice out this morning, but by no means was it hot out.  They usually like to sit in the bushes like that when temps get into the 80's or 90's (f).  She wasn't acting like she normally does when she is egg-bound, so I that wasn't the issue.  I finally just let her know that I was going to see what she was sitting on.  Lo and behold she had a stash of four eggs under there.  No wonder she was so anxious to get out of the coop.

Close up of the four eggs in the nest.
Close-up of the rogue nest.
I've read about broodiness in hens, and since we are relatively new to keeping chickens, we had not really experienced it to speak of.  Sheri once told me that Henrietta was wanting to stay on the eggs in the nesting box one time last fall or winter, but that was about it.  Well, Beulah was certainly displaying full-out broodiness today.  We'll have to keep an eye on that for a few days until we can get her past it.

I guess with chickens you never know what is going to happen from day to day.  I also learned to be more observant, and not get into just a routine when checking for eggs and looking after the hens.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Summer Egg Production

Or should I say Summer egg NON-production?  First of all, I cannot believe it's been almost two months since the last post.  I meant to get back within the week, but I guess life got in the way.

Egg production has been extremely spotty throughout the entire summer.  One day we'll get one egg, then it might go a few days before getting another.  Once in a great while we would have two eggs, but that has been rare.

Henrietta on left, Beulah on right
Now, we are quite certain that the hens have gone into molt.  First it was Beulah, then Henrietta started, but they weren't one right after the other, it was more like a matter of weeks passing before Henrietta really started.

  If anyone is curious how to tell if their chicken is molting, there are a few tell-tale signs.  First, you will see an excess of feathers on the ground and in the coop.  Then the chicken that is molting will start to look scraggly (the best way I can describe it).  I mean, after all if they are losing feathers they won't look all filled out.  It's been most notable on their necks.
Note the sparseness of feathers

 So, how do feathers come back in after they lose them?  It's pretty interesting really.  The quill part of the feather will grow first, then the feather continues to get longer, and the plumage starts to protrude out the end.

Quills forming on wing
Beulah has had a couple of episodes of being egg-bound for which we took prompt action.  If she absolutely cannot get the egg out on her own, then we will put her in a bath of warm water, massage the vent area with the warm water, and let her sit for awhile.  Eventually the egg will come out.  We also work to hydrate her, and replace electrolytes.  We've found the best product to use is SunRider's Fortune Delight.  It has other beneficial properties as well.  (It is an herbal drink for humans, but has all necessary electrolytes and other properties necessary for the hens as well.)  I have been giving them extra egg shells or oyster shells in their feed to try and keep them from getting egg-bound.  We haven't had an episode in several weeks now.

Quills forming on her back
Lately, though, they've been very happily clucking and scratching around the back yard.  So, they're in good health.  They love treats - anything from watermelon rinds to tomatoes, grapes, raspberries, and more.  One treat I discovered quite by accident today.  I was cleaning their coop out.  When I removed the nesting straw, I found there were several earwigs underneath.  They started dropping through the slot under the nesting box, and into the run.  Henrietta found them almost immediately and gobbled them up.

That reminds me of a funny thing that happened just a couple of days ago.  I had found a large spider (large for around here might be half an inch in body size.  This spider was sort of spotted.  I went into the house to get a jar to capture it.  Of course, anytime I'm working around the backyard the nosy hens are right there.  They might miss out on a tasty morsel otherwise.  Well, true to form the spider dropped to the ground while I was trying to capture it.  Before I could reach down to grab it, Henrietta gobbled it down.  I could only laugh.  I really wanted to photograph the spider and figure out what species it was.  I guess I'll have wait until next time.

Oh, and the hens also like LOVE slugs.  I feed them this treat whenever I find them on plant leaves and such.  I've noticed that they really love to hang around the raspberry bushes.

Next up will be a video of leaping chickens.  They love dried worms, and wait until you see what they will do to get them.