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.

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