Bloody Egg

Happy Halloween! I thought it was appropriate that my chickens provided us with a gruesome egg today.

In the past, I’ve had chickens lay eggs with speckled shells, though not consistently. I always wondered why all the eggs that particular hen laid didn’t have spots. Now I know!

Yesterday, when I collected eggs, one egg-shell had spots on it. In the right light, the spots were red, so I washed the egg. All the spots came off. That had me curious and just a little concerned because I have no experience with this issue and have no idea which hen laid the egg. It was definitely not Ethel – her eggs are huge and oddly shaped, so it was either Rose or Ruby, but which one?

I checked online and found that blood spots on egg shells is a common occurrence and nothing to worry about. A capillary in her oviduct ruptured and created the spots. I’m just glad the blood was on the outside instead of the inside, which happens sometimes too.

I’m no longer getting three eggs every day. They’ve tapered off to two a day, which is a gracious plenty. I wonder if these girls are going to be affected by the waning sunlight as winter approaches. I’ll keep you posted.

And if you want to see an interesting site, check out Two Creative Chicks. You can find them on facebook and youtube. They posted one video on youtube of a chicken band.

Roughly Three Eggs a Day!

All the girls are laying now. The new girl’s eggs are small and cute. They get a little bigger every day.

Ruby has developed a peculiar habit of squatting down, wings splayed, thrumming her feet when I come into their yard. All the girls have begun to squat when I come in. I’m not sure if it’s an attempt to have me pet them-which I do- or they desperately want a rooster. When I pet back to their tails, they promptly flag them in the air, which makes me think it’s about wanting a rooster.

Chickens have way more personality than you would imagine them to have. You wouldn’t think they would have the space for survival skills and personality in their teensy brains. It makes me realize how few brain cells it takes and how I must be majorly under-using mine.

While Rose is still a bit like Chicken Little with the sky falling, she is also very friendly and curious. Ruby has become the dominate hen and bold as you please. Ethel always greets me at the door first and her belly rules her mind.

So three eggs a day now! How awesome is that?

Tiny Eggs

Rose has begun to lay eggs. They are the tiniest, cutest eggs.

My grandkids came over the day she laid her first egg. They squealed when they saw it, cupped their hands and begged to hold it. The egg was given due honor and thanks before I cracked it into my smoothie.

Rose has been laying pretty consistently for the past four days. She doesn’t have a time schedule, like first thing in the morning; it’s all over the place. Once it was laid so late, there were two tiny eggs in the nest box in the morning. I thought maybe Ruby had started laying too, but that’s not the case. At any rate, Rose is definitely a girl, big comb and all.

I’m wondering if Ruby is feeling protective about the eggs or if I have a mole on the back of my right leg. Every time I lean into the nest box to clean it out, she takes a big peck on my calf. I’ve had to start holding out the other leg and occasionally swing it to keep her from coming over for a bite.

Won’t be long now before I can gather three eggs a day. That’ll be fabulous.

Thanks girls!

Comb Overs

When you buy pullets, you never know exactly what they will look like. Take Rose and Ruby. At the onset, I could tell Ruby would be darker than Rose and that’s as much as I could tell. Rhode Island Reds have a typical look that I’ve come to expect.

As they have matured, their color has remained true. Both girls have reached Ethel’s height. Ruby has the beginnings of wattles and comb. I’d say she looks butch, only in chicken speak the opposite is true. She has a small, upright comb so far and virtually no wattles.

Rose, on the other hand, has grown quite the comb. If she were a movie star, she’d be Ginger on Gilligan’s Island. Her comb flops over looking like it could cover one eye in a sexy, peek-a-boo style. Her wattles are not fully developed yet. In human terms, she’d be very feminine, while in chicken terms, quite male. I’m holding my breath hoping she, is really a she. The tail feathers still look very hen-ish. So far, so good.

And Rose was the skittish one – still is to an extent. She’ll raise a warning in a heartbeat and flutter around raising dust. Interesting though, she has become very bold as well. She surprised me the other day as I had my head in the hen-house cleaning out the poo by jumping at a button on my pants. No, I didn’t hit my head on the door frame when I felt the peck, but I could have.

Both girls have decided Ethel isn’t so scary any more and pay her no heed when she tries to warn them off some particularly succulent grass or juicy corn cobs. They just delve right in beside her.

I’ll keep you posted as to what sex the youngin’s turn out to be. Egg laying will be a dead give away.

Grass Fed

It’s corn season and the girls are thrilled when I come out laden with corn husks, silks and cobs. Of course they wish I was a lackadaisical eater and left more on the cobs. They love corn silks almost more than the cobs, which surprised me.

The two chicklets are getting bolder with Ethel. I’m no longer concerned that they might miss out on a meal. Rose is still a might flighty, which sets Ruby off. That only happens when I go out there to drop off goodies or work around their yard. I’ve never seen such a nervous Rhode Island Red – I’d expect it of a Leghorn.

We’ve been having so much rain that mowing the grass is an issue. You either have to mow it more frequently than you’d like in order to catch a decent mowing day – or hour – or wait til you need a bush hog.

I have a lawn guy come mow the front yard. We set up an every other week schedule, which hasn’t worked very well this week. I’ve been telling my neighbors I’m letting the grass reseed itself even though it’s a holiday and everyone else has taken extra care with their yards. It seems to rain every time he’s due to mow. Sometimes he sneaks in and does it a day or so early, but I’m betting he has a long list of folks who want their grass cut for the holiday and couldn’t sneak in here this time. Of course, he could surprise me and show up tomorrow, on the holiday, to mow.

The girls felt cheated when I dumped the grass clippings in their yard the other day. I had mowed five days before and after looking at the weather forecast decided I best go ahead and mow again. Usually I dump the bag at least ten times – it only needed to be dumped three times the other day. Sure made the job a lot quicker, not having to start and stop all the time.

I’m sure the girls love this wondrous and plentiful growing season as much as I do.

Good to be Home

I was off and running again and, at last, have returned home. I don’t think the girls remember me. There’s no “Hi, how are ya’s,” or “About time you woke up! We’re starving out here,” when I open the back door in the morning. They pretty much ignore me and go about their business. They are still happy when I bring them grazing materials, however.

The yard had three weeks growth by the time I found a spare hour to mow. I recently bought another plug-in electric mower and discovered it works best with the bagger attachment in place, which is great for the chickens, because I dump all the grass clipping in their yard. I was surprised to notice they prefer chopped up grass over the long grass I typically harvest for them. The more greens they eat, the richer and darker yellow the yolks.

Chickens are natural grazers with a side of bugs. I’m not sure where the whole-“feed them grain” idea came about. I should research that. I’m guessing it started when the chicken industry began. Throwing out a little scratch so they come running when they see you and stick closer to home is different from having a main diet of grains.

It’s good to be home again tending to the girls and my garden.

C

My chicken tender had to extend her duties with the girls recently. She was only supposed to have a stint over the long Memorial Day Weekend while I was glamping, which ended up being expanded by six more days.

It was a soggy, wet weekend. We were in camp swampy, as we dubbed our site, slogging through mud, in the drizzle, setting up our tents.

The second day of the Memorial Day weekend, I received an urgent text from my sister, informing me our dad had taken a fall, hit his head and was in the neurological ICU unit of the hospital.

I was frantic trying to figure out how to get all the way down to Mobile, AL from Virginia. I had ridden to the camp with three other ladies and certainly couldn’t expect them to cut their weekend short. Renting a car seemed the most logical solution, when one of the women said she had frequent flyer miles and starting figuring out how to get me to Mobile that night. That’s what I call a sweet, caring woman!

During all my anxious figuring, my sister sent me the phone number of the hospital. Even with spotty phone reception, I was able to talk with my dad and his nurse. They reassured me he was doing fine and wouldn’t be released until sometime early in the week and I should plan to come down upon his release because he would need me more then.

I did my best to let the trauma go and enjoy myself, though there was a little cloud over me all weekend. And bigger clouds over the whole camp, intermittently releasing their pent up rain all over us.

When the weekend was over, we packed up all our wet belongings, threw them into the trailer and made our way back home, knowing that everything needed a good drying out. One woman offered to dry my tent out, knowing it would be a moldy mess by the time I returned home and managed to set it up to dry. Thank goodness for wonderful friends!

It was hustle time once we got back. Unloading the trailer, (we had an enclosed Uhaul trailer this time- worlds easier to pack than the open trailer we typically use.) stuffing my belongings into my car, hauling them back out again, trying to open as much out as I could all over the house to let things dry.

I washed three loads of laundry, packed water, food, clothing and toiletries to ready myself for my four a.m. departure to Mobile, along with making sure the chicks were well stocked with food and water. I was pooped when I hit the bed.

My plan was to stay with my dad until the following Sunday. I managed to accomplish a fair amount for him while I was there. He now has a walker and one and a half shelves in his freezer (which also got a good defrosting) are full of wholesome food. With pleading on my sister’s and my part, he will have some extra help. (He listens to her much better than to me.) I left Sunday feeling like I did all I could for now.

The ride home was eventful. I managed to set my alarm for the wrong time and ended up waking at two a.m. I had everything packed in the car before I looked at a clock and realized I could have slept much longer. Oh well.

I made it through Atlanta before having to pull over and take a nap. I zonked out for two hours. After refreshing my water bottle and taking care of necessities, I was off again- for a mile- before traffic slowed to a stop. For two hours we crawled our way one whole mile. Why is it people don’t know how to merge into one lane? I was really happy I had that rest break. I actually did a Sudoku and listened to a whole CD waiting for things to open up.

Everything went along fine until I hit Fayetteville, NC. I couldn’t go any further without sleep. I pulled into the first available parking spot at the rest area, dropped the car key in the cup holder, reclined my seat and was asleep before I laid my head back. When I came to again, I really needed to pee, so I grabbed my purse, locked the doors and headed to the bathroom. Yeah- the key was still in the car.

All my necessary documentation was also in the car when I went to call AAA. I have a dumb phone, so I had to ask a fellow traveler if he could get the number for me, which he did. When I called the number, the automaton asked me to type in my account number- yeah, not happening- or bypass that and hit the pound key. Where was the pound key on my phone???? So I just hit a key. Eventually I was able to get everything straight with a real person and an hour later, my knight in shining armor showed up.

I was amazed by how quickly he was able to open my car door. He had a thin plastic “bladder” he inserted through the door frame and pumped up creating an opening. He then stuck a rubber coated wire with a crook in the end through the opening, and released the lock. The whole thing took about thirty seconds.

I finally made it home.

The chicklets and Ethel were just fine and dandy when I saw them the next morning. They thanked me for the grass I harvested for them and otherwise ignored me. I’m thrilled to have a good, responsible chicken tender who doesn’t mind being flexible- makes my life so much easier.

 

Blended

Well, I did it; I turned the girls loose with Ethel today. It felt a little too soon, the chicklets are in the voice changing era of their lives. Peep, peep, peep, squawk. The squawk always startles them. Since I have to travel a lot, just seems the only fair thing for both my chicken tenders and the girls. Being stuck in the cage can’t be fun or healthy, and it’s a lot of work for my friends.

I made sure to have LOTS of greens for them, along with a couple of strawberries, spread out across the whole chicken yard. That way they wouldn’t be on top of one another trying to eat and fight at the same time. It worked pretty well.

Ethel only pulled a couple of feathers out of Rose and occasionally scared the bee-geezers out of the youngin’s. I stayed outside for about five hours, keeping an eye on the situation, working on the blueberry coverings to keep the squirrels and large birds from eating my blueberries. I managed to finish that job – now it’s time to get the netting over the raspberries.

Rose is the explorer of the two new girls. She checked out the inside of the chicken coop and thought the egg in there was fascinating. Her head turned from side to side until she got up the courage to sniff it. I wonder if she her instincts tell her she’ll be doing that soon? I watched this with my breath held as Ethel walked over and stopped stock still, watching Rose. I was sure Ethel was going to corner Rose in the house and beat the crap out of her. My fears were thankfully, unfounded.

The young ones tend to rush to the corner of the chicken yard and try to find their way out through the wire when Ethel decides she needs to show them whose boss again. I keep telling them “just run!” Being in the corner makes them sitting ducks and Ethel takes full advantage to land a peck or two.

I’m mixing the baby food with the big girl food hoping everyone will get the nutrition they need. The little girls should eat the baby food for another couple of months. No way to keep their food divided and guarantee they will eat their own food without separating them again.

So, they are now a blended family. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Home Sweet Home

I’m home after two weeks away. I don’t think the girls recognized me when I drove up. Usually I get a greeting of, “We’re starving out here, what have you brought us to eat? Go pick me some good greens, I’m ravenous.” They just looked at me and went back about their business. I’d like to think they’re snubbing me – their way of showing me they’re angry I was gone and left them here.

The youngin’s were happy to get back out in their run and eat grass. Can’t say I blame them. Being cooped up in a 3 X 4 cage, even though it was cleaned well every day, had to feel cramped.

I’m looking for signs it’s the right time to turn them loose with Ethel. Ethel is really interested in them and it’s hard to tell if it’s a good interested or a bad interested. I held Ruby for a minute before turning her back into the baby cage and Ethel came running over, with what looked to me, like hatred in her eyes. It would be interesting if she gave the chicklets more trouble than Bossy did. Of course, Lucy and Ethel were as big as Bossy when I turned them loose together. These girls are just starting to grow their wattles.

All I can say is, I’m really happy to be back home, sleeping in my own bed and back to my routine.

Full of Poop

We’ve had quite a bit of rain here in the past two days, so the chicklets had to stay under shelter. I know it’s been a couple of years since I last raised pullets and I’ve forgotten a lot, but geez, how could I forget how much they poop? Food in, poop out.

They have a cat carrier for extra protection when they need it and they love sitting on top of it. You know what that means, right? It is the most disgusting thing to have to pick up every morning and wash inside and out. There is no space that hasn’t been smeared with poop.

This morning, since they’ve been incarcerated, their habitat got a thorough cleaning. All the bedding came out, and fresh, dry bedding replaced it. I made a hook to hang their water-er from after receiving a suggestion from a friend that it would make changing the water much easier- and it does! So thanks for the suggestion!

I look forward to clear weather so they can go back out in their run during the day. I know they are too. It’s important that they have fresh greens, fresh air, clean water, clean food and clean surroundings. It’s hard to make that happen in a confined space.