In the 4 months since my last chicken update, a lot has changed – for one, the hens are now laying!!
Our first egg made its appearance on December 6th – momentous day! – and as of this morning the chickens have collectively laid 100 more. We keep track of each egg with a tally mark on the calendar.
We also mark the date on each to ensure we use the oldest eggs first, the freshest last.
We’re pretty egg crazy, and with all the baking I do, we easily eat them as quickly as they’re laid. Last month they averaged 2 eggs a day, lately it’s more like 1. Other than buying an extra dozen at Christmas for all the cookies, etc. we’ve stopped purchasing eggs altogether. I cannot stress how wonderful this is!! Before the chickens began laying, we’d buy at least a dozen eggs a week. Cage-free organic eggs run upwards of $5 a dozen, sometimes more. We’ve saved over $40 in just 2 months!
Now that it’s snowy out, the chickens spend much more time cooped up in their coop. But at least once a day, I let them out to free range.
We have to keep the path to the woodpile shoveled (we’re heating our house solely with this wood!), so I carry the chickens, one by one, over to this grassy patch. Often after I’ve moved 2 or 3 of them, the remaining chicken/s will simply flap over on their own. They seem to like to be carried though, and will stop and squat down in anticipation of me picking them up. I pet them and kiss their backs. Their feathers are unbelievably soft and smell lovely.
Before the snow came, they spent a lot of time free-ranging throughout the yard and particularly enjoyed watching ME through our glass back door. Our cat, Bella, enjoyed keeping an eye on them, too.
During this time one of their favorite activities was dust bathing.
Dust bathing is very important as it helps keep the chicken’s skin clean and parasite-free. They flip the dust up and over their bodies using a flapping motion of their wings. The dust particles permeate the feathers, traveling down to the skin and keeping nasty vermin at bay. It also improves their mental health. At least in my opinion. They seem to love it!
The soil beneath several of our yew bushes is loose and dusty, really ideal for this purpose. Now that the ground is frozen, the chickens bathe in their coop, but it’s not really the same. I know they must be looking forward to spring baths. Roxy often watches and even imitates the chickens. For instance, as they scratch and peck around the yard, I’ll find the Rottie digging little holes beside them, sticking her snout into the ground like, “Look, I’m doing it too, girls!”
The strangest thing we’ve encountered with the chickens? Their second egg.
We have no idea who lays what – so this one remains a mystery, but the 2nd egg we brought in was soft and squishy, just like a reptile egg. PS: No we didn’t eat it.
I read that a chicken may have a soft-shelled egg when it first begins laying, and sure enough it’s the only one we’ve had. Thankfully! The inside looked perfectly edible, but… um, no thanks. A little creepy for our taste.
I’ve grown closer to the chickens over the past 4 months. Whereas the 3 red used to be indistinguishable, now that the chickens are pretty much full grown, with combs and waddles and distinct personalities, I can tell them apart easily. Bobbie, the lone black Australorp, is a bit of a mama’s girl. It might stem from the fact that she was the only one I called by name for so long. We bonded.
You might be wondering about the wild turkeys that visit our yard daily.. I’ve talked about them before on my blog. I’m happy to report that the chickens and the turkeys are coexisting peacefully. Not that the chickens don’t seem to resent their presence a little. Charlie, the largest Rhode Island Red – and the largest of all 4 chickens – reigns as Top Chicken. And as Top Chicken, each time the turkeys show up, Charlie makes a point of asserting herself. The other chickens mostly stay to the side of the turkeys, out of their way.
Not Charlie, who boldly goes where no chicken has gone before.
Charlie makes a point of “fronting” on the turkeys – kind of getting in their faces, even at times puffing up, lunging and flying at them. From a human standpoint, it’s understandable. This is, after all, HER TURF, and these turkeys are interlopers. It’s truly comical to watch. I never thought I’d see a huge wild turkey back down from a domestic hen, but that’s the case. The turkeys appear to respect the chickens authority over the yard.
As for the chickens, they seem to be coping nicely in the cold weather, and it certainly doesn’t appear to be curtailing their productivity. Checking for eggs has become a daily routine, often once in the morning, later in the day and before we tuck them in at night.
Back before they started laying, a friend suggested placing decoy eggs into their nest boxes, to instruct and encourage them to lay there. (Thanks Ang! They worked like a charm!) I’m sure we don’t need them any longer, but as chickens are always trying to lay that “magical number” of eggs for a perfect clutch – even sharing the same nest box to achieve this – I keep them in anyway. Can’t hurt, might help.
There’s nothing like fresh eggs, either. I haven’t talked about the difference in taste or appearance, but it must be noted. They’re absolutely delicious! And the look and color is vibrant. Depending upon what they’re eating, the egg yolk can be bright sunny yellow to a deep orange, and it’s all good!
Till next time!