Eggs go in the nesting box!

We lost one of the feral hens, Screamy (the black one), to the neighbor’s dog. She had been hopping the fence pretty frequently in order to lay eggs in their yard, and the old dog finally managed to get her.

The other feral, Blondie (the… well, the blond one), started to do the same. In fact, she was laying eggs all over our yard–in the shed, on the “grassy knoll,” in potted plants, and so on.

Left to rt: Peepers, Blondie, Crooksie, Bawk Bawk, Miss Red, Squawkers

Worried that she might meet the same fate as Screamy, I submitted a query to the local urban chicken mailing list to find out how to encourage Blondie to use the nesting boxes in the chicken coop, rather than roam all over the place.

The answer turned out to be pretty simple: add a nesting box, and put some ceramic eggs in it.

The reason she’s scattering her eggs all over is presumably a survival/reproductive instinct aggravated by the fact that she’s used to a feral lifestyle. The more nests she has, the more likely that she’ll eventually manage to collect a sizeable clutch in at least one of them, whereupon she may commence sitting and hatching some babies.

Because I was taking the eggs out of the nesting box every day, Blondie didn’t feel like it was a very safe place for her to leave her eggs. The solution? Leave some fake eggs in the box.

Dogs can't tell the difference, either. Dozer tried to eat these.

So far, it’s a great solution. No more eggs all over the yard, no more Blondie hopping the fence.

The only surprising side effect? Apparently, the tan color of the ceramic eggs has really ticked off the Ameraucanas; I haven’t seen a blue egg from either of them in a week!

In other news, Bawk Bawk finally molted! By the time the new ones started poking out, she was so bald, she looked practically plucked. Probably would have taken the prize in a World’s Ugliest Chicken contest. Now she’s fully feathered.

Also, it’s mulberry season again. Yuck yuck yuck. I don’t have the time to pick the berries for a pie or anything this year. The mulberries coat the ground around the shed and the chicken coop, and the sour, rotten smell of smashed mulberries brings flies and caterpillars and mosquitos and pretty much every wild bird and insect for miles around. If we didn’t value the shade from it so highly, I’m sure we’d have cut it down by now; it’s such a mess.

The ground covered in mulberries

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Freak Egg

The red sex-link, Miss Red, hasn’t been laying. The heat is just too much for her, I think.

But it didn’t stop her from trying to lay on one of the cooler days. I got this tiny egg with a shell swirl on top. No yolk inside, just egg white.

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What happens to eggs on Easter

The awesome thing is that these eggs are already “colored” naturally. I had a pastel assortment of pink and blue eggs that are ready for Easter without the need for dye.
Step 1: Hard boil

Step 1: Hard boil (the night before--sorry the picture is so dark)

Step 2: Put in really cute basket with cute stuffed bunny

Step 2: Put in really cute basket with cute stuffed bunny

Step 3: Try to get dogs to pose beside the basket without eating the stuffed toy.

Step 3: Try to get dogs to pose beside the basket without eating the stuffed toy.

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Come on, look cute or something.

Step 4 (no pictures): Take the basket of eggs to the Easter family get-together and hold blind taste tests with these eggs and store-bought eggs. Nine out of ten people preferred my eggs and commented on how yellow the yolks were. It was a lot of fun!

No Idea

Cackle’s name doesn’t fit her nearly as well as “Caterwaul” would have. This morning I woke up to hear what sounded like a cat in heat, yowling loudly in my yard.

Bleary-eyed, I stumbled outside in my robe, prepared to chase off the predator that was undoubtedly tormenting my chickens.

The sound was coming from Cackle, and once I was outside, I realized it was some sort of crazy clucking noise. It’s the sort of sound I might expect from a hen trying to lay a particularly big egg, except that she was just standing there on a cinder block (Squawkers was “occupying” the nesting box).

Then Cackle caught sight of me, gave a final yawk, and dashed behind the hen house.

I still don’t know what that was all about.

Peepers Shuts Up

The two hens have been here for a week, and things couldn’t be better. I need to get some photos!

The difference between these two hens and Cluckers is noticeable. We get normal-looking pale blue eggs on a regular schedule–once per day–and the hens are shy but not completely unapproachable. They run around a lot. And they make chicken noises, something Cluckers never did.

The best part is that Peepers has stopped crowing. Even the neighbors commented on how quiet he’s been. I guess his ladies are keeping him too busy to crow! He is one happy rooster.

Egg Inside an Egg!

This morning’s coop cleaning netted a rather interesting and unusual discovery. Cluckers laid an egg… inside an egg. For some reason, the outer shell didn’t stay together when she laid it (though it was not any thinner or more brittle than a typical shell).

The first photo here is exactly how I found it. I did not touch it.

The outer eggshell was a lighter color, almost white, whereas the inner eggshell was the typical light aqua color Cluckers usually lays.

The outer eggshell was a lighter color, almost white, whereas the inner eggshell was the typical light aqua color Cluckers usually lays.

I did touch and turn the outer shell to take this second picture.

However, the inside of the outer shell was aqua. It was like the outer shell was inside out.

The inside of the outer shell was aqua. It was like the outer shell was inside out.

Part of the eggshell was still stuck to Cluckers’ rear feathers. I will have to figure out how to catch her so I can clean her rear end.

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I’m not sure whether this counts as egg number 4… or egg numbers 4 and 5.

The intact egg is a little more oblong than a typical egg. I’m curious to see what’s inside it; it felt rather heavy. But it will have to wait until I’m ready to use it.

Third Egg

Cluckers finally laid a third egg.

Well, that’s not entirely true. She’s been laying an egg every day since the second egg–but none of them had any shells! There was just a thin membrane and a puddle of albumin.

I think this was my bad. I did not have oyster shell or grit in the coop, thinking the chickens were getting plenty of calcium and minerals from the dirt they were eating. Lesson learned. They have plenty of both, now; I bought and provided these things yesterday, and Cluckers laid an egg (with shell) this morning.

I ate the second egg fried. I think. Actually, I don’t know how to cook any type of egg except hard-boiled. But this time I decided I wanted a fried egg, so I cracked the shell and let it sit in the pan and cook. I guess that’s fried. The yolk was not runny, it was cooked all the way through. Is that sunny side up? I really have no idea what all that means. I guess I’m going to have to learn how to cook eggs.

Anyway, the second egg was quite tasty.

Second Egg

The first egg ended up in a batch of peanut butter cookies. Delicious!

Cluckers laid a second egg today. I know she did it today because it was not there in the morning when I cleaned the pen, but it was there in the afternoon when my husband went in to play with Peepers. I thought something might be up because Cluckers was in the nesting box when I went in for the morning cleaning, even though there was no egg in there at the time.

This one is larger than the first, and has a perfectly smooth light green-blue shell. It’s a high quality egg!

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Meanwhile, our precious baby chick Peepers has turned into a real man. He spends all his time crowing, keeping an eye on his lady (Cluckers), and challenging me to duels. He puffs up and charges me with one wing dragging the ground. I think normal roosters are supposed to do this head-on with both wings, but since Peepers can’t see out of one eye, he always challenges me with a sort of sideways hop. It’s too silly-looking to be intimidating. When he does this, I pick him up like a baby and scratch his tummy, and he lays there and grumbles like a teenager being kissed by his mom in public.

We are still having no luck handling Cluckers. She can be caught when cornered or sleeping, and will tolerate being held, but it’s tough to catch her! Plus, she squawks and shrieks, and this makes Peepers really upset.

An Egg!

Cluckers laid her “first” egg (first since we got her) some time between yesterday afternoon and this afternoon.

Hard to see in the pic, but it has a very pale aqua shell.

Hard to see color in the pic, but it has a very pale aqua shell.

I found it in the hen house but it wasn’t in the nesting box. On the other hand, all of the shavings that should have been in the nesting box were scattered all over the hen house floor. I think someone accidentally tipped the box; possibly the egg rolled out at that time.

Cluckers–and a Scandal

The new chicken has at last arrived! We got her from a lady who was reducing her chicken flock to save them from raccoons, or so I understand.

Cluckers (as my brother-in-law titled her) is a full-grown Ameraucana hen. She is apparently already laying eggs but has stopped for the winter.

Peepers on left, Cluckers on right

Peepers on left, Cluckers on right

I have a few concerns about Cluckers (odd growths in particular) that I will take up with the vet at some point after she settles in. She’s very shy and doesn’t appear to have been handled a lot; it’s quite a contrast to Peepers, who is not the least bit bothered by being picked up. I don’t want to traumatize her with a trip to the vet so soon after she’s been rehomed.

Peepers tried to beat the crap out of Cluckers for the first couple days, but they’re inseperable now. Cluckers takes all her cues from Peepers (except running and hiding, which she does by herself whenever she feels necessary).

And here’s the scandal–I think Peepers is a boy after all.

He/she is growing little nubs on his/her legs where roosters get spurs. He/she is also getting an exceptionally fluffy tail and a rather large comb. And finally, the neighbor claims she heard crowing very close to the house a few nights ago.

I have heard crowing a few mornings, but every time I rush to the back door to see if it’s Peepers, I hear nothing. I think what I’m hearing is probably the crowing of one of the other roosters in the feral flocks in the neighborhood. I don’t know if the neighbor heard a stray rooster that wandered close to her house, or if it really was Peepers after all.

Anyway, I guess only time will tell. I sure hope Byrd and the neighbors let me keep Peepers if she ends up being a rooster. :-/