Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘free range eggs

Fifth Nest

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Cyndie finally found it. The location where our hens have been laying eggs beyond our coop. Eighteen eggs, to be exact.

We’d had our suspicions about the general direction for some time, but were mistakenly searching between the trees around the area when all the while they have been sneaking behind some rolled up fencing stored right beside the outside of the shop.

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Based on the variety in colors of eggs, we suspect between three and four hens have been taking turns laying there. They aren’t all laying there every time, as we have usually found six eggs per day in the coop nest boxes from the eight hens.

Yesterday, Cyndie spotted the Domestique running from the shop area which clued her in about refining her search location.

The chickens have been taking advantage of the horses being out in the back pasture, returning to their old stomping grounds under the barn overhang to scrounge for goodies. Since the horses tend to make swift sprints back into the paddocks at random intervals, the chickens occasionally find themselves alarmed.

Cyndie captured this image of Rocky standing tall over them as they closed ranks during one such incident yesterday.

When the horses aren’t racing back into the paddocks, they were thoroughly enjoying the comfort and open space available in the back pasture.

It was another glorious day in paradise.

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Written by johnwhays

April 21, 2021 at 6:00 am

Popular Nest

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We have four nest boxes in the coop for the hens to lay their eggs. History has revealed the box closest to the chicken door is the most popular.

I suppose when ya gotta lay, the first box might be a welcome necessity.

Cyndie is suspecting we’ve got a rogue who has chosen a spot other than the coop, based on the daily total of eggs collected falling a little short of expectations. She reports a pattern of suspicious chicken “call-outs” that frequently occur post egg-laying now emanating from a location other than the coop.

A cursory survey yesterday afternoon didn’t provide any evidence supporting her theory, but the fact this situation has occurred twice before feed our belief it is not only possible, but likely.

I told her she should let Delilah search using her incredible scent-detecting nose, but then we both felt a hesitancy over offering any encouragement to our intrepid tracker for predatory behavior toward our chickens or the eggs.

If it turned out to be just one hen choosing a remote location, that wouldn’t be such a big deal. Since the egg counts have seemed to be down by more than one a day this week, we are a little concerned that allowing this behavior to go unchecked might inspire more hens to participate in laying eggs in a nest of their own making.

Maybe it is unlucky we’ve seen such little evidence of predator pressure on this latest brood of birds and it has nurtured a complacency about their level of risk. Sure, they are domestic chickens, but they need to realize they are living in the midst of actual roaming wildlife.

A lone hen sitting on a nest in the woods of the neighbor’s property behind our shop garage (where Cyndie senses the familiar clucking outbursts have been coming from) will be no match for the fox that has been caught on the trail cam crossing onto our land from nearby.

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Written by johnwhays

April 7, 2021 at 6:00 am

Thirteen Eggs

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We now know that all thirteen of our hens are producing eggs. Friday we collected one egg for each hen in our brood. Our little chicks are all grown up.

 

They are thriving in their first exposure to spring and full access to free ranging our fields and forest. Crawling insects are under an all out assault.

When I was primping the paddock in preparation of our anticipated new equine tenants, the chickens showed up to join the fun; happy to help.

 

Now I’m going to go outside and clear out the last remnants of moldy hay from the hay shed and de-clutter the barn and I couldn’t be more excited about the reason so to do.

New horse companions are slated to arrive in less than a month.

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Written by johnwhays

March 28, 2021 at 9:39 am

Not Rare

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Whatever the data source was that Cyndie happened upon which touted the rate of occasions of double-yolk eggs as being about one time in a thousand, I think it was based on a “universal” average. Something along the lines of randomly buying a thousand eggs from which you might get one double yolk.

It doesn’t likely apply to a situation like ours where a specific thirteen laying hens are producing eggs that are collected every day.

Either the double yolk is contagious or one of our hens is regularly releasing two yolks in quick succession that are getting covered by one shell. Cyndie says we’ve had at least ten, maybe a dozen doubles, since more of the young ones have begun to mature to the age of laying in the last few weeks.

We are up to around 7 to 8 eggs per day. We are finding the little –and not so little– treasures in all four of the nest boxes, with the first box closest to their access door the clear favorite. There is also one scofflaw who prefers making her own nest in the straw Cyndie added under the poop board to increase insulation during that bitter cold snap.

The straw will go away when the day for a full spring cleaning arrives and the floor of the coop will return to being covered with sand only. We’ll see if the oddball continues to ignore the nest boxes and chooses sand over wood shavings.

If we were selling our eggs, we could charge a premium for a dozen of the double-extra-large eggs, except we don’t have any cartons that would hold them.

When the hens exceed our rate of consumption and Cyndie’s baking extravaganzas, surplus dozens get distributed to family and a few lucky friends. Get ready, kids! There are fresh eggs in your near future!

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Written by johnwhays

February 26, 2021 at 7:00 am

Forging Ahead

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The bite of persistent extreme cold weather continues to oppressively dominate life for us and our stoic chickens. There is little in the way of frivolous activity from the hens, beyond the brave layers who make extra trips between the nest boxes in the coop and the nook under the barn overhang where they have been spending the rest of the daylight hours.

Surprisingly, this cold snap does not appear to be stifling the continued development of the maturing hens into the egg-laying phase of their lives. Yesterday, we were gifted with six eggs, the most in one day so far from this brood. Unsurprisingly, not all of the eggs were found before freezing to the point of cracking.

Not all of the eggs were laid in one of the nest boxes, but at least four of the layers chose the same box.

As of yesterday, we hadn’t yet made the transition to using egg cartons when collecting eggs. When it is only one or two eggs, both Cyndie and I tend to slip them into pockets for the trip back up to the house. Once we start finding a half-dozen or more at one time, our stash of old egg cartons definitely comes into play.

As Cyndie multitasked yesterday to walk Delilah, collect the emptied trash and recycling bins, and collect eggs from the coop, she was suddenly met with —

SQUIRREL!!!

With Delilah’s leash quick-clipped to the handle of one of the bins and Cyndie’s grip on each of the two bins, eggs in her jacket pocket, our alerted canine unexpectedly bolted 90° sideways over the snow piled along the edge of the driveway.

The jolt on the leash yanked so powerfully it pulled both the bins and Cyndie into the bank of snow where she toppled over and unceremoniously landed headfirst in the snow, resulting in one broken egg in her pocket.

She made her way back to upright and got Delilah under control and forged ahead for the warmth of the house.

Today is even colder than yesterday and tomorrow is due to be colder than today.

We’ll just keep on keeping on, uncertain of what frigid adventure might result next.

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Written by johnwhays

February 13, 2021 at 11:06 am

Too Late

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By the time I got home from work to check for eggs yesterday, I was too late to do anything for this perfect specimen:

Warm when it was laid, the egg melted its way down into the ice on the path between the coop and the barn. After it cooled, it became locked in the resulting ice that surrounded it.

One of the hens just isn’t getting the hang of this egg-laying thing. At least, we hope it’s just one. This is the fourth egg laid out in the middle of nowhere. Somebody isn’t yet reading the signals in her body that trigger the others to head back to the coop for the nest boxes.

Meanwhile, two others did make use of the nest boxes and it appears we may have another one of those 1-in-a-thousand double-yolk eggs based on the size of one of those eggs.

Never a dull moment in the early egg-laying phase of raising chickens, especially when it happens to coincide with the harsher months of winter.

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Written by johnwhays

February 3, 2021 at 7:00 am

Another Stray

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We received a little more than a dusting of snow overnight, but not quite an inch. It’s annoying, actually, in a region where it’s not certain whether the paltry amount will melt or add to possible future accumulations. Does it deserve the effort of plowing? Should I clear the valley on the roof where ice dams often result?

There are more times than I like to admit when I have wished I had cleaned up a previous snow event that I originally chose to ignore.

Cyndie was pondering sweeping the fresh snow cover away near the barn for the benefit of our royal residents, the chickens. Heaven forbid they be forced to deal with the elements like feral chickens.

Based on their initial egg-laying performances, they are behaving more like wild birds than the domesticated coop-homed free-rangers they are. We are witnessing the successful initial use of the nest boxes in the coop at a rate of about 70%. The other times, eggs appear to show up in any and all locations where the brood happens to find themselves.

There was a single frozen egg discovered this morning next to the wall of the barn. Oops.

It’s hard to tell right now exactly which birds are laying among the thirteen. Based on the number of eggs in a day, likely 4 or maybe 5 are starting to produce. We are starting to get a routine of three eggs a day.

It’s a good thing our primary focus is not on gaining eggs, but on having happy, healthy chickens roaming our grounds. Eggs are just a wonderful added benefit that we try not to neglect.

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Written by johnwhays

January 31, 2021 at 11:11 am

Early Production

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After the appearance of a new small egg a week or so ago, we are noticing more of our young chickens are beginning to lay. I’m always impressed that they actually use the nest boxes, of which we have four. It’s interesting that we commonly find two hens squeezed into the same box at the same time.

Yesterday, Cyndie discovered one of the layers hasn’t figured out the nest box routine and was laying eggs in the sand of the far corner below the poop board, where visibility is restricted.

They didn’t fare well unnoticed for a few days against the frigid winter temperatures.

A small “first-try” egg also showed up in one of the feed pans.

We have a range of sizes showing up during this start-up period.

It won’t be long now and we will be flush with fresh free-range eggs. Hopefully, they will be showing up in the nest boxes more often than not.

Our track record in this regard tells me we have good reason to watch out for out-layers.

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Written by johnwhays

January 21, 2021 at 7:00 am

Clear Evidence

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As autumn dries out the growth across our landscape, all sorts of sights that were once buried in greenery are becoming revealed.

It is clear that our Wyandotte didn’t entirely kick her habit of finding places other than the nest boxes for laying her eggs this year.

Cyndie found these after several obviously old eggs began to appear in unlikely open spaces in the nearby vicinity. It seems as though some critters of the night had discovered the stash and were working on moving them to hiding places of their own choosing.

It’s a good thing we aren’t trying to subsist exclusively on the production of our layers. As always, I like having the chickens for their ability to control flies and ticks. Free-range eggs are a byproduct. Indeed, a precious bonus, but not a requirement we demand of them.

Still, it’s sad to find the bounty we’ve been missing out on that has gone to waste.

Silly chicken.

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Written by johnwhays

November 10, 2020 at 7:00 am

Holding Out

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Turns out, our adult Golden Laced Wyandotte layer hen has been holding out on us. Yesterday, Cyndie’s mom, Marie, along with Sara and Althea, stopped by to see the new chicks on their way home from the lake place. While they were here, the group took a stroll to find the three adult hens free-ranging away on the property.

When they heard the Wyandotte cooing in a thicket of growth, closer inspection revealed she was sitting on a batch of seven eggs!

Why that little stinker.

When I got home and Cyndie shared some pictures of the scene with me, the thing that stood out more than the eggs was the appearance of poison ivy leaves around the spot.

That chicken really doesn’t seem to want us to take her eggs.

For that matter, I suddenly have very little interest in handling that hen! Her feathers are probably covered in poison ivy oils. I start to feel phantom itches all over just thinking about it, and I didn’t even touch any of the hens or eggs yesterday.

I touched a lot of cute little “henlets,” though.

Whose idea was it to allow our chickens to free-range around here, anyway? A fenced run off the coop would be a lot simpler than all the risks due to predators and the hens’ creativity with laying locations.

Speaking of predators, I believe there is now one less fox we need to worry about. Yesterday morning, just as I turned off our street on the way to work at the crack of dawn, I saw a roadkill fox in the oncoming lane.

I’m a little surprised no other marauders discovered the pile of eggs free for the taking from the ground in the last week. Maybe that bodes well for the chances of continued good luck for the last three surviving hens from our 2018 batch.

If it weren’t for the occasional random incursions of passing bands of coyotes, our regular number of free-ranging adults might increase from the usual three that we always end up with toward the end of their productive egg-laying years.

When we were in this same situation two years ago, with 3 adults and a new brood of twelve young-uns that we expected would need merging together, the adults all got taken by a fox over a series of a few days. Sad as that was, it saved us the hassle of introducing the different aged birds to each other.

This time, I may need to actually follow through on a plan to remodel the inside of the coop to add a barrier that will provide shared-but-segregated accommodations for some period of introduction.

We never run out of new things to learn around here. Particularly, how to outsmart a hen that decides she’s too good for the silly nest boxes in the coop for laying her precious eggs.

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