Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘home-laid eggs

Another First

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It’s been a while since we tried something for the first time at Wintervale, so I guess we were due. Last night we started the 21-day incubation period toward hatching our own chicks. I never had this one on my list of things I wanted to try.

We have set our expectations low, but are striving to meet the specific parameters laid out [hee… laid] in the instructions as closely as possible to improve our odds. Since we weren’t planning ahead for this, some of the eggs spent time in refrigeration, which isn’t recommended.

If any of them hatch, we’ll have even more appreciation for what Rock contributed in his short time with us.

Candling to see if they are viable is scheduled to occur in seven days.

Yesterday, Cyndie gave the horses a new first by opening the gate to the front hayfield for them to explore. The four of them have already chomped the back pasture grass down so much we need to give it a rest.

Looking at how crazy-fast the lawn grass is growing around here during the latest series of rainy days, I expect regrowth in the back pasture shouldn’t take long. The first lawn mowing of the season is definitely imminent, pending the next dry, sunny day.

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Written by johnwhays

April 28, 2021 at 6:00 am

Snow Returns

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It is March, after all. We expect it to snow after the weather has been warm and gorgeous for days. It is one of the foundations of the prevailing expectation that “the other shoe will drop” when things are beginning to go too good in the weather department around these parts. Mother Nature wouldn’t want to let us off too easily with a quick and painless slide directly into spring, don’t ya know.

I watched the weather radar most of the day from the workplace and it looked like Beldenville was getting just as much snow as the sloppy mess that was covering my car by the time I was ready to leave. As soon as I got underway in the limited visibility due to heavy falling snowflakes, I phoned Cyndie to find out what was waiting for me on the other end of my commute.

She shocked me with a report of zero precipitation falling and just grey skies all day long. Well, that is, except for first thing in the morning.

Cyndie had sent me that image earlier in the day. “Red sky in the morning, Sailor take warning…”

For all the radar signals I’d seen over our area most of the day, none of the precipitation was reaching the ground. I hardly believed her, especially given the intensity of the blizzard I was driving through at the time. Then I reached the halfway point of my commute and the falling snow abruptly stopped.

The road was dry. The rest of my drive was clear sailing. I drove right past our place to arrive on time at my dentist’s office for a regular 6-month appointment, stopping just as little white flakes started to fall there. The precipitation finally was reaching the ground.

By the time I made it home, the snow was just beginning to cover the ground, although, it was already drifting off the roof.

As darkness fell and Cyndie trudged out to close the chicken coop, she wondered if it would be necessary to clear them a path from the barn overhang to the coop.

Nope. They took it upon themselves to muster the gumption for a mad dash bee-line route through the white stuff for the shortest distance between two points.

So much for Rocky’s usual prissy refusal to walk on snow unless momma shovels a path for him. I knew he didn’t have some medical condition that prevented his feet from being able to touch snow, but I think he had convinced Cyndie with his act.

Once all the birds were accounted for in the safe confines of the coop and all the eggs had been collected, Cyndie reported a record of ‘most-eggs-in-a-day’ for this brood: Eleven eggs from thirteen hens.

They’re not going to let a return to a little cold and snow slow them down.

Just in time, our new extra-large ice cube trays arrived yesterday for Cyndie to use for freezing eggs, sans shells. Convenient storage for future use in baking or cooking egg dishes when we no longer get a dozen eggs a day.

What can be said, except, “Eggcellent!”

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Written by johnwhays

March 16, 2021 at 6:00 am

Close One

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That was a close one. Yesterday afternoon, our crew of one, Matthew, who is brushing on a fresh coat of sealant on the logs of our house, was taking a break for lunch when he spotted what he calls our “yardbirds.” He was watching our three chickens moseying their way through the trees between the house and the barn.

Then, he caught sight of a fox!

The report I received was that he rushed toward it and started screaming like a madman. Cyndie said he came to the house to tell her there was a fox in our trees. When she arrived on the scene, all she found were the black feathers of our last Australorp. A LOT of black feathers, spread across a significant distance.

About that time, I received a text message indicating we had lost a hen to a fox.

A couple of hours later, my phone rang with a call from Cyndie with a correction to the previous message. The Black Australorp was still alive!

She had returned to the coop where Cyndie found her nestled into one of the nest boxes. Given the near-death experience, Cyndie granted the hen a free pass to stay in the box for as long as she wanted. There were no visible signs of trauma.

Much later, at dusk, I checked on the three chickens while closing the coop for the night. Much to our surprise, I found the Australorp perched on the roost beside her trusty companions, looking fit as a fiddle.

In addition, I found she had laid an egg while recovering her wits in the nest box.

That’s one tough hen.

Logic tells us that fox will return, so we may need to confine the birds to quarters for a while until we figure out some kind of plan.

We were already intending to install a fenced-in run area outside one of the coop doors in preparation for the new chicks. They are due to arrive today and will spend their first month or so in the brooder with supplemental heat, so we thought we had some time before needing to reconfigure the coop.

That schedule will change now that the fox is paying visits in broad daylight. Free-ranging may need to be curtailed for a while until we build a protected space where they can do some not-as-free-ranging.

Meanwhile, we have returned to arguing with ourselves over whether to get a rooster for protecting the hens, or not. That is an unlikely solution for us, but we occasionally revisit the idea to make sure we still feel the same way.

Our precious layers deserve some support in terms of protection, so if not from a rooster, we’d like to figure out a viable alternative.

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Written by johnwhays

July 17, 2020 at 6:00 am

Egg Bonanza

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One of the best things about April 2nd is that there are 364 days before needing to survive April Fools’ Day again. The one silly bit of mischief I tried to pull off yesterday didn’t work as hoped, but still provided some laughter when I demonstrated later how I had intended it to play out.

Well-timed revenge was enacted and I came back from my lunch break to a malfunctioning mouse for my computer. I found a slip of post-it paper stuck to the underside covering the laser. “April Fools!” was written on the paper. Nicely executed.

One thing that was no prank yesterday was the home-laid egg performance by our eight hens. Yesterday was our first 100% production day for this year.

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That’s one less trip to the grocery store in search of essentials for me.

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Written by johnwhays

April 2, 2020 at 6:00 am

Increasing Production

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It’s March 18 and I’m still symptom-free. I’m measuring each day that I’m not sick as a victory over the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you to everyone who is heeding the call for social distancing. One graph I saw at worldometers.info last night indicated the daily number of cases identified in the US has been doubling every few days. Since that data only includes the number of people actually tested, I imagine the total number of cases increasing every day is probably much larger.

I have not quarantined myself yet, but I’m limiting my activity to commuting to work and then coming straight home. I will need to stop for gas twice a week, but I always pay at the pump so there is no need to go inside.

There are only ten people at work, so if we can all avoid exposure from others, the risks at the day-job should remain low.

It’s too bad the virus doesn’t provide obviously visible indications in a person when they get it. That would make it so much easier to avoid people who are spreading it.

While staff at the day-job are giving their all to keep up with the over-filled production schedule (there’s no indication our customers are slowing down at this point), the hens at home are just approaching their highest production rate.

Yesterday was the highest-grossing day of the new season. From our amazing eight hens, we got 7 eggs for the first time this year. I found the last egg out in the sand covering the floor of the coop, not in the nest boxes that all the others have been using.

It seems to me that the color of the eggs from the three different breeds is becoming more homogeneous. We used to get some that were very dark brown and some that were very light. Yesterday’s seven looked surprisingly similar.

The light ones are a little darker and the dark ones are lighter than usual.

Luckily, they are all filled with a brilliantly deep-colored yoke that makes for amazing breakfast dishes and wonderful baked goods.

With the head cook and principle baker living in Florida for a while, I will be stockpiling eggs for a later date.

If things get desperate during the pandemic quarantine, maybe I could trade some for toilet paper.

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Written by johnwhays

March 18, 2020 at 6:00 am

First Sign

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I know it’s only February, but spring can’t be far off now. Yesterday morning at work, I received this message from Cyndie:

Maybe that egg surprised the hen. Cyndie reported it was in the sand covering the floor of their coop, not one of the nest boxes.

If the first egg of the season doesn’t offer us hope for better days ahead, then we’ve been paying too much attention to news of the world. Well then, how about two eggs! By the time Cyndie went down to close the coop for the night, there was already a second egg, this time right where we want them, in a nest box.

There may be enough increase in hours of daylight to trigger egg-laying again, but this morning the hens got a brisk slap in the beak after a drop of 40°(F) temperature overnight. Ol’ Man Winter isn’t going to let us forget what month it is, regardless what fresh eggs make us think.

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Written by johnwhays

February 13, 2020 at 7:00 am

Happy Hens

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We are thrilled to report that our hens are acting very happy with the last few days of above-average warmth (above freezing!) around this winter solstice. Tomorrow is Christmas and the hours of daylight started increasing again so the mood is pretty festive around here. A return to home-laid eggs can’t be far off. The day they kick back into that cycle again will bring on its own celebratory moods in our house. We’ve become spoiled with a quality of eggs that the grocery store offerings don’t come close to matching.

During the previous sub-zero cold snaps and bouts of snow, the chickens showed zero interest in venturing outside the coop when we opened the chicken door. Yesterday and Sunday they gladly made the trek back to the barn overhang where there is prime sand-bathing to be had in the sun.

For some reason defying logic, the hens have sequentially been molting for several months now. The two latest raggy looking things are getting their comeuppance for the period they were strutting around looking like award-winning specimens when others were a sorry sight.

Everybody has their day.

We are going to leave the coop buttoned up for a couple of days while we take Delilah with us for an overnight to Cyndie’s parent’s house in Edina. The Christmas tradition for Cyndie’s family involves a big dinner with cousin families on the eve, then breakfast and a gift exchange extravaganza extraordinaire on Christmas morning followed with a big dinner in the evening.

In years past, when we had the horses, I ended up driving back and forth three times in two days in an attempt to be involved in all things at once. This year, we are modifying the plan a little to eliminate a couple of trips.

A nod to taking another tiny step toward reducing our use of fossil fuels for the sake of our warming planet.

I’m not sure the chickens will be so happy about our plan, though, now that they are showing renewed interest in coming out of the coop again when it’s nice.

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Written by johnwhays

December 24, 2019 at 7:00 am

Just One

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Found out Cyndie bought eggs from the grocery store the other day. With the hours of daylight reduced this time of year, our hens have dropped production of home-laid eggs a significant amount. Yesterday, the grand total count was one.

Sometimes, you don’t know what you’ve got, till it’s gone.

Speaking of gone, more of our chickens have begun molting feathers, unfortunately, just when the early cold snap showed up. Seems odd that chickens would molt so late in the year. Although, I can see how it might have served as inspiration for early peoples to gather all the shed feathers to make beds or blankets just as the cold temperatures were arriving.

Cyndie chased a squirrel out of the coop yesterday. Maybe it was on a mission to collect feathers for his or her nest.

Chickens are hardly ever in there laying eggs lately, so at least someone is making daytime use of the shelter. Hah!

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Written by johnwhays

November 15, 2019 at 7:00 am

Daytime Sighting

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Our dog, Delilah, has so many episodes of freaking out over something she sees or hears through our doors and windows that we have grown numb to her outbursts. It is rare that I bother looking anymore to see what squirrel/rabbit/bird is triggering her tizzy.

Of course, there was the time last summer when we finally checked and discovered she was barking about that group of 10 cows that had found their way up near our bedroom window. Her reaction that time was totally justified.

Last night, we were up in the loft when she revved up over something she spotted in the back yard through the French doors. Since I had a similar view without needing to get up, I turned to check it out.

There was a raccoon sauntering across our yard in broad daylight, unfortunately, directly toward the chicken coop. I rushed down to track its path and was able to see it climb up a large tree and disappear, high up inside the main trunk. Just a short distance further ahead, the chickens were calmly combing the deep leaves on the ground among the trees.

Our chicken coop, when buttoned up for the night, is well secured against raccoon intrusion. Regular readers may recall we got duped by a possum that snuck inside during the day and killed one of our hens over night after we shut the door at sunset.

Now we check all the nooks when we count the chickens and close the door for the night. The usual evening report used to simply list the number of hens secured, but now it always includes the affirmation of the coop being predator-free, as well.

Unfortunately, since we have chosen to free-range our chickens, they are easy prey during daylight hours. One reason a raccoon will be out during the daytime (other than maybe being sick with rabies or dysentery) is because of hunger. That is not a good omen in such close proximity to where our chickens hang out.

I tossed a treat of dried mealworms in the pan of feed yesterday afternoon.

It was a BIG hit. They came after me looking for more:

We collected seven new home-laid eggs yesterday.

At least the hens are putting those worms to good use.

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Saving Daylight

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It’s that 23-hour day again. We all get cheated out of a normal hour of sleep in order to feel like there is more daylight today than there was yesterday. Whatever.

Living with, and caring for animals, is one way to notice how laughable our arbitrary adjustment of clock hours is to nature.

Last week, the chickens had already responded to the increased hours of daylight by restarting their egg production. Yesterday, Cyndie cooked up “home-laid” eggs for breakfast again. Even without a lot of live-bug protein in their diets yet, our free-range hens sure produce delectable eggs.

So, the storm blew in yesterday with gusto. Strong winds toppled the multiple-unit Martin house. Neither of us noticed if any residents were displaced. The activity there has rarely been visible, even though there is some nest material inside.

Just like predicted, we received rain for a few hours before it changed over to snow, so the overall accumulation appears to be a more reasonable 5-ish inches (and still falling), instead of twice that, or more, that it could have been.

There’s not enough light out yet to show you how gorgeous the new snow looks, stuck to all the trees, but we’ll have our cameras out while plowing and shoveling all day today, so I expect there will be some scenic shots to share eventually.

In the mean time, here is a shot that Cyndie took which I adore:

I asked her why her snowshoe trail took on the whimsical “s” curves, and she said that she was looking down as she trudged along, and for that last stretch had resorted to simply following Delilah’s footprints in the deep snow.

I guess it’s a visual of where the most canine-alluring scents were wafting in the air on that trail-breaking trek.

Happy Daylight Saving Time to those territories who make the adjustment.

Yawn.

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