Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘laying hens

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

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

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

Impressive Results

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I found myself inexplicably overjoyed upon reading news from Cyndie yesterday morning that “all [eight] hens ran out of coop” together when she opened the hatch. A short time later, she found them all still together, hanging out in our woods. Just as we had read would happen, after a mere two days in the “broody breaker” cage we built, the uncontrolled urge to constantly lay in a nest box has been dispatched. It worked!

The two Golden Laced Wyandottes who went all broody on us are once again foraging along with the rest of the flock.

We couldn’t be happier over the results.

If only we could enjoy success like this when trying to adjust Delilah’s behavior.

Unrelated to any behavior concerns for our almost perfect pooch, I got my thumb bitten more painfully than ever a few days ago, when trying to wrangle a pull toy out of her mouth in her favorite game of tug-of-war.

She didn’t notice she got me, which I am happy about, because it wasn’t her fault at all and I didn’t want her to feel bad. I just had my thumb in the wrong place at the wrong time and it cost me one heck of a bruise, right at the nail bed. I get a frequent reminder when I type.

Luckily, the pressure didn’t break the skin.

I certainly learned of the impressive results of her bite, though.

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Written by johnwhays

May 15, 2019 at 6:00 am

Not Sick

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Cyndie figured out that the behavior we are seeing in our Wyandotte –well, unfortunately, now two Wyandottes– is a case of them going “broody.” They want to hatch eggs. From what we have learned, reading up on the subject, Wyandottes have a noteworthy tendency for becoming broody.

The vision of that first hen splayed out in the nest box, when I initially spotted her there, looked completely different than normal. She seemed like a big water balloon, the way she spread out. Knowing now that she was trying to incubate eggs, it makes perfect sense.

Looks like we will have our work cut out for us to break the hens of the broody behavior. That mothering instinct kicks in and changes their hormones. Since there are no fertilized eggs to be hatched, there is the possibility that broodiness will continue beyond the average 21 days, given no reward of chicks.

Prior to kicking into gear with some of the more involved re-training suggestions, Cyndie has tried simply removing the hens from the nest boxes and putting them out with the others. Our second brooder grumpily sat right down on the ground and refused to join in the frivolity of a mealworm snack.

Her loss.

Discovering that they aren’t sick has been a relief, but there are still reasons for concern. We certainly enjoy getting eggs from our hens, but if one stops laying for a time, it’s not a serious problem. However, if the broody hen doesn’t get back to her normal self, it can be hard on her health over time.

Of even more concern to me is that going broody can get to be contagious, certainly supported by our recent evidence of the second Wyandotte taking to similar behavior in another nest box.

We’ll be intensifying our efforts to interfere with their brooding instincts until we can get things back to usual.

Just when it was feeling like we were getting the hang of this chicken rearing, another new lesson pops up to remind us how little we actually know.

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Written by johnwhays

May 10, 2019 at 6:00 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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No Question

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We have raved many times over how amazing our free range eggs are. Cyndie coined the term, “home-made” to refer to the ones we collect from our hens.

Just in case you aren’t sure why we are always going on about how much better our eggs are, as compared to local “cage free organic” eggs from the grocery store, Cyndie took a picture for reference.

Can you see the difference we are talking about?

Trust me, they taste as good as they look.

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Written by johnwhays

January 11, 2019 at 7:00 am

Hardy Hens

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Temperatures outside have been a rollercoaster of up and down lately. There have been a few passing snow flurries to coat the residual ice we are stuck with in the paddocks, but New Year’s Day yesterday was seriously cold and dry.

Our hens seem to be dealing with it all perfectly well. They are troopers now about traversing the snow-covered ground between their coop and the barn.

It seems they have some extra motivation lately to make the trip. The chickens have taken a particular liking to the hay boxes. It looks like they were having a little party in the sun yesterday afternoon.

With the length of daylight gaining seconds every day, the hens are going a long way to mastering survival in the battle against the elements. It should just get easier from here, right?

The success in avoiding predation for these nine, reveals some wily cunning on their part, which I think goes along with some natural luck they’ve enjoyed that has helped to keep them from harm thus far.

The birds are living up to the billing that these breeds are winter hardy.

Before long, the added daylight will have them laying more eggs again, too, so, we have that to look forward to, as well.

They sure bring us a lot of love every day. Here’s hoping they keep doing this well for all of 2019 and beyond!

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Written by johnwhays

January 2, 2019 at 7:00 am