Shakira’s Egg

I’ve neglected this little blog lately.  Things suddenly hit fast forward and I got a bit lost in the wake of it all.  There’s been a hospital stay and recuperation period.  And the weather made things a bit dicey for a bit.  And then, Christmas decorating…
I managed to keep up with chores, but that was about it.

It would seem the reign of chaos is over, for now, so allow me to catch you up on the chicken world at Remote.

After a couple of weeks of downloading images from the game camera, I’ve taken it down.  The idea was to identify the hens laying eggs.  Which would have been a cinch because they all have those colored bands.  Except they are laying mostly in the predawn hours.  So, all the images come out black and white.  Outsmarted by a bunch of clucks!
However, I did manage to make a few observations from the images I got.  One of which was that my girls all seem to be morning peeps (see what I did there?).  Another is that Daisy, who still insists on staying inside the coop as much as possible, dutifully checks the nesting boxes as soon as they are vacated by a laying hen.  I may change her name to Nosey.
I do plan to reinstall the camera if production increases.  But, for now, I know what I need to know.

And what I know is that all of the Comets are laying.  It is not consistent, but most days I get five brown eggs and every few days I get six.  Since I never saw a Sussex (also brown egg layers) in any of the nesting boxes, I have to assume that all the brown eggs are Comet eggs.

And, I now know which Egger is leaving me the pretty sage green eggs!  But I didn’t find that out from the camera.

About a week ago, I got the first tiny green egg.  It was a total surprise, since the days have shortened to the point that getting any eggs is usually a surprise and I’ve gotten sort of cavalier about collecting them.  Although, I am recording the numbers for each day so I’m in the habit.
Knowing that the girls are morning layers and not finding five or six eggs when I go down to let them out into the run, I make a habit of going back mid-afternoon.  And too, I’m still not sure we didn’t lose four eggs a couple of weeks ago and I’m not going to feed a freeloader, be it rat or snake.  I walked down to the barn to get some scratch to scatter and saw that little green egg as I passed.  The smile on my face probably lit up the neighborhood!

It was tiny, as all first eggs are.  Not quite as small as the first of the brown eggs, but still too small to mess with.  I determined I would save it and blow out the insides.

One tiny sage green egg to kick off the Egger production!

Then, for almost a week, no green egg.  And the puzzlement of who had laid it to begin with.  I had a feeling I knew who it was, but much as I did with the first of the Comets to lay, I wanted proof before I congratulated her.

The weekend following the appearance of the sage green egg, I had plans to convert the coop to sand.  I’ve known for a good while that I wanted to get rid of the pine shavings.  They smell lovely when first spread and they do offer a nice springy spot for the girls to land when they leave the roosts.  But it doesn’t take long for the poop to penetrate, no matter how often you rake the floor.  And, once fully soiled, they have to be removed.  Completely.  Unless you’re using a deep litter method.  I did look into that and decided I couldn’t do it.  The Leonard in me wouldn’t stand for the nastiness of layer upon layer of chicken shit, especially when it came time to haul it all out!
I did my usual research and convinced Coop Daddy that sand was the way to go.  But, since it was he who had surgery, I knew I would be doing all the heavy work alone.  Thankfully, Sheli decided to spend the weekend in Remote and is always a willing helper when it comes to chicken chores.

We started really early on Sunday morning, knowing that a weather change was coming in on Monday.  This would be the last of the warm sunny days for the year and I wanted to power wash all the surfaces since I would have sunshine and warm breezes to dry it all out.
I raked the pine shavings, then swept, then used the ShopVac to get the last of the bits out of all the cracks and crevices.  All the while, Daisy marched up and down her roost, chuckling softly when I hit my head and threatening to bomb me if I bent too far into her line of fire.  Then Shakira, another of the Eggers who’s become Daisy’s BFF, decided to join her.  I warned them both that any shenanigans would get them tossed outside for the duration.
Sheli helped me carry the nesting boxes and ladder out into the run and started scraping them down.  I chased Daisy and Shakira out into the run.  Then I hosed out the coop and set up the power washer and we scrubbed and sprayed until all the poop was gone.

Daisy usually just hangs out on the outdoor ladder until she sees an opportunity to fly back into the coop.  I pulled the door closed to keep her out.  Shakira seemed as determined to get back in.  She was pacing outside the door and mumbling to herself.  I told Sheli to try sticking her in a nesting box in case my hunch that she was the sage green egg maker proved true.  Shaky did a couple of turns then popped back out.  Okay, maybe it isn’t her after all.

We worked until well after lunch, then abandoned the project in favor of a bite to eat.  An hour would give us the dry floor needed to start spreading sand.
No sooner had the door opened than Shaky and Daisy flew directly in and up to the roosts.

And Shakira dropped a lovely new sage green egg right onto the freshly washed coop floor.  Mystery solved and hunch confirmed.  But I was sad to see her efforts, after a week of waiting, lying broken on the ground beneath her.  And I thought I was going to have to get grief counseling for Sheli!

I cleaned up the mess, washed down the floor again, and we trudged off to the house.

It’s been better than a week now since we worked in the coop.  The sand is a huge improvement, even if I do have to scoop poop every day.  We had our coldest night yet, just days after we spread the sand.  The final drop in temps left us at 18 degrees for several hours in the deep night.  I have to feel the insulating power of that sand, coupled with the heat energy produced by sixteen hens at the beginning of egg production, and the wind block provided by Coop Daddy’s framed plastic wall panels made it warm enough for the girls to sleep peacefully.
Shakira is laying a sage green egg just about daily now and they are slowly picking up in size and weight.  She has become easily as sweet as Daisy is and has sold me on Easter Eggers.  I have no plans to get more chicks before this first group is old, but I will always have Eggers in my flock.

Shaky’s little egg has been blown out and washed.  I need to figure out how to preserve it now.  Or maybe I’ll get Sister to paint something on it.

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Shakira
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Move over, Sister!

For a few weeks now, we’ve had consistent egg production from five of our six Golden Comets.  I still have no idea who the slacker is, although I’m pretty sure it’s Lavabird.
What I am certain about is that three of our hens are “morning peeps” (see what I did there?) and likewise creatures of extreme habit.

When Coop Daddy built the nesting boxes, there was a lot of hemming and hawing before he got down to nailing and sawing.  Would six be enough?  Would nine be a better number?  Could they get by with three?
I read and reread and finally decided that most of the information I could find pointed to six nesting boxes for our sixteen birds.  That suited Coop Daddy well, since he had already purchased material for two rows of three and had his “plan” in his head.
Good boy!
He built them well, but lightweight and small enough for me to remove them from the coop for cleaning without having to ask for help.

Well ahead of schedule, we set up the nesting boxes in the coop and even stuck the decoy ceramic egg in one box so the girls would know exactly what this new contraption was meant for.  And, sure enough, when the first bird sauntered in and sat down, she parked her fluffy butt over that fake white egg and left a real brown one beside it.  I couldn’t have been happier if she’d been a puppy using her first piddle pad.
Time went by and hens 2, 3, 4, and 5 all figured out that those twelve by twelve apartments were meant to house the product of their efforts and all chose the same nesting boxes each time.
Upper left and upper right.  Never upper center.  Never lower anything.

The most popular box was the box with the faux egg.  There are times I’ve been working in the run when a hen would go inside and it’s amusing to watch them roll that fake egg until it’s under them.  I’m not sure why they do that, but I assume they think they’re going to hatch it.  But then, they lay their own eggs and can’t get away fast enough.
So, maybe not.

Curious, I moved it.  They continued to use the same box where it first appeared.

Last week, I was working out in the run and caught all three birds attempting to use the same box at the same time.  I suppose it was bound to happen.  Although it’s interesting to realize they may have been fighting over the same box from the start, much as they tend to argue over who sits where on the roosts.  I am rarely in the coop or run early enough to catch this disagreement, apparently.
As I watched, one hen went into the wildly popular upper left box.  The second hen came in, flew up to the ladder and started complaining about the occupied sign in her nesting box.  Hen number three flew up to the right side box and began to complain as she inched slowly to her left.  By now hen number two was doing her level best to unseat hen one by ducking under her and pushing.  There was a great deal of squawking and muttering.  I don’t know what chickens say to each other, but I’m guessing “toss off” and “you go straight to hell” may have been part of this conversation.

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Leia and Lucretia duke it out over the favored nesting box.

Eventually, hen number two was successful in chasing both hens one and three away from the upper left box and settled down to her business.  Hen number one reluctantly moved on to the upper right box and hen number three went back to the run to wait.
When I went back out later to collect the eggs, there were two in the upper left box and one in the upper right box.

I decided to permanently relocate the fake egg to the lower row of boxes.  Last evening I found two eggs in that one.  Maybe it’s just time to buy a couple more fake eggs.

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Leia decides to vacate.

Will the mystery chicken please sign in.

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Fall finally decided to show up in North Texas a few weeks ago.  The mornings have that crisp, new apple, feel.  The air is fresh and sweet.  And cold on the shoulders.
Almost by magic, the trees here at Remote are wearing party dresses.
I think I will be forever grateful for the force that pulled or pushed us to this place.  It is an island of sorts, surrounded as we are on all sides by trees.
Fall literally explodes here.

My biggest fear with the coming (or leaving?) of Daylight Savings Time was that the chickens would notice.  I’m not sure why I ever considered that chickens were at all concerned with time changes, but there you have it.  My mind is often an empty hallway.

“Hello?”

“Bueller?”

It never occurred to me that chickens have their own, internal, timepiece and that the insanity of a clock or shifting time forward and backward an hour isn’t something they would care to note.
Likewise, chickens make no notice of the passage of time.  As long as the food and water supplies don’t run low, the resident hawks, raccoons, and snakes don’t figure out how to open the door of the run, and the coop stays dry and draft free, there’s little for them to fret over.  They wake up when the sun rises and gather at the door to wait for me.  When the sun begins to slide down the western sky, they hop back through the door and find their spot on the roosts.  It happens every day of the week, every week of the year, just like this.

But I have been counting the days.  And watching closely to determine when my girls would begin to lay eggs.  I discovered recently that buying chicks in early summer might not have been the wisest choice since production slows considerably in winter.  When the weather turns hens, much like flowers, use their food sources and energy to stay alive and healthy.  Therefore, chicks born in early fall will be reaching maturity just as the days get longer and warmer.  I don’t plan to buy any more chicks for some time to come.  But I have noted this small adjustment for future use.
We got our first egg when the girls were just shy of 21 weeks old.  That falls well within the timelines I found in the various articles and books I consulted.  They could lay as early as 16 weeks.  But only one or two even looked mature enough at that point.  Now, at 24 weeks, all of the Comets look old enough.  They all have dark red faces, combs, and wattles.  Five of the six squat if you reach to pet them.  A couple, Prissy and Vaisala, have gotten pretty big.  Although, the most productive hen so far, Lucretia, is a tiny thing by comparison to the others.
The Sussex should be ready to lay by 20 weeks, but only one or two of my four look old enough.  None of them squat.  But they do chatter much as the Comets do.  Hens that are laying age “talk” in different voices than younger ones do.  Like a group of gossipy ladies.
The Easter Eggers aren’t expected to lay until at least 26 weeks and some sources say as late as seven months (30-31 weeks).  None of mine look very much like the other chickens – they won’t have wattles and only small “strawberry” combs – much less like hens ready to lay eggs, so who knows?

Someone is definitely leaving eggs though.  I’m certain Lucretia was the first to start.  And I’ve caught Prissy in the act recently.  We’re up to five eggs a day, most days.  Which means five of the six Comets must be laying now.  All of the eggs are a consistent light brown.  Each day they are bigger overall, so that today’s eggs are what I’d consider small.  Next week’s eggs should be more of a medium size.  And, eventually, they will be large brown eggs.
Since they don’t punch a time clock when they enter the nesting boxes, I decided that installing a game camera in the coop would be a good way to determine who, exactly, is leaving me eggs.

My findings were a bit surprising!  The nesting boxes seem to be a very popular hangout.

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It would seem the Easter Eggers were interested in a three-bedroom. Leia (far left, a Comet) was mostly likely just leaving her unit. The Eggers are: Shakira, Henrietta, Daisy.

I hadn’t expected to find any of the Eggers, except Daisy, since she rarely leaves the coop, in residence.  Finding three of the six was a bit of a shock.

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Ms. Henrietta and Shakira

 

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But then Prissy comes to claim her spot.

So, I am no wiser than when I placed the camera.  I know Comets are laying.  I still don’t know who.

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Unknown Comet.

And at this rate, I’ll never know!

So, maybe it’s time to act like a chicken and ditch the camera.  Maybe I can find a way to get rid of the clocks too.  Lord knows my internal alarm rings loud enough to wake the neighborhood!  I doubt I’d get by without the calendar, since we are still slaves to doctor’s appointments and such.

But it seems that adopting chicken habits and just showing up at the door is a much more peaceful way to wind though the days.  I think these birds are onto something.

Open For Business

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This bowl of small brown eggs sits on the counter in my kitchen.  All came from my Golden Comet, Lucretia.  I can not yet bring myself to use them.  I figure, based on the number of days most store-bought eggs stay on the shelf, I’ve got until sometime next spring. And anyway, first eggs aren’t usually the best eggs. For now, I like how they look in this little bowl.

When I first decided for purchasing Golden Comets, I started looking for a suitable comet name to pin on one of the chicks.  It took awhile, although I really didn’t have to search so hard. There are some good comet names that everybody identifies with.  My problem was, I didn’t want a chicken named Halley or Hale-Bopp or Hyakutake.

Rather quickly, the chicks arrived and I got busy trying to keep them fed and warm and alive.  We were experimenting with different brooder situations. We were doing repairs on the existing run and coop. Names would come eventually.  I had time.

Pretty early on there was a bird that seemed to always be in charge and I assumed she would become my mama bird.  Many flocks without a rooster end up with one hen who just seems to naturally fall into the leadership role.  Those hens sometimes even grow long sickle (tail) feathers.  My little mama was a Comet with a mark on her head that looked like a “v”. So the search for a comet with an interesting “v” name ensued.  It was through this search that I found the name Lucretia. I never intended to give comet-related names to two chickens. But, in the end, the names were just too good not to use.

Carolyn Lucretia Herschel (1750-1848) was a German astronomer and the first woman of note in the field.  Among the many comets she discovered is 35P/Herschel-Rigollet.  So, for evermore, her name will be associated with the science she loved. She earned several notable awards and honorary memberships into societies and academies throughout her 97 years. Most impressive is a gold medal for science from the King of Prussia, given her on her 96th birthday.  She never married, but instead was devoted to her science and her brother, also an astronomer.

It’s a hefty cross to bear, being named after someone like that.  I worried that my luck would run toward choosing the lowest bird in the pecking order and slapping this grandiose name on her. Poor little thing! Even so, I picked my bird and gave her a grass green leg band. And named her Lucretia.

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Lucretia with her first leg band.

Lucretia has grown into a very pretty bird.  She is a deep cinnamon red tipped with pure white.  She has bright golden-brown eyes and white eyelashes.  She is a big bird.  Not at all the last of the pecking order.  But not an aggressive or mean bird.  She tolerates handling well and never seems to be grumpy when the nightly shuffle on the roosts begins.

I make a point to pick up all of my chickens even though most of them truly dislike being touched. I push the issue because I need them to get used to being held so giving them meds and such will be (hopefully) easier. As we’ve approached egg-laying age, I’ve been making a point to pick up each of the girls at least once or twice a week. Some I have to corner. Some I have to chase. Some I have to trick. But nobody gets away for long.

One day last week, I reached for Lucretia and, to my absolute surprise, she not only stopped, but squatted down, spread her wings, and held perfectly still. I recognized this as something entirely new and made a point to do some research when I got back into the house. Sure enough, this was the “submissive squat” I didn’t know I was looking for. She was letting me know she’d reached egg laying age. Three days later, we got our first egg.

It’s been almost a week since the first egg appeared. None of the other hens seem the least bit interested. Oh, they go in and out of the nesting boxes. Daisy even picks the straw out and drops it on the coop floor. So far, only Lucretia has used the boxes for their intended purpose. She seems to favor the box in the upper left corner. The faux egg is still in the boxes, but I move it around. Lucretia has even left an egg next to the faux egg. She’s not impressed with fakes.

We’re working on winterizing the run and coop now. The weather is crazy. We already had a frost. But these last few days have been more like early summer than late fall.  And there’s just no way to know when we’ll get the first really deep freeze. We don’t want to risk having to figure out how to make the coop and run safe for the chickens after the weather has turned for the season. And too, the nights are getting shorter and shorter.
So, this evening we were down in the run thinking through our plans. I was working my way through the birds, petting the ones that didn’t run fast enough and picking up the ones that left it too long to escape. Somewhat absent-mindedly, I reached into a group of birds and one dropped into a squat. Lucretia was inside the coop at the feeder so I knew it wasn’t her.

Looks like Vaisala is ready to start earning her keep!

Socialist Chickens

Coop Daddy made an appalling suggestion to me.  Now that at least one of the girls has started laying, it has been suggested that the other birds are simply Socialists who plan to eat all our provided food without working for their upkeep.

The nerve of that man!

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Little Latin Lovebird

When I was choosing names for the girls, I tried not to do the typical pairs stuff.  You know, Betty and Wilma, Lucy and Ethel, Laverne and Shirley.  I did pair up two of the Sussex though.  Sheli had to have a Birdie Pruitt and Birdie had to have a Bernice Matisse.
Because some of the birds are Golden Comets, I looked for interesting names related to comets and astronomy.  The first woman of note in the world of astronomy was Caroline Lucretia Herschel.  So I had to have a Lucretia.  Sheli commented that Lucretia is actually a Latin name.  And she felt Lucretia would need a buddy bird.  A little Latino girlfriend.  That one is named Shakira.  I call her Shaky.

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Daisy still isn’t completely over being attacked.  I don’t blame her.  But she needs to reassert herself into the flock and start acting like less of a chicken.  To facilitate this, I usually go in and carry her out to sit on the ladder in the sunshine.  She will stay awhile, pecking grain from my hand.  But she is ever mindful of the rest of the girls and starts to get nervous if anyone jumps onto the ladder or starts to make noise.  When she is calm, she makes a sort of chuckling sound that cracks me up.  And she is such a sweet girl, I spend a lot of time petting her and talking to her.
Shakira, it turns out, rarely spends any time at all with Lucretia.  It may be due to Lucretia’s aloof nature.  Or maybe Eggers really don’t care all that much for Comets.  Either way, the interesting thing is that Shakira often does spend a lot of time with Daisy.  She will often act as Daisy’s bodyguard.  On the roost she will usually be between Daisy and the other birds.  Or she will be somewhere near enough to step in if it looks like one of the girls plans to peck Daisy’s head again.

Even as a chick, Shakira was brave.  She was one of the first birds to fly onto the edge of the brooder.  And, once she learned that trick, she was one of the hardest to keep down!

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Shaky is a most unassuming protector!  She is tiny.  Very lithe and slim.  Her tail curves down and her little cheek tufts are full and fluffy.  She is mostly white, but with a beautiful cinnamon body that marks her for a true redhead.
And, while she may be small, she is mighty!

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A couple of evenings back I had taken Daisy out into the run to sit on the ladder and enjoy the cool evening.  The other birds weren’t the least interested in her, although they do consider me to be the “cookie lady” these days and were all milling about my feet as per their usual.
Suddenly, from behind, I heard the swoop of wingbeats and mistakenly thought someone had flown onto the ladder behind me.  Turns out it was Shakira.  She landed first on my neck, then decided my head made a better perch and tried for that.  Her feet got tangled up in my hair and she panicked momentarily.  When she finally settled, she was parked on the back of my neck just below my head.  And seemed to be pretty happy there!

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Shakira making her point.
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And posing for her close up.

After giving it some thought, I’ve decided what she really wanted was for me to leave her buddy alone.  I think she was protecting Daisy.  I understand that kind of friendship.

Getting an egg is a LOT harder than I thought!

All the books and leaflets and brochures and online articles suggested that backyard poultry will usually begin laying eggs sometime after sixteen weeks of age.  Of course, that is only if your girls have begun to develop combs and wattles.  And once their faces have turned red.

And, it seems, after they’ve mastered the art of the submissive squat.  I know.  I think it sounds nasty too.  But, there you have it.  Hens must exhibit signs of submission before you’ll get an egg.

And so.

Last Sunday, once our wonderful vacation with my Bestie and her man had come to an end, we were back to business as usual here at Remote.  For me, that meant a long overdue cleaning and freshening of the coop and run.  I hauled a bale of fresh pine shavings up from the barn and snagged the recently purchased bale of cut hay and straw from the back of the van.
Because I’m not quite over whatever it was that had me sick as a dog two weeks ago, and because I’m going to try the deep litter method in the coop this winter, I opted for the shorter version of cleaning.  Instead of hauling everything out and baring the floor of every speck of shavings, I scraped all the surfaces and swept up 98% of the litter.
I deposited Daisy outside onto the ladder and dragged the bale of shavings to the coop door.  Only to find Daisy back inside on the roost.  So, with a warning that it was about to get pretty crazy up in there, I ripped the bale open and watched with dismay as she attempted to make a new window in the back wall of the coop.  We had a discussion about proper decorum and she slunk away to one corner, fussing under her breath.  I turned to find all of the other hens standing outside the coop watching me like I was the most interesting woman in the world.  I so hated bursting that bubble.

I went back out for the cut hay and straw and lined all the nesting boxes with that.  I have no real idea if it matters to a hen what’s inside the box where her eggs must go, but if I were a hen, I think I’d like for it to be cut hay and straw.  There’s something almost biblical about that.  I went down to the barn and filled the feeder, then cleaned and filled the waterer and hung both inside the coop.

Then I stood at the door with the warm sunshine on my back and the aromatherapy of fresh pine shavings relaxing my shoulders.  And realized that I might just have created a spot where a chicken might want to lay an egg.

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Going into the weekend we were due for the first real cold snap of the season.  On Thursday we cleaned and covered the pool.  We covered the outside hydrants.  Mike hung the heat lamp in the pump house.  We carried all the plants inside.  The wind howled all day but, by the time the temperatures started to fall, it had calmed.  I checked, and double-checked, that the preparations we’d made for the girls were good enough.  I don’t like the idea of making them dependent on a heat lamp.  If we lost power, they wouldn’t be able to make the adjustment fast enough and it would be disastrous.  But the idea that they might be cold stayed with me as I tucked in to my own warm bed.

Luckily, it didn’t get quite as cold as predicted.  And, also luckily, I seem to have chickens meant for colder weather.  Friday was cold and crisp.  Most of my girls were up and waiting at the door when I walked down to the coop.  The ones still parked on the roosts didn’t waste a lot of time coming outside when I opened the door.
We had business in the city, but I left feeling like we might just have this chicken-keeping business down at last.

We’ve caught several of the hens scoping out the nesting boxes.  A couple like to pull out bits of straw to chew on.  One or two have actually gone into the boxes and scratched around.  I fluff the bedding when I go in each morning, secretly checking to make sure a tiny egg hasn’t been tucked beneath a tuft of hay.  Most of the Comets have wattles and combs.  Most of their faces are red.  Last Sunday as I was finishing my chores, I reached down as I always do to attempt to pet the hens milling around my feet.  Instead of squawking and running for cover, Lucretia squatted down, wings spread and head low.  At first, I thought she was injured.  But then realized she was letting me know she was finally egg-laying age.  Just to make sure, I reached again.  And again.  Each time, she squatted immediately.
Well, if ever I needed affirmation, that was it.  I finally had a good chance of actually getting an egg out of all this fuss!

It was colder this morning than Friday, but I was greeted with the same curious clucks as always.  They spilled out of the coop en mass, as they do every day.  Mike set out a bowl of warm oatmeal while I dropped the feeder and waterer.  As is my new habit, I scanned the nesting boxes for eggs.  Nothing.  We watched for a minute then picked up the empty treat dish and left for the day.
I decided to check once more for the estimated laying age of the three breeds we’re raising.  Somehow I missed the part that said Sussex usually begin laying after they’re six months old.  Not for the first time, I wished I’d ordered chicks in the fall instead of summer.  My speckled birds won’t likely make eggs anytime before February.  But the Comets and Easter Eggers should start about the same time, which is any day now.

This evening I walked down to tuck the girls in.  Most were already parked on the roost.  I’ve determined that the cold weather is helping calm the grumpiness.  They want to be warm and are willing to get along to achieve maximum heat.  I fluffed up the pine shavings and raised the feeder.  I set the waterer outside the door and decided to check the nesting boxes just one more time…

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I suspect Lucretia left me this little gift.  But I thanked them all.  Just to be sure.

The Pecking Order

I’ve heard about the “pecking order” all my life and never really gave it a lot of thought.  Until I saw evidence of just what it really is.  It is brutal.  And, in my case, it is bloody.  And there are lasting effects for those who find themselves at the end of the line of acceptance.

Almost from the start, I knew there would be a bird or two that would end up at the back of the line.  It is the way in which nature provides for the fittest to survive and the weakest to fall by the wayside.  Except, in a henhouse where there is plenty to go around, possibly several times, it makes little sense.
At least, to my mind.
The chickens seem to have a different point of view.

Three weeks ago I discovered that one of the Easter Eggers, Daisy, had been attacked.  I have no idea which one, or even how many, of the other chickens were involved.  I only know that I found her in the coop, hiding in a corner at the far end of the back roost.  Her head was a bloody mess and she was visibly shaken.

 

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Daisy, day one.

It was almost dark and there are no lights out in our run, so the best I could do at that point was to blot up the blood and put her into the mini coop until morning.
I went to bed with a very heavy heart.  I knew it could, and likely would, happen eventually.  But the reality is so much more vivid than the imagination.

From the start, Daisy has been…  well…  a chicken.  She possesses lightening speed, at least when I’m trying to catch her.  She is adept at the duck and dodge.  She tends to hold back and disappear into the perimeter.  She just wants to live and let live.  Oh, and eat.
Also from the start, she has been one of the prettiest of the birds.  When the girls began to get real feathers, most of the Eggers were gray and gold.  Daisy was white.  Snow white.  My grandson, Justin, picked her as one of his birds and asked to name her Donald.  For obvious reasons (she’s a girl) I tried to redirect him to more feminine names.  He reasoned that Daisy was Donald Duck’s girlfriend and settled on Daisy.  It fit her well.

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Daisy gets her feathers.

As she grew, she did pick up more gold.  But she is still a mostly white chicken and truly a lovely, if timid, little thing.

Of all the things I hated about her being attacked, I hated having to tell Justin.  But he handled it well.  I think it might not have gone so well if she hadn’t survived.

The morning after I found her, I took her out of the mini coop and into the kitchen in the shop apartment.  I wrapped her in a towel and turned on the faucet.  When the water was warm enough, I held her so the running water would flow over the top of her head, but not into her eyes or face.  Almost as if she were having a day of beauty, little Daisy closed her eyes and relaxed into my hands.  I shampooed her feathers and rinsed out the soap, then toweled her dry.  I poured Peroxide across the wound and shot the spot full of Neosporin.  Then I took her back to the mini coop.

Chickens are social creatures.  So being alone, even if she was very near her flock, was hard on Daisy.  Apparently, it was difficult for a few of the others as well.  I stopped counting the times I went out to find two or three of the girls lying against the walls of the mini coop with Daisy just on the other side.

22195359_10159474624345201_8584511367387901648_nWhen the other chickens were heading back into the big coop for the night, Daisy would pace and fret, calling to them to wait for her.  But, try as she might, there wasn’t an opening in her small cage and she would eventually give up and slip into the shelter of the inner roost for the night.
I went out several times a day to medicate her wound and make sure she had clean water and plenty of food.  Within days, she had begun to dig around the perimeter of the mini coop, trying to get out.  It was sad to see how much she wanted to be back with the rest of the chickens.

By day four, her head didn’t look quite so raw and the skin was returning to its normal color, so I took a chance and tried to let her out.  None of the others pecked her, but all of them chased her.  She ended up back in the mini coop.  It’s hard to say which of us was most disappointed.
Finally, a week after being attacked, Daisy moved back into the coop.  We waited until it was almost dark and all of the other birds had gone up to roost before we let her out.  I put her on the ground so she could run a bit, but she made a bee line for the door.  She popped up onto the door frame and flew directly onto the front roost, pushing Birdee Pruitt aside and claiming her spot.  Unfortunately, they were all back to chasing her as soon as the sun was up next morning.  She flew back onto the roost and stayed there.

It’s been three weeks now.  Daisy continues to hide out in the big coop.  Each morning I go down and let them all out and try to encourage Daisy to rejoin the flock.  A couple of times she’s tried.  The first time, they ran after her and she chickened out.  The second time she allowed them to chase her into the coop then immediately came right back out.  The others chased her back inside again.  But at least she tried!

She eats from my hand or comes down to eat from the feeder in the mornings.  She is drinking water as well.  The others seem to be ignoring her for the most part.  Except Vaisala, who tromps into the coop and gives Daisy the hairy eyeball.  Vee is a big Comet.  Daisy is a little Egger.  I can understand the intimidation.  But I caution Vee not to be too much the bitch lest she end up in a pot of noodles!
They all know I wouldn’t dare.  But I want my little flock to return to the sweet group of clucks it once was and I’m not above making empty threats to achieve that.

Daisy is all healed now and her feathers are starting to cover the bald spot pretty well.  She has become accustomed to being picked up and taken outside to sit on the chicken ladder where the others can see her.  Each time she manages to sit longer than the last time.  But she always ends up back on the roost in the coop.  Hopefully, this stage will pass before deep winter has them all spending more time inside than out.

For now, it’s sweet days of cool breezes and warm sunshine.  I hate that she’s missing that.

Queen Prissy

When the chicks were tiny, Vaisala stepped up as if she were planning to be the “mama bird”, but I think she just wanted to be the first bird named.  I no sooner started calling her Vaisala, or Vee for short, than she stopped standing out in the crowd.  I’ve read since then that this declaration of being “lead chicken” doesn’t usually take place until the girls are at least out of the angsty teen stage.

Which is where they are now.

I’ve also read that the hen who takes on the role of “mama bird” will be a bit more showy.  Sort of like a Rooster replacement, without all the crowing and attempts to make baby chickens.  It appears right now that Prissy is destined to be the Queen of Remote.  Her wattle is longer than anyone’s and her comb is coming in nicely.  And she just inserts herself into positions that say, “HEY, I’M IN CHARGE HERE, OKAY?”

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To her credit, Prissy is a beautiful bird.  She is a Golden Comet.  Her main feathers are deep cinnamon and her tail is pure white.  She has a gorgeous collar of red and white that sits on her shoulders like a royal cape.
She also has a Polish Eye that encourages you to take a step back, just in case.

A few days ago I was finishing up the cleaning and had the coop door open.  Suddenly there was a WHOOSH! near my head and I turned to find myself eyeball-to-eyeball with Prissy!  She flew up onto the door frame without so much as a “by your leave” and stood there daring me to make her get down.

Prissy is catlike in her affection.  She will often jump up onto the mini coop to be stroked and talked to.  But God help the person stupid enough to try and pick her up!  Priss is loud like a rooster, that’s for sure.

Don’t tell the rest of the girls, but I think she may be the prettiest of the flock.

LOretta, the Lovebird

I’d just about gotten down to the end of chicken names and chickens to name when Coop Daddy decided we needed a Loretta.  Of course, can’t say that name without immediately adding, “in your heel high shoes and no-neck sweater” which is how The Beatles song goes, according to the Rosales triplets.  To be fair, The Trips were all of three or so when they determined this is how the lyric goes and they’re in high school now, but it’s still one of my favorite memories of them.

I had an Easter Egger in need of naming, so Loretta she became.  To be correct, the name is pronounced with emphasis on the LO.  And you have to drag it out.  LO………retta.  Sheli calls her Lo Lo, which works as well.

LOretta is kinda tall and skinny, like you’d expect a LOretta to be.  And she can be very affectionate.  She’s also nosey as hell and sometimes a snarky little bitch.  ALL attributes you’d expect to find in a LOretta.  But she is a pretty girl and I usually forgive her pretty fast.

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Lo has the typical marks of an Easter Egger.  Her feet are gray instead of yellow.  Her little butt kinda just drops off at the back, like those poor women with NO junk in the trunk.  Her ears are tufted, an endearing hallmark of Eggers that I call “chicken cheeks”.  Lo loves to have her cheeks fluffed.

A few weeks ago, I came into the coop with food and Lo got so excited, she flew up and perched on my shoulder like a parrot.  I’m not sure which of us was more surprised.