Blind and Bloodied

For quite a few months now my chickens have been steadily pecking each other’s feathers out.  First it was just one or two random pecks that resulted in the plucking out of a soft downy butt-feather, which was then paraded around in front of the other chickens as if to say, “LOOK!  I waited until she wasn’t looking and then, with my Super Ninja-Chicken skills, I tore this out of her skin and now I’m going to eat it!”  Then much chasing and stealing of said downy butt-feather would ensue until one of the girls had the good sense to eat it.
Initially, only one or two chickens were being plucked naked.  But as winter settled in and things became cold and damp all around Remote, it seemed all of the girls got involved.

First it was the areas around their vents.  Several began looking like baboons.  Then the feathers across their backs were plucked and broken off.  Then a few lost down to bare skin on their necks.  Tails, once full and fluffy, became thin and wispy, like your grandaddy’s head.

Bernice is the worst of the lot with most of her backside bare and red. Hopefully, her feathers will grow back now.

Dismayed, I read everything I could find and decided they needed additional protein.  So, for most of the winter I mixed chick feed into their layer feed, with additional dried meal worms, and protein-based treats several times a week.
For awhile, they seemed to stop.  But then the plucking started again, with all of the chickens showing signs of being attacked.
Vaisala especially.  She now looks more like a White Leghorn than a Golden Comet!

Then the torrential rains began.  I considered filming the chicken version of Naked and Afraid, except it was too depressing to look at how chewed up the girls had become.

Needless to say, it has been a very long winter and we are all happy to see sunshine again.  The only saving grace is that my girls never stopped laying.  Even through the dark nights that turned into dark days and back to dark nights.  Every day there were eggs to collect.  They’ve even increased production as the last of the Eggers joined the rest of the girls and are now giving us beautiful green and blue eggs.

A couple of weeks ago, I promised the girls that there would be some major house-cleaning and rearranging of furniture as soon as we got a day full of sunshine and warm breezes.

That day came last Friday.

I waited until most of the morning layers had made their deposits, then I pulled the nesting boxes and ladder out and scooped the top two inches of sand off of the coop floor.  I spread the sand on a tarp and hosed it off to try and decrease the build-up of ammonia.  I was hoping to reuse it, but I’m pretty sure now that won’t be the case.  Still, I can put it in the run to fill holes.  Sand is its own filter so even if all the ammonia didn’t wash away, it will eventually.

I pulled out the pressure washer and gave the walls and roosts a thorough cleaning.  While that dried, I pressure washed the nesting boxes and ladder.  Then I raked the run and piled the leaves up in one corner.  The girls enjoy scratching through the leaves, even if they’ve already been debugged once.
Satisfied that everything was clean, I stirred up my favorite disinfectant solution and gave everything a good spray.

Once it all dried, I raked the coop floor smooth and moved the blocks for the nesting boxes to a new location and settled the boxes into their new home.  Coop Daddy was adding another roost and it would stretch over the space above the old nesting box location.  The additional roost is an attempt to give the girls more space in hopes of curtailing the pecking as they settle in for the night.

Today Sheli was here to help with the last-ditch effort to stop the plucking.  I ordered “peepers” online.  Enough for everyone.  I can’t say every bird is guilty.  But I can’t say any one is not.

As anticipated, my chickens were not happy with the new nose jewelry.  Once installed, I’m sure the peepers are most uncomfortable.  Then there’s the limited visibility.  All of them were stumbling around like Irishmen on St. Pat’s.  Some were down-right pissed off.  Add to that the fact that each bird’s wounds were being treated as well and who can blame them for being totally snarky.
After watching several untagged birds pecking nastily at the newly tagged ones, we opted to start holding them in the coop as we finished so they would have time to adjust without being attacked.

Eventually the number inside the coop was greater than the number of birds outside, so we let them go.  Within minutes, two birds had successfully removed their peepers.  Catching them a second time was almost impossible.  But we did it.
And we were feeling pretty good about the entire process.  The girls seemed to start adjusting to their obstructed view of the world.  Several were drinking water.  We tossed out several hands full of sunflower seeds and most everyone figured out how to find the seeds in spite of not being able to actually see the ones directly in front of their faces.

But then, we snagged Leia, who’d successfully scratched her peepers off, and realized she was bleeding.  She’d torn the skin at the top of her nostril.  I’m not sure if she tore it with her claw or with the peeper, but there was no way I was sticking that thing back in her poor nose!  Sheli soothed her and I cleaned her up.  As much as I hate how beat up they look, the last thing I wanted was to cause injury to any of them.

Birdie Pruitt was the last untagged bird.  She was tucked safely in a nesting box and seemed to know as long as she stayed there she wasn’t going to be caught.  Coop Daddy came down to install the additional roost and we needed to move some hooks, so I let Birdie off the hook while we did the other chores.  Every so often, I’d peek in to see if she was still on the nest.  And that’s when I realized that Loretta, parked in the nesting box next door, was bleeding as well.

Good grief!

Now I felt like a total heel.

And yet, the rest of the flock seemed so subdued.  It was like they’d all taken downers.  No chasing.  No pecking.  No fussing.  I went in and out of the run several times and none of them rushed the door as usual, or followed me as I rounded the building.  It was surreal, to say the least.

Darlene sporting her new nose jewelry. Along with her broken back feathers and missing butt-feathers.
Lavabird showing off her headdress.

I have no idea how long this process will take.  I have no idea if, now that she is the only one with an unobstructed access, Leia will take full advantage and I’ll end up having to separate her from the others.

I try to read as much as I can before I jump into any form of treatment or alteration in care.  Everything I read pointed to great success using peepers.  NOTHING I read even mentioned the possibility of the chickens being able to get them off.  And certainly none of the articles or forum posts brought up the fact that they could rip up their nostrils.
And honestly, even if I had read of the possibilities, I probably would have done it anyway.  I simply can’t abide having them ripping each other to shreds.

I’m trying to come up with some boredom busters.  I’ve got plans for grazing bins.  Possibly an automatic treat dispenser.  And I’m looking for a xylophone and a mirror to hang up outside the coop.  Anything to keep them occupied.  And happy.  And feathered.

Leia, with her blood-caked nostril and broken back feathers, is the only bird to avoid being tagged with a peeper. For now.

That Had To Hurt…

Eggs are coming more dependably lately.  The longer days will do that.  I’m convinced all of the girls are laying, but not all on the same day.  Thankfully, as I tend to run out of fridge space unless I foist them off on family members.

I was prepping for a week’s visit at my mom’s and had done all the usual chores – laundry and cleaning and collecting the odd bits to take with me – so that the last thing to be done for the day prior to leaving was collect eggs.  As is usually the case, one box was occupied.  I went about tidying up in hopes of giving her time to drop her egg and vacate.  Then I spent a few companionable minutes with my girls, letting them know that Coop Daddy would be in charge and begging them not to make things too easy for him.  Finally, I’d waited about as long as my patience could tolerate and went in to gather eggs.  Whichever hen I’d been waiting on was parked, as they usually are, atop the daily lay for her coop mates.  Normally, they don’t fuss much if you just tuck under them and go about things quickly enough.  But this hen was in a lower box (unusual) and seemed to be completely perturbed by the violation of her peace.  We discussed.  She relented.  I made short order of my work and settled the eggs into my basket for the quick walk back to the house.

Since I was taking eggs with me, I felt it was only fair to wash the fresh ones and put them in the fridge for Coop Daddy.  One egg, a Comet product, was HUGE!  It filled my palm and then some.  And it looked almost round.


I left that one for Coop Daddy, because it also cracked as soon as it settled into the bottom of the wash bowl.  He usually has eggs for breakfast, so this one would do him fine.  I told him to crack it into a bowl first, just in case there was something not quite right about it.
And then I jumped in the car and left for Mom’s.

Later, as I was settling in, I picked up a message from Coop Daddy saying the big egg had a double yolk.  How cool is that?

No idea which of the girls left it.  Nobody was walking funny…

Big egg

Just In Time For Easter

Way back last summer when timid little Daisy was pecked so viciously, I was questioning the wisdom of owning Easter Eggers.  They seem pretty docile, which would be great if they were the only chicken breed in the run.  But with the bigger Golden Comets and Sussex around, the Eggers all seem to have targets on their backs.

For months after her attack, Daisy wanted only to sit inside the coop all day avoiding her tormentors.  She wasn’t eating much and definitely wasn’t getting enough water.  Worried about losing her, I made a habit of setting the waterer up on the big ladder every morning and giving her a chance to “tank up” before I set it down for the other birds.  I left a feeder hanging inside the coop, just for Daisy.  She did have to share it if anyone came into the coop, but the other chickens had a feeder hanging outside as well.  And I always brought Daisy a cup of scratch to gorge herself on, in case it was the only food she was getting.
I would bring her out each morning and park her on the big ladder, then leave her there to fend for herself.  Each time I would go back out, Daisy would be back on the roost in the corner of the coop.

This went on deep into the fall.  Then one day in late October, I found Daisy outside long after she would normally have taken refuge.  Encouraged, I started closing the coop door for short periods of the day.  Sure enough, she regained her courage (or the bullies lost interest) and I began to see her down on the ground, scratching and pecking with the other chickens.

During Daisy’s exile, Shakira was her only companion.  Many times I would find Daisy in the coop, tucked into the corner of the roost, with Shakira flanking her.  At night as well, Shakira seemed to want to shield Daisy from being pecked and would put herself between her friend and the rest of the flock.  It was heart-warming to witness, even if I’m imagining the intent.

Right before cold weather set in, Shakira laid her first egg.  This was another turning point for Daisy, as her friend found a new purpose and stopped hanging out on the roost during the day.  Daisy took to patrolling the top of the nesting boxes when they were occupied.  Once they were empty, she would parade along the perch, sticking her head into each box and inspecting the contents.
I figured Daisy would end up the “old maid” of the flock, scarred from her attack and possibly unable to lay eggs.

Not long after Shakira’s lovely sage-green egg appeared, a darker more olive-green egg showed up.  The images from the game camera mounted in the coop were inconclusive, owing mostly to the fact that dim light turns game camera images to black and white.  All leg bands are the same color in black and white images.  And so are chickens!  I could identify the breeds, but not individual birds.  But my suspicion was that Rainbow Bird was the owner of the olive-green egg.  She seemed to be hanging around and my attempts to pet her were netting some quality chicken time.

The Sussex, supposedly “chatty” and sweet, are quite independent and oftentimes snarky.  More than once I’ve been flapped in the face by the wing of a Sussex intent on getting well away from me.  The Golden Comets are curious, but flighty.  Most will squat, once they’ve started to lay, and you can pick them up.  Once tucked in near your chest, they will calm down and become almost friendly.  But the Eggers are such, well…  chickens, that they tend to be still and mostly sweet when you are holding them.  This isn’t to say Eggers are willingly held.  They do try hard to escape and only give up, reluctantly, once they see there’s no clear exit.  Daisy, more than any of my girls, tolerates being toted around like a little white football.  I think she knows she is my favorite, but doesn’t crow about it.

Pretty quickly after finding that olive-green egg, I found another pale blue egg.  It was almost white in some light.  Definitely a new layer.  But who?  It seemed that Henrietta was spending more time inside than out.  But I never found an image that suggested she was actually entering a box.
Right on the heels of the pale blue egg came another blue-green one.  The difference in shade was subtle, but enough to let me know it was a new one.

About a week ago, we had a sweet springlike day with temperatures in the low 70s.  I took my cue and gave the coop a deep clean and disinfect.  I waited as late in the day as possible to give the girls time to finish laying.  But, all the while I was cleaning, Daisy was marching around outside.  I figured she wanted in to inspect the day’s lay and just ignored her.
When I was done, I opened the coop door and stepped out to warm my back in the sweet sunlight.  I slowly meandered around, moving this and that, picking up various bits and pieces.  ‘Rounding the corner, I heard Daisy’s familiar grumble.  But then it became more agitated, like a chatter.  I had a peek at the nesting boxes just in time to catch Daisy laying a beautiful baby-blue egg!

Yesterday, for the first time, we got five Easter Egger eggs.  They range in color from gray to pale blue.  The olive-green one often has rust-colored specks on it, but only when it’s wet.
We have one Egger yet to lay.  I’m holding out for a darker green or blue.  We’ll see.  But this lovely assortment has convinced me that Easter Eggers are definitely a breed I will always own.

The shades are slightly different.  Enough to know each comes from a different hen.

A Baker’s Dozen

Sussex and Comets. Vaisala is in the far right nesting box.

Winter has been tough on my girls.  The weather has see-sawed its way up and down the thermometer and the wind has howled so much, I’m honestly worried to see March come.  We’ve done our best to keep them comfortable and draft-free, but there’s still much to do in that respect.  I know of at least three with signs of frostbite.

I’ve suggested a “winter coop” but haven’t convinced Coop Daddy as yet.

Boredom has been another issue.  There’s really nothing of value to scratch and peck in the run.  I pulled in several layers of leaves from all around the run in hopes of providing some entertainment and possibly a bug or two for the chickens.  They enjoy the leaves, but it doesn’t last too long.  I’ve spruced up the coop itself with daily cleanings and even a good spray of vinegar/dish soap/tea tree oil solution on the most recent warm day.  The girls were all a-flutter until things dried.

The result of the boredom is that we’ve had some major feather-picking.  Vaisala has lost all of her long neck and chest feathers and several others are missing wing and butt feathers.  Poor Bernice even had a bright red swollen backside for a few days!  Veticyn spray and a good layer of Pick-No-More has helped tremendously.

But what to do to curb their pecking?

I decided that it might have more to do with loss of protein due to the crazy weather.  I already feed a quality layer crumble supplemented with dried meal worms.  And I had been treating the girls with protein snacks.  The problem with snacks is they tend to want those over regular feed, like any woman carrying an extra ten pounds can understand.
So, I bought a bag of chick feed and started adding a layer of it to the feeder when I fill it.

It worked quite well!  Vaisala is still trying to grow her neck and chest feathers back in, although she does have a nice layer of fluffy white ones to protect her skin from the cold.  Bernice’s butt is returning to it’s full and fluffy former state.  And the rest of the wings, butts, and backs are recovering well.

We are finally getting a good ten hours of daylight, although it isn’t always sunny and warm.  The hens seem content to roam the run regardless of the gloom.  The plan for February, when the weather in North Texas can turn on a dime, is to pick as many green weeds as I can find to toss in the run along with picking up some fresh herbs and flowers at the nurseries as soon as stock comes in.
I’ll let them finish out the bag of chick feed and see if we can go back to straight layer food once we’re getting more warmer days.

Long-term plans include a worm box and some cold frames along one side of the run, provided I can figure out how to keep the feral hogs from tearing them up.  Having the north wind howling for most of December caused me to realize a row of shrubs for a windbreak on the north side of the run would help tremendously.  And I plan to include some vines and more herbs and flowers.  Of course, all of this will be useless with the hogs, armadillos, and deer around, unless I figure out how to deter them all.

Stop laughing.

The best part of seeing winter coming to an end is seeing the number of eggs increasing.  I was excited to find eleven eggs on Saturday.  The easily recognizable olive-green one was missing, which means we have twelve hens laying.
But then, Sheli collected thirteen eggs yesterday, olive-green included.
A baker’s dozen!

Baby, it’s *&%^$#+ cold outside!


We’ve now had several severely cold nights here at Remote.  The first, a low of 18 degrees, had me pacing the floors, reading all I could find to assure myself the girls wouldn’t be fresh frozen when I went out to feed them the next morning.

They weren’t.

In fact, they seemed totally non-plussed by the cold.

Still, I wasn’t entirely sure they’d been as comfortable as I wanted them to be.  So we took measures.  Coop Daddy added a bit more foam insulation to the temporary panels that cover the hardware cloth walls in the coop.  I added another five bags of sand.  Then we shot the roof full of foam insulation.  That was done from the outside, but the chickens still found a few drops to eat.

I kept imagining myself trying to unglue chicken lips.

But chickens don’t have lips.


We’re also getting more and more sunlight finally, which doesn’t help with the below freezing temps.  But it does add to the amount of time the sun is shining and warming things up!

In less than a week, we’ve had two ten egg days.  So the added daylight is also giving our girls a reason to get busy.  We now get six brown eggs, three green eggs (varying from pale blue-green to olive), and one pink egg.  It has been exciting to find new colors and increased numbers in the nesting boxes.

And it appears that the boxes are as busy as they seem!


And then, there were nine!

December has blown in and back out and I am still spinning around, chasing my tail.  I wrote a recap for the fall in my paper journal recently and got so dizzy I almost fell out of my chair!

Christmas week, we had the challenge of caring for the neighbor’s chickens, ducks, cats, and dog, as well as our own, during the lowest temps we’ve seen so far this winter.  I worried for all of them.  And rightfully so.  We had nighttime temps in the teens.  The neighbor’s flock free-ranges, so they are smart enough to find cover and brush to hole up in when the wind howls.  My girls are young and inexperienced.  They tough it out until it’s too cold, then tuck back into the coop and snuggle up.
The result of this is that a couple of my birds ended up with a bit of frostbite.  I don’t feel it’s severe, but still…

Thankfully, the days have gone back to sunny and warm this week.  And the neighbors returned on the heels of the new year.  Just in time too – pulling up in the drive on the last evening of our call of duty, we were met by three guinea fowl that we’d never seen before.  An hour later we got a text that the neighbors were home and the guineas had accepted an invitation to join the coop inhabitants.

As far as I know, they’re now just part of the flock!  Ugly things.  Loud and chatty.

With the shortening days, we were averaging five eggs a day, mostly from the Comets.  Sometimes an Egger would add to the nesting boxes, sometimes not.  And, it turns out, the pale pink I mistook for an Egger’s egg turned out to belong to Bernice Matisse, one of our Sussex girls!

One of the Speckled Sussex hens, Bernice Matisse

Just after Christmas, another new egg appeared.  This one started out a pale taupe, but has gone olive with time.  And, when wet, is covered in dark brown speckles.  It is fast eclipsing Shaki’s pretty sage-green as my favorite.  But, please don’t tell her.

I’ve noticed it is no longer dark at 5:15, which delights me to no end.  With the lengthening days come more new eggs.  I have no idea what we’ll do with all of them.  But I so look forward to seeing what the rest of our girls have to offer us.

The beautiful but, as yet unclaimed, Egger eggs.

I was away for a few days and Coop Daddy was in charge of collecting and counting eggs as well as feeding and watering chickens.  I guess the girls must like his attention, he got the first nine-egg day.  Six brown Comets eggs, one pink Sussex egg, and two green Egger eggs.

I’m gonna need some new recipes.

My Little Rainbow

Winter arrived this week.  Not a moment too soon, considering Christmas is right around the corner.  Those of us familiar with Texas weather, with or without climate change, know all to well that December can mean shorts and flip-flops on Tuesday and a parka over long johns on Wednesday.  I’ve actually watched a blue norther arrive and there is no mistaking the brutal cold that comes with one.
Our coldest morning so far this December has been 18°.  Thankfully, Coop Daddy crafted detachable walls for the coop well ahead of the roller coaster weather patterns.  At a moment’s notice, and sometimes that’s about all you get, I can have the hardware cloth walls snugged up or open, depending on the need.  Switching to sand on the coop floor has also made a huge difference.  It holds warmth, but absorbs moisture and is easy to care for.  With those two changes, I’m confident the girls will weather our wishy-washy winters just fine.

All of the chickens are well within laying age.  But, with the weather being so up and down, it’s hard to know if they’ll go ahead and start when they are ready, or wait until the days begin to lengthen again.
All of the Comets are productive.  The last of them finally started laying about two weeks ago.  I had expected the Sussex to follow closely behind the Comets but, much to my surprise, they are the hold-out group.  None of them really acts like they’re ready.  Although they are all full and healthy birds.
A bit out of the blue two weeks ago, the first of the Eggers started laying.  Shakira is leaving the most beautiful sage-green eggs every couple of days.  It took a day or two to figure out who was responsible.  But an egg lost to the pavement underneath our little Latina was a huge clue!
Then, three days ago, a lovely pale pink egg appeared.  Another Egger, for sure.  But who?  My guess, if I made one, would be Rainbow Bird.  Like Shakira, Rainbow has gone from touch-me-not to all-eyes-on-me overnight.  She is hanging around and getting closer and closer to me each day.  And recently, without provocation, she squatted.  Most of the current layers squat if I reach to pet them.  But Rainbow did so without a move from me.  And I’ve caught her walking the perch to the nesting boxes quite a few times.  I’m just waiting until I actually see her in a box to say she’s the maker of the pink eggs.  I’ve read that each of the Eggers will have her own shade of eggshell color.  We’ll see! I think we’re getting some pretty ones already.

Shades of brown from the Comets, mixed with sage-green from Shakira, and the new pale pink is the center egg, third row from the top.

When I figure out for sure who my new layer is, I’ll let you know!

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.


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.

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.

Leia decides to vacate.

Will the mystery chicken please sign in.


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.



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.


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.

Ms. Henrietta and Shakira


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.

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.