Sunday, February 17, 2013

Update (ha ha. That's an understatement.)

Hi!  Remember us?  We have chickens!  Still!

So much has happened since the last post, but one of the things that has happened is work.  As a teacher, I get awfully busy come September, and this poor blog got pushed aside.  So here it is...a long awaited (maybe) update.  I may put everything I've got here, as it might be another four months before I post again.

Let's see...first, recording of egg quantity and size.  As you know, I was religiously recording this data. You could say I was obsessed with it.  I started on July 4 when we found our first 3 eggs.  Here is what my (messy) recording system looked like:

As you can see, we got 10 eggs that first week in a whole range of sizes.  It's clear from the hash marks that the sizes steadily increased, as did the quantity we got each week.

I kept going, every single day, until October 16.  I stopped at that point because the girls had become pretty consistant.  We were getting between 9 and 11 eggs a day, and most were falling in the extra large size range, with any additional eggs in the large or jumbo size group.

We had a banner week with 76 eggs--that's 11 every day except 1.   That started to be the norm, so counting seemed less critical, and admittedly, I had less time.

Still, the sight of a full carton of eggs from the girls brings me lots of joy.

Obviously, getting 10 or 11 eggs a day is too much for a family of 3 (or 5, when you count the in-laws) so we give eggs to some folks, sell to others, and the girls are more or less paying for their food now.

What else?  Oh...the biggest news is that we moved the girls to the back yard for the winter.  We needed to add a heating element for their water, and there was no way to run power out to the field.  Plus, collecting eggs, feeding, watering, and cleaning the coop is much easier a few feet from the house than it is across the street and across a field...not to mention the trouble of snow.

Tucker is delighted to know the chickens are out back.

"What is this white stuff!?  Make it go away."
So the snow.  Chickens do not like snow.  They come down their ramp, see the snow, and look most offended by it.
The tarp

So we gave the girls a tarp over the outside area of the chicken tractor. The tractor element of the design, by the way, is of no use in the winter. The bottom mesh sunk into the ground and froze there. We can't move the girls til there is a thaw.  The tarp keeps down snowy build-up and keeps the girls happy.

Unless there is a blizzard.

We had no snow on the front walk after the blizzard.  Hurray for wind patterns!  We wondered, from our cozy warm house, "where did all that snow go?"  Then we realized where it went.  It landed on the chickens.   Boo for wind patterns.

Took some work to shovel the walk from the basement door to the girls.

And another thing about winter: with the frozen ground and snow, the girls have less to entertain them at ground level.  Plus, when the weather is terrible, they stay inside.  This makes them...bored.  When they are bored, they misbehave.  Misbehaving comes in the form of plucking and eating each other's feathers.  Ewwww.  We were checking on the girls one day and noticed some very bald and very red rumps.  Time for an intervention.  There is this stuff called Blue-Kote, which is like spray paint for bald spots.  It's used on horses and other animals when they get injuries and other issues.  On chickens, it will hopefully stop them from plucking each other. 

Here is Betty's bald bum, gloriously painted purple.
We are still waiting to see if this works.  We will keep you posted.  But probably not until April.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Broody Betty

A few weeks ago on one of my visits to collect the eggs, I opened the back door and found this:

Betty decided she wanted to hatch some eggs.  This happened earlier in the season once with Farrah Fawcett.

The poor girls get it in their heads that they've got a nice pile of eggs, why not have a seat and try to hatch 'em?  Of course, this won't work, no matter how diligently they sit.  We have no Mr. Chicken to fertilize the eggs.

Betty was not interested in the least in letting me get the eggs, but eventually I coaxed her up and she walked off (maybe in a huff.  Maybe not.  I may have been imagining that).

The eggs underneath her were so toasty warm.  I can see why this would be conducive to chick hatching (again--if that were biologically possible, which it is not).

Fortunately, Betty gave up her plight after just one day.  It took us a week or so to get FF to lay off (oh boy).

Kinda sad, but we certainly don't need any more chickens...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On the Move

The chickens, in case you were wondering, are doing great.  I mean, they have their chicken-ish idiosyncrasies (more on that later), but on the whole we are doing a steady egg business.  Ok, that makes us sound more profitable than we are, but we sell and/or give away about 3 dozen eggs each week, and that is more or less enough to recoup (ha ha) the cost of food for the girls and keep our egg stash to the top shelf of the refrigerator.  We certainly have PLENTY of eggs for ourselves and for Dale and Diane.

Several post topics are rattling around in my head, including:

1) The big eggs--on the inside
2) Traveling chickens
3) Broodiness and bother
4) Egg counts and sizes
5) The hazards of hard-boiling eggs

I'm going with idea 2 for the moment.  Mostly because I've got some pictures.

As you know, the girls are in what's called a chicken tractor, which allows us to move them every so often to a new spot of ground, giving them fresh vegetation and a new collection of bugs to munch.

After 4-7 days in one spot, the girls do a number on the dance floor:

But a few weeks later, BAM!

Here you can see their progress, marked by the revegetating squares of green:

We are fortunate to have access to this big old field to pull them around in, but Diane wants to march them across the front lawn where there is a thin patch of grass and an overpopulation of bugs.  Maybe this fall or next spring...

Here's one more photo of the girls.  Seems wrong not to show you just how fabulous they are and how big they have gotten!

Here are Betty, Liz, and Beth...(or something to that effect).  Farrah Fawcetts were being shy.

Monday, August 20, 2012


One of these things is not like the others, some of these things are kind of the same....

Maybe this image will help you see it...

 Or maybe this one...

Yes, that is an egg that weighs more than 3 ounces.  It's HUGE.  The egg carton won't close, not even a little bit.

Somebody is an over-achiever out there in the coop.  We haven't cracked it open yet.  It most likely will have two yolks.  I'll report back when we do crack into it.  (Tee hee.)

And here is one more picture.  I just think it's kind of neat.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


How do you like our new egg-collecting basket?
We thought ten was impressive.

Yesterday, August 1, marked the beginning of week five for the girls as layers.  They began laying on Wednesday, July 4.

To celebrate their one month anniversary as BIG GIRLS, each and every one of them laid an egg.

That's right, we collected eleven eggs yesterday.  They ranged in size from medium to jumbo.  All were beautiful and unique.
Notice how some are more pointy, some more oval.  Some are light, some dark.  Some have speckles, some do not!

Weekly Stats:
Week 1: 10 eggs
Week 2: 27 eggs
Week 3: 50 eggs
Week 4: 63 eggs
Week 5: 11 (with just one day reporting)

Egg size also continues to rise.  We haven't had a pee wee egg (1.25 oz) since week 2.  Only five smalls (1.5) oz. in week 4. We had eleven large eggs (2 oz) in week 4, up from five in week 3. On the first day of week 5, we got three larges and a jumbo (2.5 oz)!

Got all that?  Bottom line is, our girls ROCK!

Sunday, July 29, 2012


First of all, I need to say a great big thank you to our girls!  They provided us with the most delicious eggs to make french toast for all of our friends and family on the morning after our wedding.

Clearly, they are working hard.  They are working SO hard, in fact, that when we checked on them one morning, there were THREE chickens in the nesting box all at once.  (Actually, there were four when we peeked in, but when we opened the back door, only three stayed put.)

See Farrah Fawcett underneath Elizabeth and Beth?
We needed to collect the eggs, and we thought the gals would scoot when Jon reached in, but they didn't.  After a few minutes, one of the three took a stroll, but clearly when it's time to work, the girls take their job very seriously!

Most of the girls lay in the boxes now.  Or should I say box?  They like the one at the end.  I honestly think that if we find an egg in the second box (as we did this particular day), it's by accident that someone dropped it there.  Finding six to eight eggs in a single nesting box is fine with us.  It's more trouble when one of the girls (and there are one or two) who prefer to lay their eggs on the ground!

With Abby away in Indiana visiting her Nana and Grandpa, I've got to go into the four-foot high tractor to collect these wayward eggs!
All in all, we are enjoying the girls very much.  They are fun to visit each day.  They get excited when they see us coming, probably because they always get a treat of corn scratch, Japanese Beetles, or veggie scraps.  It still feels good to see them get fired up as we walk across the field.  And I still think one chicken in particular is really fond of us.

This is Betty.  I can tell by the markings on her beak.  She nearly always comes up to us wherever we are standing, even if it's at the window.
The girls are in their fourth week of production, and their numbers have gone up significantly.  For example, in week one, we got a total of ten eggs.  Today alone, July 29th, we got a total of ten!  It was the biggest day yet, but the girls are averaging eight eggs a day now.

Most of the eggs are medium sized, ranging from 1 and 3/4 ounce to 1 and 7/8 ounce.  But so far this week we've gotten nine large eggs (2 ounces), with two days to go.  Last week we got a total of five.  In the first two weeks, we got a total of three larges.  So production is up and so is egg size!  Go, girls, go!

If you are in the neighborhood and you need some eggs...give us a shout!

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Chicken Whisperer

Abby loves the chickens.  And she is just the right size to go into the tractor to collect wayward eggs and visit with the girls.

She likes to give them hugs.  She hugs the chickens.  And they suffer it with a quiet sort of dignity.  It's pretty amazing.

We are getting more and more eggs.  We've got three and a half dozen saved up for Sunday morning breakfast after the wedding (we've got a farmhouse full of guests to feed). (And yup.  Jon and I are getting married.  Tomorrow!  Weeee!!!)

"We were so happy to oblige."
We are very grateful for their output just in time for the wedding!  We have shown our gratitude by sharing veggie scraps with the girls, who find them a delicious treat.

And all the while we keep track of what we get, when we get it, and how big the eggs are.

Aren't these just beautiful?
Thanks to Auntie Jay for the fabulous photos!