Category: Chickens

Happenings Around the Homestead

It has been another quiet week outside of the chickens, which has been quite busy.  I’m not going to spoil it though – check back tomorrow for more on that.

The cold snap has come and gone, but it is raining buckets of water as I write this on Sunday evening.  We are planning on starting the Back to Eden project this upcoming Friday, pending the mini-front-end-loader/backhoe arrives as expected.  There is way too much to spread in one weekend by hand, but with some machine assistance, we can get it done.

The end goal of this new garden area is an 80 ft. x 80 ft. garden with four inches of woodchips on top of some leaves.  I had hoped to get some manure for the bottom layer, and actually had two offers for some, but my work schedule has not cooperated at all.  Perhaps 20 cubic yards of it will appear in my yard before Friday.  Dear manure donor, if you read this and decide to help, please dump it in the already gardened area – it will make it much easier to spread.  😀

Unfortunately, without the compost under the woodchips as I had hoped for, the first year of this garden style is likely going to be less than stellar.  The compost speeds up the process of getting the soil ready for the first year, as the wood chips will not have decomposed much yet, but even without the manure, the garden should be better than it has been.  I think I will supplement the decomposition process with blood meal, which should help heat the chips up enough to begin breaking them down some.

Again, a slow week this week, but next Monday there should be some exciting updates, with pictures!

The Chicken Chronicles

Whew!  What an interesting week!  Winter has arrived!  As first time chicken owners in the winter, we are learning a lot, not the least of which is how to care for the birds in the bitter cold.  We have received some low-teen temperatures this week, which I felt were cold enough to warrant supplemental heating.  The challenge is doing that safely.

After much reading, I decided to use a red heat lamp – the same lamp I used to keep the birds warm when they were too small to handle the cold.  I have read many comments against this method, mainly because of the fire risk, but also because of the potential of causing sickness in the birds if they go from hot to cold temperatures.  I felt confident the light was secured, and it was far enough away from the birds I felt it would not allow them to get hot.  The truth is, I didn’t think it was making enough difference, so we added a second red heat lamp.

My intent with this was not to heat the coop, it was simply to knock the chill off.  I don’t really want to raise the temperature even above freezing, but just up above the 25 degree mark.  I am reckoning that will allow them to not suffer from extreme temperature changes.

Even with all that in mind, there are many blog and forum posts out there of folks who are a lot further north than I am, yet they do not heat their coops.  Their coops are well insulated, but no heat.  That surely makes me question if I am making the right choice.

All that said, I have only heated the coop a few nights now, but I already have lessons learned.

  1. This must be used judicially.  The birds do not need a sauna.
  2. A better option is a well-insulated (and yet well-ventilated) coop.
  3. These birds are resilient.  They can handle colder temperatures than I thought.
  4. Water, water, water.  The birds must have water, not ice!
  5. Finally, I may not continue this plan.

Whether I continue or not remains to be seen.  I need some more time, and I need to get the coop insulated.  In the absence of insulation, I have to provide, or at least I feel I have to provide, supplemental heating on nights below 20 degrees.

As you can see, I still have lots to learn and decisions to make.

As if that is not enough change for the week, I am also dealing with a dramatic reduction in egg production.  Wow.  The Rhode Island Reds laid 22 eggs, but the Easter Eggers only laid 10!

Never a dull moment, that is for sure.


The Chicken Chronicles

The shorter days seem to finally be making a difference in the egg production here at the homestead.  Even so, we still had 38 eggs layed this week.  The Rhode Island Reds are showing their winter laying ability though, with twenty two eggs for the week, or 5.5 eggs per hen.  The Easter Eggers are really beginning to drop off, as they only laid 16 eggs, or 2.7 eggs per hen for the week.

Speaking of the Easter Eggers, Snow White didn’t suffer from being eggboung this week, but one or more of the Easter Eggers have decided laying eggs in the chicken run sounds like fun.  Grrr.

We are expecting the coldest weather of the season this week, getting into the mid-twenties by Thursday.  I am not worried at all about the birds at that temperature, but I am thinking ahead to when it gets down in the teens later in the year and what I will be doing to help protect them.

If you have never owned chickens, you might find it hard to believe how entertaining they can be.  Yesterday Charity put some leftover spaghetti in the run, and one of the ladies ran in there and starting eating it.  Charity said she was eating it like she would a worm.  She would pick it up, swing her head around with it in her mouth, then eat it.  I am supposing she either thought it was a worm, or she thought it was fun to pretend it was a worm.  Silly hen.

Speaking of personality – when Charity let the hens out yesterday, one of our cats decided to go check out the chicken run.  Charity laughed as she told the story because the cat didn’t stay in there long at all.  It is funny because this cat is a bird killer, but she won’t touch these chickens.  I sometimes wonder if she is thinking God might be punishing her for killing all those birds throughout the years by surrounding her with ten large birds that are bigger than she is.  😀

The Chicken Chronicles

I am not sure the ladies knew what was coming when the cold spell hit this week.  While they were protected in their coop, I am pretty sure this is the look Charity got this morning when she opened their door to the run:

Thankfully they are protected from the wind, and if you ever wonder how they handle the cold, just place your hand between two of them on the roosting bar.  It is nice and warm!

Despite the shorter days and cold weather, these hens are still laying, and I couldn’t be happier, though I am still expecting a slow down to come any time now.  This week they laid a total of 46 eggs, with the Rhode Island Reds outdoing the Easter Eggers, 25 to 21.

We also had an egg-bound hen again this week, and it was the SAME HEN, Snow White!  I am not sure what is up with her, but I think she must not be getting enough calcium.  Charity and the boys were able to give her calcium dissolved in water, and within 5 minutes out popped the egg!  That happened the first time too, so it seems that is pretty fast acting.  It’s funny, this is the hen most reluctant to let us hold her, but when she is egg bound, we hold her to calm her down.  Perhaps that is what she is after all along, but doesn’t want to admit it.  😀

The Chicken Chronicles

Can you believe our chickens are still laying well?  This week we had a total of 47 eggs, with the Rhode Island Reds laying 22 of them!  Good girls!  😀

You may be wondering what we do with all those egg shells.  Or maybe you don’t care.  😀  I’m going to tell you anyhow though.  Though I am not good at it all the time, I like to use everything I can of what I have at my disposal, egg shells included.  Egg shells are a great source of calcium, which happens to be a mineral that is needed in the soil.  We save all our eggshells, and then we dry them in the oven before crushing them up to spread over the yard.

Egg Shells

Recently Dried Egg Shells

I mentioned above that the ladies are laying well still, but that doesn’t mean we have a lot of eggs around here.  Besides giving some to the neighbors, it seems my boys have turned into egg eating machings.  We are going through them like there is no tomorrow right now, which doesn’t bother me a bit.  I think they are one of the healthiest foods there are.

I know it is a little early to be thinking about this, but I am seriously considering getting some more chickens next year, though probably only two.  I would like to supplement the flock by two a year, with a maximum of 16 birds.  This would help account for reduced laying as the birds age, and the unfortunate death of a bird or two, which will likely happen over time.

Speaking of that, I think we may have a predator trying to get into the hen house.  We are noticing some digging around the edge on one side.  For now I have covered this with a heavy board and brick, but I have plans to fill the hole up soon.  Thankfully, even if they got into the run during the night, they couldn’t get to the hens, as we lock them in the coop during the night.

The Chicken Chronicles

A few weeks ago I had my first egg-bound hen, and this week I have my first double-yolked egg.  Check this mammoth out:

Double Yolk Egg

Double Yolk Egg Compared to Regular Egg

Obviously, the egg on the left is the double yolk egg and the egg on the right is a single yolk egg.  I know some of you are wondering if we cracked it yet, and we have:

Double Yolk Egg

Double Yolks

So you might be wondering, can a double yolk egg produce two chickens if it is fertilized?  Yep!  Check it out in this hatching video.  Apparently, it is rare for them to hatch, but as you can see, it is possible.  Mine, of course, aren’t fertilized, so that was never a consideration.  😀

The ladies are producing well still, laying 46 eggs this week.  I am still amazed that the Easter Eggers are outlaying the Rhode Island Reds.  The Rhode Island Reds are supposed to be the heavier layers and winter layers, but they are only averaging 0.71 eggs a day per bird, whereas the Easter Eggers are averaging 0.62 eggs a day.  Wait, did you read that?  It just goes to show we can’t always go by what our minds tell us.  I was sure the Easter Eggers were outlaying the Rhode Island Reds per bird, but the facts this week do not show that.  That means the Rhode Island Reds are laying almost five eggs a week each, and the Easter Eggers are averaging just 4.3 eggs a week.  I’m not complaining, that is for sure.

Speaking of that, look at the variety of colors we are getting:

Fresh Eggs

Color Variety in Our Eggs

Both of the two on the left are the “pink” eggs, which we think are laid from Easter Eggers, but they could be laid from Rhode Island Reds.  You can see a normal Rhode Island Red egg in the two eggs second from the right.

I think that is all the exciting egg news for the week other than the neighbors sure are loving the free fresh eggs.  One lady returned the favor this week with a fresh loaf of sourdough bread.  The boys said it sure tastes good.

The Chicken Chronicles

Let’s start off this week with a picture of the elusive “pink” egg:

Fresh Eggs - Capturing the Elusive "Pink" Egg

Fresh Eggs – Capturing the Elusive “Pink” Egg

If you look in the second row from the bottom, second egg from the left, you will see what I call the “pink” egg.  Even after all this time, I can’t with certainty say this is an Easter Egger’s egg, but I think it is.  You will notice the Rhode Island Reds’ eggs are much darker brown.  They are the far bottom left, right side of the second row from the bottom, and the left egg on both the first and second row from the top.  The Easter Eggers mostly lay blue eggs, though there are a few that are more olive or green.  This pink one is the unidentified egg though.  Chickens are supposed to lay the same color egg, generally, daily.  Easter Eggers can lay pink eggs, but I am supposing the coloration for one of the Rhode Island Reds may be off too.  In other words, I DON’T KNOW!  You have no idea how tempted I am to set up a camera.  🙂

I have been surprised lately – the Rhode Island Reds’ egg production has really slowed down.  They are only averaging 3.75 eggs a week now, whereas the Easter Eggers are averaging 4.16 eggs a week.  That isn’t a big difference, but the Rhode Island Reds are supposed to be the more voluminous egg producers.  I keep whispering to them that they have to earn their keep, it’s either eggs or meat, but I don’t think they believe me.  🙂

Speaking of egg production, this is the lightest week in a while.  There were only 40 eggs total produced, which has really impacted what we can give away.  Thankfully, they upped the production the last few days of the week.

The number of eggs is not the only thing we are watching.  I also pay attention to the weight of the eggs, which I haven’t reported lately.  In the past the ladies were laying small eggs with a few mediums.  Since that time the egg size has grown quite a bit, and we are solidly in the medium egg category now.  The Rhode Island Reds’ eggs are averaging 1.85 ounces, and the Easter Eggers’ are averaging 1.775 ounces.  The average for the flock is 1.78 ounces.  We did have two much larger eggs this week, both weighing near the extra-large egg weight (above 2.25 ounces).

The rain we have had lately has put a real damper on their outside time.  Though they play in the run all the time, Charity usually tries to let them run out in the grass daily, and that hasn’t happened as often due to the rain.  I suspect it will become even less as the days get colder.

The Chicken Chronicles

What a week it has been – one of the busiest in a while.  Last week I was out of town.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean things around the house slow down.

Speaking of not slowing down, let me tell you about the ladies.  You may remember last week that I wondered if their egg production had maybe begun to slow down for the winter, but I am happy to report that it is not seeming to be the case yet.  As a reminder, last week they laid 36 eggs for the week, which was 2 less than the week before.  This week, however, they broke  a record and laid 39 eggs.  Go LADIES!

We blessed our neighbors with eggs this week.  We blessed a few neighbors the week before last, but this week we were able to give each of the neighbors whose property is adjacent to ours half a dozen eggs.  It isn’t enough for most people to not have to buy eggs, but in each case they seemed appreciative.  One of the neighbors also shared an interest in getting hens themselves, which made me smile.

Interestingly enough, it seems the Easter Eggers are outlaying the Rhode Island Reds, which has not been the case up to this point.  There are two more of them, but the Rhode Island Reds have been egg-laying machines up to this point.

Now that the sun is rising later, we have been opening the door to the run before the ladies have really woken good for the day.  Charity was laughing about it several days this week, sharing with me how they were kind of staggering around like children who are woken from their sleep in the middle of a good dream.  🙂

Over the weekend I was having fun poking a cherry tomato into the run and the ladies would all run over after it.  Whoever got it would quickly run to the other side of the run, hoping to escape the others who wanted that tomato as bad as she did.  I think I finally poked enough of them in there that all the ladies that wanted one got one.

There is much more to write, but time is short here.

Be blessed.



The Chicken Chronicles

I knew it was bound to happen.  This is the first week that the ladies have went down in their egg production. Last week the ladies laid 38 eggs, and I had hoped for about 42-44 this week, but they only laid 36.  I am not sure if this was just an off week — they did have two days where the numbers were low, or if the time of year has come where the amounts will begin to decrease.  That said, today was a seven egg day.

OH!  Speaking of today’s eggs – I have long had a suspicion that one of the Easter Eggers is laying a “pink” egg.  I put that in quotes, because it looks quite similar to the brown eggs of the Rhode Island Reds, just lighter in color.  I have been waiting for the day where five brown eggs show up because that would mean that lighter one is indeed a pink egg from an Easter Egger.  That has yet to happen, but today something just about as good happened.  Four brown eggs were laid today and none of them were lighter in color.  This almost certainly means that the lighter colored egg is from an Easter Egger.

I kind of dread the winter with the girls.  Even now, when we don’t get out there as soon as the sun is up, they have their coop in a mess.  We could leave the door to the run open, but I like the added protection it offers.  Even so, come winter we may have to leave it closed some to keep the warmth in with the hens.  Only time will tell, I suppose.

The Chicken Chronicles

My egg-laying ladies have just finished another record-breaking week.  The new record is 38 eggs, or 3.8 eggs a week per bird.  I am expecting an average next spring of about 5-6 eggs per bird, so we are still several eggs a week short of that, but we are getting there.  If things go as they have in past weeks, they should lay a total of 42-44 eggs this week.

Speaking of records, today they once again tied the record for the most eggs in a day with seven!  This was a special day for another reason though.  We have our first green egg!  All of our Easter Eggers have laid blue eggs so far, with the possible exception of a possible pink layer (time will tell if it is a Rhode Island Red with a light-colored egg or not), but we haven’t had a green egg yet.  What that tells me is that we now have a new layer!  Woot!  Let me share a picture:

Seven eggs, including a new green one.

Seven eggs, including a new green one.

The color isn’t perfect in this picture, but the green egg is the second one from the top on the left.

Speaking of that, did you know that a chicken will, more or less, lay the same color egg daily?  I think this is probably most pronounced in Aracanas, Americanas, or Easter Eggers since they lay eggs with more varying degrees of color, but it is true for all birds.  In other words, the pink egg I have mentioned above is laid by one bird, which I have yet to identify.  Since I am not around the house when they are laying, the only way I am going to know for sure, I think, is if I find five reddish brown/pink eggs in one day.  If so, then one of them had to have been laid by one of the Easter Eggers since I only have four Rhode Island Reds.  🙂

I think the egg-laying ladies aren’t sure what to do with the change of the seasons.  We are coming out to let them down to their run a little later than we had been due to the later sunrise, and the last few days they have had the coop in an absolute mess, as if they are chomping at the bit to get downstairs.  I would love to just leave the door open, but I also like the added protection it gives in case a raccoon or an opossum gets into the run during the night somehow.”

One last comment on the eggs for now – last night we had breakfast for supper.  There were enough eggs laid in the last few days to feed my entire family.  Woot!

Oh, one last thing!  Maybe you will enjoy this video as much as I did: