Tag: eggs

The Chicken Chronicles

As you probably read yesterday, this has been a whopper of a week with bitter cold to winter weather.  The ladies are about sick and tired of it.  😀  Even though they can get out into the snow, I don’t see where they have chosen to do so, and I am sure they are ready to change that.  Look at the looks they are giving me!

Easter Egger hen giving me the stink eye

What Are You Looking At?

Speaking of the Easter Eggers, they really are either the smarter of the two breeds we have, or they are weaker.  Check out how they huddle together at night on cold nights:

Easter Eggers Huddling Together

Easter Eggers Huddling Together

That is actually five birds, though it only looks like three or maybe four.  There is one totally covered by the others and another partially covered by the others.  They are hanging out over by the water dish, which is where I have my heated growing mat that keeps their water from freezing.  Silly birds.

I am please with how the birds are doing though. We had temperatures down to -9 F this week and even without heating the coop there was no signs of frostbite.  In case you are wondering why I cover my coop, look at the next picture and see the blue around the window near the roosting bar.  That is a place where wind would easily blow into the coop and could cause frostbite.  I hope to fix that this upcoming spring or summer.

I guess since I have showed two pics of Easter Eggers, I should show at least one of the Rhode Island Reds, well at least they are in the picture.  They really are a more aggressive bird, and I think they are just plain tougher.  Here they are eating upstairs on a bitter cold day:

Feeding Time

Feeding Time

One of the “fun” things we have discovered lately is that when we check for eggs late in the evening, someone, we think Blondie, will come peck at our hands.  I am not sure if she is playing, getting broodie (haven’t seen her sitting on eggs), or if she is just protecting the nesting box from what seems to be a predator.  Who knows, but it makes getting the eggs and adventure.  😀

Speaking of eggs, my assumption was correct, the egg production fell off this week for the Easter Eggers.  The totals for the week were 19 Rhode Island Red eggs (a few less than normal) and 10 Easter Eggers eggs (a big drop from last week).  In short, the Easter Eggers are proving how much they are daylight dependent when it comes to egg laying.

Speaking of an adventure, I think we may get a couple of more baby chicks in a week or two.  The local co-op is supposed to have baby chicks in next week, and if they have any interesting, winter-hardy breeds that are different from the two we have, we may get a couple of new ones.  I am thinking perhaps Welsummers.  I would like to add a couple of birds, or at least one, a year to keep the egg production somewhat stable.  I am not ready to order them though, I don’t think, as that can get expensive.  I should know something next weekend or the weekend after.

Pointy Ends Down

Over the last year of having chickens, I have learned a lot about eggs.  For example, did you know that in most countries eggs aren’t refrigerated?  I suppose one never stops learning though, right?  Did you know that eggs should ideally be stored pointy side down?  Maybe you knew that, but I sure didn’t.  Check it out – there is a reason for things such as this: Why Eggs Should be Stored Pointy End Down.

The Chicken Chronicles

Whew, the cold weather is back again!  If you read yesterday’s post, you already know that we have a doozie of a week happening, with a big snowfall yesterday (total of over 8 inches at my home) and some bitter cold temperatures coming.  This resulted in us wrapping the coop with a tarp again to protect the birds from the wind that may come in through my less-than-windproof coop.

Our Coop Wrapped in a Tarp

Our Coop Wrapped in a Tarp

Speaking of that, my aunt brought up a good question the other day.  She can recall growing up not having to do anything special for the chickens in the winter, and I can’t remember my grandpa doing anything special with his henhouse.  So why is it I feel I have to?  Basically it boils down to this:  I am not worried about them surviving the cold.  There is plenty of chickens that make it even in -30 degree weather, but you do have to worry about frostbite.  My Easter Eggers have no waddles or combs to speak of, so I don’t worry about them, but the Rhode Island Reds have waddles and combs that are a larger and more susceptible to frostbite.  They would survive, no doubt, but it is introducing a possible health issue which I don’t want to have to deal with if I can avoid it.  The answer is this: keep the wind and moisture down.  Fortunately I have good ventilation in my coop, perhaps too much, which is why I choose to insulate it further with a tarp for the bitter cold: to keep the possible drafts in the coop to a minimum.  So far our hens haven’t suffered any frostbite that I can see, so I will continue doing this when temperatures are down in the single digits.

Covering the coop this week will probably result in a decrease in the Easter Eggers egg laying.  In fact, their egg production has gone down this week, though I think they laid during the middle of the night twice this week, which ended up meaning the eggs broke and hens ate them.  That could have added 3-4 more eggs to the list, which would put in more in line with the normal production.  This week the totals were as follows: 22 Rhode Island Red eggs and 13 Easter Eggers, an increase of two for the Reds, and a decrease of six for the Easter Eggers.

I was surprised that none of the hens ventured out into the snow yesterday, or at least not that we saw.  I did see what might have been footprints in the snow, but it had already snowed enough more that I couldn’t tell for sure.  They didn’t stay in the coop either, but they did stay in the part of the chicken run right under their hen house, rather than venturing out into the new northern extension.

I don’t mind a good snow like this once a winter, but I do wish it weren’t accompanied by the terribly cold temperatures.  We are now expecting -8 F later this week, which is very cold for our part of the country.  So cold, in fact, there are numerous warnings going out to folks in preparation for the possibility of busted pipes.  In short, this is not something our infrastructure is really built to handle.  Praise God it is just a day or two, right?

Just in case you are interested, I did take some pictures of some of the song birds eating on our deck rail yesterday.  I am particularly fond of the Cardinals, how about you?

The Chicken Chronicles

Whoa! Talk about a tough week for relatively new owners of outdoor chickens – this week has been one of the hardest so far. We had an some unusually cold weather come through the region this week, like much of the country, and it really challenged my thinking on taking care of the ladies.

If we step back a short month or two ago, we had some temperatures in the high teens, and at that point in time I chose to attempt to heat the coop with a red heat lamp. It was obvious the birds did not like the light, and I didn’t feel it was helping that much anyhow. When they started talking about single digit temperatures this past week, I was really puzzling over what I would do.

We had already insulated the coop with plastic on most inside walls, which helped more than the red heat lamp in my opinion, but it still was not enough for single digit temperatures, at least it wasn’t enough to make me feel comfortable. I wasn’t worried about our hens dying, but I was worried about the Rhode Island Reds getting frostburn on their combs and waddles. They are cold hardy bird, but that exposed skin worried me. The Easter Eggers, on the other hand, do not have much exposed skin, so I wasn’t too worried about them.

I spent some time reading up online to see what others had chosen to do, and it seemed I wasn’t the only one suffering from indecision. I think it is because most chicken owners look at their birds as pets that happen to lay eggs. That is certainly how they are seen here. I was able to find references of folks who used the red heat lamps as I had done before, and others who used other heaters, but the resounding message from the experienced chicken owners was that people worried too much. I found examples of people who lived in some very cold places who had never heated their coops, and from what I could tell, if you could keep the wind out and the coop dry inside, the birds would likely be fine. So, I decided that was what I would do.

Even so, there was a small concern: water. How would I keep the water from freezing? I decided to use a heated growing mat under their water dish to try to slow down the freezing. When that didn’t seem as effective as I had hoped, we surrounded the water bowl with some insulation (old towels in plastic bags), which seemed to help quite a bit.

Second, we took a large tarp and draped it over the coop on three sides and part of the fourth. This provided two things: a reduction in airflow and a insulation.

The Coop Wrapped in a Tarp

The Coop Wrapped in a Tarp

I was shocked at how well this seemed to do. Thankfully we had built the coop with enough ventilation at the top that even with three sides covered, there was plenty of ventilation for the moisture to escape. This seems to be one of the largest concerns. I read a great piece of advice that said if you notice frost on the inside walls of your coop, you have too much moisture. We did not notice that at all.

After a day or so, I began to be a little concerned at the lack of light in the coop. I didn’t want to introduce the extra heat or risk of fire, but I wanted to add some light in there, so I mounted a fixture on the ceiling and put an LED bulb in it to help with the light.

The temperatures did get very cold, with two days being in the singe digits.  If it didn’t hit 0° F, it sure came close.  When I woke one morning it was 1° F, and I suspect it had been colder.  The second wave didn’t get quite as cold, but it was still single digits.

A several things I noticed through all this. First, there was no frostburn, and the ladies seem little bothered by the cold. Second, they miss their recess breaks out roaming the yard. Third, I think they like the light during their daytime hours. Fourth, the Easter Eggers are either smarter than the Rhode Island Reds, or they need more heat. Why would I say that? Because those little ladies finally started roosting on the big plastic container which contained by heated growing mat and the water bowl.  ALL SIX of them made this their sleeping quarters. 😀

Easter Egger Hens Huddling Around the Water/Heating Pad

Easter Egger Huddle

The big plastic container is to keep their water from spilling into the coop’s bedding.  The heating pad is in the big plastic container.  There is a 1 gallon water bowl in the big container, and it is surrounded by towels to hold in the heat as much as possible.  The hens are either in the container, on the side, or at the edge.

Thankfully this bitter cold spell is over, but I feel better about future cold spells now that we have been through this one. I am sure the birds do too.

Oh, even throughout the cold spell, the Rhode Island Reds continued laying, though I think the numbers were a little less than they have been. Perhaps that was due to the decreased lighting for a few days.  I show the Rhode Island Reds laid 20 eggs this week, and the Easter Eggers laid 3.

Yesterday Charity let the hens out to play for a while, and they were thrilled.  I guess they had cabin fever after being locked up for so many days.  Freckles must have really been that way.  As we were trying to get them back into the coop, she flew up into a tree!  This is at least twice as high as I have seen a chicken fly, if not three times the height:

Freckles in a Tree

Freckles in a Tree

We finally got her down though after threatening to clip her wings and poking her with the blunt end of a pole pruner.  😀

Oh, I also had to repair the coop some yesterday.  Both doors to the run had boards that had broken which was causing the doors to not be able to be propped open easily.  Both are fixed now, though I sure wish they would break in warmer weather next time.

The Chicken Chronicles

Whoa!  Tonight and tomorrow night are going to be interesting nights around the homestead with regards to the chickens.  It is supposed to get down to the low temperature so far for the season, a bitter cold 6 degrees F.  WHOA!  I have read and read and read on this, and the experts say to not worry about the chickens.  If they have a draft free coop, they will be fine.  Furthermore, the experts mostly advise against heating the coop, which I have already done once this year, as it is a tremendous fire hazard.  I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t a little bit worried.  Two things I have read give me comfort though.  First, the wild birds make it without the conveniences these birds have.  Second, each one of these birds basically carries a down filled coat at all times.  I guess I feel better about 16 degrees F after the last couple of bitter cold spells, and after this one I will feel better about single digits.

There are several changes coming up with the chicken pen.  The next one, which might happen in as little as two weeks, is an extension on one side of the run.  This will serve a couple of purposes.  First, it will give the chickens more area to move around, but more importantly, it will allow me to attach a chicken tunnel to the run.  A chicken tunnel, or a chunnel, is basically a small semi-circle that runs wherever you wish it to run in your yard, allowing the chickens easy space to stretch their legs and beat boredom.  It also gets them out into the grass more, which allows them to supplement their diet with more bugs and greenery, both of which are important for healthy eggs.

Speaking of eggs, I am so ready for the days to lengthen where the Easter Eggers will start laying regularly again.  They are producing almost nothing at all, and the four Rhode Island Reds are having trouble keeping up with the egg demands of this house.  😀

Oh, speaking of eggs, I thought I would give an overview of the laying for 2014:

  • Easter Eggers (6): 313/2.07 a day/3.28 eggs per week, per bird
  • Rhode Island Reds (4): 425/2.81 a day/4.92 eggs per week, per bird

So basically our flock of ten produced 61.5 dozen eggs since August 3, when they started laying.  Not bad.

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

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

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

Whew, last week was a whirlwind.  So much so that I never even got around to sharing the record the ladies set last week.  Can you believe they jumped up to 48 eggs‽  That is nine more than their previous week!  Unfortunately, they didn’t hold that kind of record again this week.  Even so, they still produced 43 eggs, which is nothing to sneeze at!

The big event for the chickens this week is that I had one of the ladies who was egg bound.  I am glad this happened while I was home.  I first read up on it on Backyard Chickens and The Chicken Chick.  My initial plan was to let it go for a bit and see if she laid the egg, but after further reading I decided the best time to act was now.  SIGH.

I began by just holding her and trying to calm her down.  She quickly seemed comfortable in my arms as I felt her abdomen to see if I could feel an egg, and indeed I could.  I had one of my boys begin to mix some oyster shells with water, which we would then give to her with a syringe to increase her calcium.  It seem this is one of the causes of a hen being egg bound, as calcium is necessary for contracting muscles.

While my oldest son was helping me with this, my youngest son was filling our bathtub with warm water to give the hen a warm bath.  As crazy as this sounds it helps the hen relax, which often helps them expel the egg.  As I walked toward the house to give her the bath, out popped the egg along with a second one that was not yet fully formed!

I carried her down to the hen house, and after setting her in there she seemed to need a few minutes to recooperate.  Later in the evening she seemed back to normal – potential catastrophe averted.

Had the calcium and bath not worked, things would have gotten more interesting, as we would have had to put mineral oil on her vent.  The problem is not just that she wasn’t laying her egg, but for chickens the vent the egg comes out of is also the vent they defecate from.  In other words, this animal that normally poops every twenty minutes couldn’t go at all.  Ultimately, in the absense of fixing this, she would have likely been dead in a couple of days.

I guess I can now add this to my resume.  😀

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.