Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Eleanor claiming credit for not one, but two eggs! We are learning to sneak in and get Dolley's before Eleanor gets in there--otherwise, she might just settle in for a nice long sit. Notice the pine shavings on her feathers--while she is waiting for the egg to arrive, she amuses herself by picking up bits of pine shavings from outside her box and either depositing them inside or, for reasons we don't at all understand, laying them gently on her back behind her wings. It must be instinct, but what?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Free Range Eggs Are Good For You

Check out this report from Mother Earth News. They tested some supermarket eggs against free range eggs from four flocks. The free range eggs had roughly twice as much vitamin E, about 3 times as much beta-carotene and omega-3 fatty acids, and less cholesterol. Folic acid? It was off the charts.

The magazine is trying to gather nutritional information about free range eggs to make the point that not all eggs are created equal. They suggest a couple of laboratories where, for $60 or more, you can send off your eggs to be tested and post the results. I'm curious, but maybe not that curious. If we start sending eggs off to laboratories for nutritional analysis, what will that do to our per-egg cost?

MOTHER'S Chicken and Egg Page

The Tale of Punjab

As long as we're talking about peacocks, check out this story in my hometown paper about Punjab, a peacock that turned up in a neighborhood down the street. For a while, there was a peacock living 2 doors down from us. He did like to go for walks around the neighborhood (who would stop a peacock?) and we wonder if this is the same bird. Which would be better--knowing that it's the same peacock, or that there are two peacocks at large in the city limits?

Times-Standard Online - Local News

Peacock Raises Baby Chick

Angela at SacramentoGardening has a short video on her site of a friend's peacock (the peacock just showed up one day, as peacocks often do) who had decided to raise a baby chicken all by herself! Ah, the great mysteries of poultry...

Angela's Garden Blog

Monday, August 29, 2005

Scott and Eleanor

He always did have a thing for redheads.

Yesterday's Egg Production


Sunday, August 28, 2005

A Note About Comments

I've had my first experience with "comment spam" in which a spammer posts bazillions of comments to the blog. To prevent this, I activiated a feature of the blog software that prompts you to type in a few letters before you post a comment. Because the letters are in a funny format, it takes a human to read them, so it's a way of making sure the posts are not just coming from a computer sending out spam. Hope it's not too inconvenient.

Dolley, You're a Woman Now.

We got our first egg from Dolley this morning. It's pale blue. She laid it in the same nesting box Eleanor uses, then Eleanor promptly hopped in to lay her own egg, so it wasn't until Eleanor stood up later that we realized there were two eggs in there.

Araucanas (or, as is the case with Dolley and Bess, a sort of mongrel version of Araucanas and Ameraucanas called "Easter Egg" chickens) lay eggs in a range of colors from blue to green to brown to even pink. Each individual bird, however, will lay her own specific color of egg. Blue is the most unusual color to get, so we're pretty happy to have some blue eggs.

More photos coming soon.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Who's got a great punk rock song about raising chickens to share with the group?

OK, I'll go first. Check out The Rubberneckers' song Another Sunny Day. They're a darn fine cow-punk (and hen-punk) band from up the road in Blue Lake. Rock on!

Abigail takes flight.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Treasurer's Report

I shall take just a few minutes of your time to present the Humboldt Hens Treasurer's Report. Bess, having been elected treasurer by unanimous acclamation--at least no one opposed her--that is to say, I don't think anyone opposed her at the meeting I called last week. Suddenly, I'm not so sure. I'm starting to think that think that none of the hens have read Robert's Rules of Order, but I'm probably overanalyzing.

In any case, Bess should be presenting the report, but she hasn't mastered the Mavis Beacon typing CD I bought her. In fact, the shiny surface scares her. I keep telling her it won't be shiny when it's in her computer, but she never listens to me.Sometimes I suspect she can't read and that she's just faking when she hops on my knee when I'm reading a magazine. Bess even falls short with the hunt and peck typing method, to which she should be genetically predisposed--can we still say that? Did we abolish genetics with evolution? I can never remember.

I can, however, remember the Treasurer's Report. Bess informs me--or would have informed me, I'm sure--that after a remarkable eleven consecutive days of egg laying, our total flock production is 11 eggs, bringing our per-egg cost down to just $74.53 per egg. I didn't have her check my math--she's asleep, and besides, she likes to delegate these matters. I think that shows good leadership, don't you?

(My dear husband posted this in the comments, but I felt it deserved a proper posting of its own.)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Here is Dolley, contemplating the nesting box. She's the next one to lay, we think. She's been assuming the "mating" posture for about a week now. Our little girl's growing up.

We have a friend in our neighborhood who also has chickens, and we sometimes swap chicken-sitting duties. She pointed out that since their chickens came to them from a farm as adults, they may have some kind of who-knows-what that our chickens don't have. (or it could be the other way around, for that matter.) A disease, a parasite, a mite, anything. So she said that when they come take care of our chickens, they are going to wear different shoes so they don't track in any little chicken bits from their coop.

What a good idea. I never would have thought of that. We try to be careful with chicken sanitation, but that is so very sensible. It's probably something I should have considered when we went to the country fair last weekend and came in contact with hens and all kinds of other livestock, but it just didn't cross my mind. The things you learn as an egg farmer.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Who Ordered the Chicken?

Just another day in the garden--Loretta is keenly interested in the chickens. He spends all day out in the back, laying near the run where he can keep an eye on them. And when they are out running around, Loretta usually makes some half-hearted attempt at jumping them. (It's not clear what he would do if he caught one.) I think he likes the noise and fuss they kick up when he gets near, but I'm not so sure they like it. Usually I get tired of Loretta's antics after a while and I put him inside so the girls can enjoy the garden in peace.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Nice Egg Photos

This photographer is no longer posting regularly, but I ran across these photos from a couple years ago. Wow. I've been slacking off in the eggs-as-art arena.

The little papery things on the eggs are pine shavings, which we hensters use as bedding. It sticks to the eggs, as do what this blogger called "other things," a vague reference to the fact that hens just have the one opening, so to speak,and bits of--well--matter--can also get stuck to the eggs. Although so far Eleanor is a very clean girl in that respect.

There. That's probably more information than you needed about hen anatomy. Enjoy the photos.

Eggs, fresh from the hen house | Blog |

Thanks for the Curtain, Aunt June.

Ah, chicken merchandise--it's a fine line, isn't it? One doesn't want to go overboard and become the Crazy Chicken Lady with poutry-themed wallpaper and coffee mugs, and yet...some things are just improved by the addition of a few hens. It just so happens that during certain times of the year, the sun comes through this window at my desk and makes it impossible see the computer screen. Now six little hens stand at the ready.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

More on Chicken Farms

To tell you the truth, I can't tolerate talking about, writing about, or reading about chicken farms in any depth. It's not just because I keep chickens, although that's a significant part of it. It's more that I just can't reconcile a nice docile Chicken McNugget with the reality of what goes on in one of these places. It's just too much to take in. I don't eat meat myself; that's my contribution to animal welfare. But if you want to know more about the subject, check out this article on Tyson and read Virgil Butler's blog. He's a former Tyson employee who writes about the killing floor and about the chickens he's adopted since then. Warning: it's pretty graphic.

Tyson Expose

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Save a Hen

Surprise, surprise: you buy a chicken ranch and find out that the owner decided to throw in the hens for free. All 160,000 of them.

Most of them are headed for slaughter--such is the life of a hen after she's given her most productive 1-2 years to the cause--but 700 lucky birds are headed for animal shelters in northern California, where they hope to be adopted into much more favorable living conditions.

The hens will continue to lay eggs for a few more years, just not at the rate of one a day that a chicken farm demands. They will, however, continue to supply ambiance, little clucking noises, pest control services, and manure to the garden for the rest of their lives.

SOUTH BAY / Hundreds of hens spared slaughter / Rescuers team to save birds past egg-laying prime

Friday, August 19, 2005

Miss Eleanor having a much-deserved meal in the garden. She's laying an egg a day now as if it's the most natural thing in the world.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Scratch a Suburb, Find a Chicken - New York Times

Check out Ken Druse's chicken article in the Times. After all we went through to get ready to bring our chicks home, I can't imagine just tucking a hen under my arm and heading home from the fair with her. You go, Ken!

Scratch a Suburb, Find a Chicken - New York Times

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Egg The Third.

We're on a roll. Eggs seem to be coming every morning at eleven-ish. The search for new egg recipes is on, so send them our way. Today Scott's making us a Spanish omelet for lunch, which is not, as it turns out, an omelet with salsa on top, but a kind of sliced egg and potato thing that they serve on a roll for lunch in Spain.

We went out and watched some of the pre-egg laying activities this morning, but it went on so long that we eventually gave up and went inside. I would estimate that about two hours of our chickens' time was devoted to the following this morning:

1. Eleanor hopping in and out of the nesting box while the other girls watched.
2. Abigail trying to get in the nesting box with Eleanor to keep her company.
3. Abigail sitting just outside the nesting box while Eleanor was inside, as if to guard her.
4. All of them pacing back and forth, while remaining uncharacteristically silent.
5. Sleeping. I've not really noticed them to be nappers, but they seemed to need a nap in the middle of all this.
6. Finally, the arrival of the egg is announced with a loud call that I can hear from my desk.

Scott was quite amused by how involved they all seemed to be in the process. He said, "Look at how they have to do everything together. They're such girls." Yeah, if they were guys, they'd all be off watching the game.

I can't imagine what it will be like when all four of them start laying. If they keep acting like this, just getting four eggs out will be an all day event. At least it's something for them to do.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Egg Number Two Has Arrived

Poor Eleanor was probably thinking, "Whew! At least I'll never have to do that again!" And then along comes another egg.

So it looks like we're on track for an egg a day from her. They say chickens lay an egg every 25 hours, except that they don't lay at night, so that egg laying gets gradually later and later in the day until they skip a day to reset their clock. But I've heard lots of people say that their hens each have their own favorite time of day to lay and it doesn't vary much. So far Eleanor seems to be a mid-morning layer.

Egg #2 had a little crack on the top, which apparently is not very unusual in the beginning. The girl needs practice.

Monday, August 15, 2005

We Just Ate Something That Came Out of Eleanor's Butt.

What will we find inside? Sometimes the first egg has no yolk, sometimes it has two yolks.

We are really scrambled egg people, but for this first egg, we wanted to maintain some separation of yolk and white.

Yum! There may be somebody out there who knows how to make a fried egg look attractive, but they don't live in our house. So you'll just have to take our word for it. As an added bonus, the whole house smells like Denny's, which is a little odd this late at night.

And the Winner Is...

Eleanor, our Rhode Island Red, at 4.5 months of age, shown here with her accomplishment. Scott and I had made a bet on which hen would lay first. Eleanor was my pick, and he chose Abigail. Now if only I could remember what we'd wagered so I could collect.

She made quite a ruckus--I could hear her squawking from the attic--and it was a very different call than anything we'd heard before. I had heard that chickens "announce" their eggs, so we figured that's what she was doing. Sure enough, we ran down and Scott found the egg.

We had some hint that this was coming--for the last several days, every time we bent down to pet her, she'd sort of squat down and lift her wings up a little in what we discovered is a "mating" posture. Apparently this is a sign that they're getting ready to lay.

The egg itself, it its bespeckled glory.

The First Egg, laid in its nesting box per our instructions. We had placed a wooden egg in each box--this was supposed to encourage the birds to lay in their boxes--but we didn't actually think it would work.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

In Non-Hen News...

Scott's getting near the end of the living room floor project...I wanted a picture of it in its unvarnished state. There's no stain, but you can see how dark even the clear stuff is.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Abigail and Eleanor.

Eleanor bit me!

She didn't mean to. Chickens are ruled entirely by instinct. They don't mean to do anything. I can tell they have no idea why they do some of the things they do. Abigail will sometimes, for no reason, launch herself into the air and fly around awkwardly, squawking the whole time, and I know she must be thinking, "Why on earth am I flying around like this?" All the other birds immediately follow suit, and I know they must be thinking, "Well, I don't know why we're doing this, but Abigail must have had some sort of plan."

When they were chicks, they used to sit up on our shoulders and try to peck at our teeth. A chicken just has to pick at a bright shiny object, or any kind of dot or speck. They just do. But even then, when they were roughly the size of marshmallow Peeps and about as dangerous, we knew better than to encourage this behavior.

But today Eleanor jumped up on the chair where I was sitting in the backyard, which is kind of unusual for her. She's usually a bit stand-offish, but I'm trying to encourage her to come up to me and get a treat. So it was really nice that she jumped right up and kind of peered into my face, like she was trying to remember, in her little hen-brain, whether she might have ever met me before.

So I started talking to her, telling her what a sweet bird she was and how I was sorry I didn't have any chicken scratch for her, and just then she saw a flash of teeth and she went for it. Got my lip instead. It must have looked quite funny because Scott just laughed and laughed, a decision he has since come to regret. She actually did draw blood, enough to make me run inside and go put some ice on it.

My lip is fine, of course, and we have since made up (Eleanor and I, that is), but I must remember that when she comes up to me and peers intently into my face, she is not, in fact, getting ready to say something heartfelt and tender. Instead, she's just looking for something to eat. I can respect that.