Monday, March 12, 2012

Chickens and eggs

 In the picture above, there's one unseemly corner of our yard, by a dog house which currently stands unused. I've been telling my husband we should get rid of this board and those rusty barrows, but quite unexpectedly, our chickens began to favor this spot above all others. Here they rest in the shade and take dust baths, which is great fun to watch. 

If you look carefully, you can see our black rooster. We now have two roosters, one older and more sedate, and another who only recently started crowing. There's quite a lot of rivalry between the males, so we are thinking of giving one away. Initially, when we only just started out with our chicken adventure we only wanted to keep females, but it turns out roosters fight away stray cats the way hens don't do.

The stray cats are another bit of trouble. In our old home, we had a harmless kitty in the yard who kept the other cats away and never touched a chick. Here we have savage-looking huge cats who come at night to prowl around the chicken coop. They set our dog to barking, of course, but once they figured out he's on a leash and can't harm them, they just ignore him and remain in the yard until I get out and shoo them away.  
Here's one of the first eggs we got from our hens. I couldn't tell you the breeds we have, they are cross-bred most likely, but each hen lays eggs of a slightly different shape, color and shell texture. Some are pointy and glossy, other more rounded and velvety to the touch. Either way, all are a delight to collect, all have bright yellow yolks (we have plenty of free range space) and all taste way, way better than store-bought eggs, not to mention they are infinitely superior in terms of nutrition. 

Once the nights get warmer, we plan to let our chickens brood and grow chicks, which of course means we will need to find a better solution to the cat problem (a small chick is so much easier to snatch than an adult chicken). Another thing that puzzles me is this: my husband built several "nests" for the chickens to lay eggs in, all nice and snug and covered in straw, but for some reason they all prefer to lay in one nest. Yesterday I found two eggs from different chickens right next to each other. I wonder if a chicken will go broody over another's eggs, and whether they can "co-operate" while hatching and raising their brood. I've heard this happens with other social birds, but I suppose I will need to research this further. 


Heather said...

Good luck with keeping the cats at bay, we have to have our girls in a large pen topped with wire, we have to many predators to let me roam.

Many times they will find one spot that they prefer to lay and they will each take turns using that one spot. Mine have 3 or 4 boxes that they like to use out of the 8 that were built for them. They just wait and take turns. They will sit on each other eggs, when they want to brood it doesn't seem to matter who's eggs they are. Good luck with your chicks.

Bethany said...

Our 13 hens have six different nesting boxes to lay in, but they all lay their eggs in the same two. I don't really know why they do that, but I've found it's been true for all the flocks we've kept so far.

Maybe a motion activated sprinkler would deter the cats. I know they sell them in garden catalogs for pest control.

Lady Anne said...

Hens will raise each others chicks, and even sit on another nest. Sometimes, one hen will become very possessive and "chick-nap" as many babies as she can collect, hiding them under her wings and herding them around the yard.

Anonymous said...

We managed to hatch out two chicks last year. Going on their color, One hen laid the eggs (the chicks were black), a different one brooded them (orange, purebred hen who can't ossibly have mothered black chicks), and a third mothered the hatchlings (again, an orange hen). So, yes, they will share in the producing of the babies.

It may not take a village to raise a child, but it evidently takes a whole flock to raise a chick!

Anonymous said...

I found that after the nest was full of eggs by several different ladies one of the hens would go broody, sitting on the nest and not moving becoming almost coma like, only opening her eyes if I touched her. The other hens though continued to lay eggs ON the broody hen which would eventually roll to her sides and accumulate with the others eventually overloading the nest with eggs that were not on the same time scheduale.It became a problem. So when I had a broody hen I had to isolate her in her nest to keep others out and make sure she could get out at night to grab a drink and bite to eat. Another mistake I made was thinking the hen would go broody first and sit on the eggs from the begining but the hen never went broody until a nest was full with whatever number of eggs she thought was right.When I had ducks that number was 12 every time she rearranged them into circles or lines everyday until there were 12 and then she sat and was very violent with anything that came close. Hope this is a help. Karen