So unfortunately today we discovered that one of our chickens has eaten an egg. Yesterday when C and I collected the eggs one of Anna’s eggs had a crack in and there was some dried egg matter on the eggs. As usual the eggs were all on top of each other so its not unusual for one to get a crack in it occasionally. No egg from Dorothy, but its not unusual for the girls to have a day off a week. I cleared out the straw and disposed of the cracked egg and made the nesting area ready again for the next day. Today I had already collected one egg first thing before work and C and I found four more in the nesting box. And unfortunately there was not only no egg from Dorothy again but also there was dried egg on the other four eggs in the box and on the straw. It looks like Dorothy’s egg has been consumed. Bugger!
Now there can be several reasons why a chicken might turn cannibal: they could be stressed, bored, lacking in a nutrients, thirsty or accidental cracking. Now we have had some very hot weather in the UK this week so that could have made one of the girls act out of character. The disruption that we had last weekend with discovering the girls had created a new nest and then having to open it up could have made them act out of character. Who knows. So I’ve made sure the food, water and grit/shell are all well topped up and thankfully tomorrow is the weekend so we can monitor the girls all day and remove the eggs promptly and hopefully discover who the culprit is and stop the cannibalism. Goodness only knows how though!
So this week we haven’t had as many eggs as usual. The girls haven’t been themselves really, J had to chase two of them into bed the other night as they had climbed on top of the hen house and were refusing to get down and go to bed, even though it was gone 11pm and very dark. And we’ve had workmen around a lot with getting my cabin built and the final few bits of outside work sorting the patios etc which can be quite noisy and unsettling for them. And it’s been really hot this week which can tend to make chickens lay less. So although I was a bit perturbed by the decreased eggs I figured it was just one of those things.
Anyway yesterday I let the girls out in the morning as usual before heading back in to make the morning coffees, and then at about 9:30 we went out to check and see if there were any eggs. However, we could only count five chickens, Dorothy was missing. The fence had been on the whole time and I was sure that I’d counted six chickens tumble out of their house that morning. We looked around the hen area but no sign of her or any evidence of any predator attack. It looked like somehow she had flown over the fence and escaped. After a good search, including a root around the pampas grass, we headed back inside but J and I kept popping out alternately to check and see if she had returned. And lo and behold she had reappeared about an hour after we were first looking for her. Now that really bugged me but we suspected that she had been hiding in the pampas grass and we had just missed her. We had things to do for the rest of the day so didn’t give it much more thought. However, today we were having a Father’s Day barbecue and I just went out to check the girls didn’t need anymore water before we started cooking as it was a scorcher today and Dorothy was missing again.
I was determined to get to the bottom of the mystery of the missing chickens and eggs and so called J to come out and bring an old walking stick with him and we began hacking at the pampas grass. We found what looked like an entrance point to the centre of it where through their scratching about they had managed to create an archway into the centre (see below).
So we tried to clear some of the vegetation so we could get a better look inside. Not exactly easy as the leaves are actually quite sharp and so J got his hedge trimmers out to tackle it. Finally I managed to spy some eyes peeping out at me from across the other side of the pampas grass, Dorothy appeared to be laying an egg (see below you can just about make out her eyes and beak).
Now I am not happy with the idea of my chickens laying eggs randomly somewhere else, they could easily encourage rats or other pests. We started giving it a good trim right above where she had been sitting desperately trying to make our way into where she was. Thankfully she rose and scuttled out and we could then clearly see eggs. Now that is eggs plural (see below) so it wasn’t just a one off occasion. She had been using her newly established nest for a while.
As a reminder Dorothy lays our white eggs, but our discovered horde also had some normal looking ones so she has clearly had some friends also sharing her private nest. We managed to get the pampas grass cut back enough to get into them and in total from there we collected a dozen eggs. Seven white and five normal coloured. It certainly made it our biggest daily haul to date. Now we just need to find out a way to make sure they go back to using their actual nesting area!
So the other evening I went out to do the usual evening chores whilst J put C to bed. I walked up to the chicken pen and turned off the electric fence before remembering that I’d forgotten to turn on the tap for the hose in the field. I popped back to the cottage to turn it on and by the time I got back I discovered that one of the girls had taken advantage of my absence. Belle had somehow made her way outside of the fence, I presume that she had flown over. Now as J was inside still I had the job of getting our least friendly chicken back into the pen.
I kept lifting up the fencing to try and encourage her to creep under but instead she kept moving further away. Finally, thankfully, she saw sense and rushed past me into her pen. Hopefully she won’t brave trying to escape again!
We finally have our first blue egg! We’d been out as a family today and were fairly late in checking on the eggs (about five o’clock) and what an amazing surprise greeted us.
We finally have five of the girls laying and look at what an eclectic mix of eggs they offer us on a daily basis. I even said to J that I couldn’t imagine ever going back to shop bought eggs again. As the girls get longer into their laying cycle their egg yolks have become increasingly orange and more flavoursome. You certainly don’t get the same standard from the supermarket. So the blue egg is from Anna and we are just waiting for Elsa to start laying which will no doubt be sometime soon.
So this morning J, C and I went to check on the egg situation to find that we had three eggs. Not only that but two of the three look to be double yolkers! We’d already had one double yolker during the week which I’d been kind and saved for J to have poached for breakfast on Saturday so to find two laid for us this morning was a right treat. When we went down to the pen Boss was in the nesting area so we hung around the pampas grass and tried to coax the rest of the girls to eat ‘special treats’ (aka any general garden waste that C gets to feed them). Boss was sure making some noise in the hutch which we took to mean she was telling us she was laying, but when we saw the size of the egg it was no wonder she was yelling about it! The picture below shows one egg which the supermarkets would class as medium, one which they would class as large and the double yolker. Hopefully you can tell which is which!
So it’s been a couple of months now that we’ve had the chickens and their coop so I thought it would be a nice idea to review it in case anyone is thinking of acquiring a brood of their own. J had been the driving force behind getting chickens and he had picked out a coop that he thought would fit into our lifestyles. J and I both work, him full time and me part time (at the minute) and so our time at home is precious and somewhat limited. Having just gone through potty training with C, I wanted to keep poo cleaning up to a minimum and I wanted it to be quick and easy to do. I was also keen not to avoid as best as possible the smell which seems to linger around chicken coops I’ve encountered before. I had originally stipulated a long time ago that I didn’t want chickens until C was three as then she would be old enough to know not to pick up the poo. Looking back I don’t know why I thought that three was the magic age when she wouldn’t pick up things she shouldn’t. I’ve now discovered that for C the chickens doing a poo is exceptionally fascinating but thankfully she doesn’t seem to want to pick it up.
Anyhow I digress, the point is that I demanded it was toddler proof and quick and easy to keep clean. So J found the Eglu. Whilst most coops are made from wood, Eglue makes its coops from plastic. That means they can easily be hosed/wiped down and no risk of poo getting stuck on wood (ew). The plastic is also apparently better to keep free from red mite which tends to plague chickens. A plastic coop avoids the issue of a wooden coop needing repainting every year or rotting after a few years and needing totally replacing. So although the Eglu Cube is more expensive than your standard coop it should hopefully work out cheaper in the long run. The Eglu cube has space to house up to ten chickens depending on their size and we’ve found it fits well for our six. It has a seperate laying area to roosting area so can easily be shut off at night via a sliding door keeping the girls roosting nicely on their bars. Underneath the roosting bars there is a slide out tray which pulls out to easily remove the girls nightly poos, of which there are many!
The cube is raised off the ground and reached via a non slip ladder which keeps them further away from those dreaded nighttime pests. There is a hatch on the side to collect eggs from and the back opens up as well for ease of cleaning and changing bedding. Whilst we’ve not yet experienced the extreme weather conditions which the Eglu is equipped for (ventilation for hot days and double insulation for horrible winters) I don’t have any doubt that these will prove beneficial. The cube came with a small run, which we extended to a 4 metre run so the girls can at least have some space in times where we have to keep them enclosed in there. Although as you can see Dorothy has managed to get on top of the run somehow! The run benefits from an ingenious flap thing which lies flush to the ground and provides extra resistance for foxes. We went for the cube in the green and it blends in remarkably well with the rest of our garden. The advantage of the cube being raised is that it also provideds a shaded area underneath which we’ve already seen our girls using. Eglu are apparently bringing out an automatic door opener for the Cube in the summer so that will make our chicken care even easier!
I guess there has to be a first time right? So last week I reported that we’d had our first egg from Dorothy, our tri-coloured leghorn who is supposed to produce cream coloured eggs. We have routinely had three eggs a day since then, with one being paler than the other two, so we figured we now had Boss, Belle and Dorothy laying. Well low and behold I was totally wrong. For today C and I went to the hen house on our usual coming home from work routine and what should we discover but four eggs. Not only that but the fourth egg was most definitely the cream one from Dorothy. Which means that the baby of the group, Henry, has been our sneaky third layer. Still holding out for our blue and brown eggs from Elsa and Anna but fingers crossed we’ll have them soon. The eggs are building up fast so I think I’ll need to find some amazing egg recipes to start using them up!