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!
So for a while now, even before we had chickens, I’ve been saving egg shells. It all started when I read in a gardening magazine about how egg shells are good to sprinkle around your plants as a deterrent to slugs and snails. I had previously been putting them into the compost bin, but now I keep them in a Tupperware near to the bin. When the Tupperware reaches its capacity then I take them out and rinse clean under the tap then dry on a tea towel. Once they are dry then they are crushed up and squished into an old ice cream tub for storage. I’ve sprinkled them amongst the blueberries and raspberries and the turnip seeds so far and I plan to use them on all of our seedlings. The egg shells will eventually compost down into the soil and provide extra nutrients. Now I’m not sure how much good they actually do but there seems no harm in trying as otherwise the shells would just be going in the compost. After the torrential rain we had the other week we noticed some slugs on the potatoes so they too have now been sprinkled with shells. Fingers crossed they do something to protect our crops.
So finally we had three eggs in a day yesterday. The usual two from Boss and Belle and a third paler small one which definitely looks like a first egg. The shell is fully formed but uneven and not quite as consistent a colour as I would have hoped for, but hopefully it will become smoother and paler in time. Dorothy is supposed to lay cream coloured ones so we suspect she is our new layer. Today we only had the usual two eggs so fingers crossed tomorrow we will have another cream one from Dorothy.
So today we had a delightful surprise when J was cooking breakfast (weekend breakfast is usually made by J and since having the chickens is poached eggs on muffins or bagels or whatever bread products we have lying around). We had our first double yolker. A lovely surprise, especially as C is a huge fan of dippy eggs. Fingers crossed we get more soon!
Deep cleaning the chicken coop should be done every week or two. Deep cleaning is more than just emptying the tray underneath, it should involve totally cleaning the inside and the outside as required. Now one of the reasons we had chosen the Eglu coop was because it was supposed to be very easy to clean. Well we’ve put it to the test and I can say I totally agree. The first thing you need to do is to remove the tray under the bars and empty it into the compost. This is normally done every few days.
Then this needs to be jet washed down and left to dry before replacing it. The nesting bars can also be removed and sprayed down and dried too. A quick wipe of the inside and outside and you’re done. The laying box tends to get wiped down and straw replaced when we collect eggs. All in all it took less than 10 minutes excludimg drying time. Not that hard at all really. Just make sure that you close the door when the nestings bars aren’t there so you don’t have any falling chickens.
So today we have finally confirmed a second active layer. We had a fairly early morning egg from Boss, who had been very ready to lay yesterday but obviously decided to hold on until the morning. That meant we were able to have poached eggs for breakfast and C had her first experience of a runny egg. Now recent advice seems to be to only give runny eggs once they turn about four or five I think to reduce the risk of salmonella. However, given that C has regularly helped herself to raw cake batter from the spoon I figure having the odd runny yolk can’t be too bad for her. And it’s not like I don’t know where it’s come from. J doesn’t think he can tell the difference so far between our eggs and the eggs we used to get from the supermarket. But I think they just taste fresher.
This afternoon we had what was obviously a first egg, noticeably small. We think that this second egg has come from Belle. If she’s anything like Boss she’ll have a week or so of laying every other day before she gets properly into the swing of things and lays six days a week. We’re still waiting for our first coloured egg, which I know at least one family member is waiting for as proof that chickens can actually lay coloured eggs as they’ve been half convinced after speaking to a few people that it’s all a wind up and they don’t exist. Both Anna and Dorothy look like they’re getting close to the point of lay so it will be a race to see if we get cream or blue eggs next!
Today I had a bonus day off work and as C was already booked into childcare until 2, I took the day as a day to myself. I knew that if I spent any part of the day at home then I would end up doing chores. Not that that would be a bad thing, but as a bonus day off is a rare occurrence it seemed a shame to spend it doing the same things I do everyday. So today I had booked myself a massage and a facial first thing which was heavenly. Then, as I was nearby, I went to a fabric shop for a good old browse and a sneaky purchase of fabric for some outside cushions. Although I did feel a little guilty about not spending today with C or spending time making progress on the garden or cottage, having some ‘me time’ has done me the world of good and I now feel ready to tackle the busy few weeks at work and at home.
This afternoon C and I chilled at home, putting out fresh water for the sheep and chickens and ensuring the pots, raised beds and lazy beds are well watered. There looks to be the start of beetroot peeping through in one bed along with the turnips (which will require thining this weekend) but no sign of life in any of the others yet. And still no sign of life in the lazy beds, I will be very disappointed if we don’t get any potatoes after all that hard work. C and I did manage to discover a clue in the great egg mystery however. We found Boss in the nesting area just getting up from laying us a lovely egg. So maybe we only have one laying girl at the moment. Not that that’s a bad thing, but it does beg the question as to why Belle hasn’t started yet as she looks very ready to lay. I’ll make sure she’s fed some special treats this weekend to hopefully encourage her to join in the laying club.
This weekend is a bank holiday again, the joys of having a late Easter. Saturday J is busy for most of the day so, weather dependent, C and I might go for a swim and do some cooking. Sunday we’re seeing friends and then no doubt Monday will be spent doing some work on the garden.