So we are now getting a steady flow of one egg a day. We know that the eggs we’ve had don’t come from Anna, Elsa or Dorothy as they produce different coloured eggs. And we also know that Henry is a few weeks younger than the rest so is highly unlikely to be laying yet. Chickens tend to start laying from about 22 weeks and apparently there are some signs that a chicken is nearing point of lay. You can try feeling the width between their hip bones as it will widen when she is brewing an egg. That’s all well and good but it requires catching a chicken and having her not struggle whilst you feel her bum. Not happening! Also when her plumage (the red bit on her head) becomes more prominent and colours from pink to red.
So that leaves Belle and Boss. We know our first two eggs came from Boss as she was sitting in the nesting area not long before we found them. But then we’ve had an egg everyday for the past four days. Now they could both be from Boss, or Belle could have started laying and one or both could be from her. The big question is how can we tell? The first egg we had was smaller which fits with what we’ve been told that first eggs tend to be small. But there seemed to be a difference in how the latest eggs look compared to the first two, they seemed less speckled. So does that mean that this is just Boss’s eggs developing as she settles into laying? Or does it mean that these latest ones are from Belle instead? And if so that means Boss hasn’t laid since Saturday. I’m not sure that it really matters but it would be nice to know if we have two girls laying or one, mainly as I stopped buying eggs when we bought the girls (we used to go through at least a dozen a week) and our girls still haven’t got up to that combined level yet. I would put up a picture of the eggs for comparison but we’ve eaten them already (they were delicious and tasted unbelievably fresh). A friend of mine said that her neighbour used to give her eggs labelled with which chicken had laid it, I mean how on earth do you know that? Especially if your chickens all tend to lay quite similar looking eggs.
So we’ve found a nest in the pampas grass in the area of the garden now given over to the chickens. We’ve had a proper debate about whether to get rid of the pampas grass for some time. It takes up a lot of space. It has been neglected a bit, as has most of the garden area, and looks a bit unsightly. And as we were told by a friend at a barbecue last summer it has very sharp leaves which doesn’t seem ideal for a manic toddler. It also has the start of various trees growing out of the middle of it and we suspect it is sapping the goodness in the soil away from the pear tree. However, two things made us think about keeping it. Firstly it has been admired by quite a few people who think it makes a rather picturesque feature. And secondly we were advised it would be an absolute beast to try to remove as we would have to dig down to a substantial depth in order to remove the roots. That would mean either lots of hard work or calling in the services of a man with a digger.
Anyway, I have disgressed somewhat. The point is that we have found a birds nest in the pampas grass this week. Not sure how long it’s been there but we wouldn’t have found it had we not been looking around there once the chickens were home. Thankfully it is too high for the chickens to get access to. The nest has four blue eggs in (see below) and from a quick Google search we thought it might belong to a song thrush. However, we have been reliably informed that it is a blackbirds nest. Unfortunately if we ever manage to get close enough when she’s nesting she quickly departs, so our glances of her have been fleeting at best. We’ll need to keep an eye out for signs of them hatching as the sight of baby blackbirds will be too cute to miss.
We have our first egg! Boss had been in the nesting area of the coop earlier and this afternoon when our friends were visiting we went to check and there was our first egg! It was quite small but apparently the first one usually is, it often doesn’t have a yolk in either but we have yet to see that. It looks very lonely on our egg rack but hopefully they’ll be more to join it soon.
So now our chickens have well and truly settled in I thought it was time to introduce them properly.
My two are Belle, named after the title character in Beauty and the Beast, my favourite Disney film of all time, who is a Blue Bell (see how the name suits her) and Henry. Henry is a Cou Cou Maran. Henry is a rather bizarre choice of name and it most definitely is not short for Henrietta. J and I have chosen to only have one child for various reasons and our boy’s name was going to be William Robert Henry, but I was going to call him Henry. So it kind of fits well that I name a chicken Henry. And it is no coincidence that Henry and Belle are the most aesthetically pleasing of our bunch. Well they do say that children take after their parents…
This is Henry.
And this is Belle.
J struggled with naming his girls. He had originally planned to call them Sage and Onion. But then quite liked the idea of calling them Annie and Clarabel (for those not au fait with children’s characters they are the carriages of Thomas the Tank engine). Then we had the whole Clarabel sounds too like Belle so he moved into calling them after grandparents which is aparently a common thing to do. So was born Dorothy after his mum’s mum. Dorothy is a tri-coloured leghorn, she was the last of her type left at the poultry seller and should lay cream coloured eggs. The Boss gained her name after her arrival at the cottage garden. She started trying to assert herself as top of the pecking order right from day one and there could only be one name for her then. The Boss is a Rhode Rock and in the right light her feather take on a green tinge.
This is Dorothy.
and this is the Boss.
It was a right struggle to get C to name her girls. I think she didn’t quite get the idea of giving things names. Whenever I asked her what we should call the chickens she just kept saying “chickens have eggs in the house”. Even when we got to the poultry seller and were picking the chickens and giving them their names she still didn’t quite get it. We named her first one Elsa (from Frozen for those who have the good fortune not to have obsessed toddlers). Then when we got out her second one and asked her what it was called she said ‘C’. So hooray we finally had her name something. She did then have a total meltdown that we couldn’t choose anymore chickens, six chickens for a family of three aren’t enough apparently. On the drive home (very short thankfully as we had a car loaded with chickens and accessories) we did discuss that naming a chicken after herself could prove a total disaster if (or more rather when) they had to visit the Kingdom For Chickens in the sky, or KFC for short. So we swiftly renamed her Anna (Elsa’s sister from Frozen). Elsa is a Whapley brown (named for the area where she was bred) and she should lay dark brown eggs. Anna is a sister of sorts as she is a Whapley Blue who should lay light blue eggs.
This is Anna (with Elsa trying to sneak into her picture).
And this is Elsa.
Still no eggs yet at five days in, but it would be early for them to have eggs yet anyway (especially Henry who is a few weeks younger than the rest) and it tends to take a week or so for them to settle in.
So today is the big day when we buy the chickens. J has been the big driving force behind wanting chickens and its a decision which we have uhmed and ahed over for some time. I had grown up with dogs as pets and J had both a cat and a dog in his youth, but neither of us had anything remotely close to poultry. However, living in the countryside it seems as though everyone has chickens and we like eggs so it seemed like a logical decision. In fact J has been picking out breeds of chicken since we first moved in. He seems mainly focused on how they look whereas I’m after productive breeds, in this house it’s not really an option not to pull your weight. After having decided to put getting chickens on hold as we have quite enough to be getting on with at the moment, last week J came home and declared he wanted to buy the chickens now. And being the wonderful wife that I am I agreed. Actually I was quite looking forward to having chickens and six years of being with J has taught me that if I give in sometimes then I’ve got much more chance of standing my ground on his more ambitious ideas. So on Tuesday the chicken coop arrived and being a lovely sunny day C and I began building it. Now my biggest single bit of advice to anyone with a toddler is not to try and achieve anything when you’re with them. Inevitably they will either want to do the opposite just to be stubborn or, as was the case with C, they want to help. And by help I mean get in the way and make things twice as hard. First of all she insisted that Stickman kept doing a poo on the ladder up to the coop, a rather unusual thing to do but as we’re only a couple of months into potty training I figured it was a phase and just rolled with it. Secondly she kept declaring that it wasn’t the chickens house that it was her house. This led to eventually having to manhandle her into the house for bed and myself and J finishing the coop in the evening.
J has found a local poultry seller so today’s afternoon trip was there. He’d already spoken to her on the phone and so she was well prepared for the inevitable barrage of questions from us. I honestly can’t praise her enough, she spent ages with us talking through the bits of equipment we might need, showing us how to pick the chickens up and was very patient whilst J dithered over which exact chicken he wanted. We now are the proud owners of six chickens (two each). As guided by our poultry seller we brought them home and put them straight into their coop with the door closed. We then had to leave them for an hour before opening the door and letting them emerge in their own time.
The first to emerge was Dorothy, a Tri- coloured leghorn (one of J’s). And by about 6:30 they had all emerged, though some required more than a gentle shove to get out. The pecking order has started to reveal itself already, boy is it brutal! Although we had read about it, it was still fairly awkward to watch. It looks like the leader is the hastily renamed ‘the Boss’ who has been following round each hen as she emerges and pecking her periodically to remind her of her place. It’s hard not to intervene when you’re watching bullying happening right in front of you, but everything we read said we have to let them sort it out for themselves. The only time we have to step in is if they are wounded and we need to administer wound spray as the rest will go crazy at the sight of blood. As we speak they are now safely tucked up in bed for the night…fingers crossed for our first egg soon! The picture is the Boss at the front with Dorothy behind her.