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!
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.
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 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.