The Case of the Missing Eggs, er…I Mean Chicken

Our ladies have been faithful layers ever since they started laying back last January. While I was reading up on hen care I once read that they will slow their laying or stop all together during molting, which is when they lose older feathers and grow new ones. But the specifics of molting vary from hen to hen and usually don’t affect them until they are at least 12 to 14 months. Which is our gals exact age.

When we decided to get chickens it was really important to us to have a mobile chicken coop so we could move them all over the property to fertilize the grounds and do their natural job of cleaning up of various bugs, etc. The only downside to having a mobile coop is that we need to have some kind of electric fence that could protect them from potential predators. We got a 40 foot some what light weight fence that we could encase the ladies in that would give us piece of mind. Unfortunately, over time we got tired of having to move the coop and the fence every time we wanted to move them to a new location so we decided to let them be ‘real’ free range chickens and put them back in the pasture out by barn to roam freely with our sheep and goats. We knew the potential for loss was greater but we also realized they would be a lot happier having a huge chunk of land to explore rather then a 40 foot diameter of space. So, we parked the coop in one spot and its been there ever since.

All of our animals act somewhat out of what we’d considered to be normal character. Our goats, well, they I suppose act normal. Those crazy little guys. Goats are notorious for jumping fences, getting into trouble and causing their owners lots of headaches and ours are no different. Our sheep are very independent. They separate, sometimes wandering off by themselves to the far corners of the pasture and it stresses me out. Sheep are prey animals but they are also very intelligent. At least in my opinion.

Our chickens are very independent. When we first put them back in the pasture and let them roam freely they stayed pretty close to home, venturing only as far as the first little pasture but no further then the gate. As time went by I observed them getting increasingly braver moving into the second pasture, further away from their coop and the barn. But, I told myself that chickens will be chickens and at that point we were still getting our four eggs daily and all was fine and dandy.

 Our egg production started to decrease significantly over the past month and I naturally suspected that the ladies were starting to molt. I didn’t think much of it until the other day when one of our chickens went missing. Golden Hen is our  favorite. Her sweet disposition paired with approachability makes her the perfect hen. And she always laid great quality eggs. So naturally we were both saddened when we thought we lost her.

 D was out checking on the animals when he called me from his cell phone and told me that Goldie Hen was missing. I quickly ran out to help look for her. The other three hens were hanging close to home and we both thought it was abnormal for Goldie to leave her lady friends. If they do venture off they are usually all together or one hangs back by the barn or in their coop. Not the reverse. They never have ventured off into the other pastures by themself.

We searched all over for her but drew the conclusion that something must have gotten her and headed back inside with heavy hearts. It’s never easy losing a pet and our ladies are pets to us.

Later that afternoon I went back out to the pasture to check once again. Just to be sure and low and behold there she was. Just walking around, pecking at the ground. When she saw me she ran frantically, crouching down signifying to me that she wanted pets. I knelt down and softly stroked her back just happy she was alive and well. I decided that she must fancy one of the sheep and followed it out to the back pasture while it grazed and came back when it did.

The next day I let the gals out of their coop in the morning and headed back into the house to take care of a few things. Around mid-morning I headed back out to the barn to meet the mobile vet who was checking on one of our lambs and noticed Goldie missing again. Where the heck is she going I thought to myself. Once the vet left I walked the pasture once more to see if maybe I could find her. I went everywhere. In the woods, by the pond, to ever far corner but still nothing. As I walked back to the barn it hit me. I had noticed that the hens were crawling under the big long feeder that we have against the wall in the barn to feed all the goats and sheep. Maybe, just maybe, she’s under there.

This is a picture of the long feeder on one of the walls.

And I was right. As I crouched down low and behold there she was. Goldie Hen was tucked back on the far left corner, obviously brooding on something. I stuck my hand in to try and move her but she nipped at me. Crap. How the heck am I suppose to get her out? I realized this may be harder than I thought and I needed to see if she was laying her eggs there or if she was just nesting. I stuck my hand in once more bracing myself for her beak to meet my hand but this time she actually let me feel under her. What I found was horrifying.

Not one, not two or even three eggs but as I moved my hand around under her I could feel up to 20 eggs. Holy crap. Not only has Goldie Hen been laying under the feeder but Gwen and Big Red have as well. We had been getting green eggs consistently in their chicken coop so I knew Mary was laying hers in there. But all the others, they had made a nice nest under the chicken coop and were taking turns laying there. UGH!

A feeling of anger swept over me. How dare they!  Then I broke out in a fit of laughter. I realized we needed to find ever last egg that could possibly have been laid under the feeders otherwise they could potentially rot and attracted rodents and I don’t mess with rats.

So I called D’s cousin to come down and help me since D himself wasn’t home. If you remember my post about the lamb a week or so ago you may remember me talking about how something ALWAYS happens when D isn’t home. See, I wasn’t lying!

Joel came down to the barn and we slowly began removing the eggs one by one. In total, there were 53 eggs. That’s almost four and a half-dozen eggs. Eggs that people have been asking for but I hadn’t had any to sell.

Moral of the story? Chickens are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. Needless to say, we are boarding up the feeder so there are no more holes they can fit through. Hopefully, when all is said and done they will start laying in their coop again.

One could only hope.

I’d Like You to Meet the ‘Ladies’

D and I purchased 26 baby chicks about a year ago, when we still ate meat, and had the intention of butchering some and using the others for their eggs. Well, things changed and we knew we couldn’t eat them or their off spring and we ended up selling all but four of the ladies. I struggled with selling them because I knew ultimately their were few people around here who wanted a bunch of chickens as pets and that they may go to someone who would end up butchering most of them. We didn’t know what to do but knew we couldn’t keep this many chickens. I ended up posting them on Craigslist and fortunately a really great couple purchased them and I like to believe that they are all happy, roaming freely on their farm.

The four that we did end up keeping have slowly, over the course of the year, become more like pets to use. They honestly have their own funny little personalities . Anytime they see us they all come running over to the fence. Their coop is surrounded by a 40 foot electric fence which doesn’t seem to work very well because we always see one of the chickens poking it’s head through reaching for the grass that sits just on the other side. But I suppose it still gives us a little piece of mind with it up. Plus, the dogs really can’t be trusted, nor the cats or the occasional coyote that gets on the property.

These gals have a special place in our hearts. We’ve nursed one back from the dead, literally, and the other three just tug a little at our hearts as well.

Every morning they are we waiting patiently for me to come out and undo the latch and open the ramp which they come in and out of the coop from. I’m an early riser so this is usually around 6-6:30 am. If it’s any later they always raise a stick and you can hear them from inside the house voicing their frustration at you. They spend their day waking around their pen picking at the ground. On extremely hot days they go under their coop and sit in the shade until it cools off in the evening. They are, for the most part, creature of habit. When the sun goes down they automatically go back into their coop and wait for D to come out and lock them in.

When we first got the chickens, while they were still living in the guest room as little baby chicks, we had a Chicken Coop made from Gopher Boy Farms. They idea behind it was for it to be mobile so we could transport the ladies around the farm and they could fertilize the ground.

This is me cleaning it out during the winter. The hay from inside the coop is a great ingredient to put in your compost {in case you are wondering}.

Most days the girls give us an egg each; a blueish-green, a pinkish brown, a speckled brown, and a plan brown.  We decided that instead of throwing them out {since we don’t eat eggs} we would trade with our friends for other goodies like vegetables or fun house plants or we sell them for $5 a dozen.  We may as well cover their cost, right?

So without further ado, I’d love for you to meet ‘the ladies’.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

the chicken with hemorroids

If you would have asked me seven months ago if I would ever apply Preparation H to a chickens butt I would have laughed hysterically at such a question.  Flash forward to the present and I find myself in just that very situation.

It all started last week when David and I were out taking care of the chickens. He happen to notice that one of the little guys rear end was, to put it nicely, not looking quite right. He picked the poor thing up and we both examined the situation.

My first reaction was what one would imagine. If I was looking in a mirror I suppose the look on my face would resemble disgust, confusion, and a contorted face trying to hold back bile that was creeping up my throat. I managed to pull myself together rather quickly and chime in that she must be trying to lay early. We put the ‘girl’ back down and decided to just wait and see.

While David was out running errands I couldn’t get the chicken’s butt out of my mind.I’d like to say it was because I could sympathize with the little thing but I can’t and it was mainly because I’m a softy and hate seeing any animal in pain.

I threw on my muck boots and walked back out to the coop to take another look. This time ‘she’ was hiding under the big red barn that is the new coop.  I realized something was really wrong and I needed to do a little research and by research I mean email Tiffany at Gopherboy Farms and ask some questions. I managed to snap a quick picture of the chickens behind (I’ll spare you the images) and sent if off to Tiffany with a message that said HELP!

Tiffany responded rather quickly and informing me that it was most likely a prolapsed Oviduct (if it is a female) and if caught early it can sometimes be reversed. I continued to read her instructions, 1) remove chicken immediately. Chickens go after things that are red and bloody, ie: become cannibals.

At this point I didn’t read further, put my phone in my pocket and ran out to the pasture where the chickens were. I proceeded to pick the poor girl up and carry her back into her old safe keeping, the garage. When I saw that she was safe and sound I pulled out my phone to read the rest of Tiffany’s instructions assuming that now that she was out of harms way the chicken would magically heal itself. And then I read on…after the chicken has been removed, soak it in a warm bath and vaseline the area with gloves and/or apply a hemorrhoidal cream until the chickens improves. WHAT?!

I reread the sentence several times before putting my phone back in my pocket. Pull yourself together Amanda. You can SAVE this chicken!

After my momentary panic of the idea of  having to actually touch the area, I quickly called David who was in the middle of an important meeting:


“I need you to pick up some hemorrhoid cream.” I said rather seriously.

“Okay…[laughter, laughter]”

“It’s for the chicken David. I need you to wrap up your meeting, get to the store, and get me that cream!” I said impatiently.

“I’m not sure there is a place to get that at around where I’m at but I’ll see what I can do.” (followed by even more laughter)

By the time David arrive home with the cream I had mentally prepared myself for what I had to do. I grabbed all my supplies, rubber gloves, two warm compresses, an extra towel, and the hemorrhoidal cream and headed out to the garage.

[Due to the graphic nature of this part of the story, it has been omitted from the final release of this post as to save its readers from horrible images and to leave them with the ability to still be able to swallow their dinner.]

When the task was complete, I put the chicken back in its (hopefully) temporary home and went back inside.

When I opened the front door David was there waiting for me.

“Well, I can check that one off my bucket list!” I said as I pulled off my boots and closed the door.

So now we wait. I soak, clean, apply cream and repeat until the little thing is healed and can be put back out with the others. There is the possibility that my efforts may not work and she/he will have to be culled which is really just a polite way of saying killed.

For now, soak, apply, repeat and hope that the little chicken pulls through. One thing is for sure there is never a dull moment on the farm.

chickens in t minus three weeks

I can hardly wait to wake up in the early hours of the morning, crawl out of bed and head downstairs, slipping on my muck boots to head out and collect our bounty of colorful and freshly laid eggs.

We found Gopherboy Farms via the internet and after much discussion have decided to have them build us our mobile barn house coop (pictures to come). We are so excited about this for many reasons. David’s excited about the sustainability aspect of raising and butchering our own chickens and me, well I think it’s safe to say I’m excited for raising BABY CHICKS! And, collecting the eggs.

We will begin by getting four layers from Gopherboy Farms and about 25 chicks that will need to live in a brooder for several weeks until they are of age to be released into the mobile coop with the layers.

This will be a great learning experience and I’m sure will make for some interesting stories to tell.

The way both David and I see it is like this…either we will both become vegetarian or we will gain a whole new respect for animals and what they give. For me, probably both.