Jailbirds on Parole

Well… I “chickened” out on the electric fence idea for our current inmates. I was all set to install a fido-shock wire around the coop and part of the yard, but when I went out to implement it on Saturday, I found the hens (on reprieve) happily playing in the tall laurel hedges that I was about to bar them from forever… and I just couldn’t do it. They were pecking around on the other side of the supposed wire fence (which I still don’t know how they are getting through), but they were also close to the only opening I had seen them use to the front yard (which I had blocked with hardware cloth after their most recent escape), and they seemed to have no intentions or employed any malicious methods to get through it.

Behind the hedges on all other sides are tall walls and sturdy fences from our adjoining neighbors yards, so I’m not really worried about them getting through those… at least not yet.

So I strung up some bird netting above the hardware cloth area, as well as over both gates, and the only low spot in one of our neighbors back fences for good measure, and put the hens on parole for good behavior for the rest of the weekend. They were very good girls, so now they are going to be able to free-range during the weekdays again, barring any future attempts to leave the country backyard. But I’m going to keep the electric fence as a backup plan… both for any more trouble from them, as well as from our not-so-friendly neighborhood raccoons in the Spring. And I’m also thinking up new ideas for my husband’s dream of a chicken-free patio. Thanks to everyone for sharing your kind, thoughtful and wise advice and experience!

chickens-on-parole

an egg at last

It’s nice to know they can still make them… despite the bout with sour crop and plethora of molting feathers scattered across the yard. It’s been 2.5 weeks of nothing, so I stopped bothering to clean out the nesting box every day. Luckily, she scratched some clean straw on top before she laid it. Thank you Cleo! On the small side, but perfect as usual. 🙂

20130826-165408.jpg

The Mystery of the Egg Size Discrepancy

It’s been 8 months since my hens started laying, and it still completely baffles me why Cleo’s eggs are consistently so much bigger than Gloria’s, with the exception of her freakishly large “Frankenstein” egg, after which she skipped a day of laying and then laid a dwarf -sized egg. Cleo seems to be a superior layer in other ways as well. She’s much more consistent and hardly ever misses a day, but Gloria misses about 1 in 5 days on average. And I’ve already mentioned how Cleo’s eggs are even easy to peel when hard-boiled, which is unusual with fresh eggs in general. Gloria is a bigger bird, but has a smaller comb, and I believe she is not pure Rhode Island Red, but has some Barred Rock in her as well. So what gives? Does any of this make a difference? Any theories out there???

Gloria’s smaller, inconsistently sized and colored eggs are on the left, and Cleo’s perfect, large, consistently sized ones are on the right… but they both taste great, and once we crack them open, we can’t tell the difference!

free range egg size comparison

Even if she is not the best layer, Gloria is still a very sweet chicken who also enjoys a good bedtime story:

hen in hammock being read a bedtime story

Happy Belated Birthday to my Chickens

In all of the excitement of Mae’s birthday, I realized that I had forgotten to mention the birthday (or should I say hatching day?) of my hens on May 9th. Just over a year ago, they were hatched at my kids’ school as a science project, and on probably the biggest whim of our lives, we brought them home for Mae’s birthday 2 days later.

They were the best, most fun, educational, exciting and life-changing birthday present she had ever been given, and the last year has been a really amazing adventure for all of our family as we’ve raised them, enjoyed them, and learned from them.

Many of my readers may not have had the chance to go back to the beginning of my blog to follow our adventures from the start, so I wanted to present the opportunity: if you are interested, if you have nothing better to do this weekend (Hah!), if you are new to chicken keeping or considering embarking on this adventure yourself (perhaps you can learn something from our experiences), or if you just want to watch a lot of cute videos of baby chicks (I was a bit video-happy back then), this is where our story began, and you can click the “next” buttons at the top of the page to read the posts chronologically:

https://vuchickens.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/birthday-chickens-2-days-old/

Happy Birthday Cleo & Gloria!!! You have enriched our lives with your presence, and our meals with your incredibly rich and delicious free-range eggs, and we are so very glad you came into this world and into our home!

chicken eggs hatching

chicken eggs hatching

frankenstein egg… the fascinating conclusion

We cracked open Gloria’s Frankenstein egg this morning and… no monster chick, no baby T-Rex, not even a double yolk! Just one VERY big yolk. However, it seems to have had a strange effect on my family after eating it:

family mustaches

I guess Gloria has been foraging large amounts of that “Portlandia” hipster juju that’s been growing roots in the soil around here lately!

all is right in the world again

At last! 2 beautiful whole eggs today! And a nice big one from Cleo again. The cats were even impressed. The weather was finally warmer too, but dark and rainy all day. The hens looked like drowned rats when I got home… but happy drowned rats. I guess they are truly Oregon girls at heart!

the plot thickens

I was debating what to do about the “case of the missing eggs”; whether to hold a stake-out, or mount a full blown investigative search of the laurel hedges. I decided that if there was no egg this morning, I would keep them in their coop until the afternoon, to see if Cleo would lay one by then. The hens must have gotten wind of my plan, because this morning there was an egg! So they got to run free all morning after all. There is still no conclusive evidence for what became of her eggs the last 2 days. I guess we will see if there are any further developments in the next few days. Mae was very excited that Cleo’s egg from this morning was actually taller than the large eggs we have from the grocery store. Maybe she just needed an extra day and a half to go up a size!

worried mama hen

I just couldn’t stand it… I let the girls stay out this morning when we left for school / work. It had rained HARD all night, and although their sleeping area and their food under the cover stayed dry, the rest of the coop just seemed too enclosed, soggy and depressing to make them stay in there all day, when they were clearly anxious to get out and gobble up worms. I’m hoping the rain will keep serious predators away, and they seem to have gotten very good at hiding in our huge laurel bushes that enclose our yard. They were fine all day yesterday, with minimal supervision. I still want to build them a bigger run for the winter, but I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get to it. So I’m a little worried, but I’m pretty sure they will be fine, and that they will be much happier than they would have been otherwise when we get home this evening. Maybe I’ll have my good friend / neighbor check on them once or twice to make sure.