Summertime Is Coming and the Chickens Are Laying

I hear y’all like my ranchy stories, so here’s what excitement greeted me when I got back to the ranch today. Since no one had picked up eggs, the first thing I did was check the top of the garage fridge. There were at least three eggs per hen, but 5 white ones. Little Henley had gone into overdrive! I’m guessing she laid two in one day. Wow. One was tiny compared to her usual eggs.

One of these eggs is teeny!

Then I went to find Bertie Lee’s eggs. But there were NONE where I found the last bunch. So I looked under everything. Voila! There were 7 eggs, one broken, in the original corner where she first started hiding her eggs, on an old mop. Let’s hope she keeps this location up.

All 19 eggs I found.

That just left Big Red. The little darling had laid two while I was in Austin. Oddly, they were two different colors. That led me and Sara to wonder if she’s really two hens, but they never appear in public together. That’s plausible, right?

So many shades of brown!

Now I am about ready to sell or give away some of the eggs. We have lots now!

There are other signs summer’s coming around here! I’ve seen scissor tail flycatchers already. Another summer of watching their beauty has commenced! And the intensely fuchsia wine cups on our property showed up. I’m relieved.

My favorite jewel of a flower. Look at all the pollen!

I’ve saved the best for last, though. My favorite violent murderer bird is back! I really missed the loggerhead shrike when it left last year. I haven’t seen it. But it’s handiwork is easy to see.

Loggerhead shrikes impale insects and save them for later. This is a female grasshopper, because you can see her wings.

I was never so happy to see two dead bugs in my life!

Beautiful scarab on barbed wire.

Yeah, it’s hot already. But I’ve got my two red buddies, Apache and Big Red, to entertain me. After my long week, I just sat and watched them this afternoon while Sara worked with Ace. As always, being with them helped. It’s yet another way I can maintain my equilibrium.

My buddies in peace.

Hope you have a peaceful or fun weekend. I have a Zoom wedding to look forward to.

Where Do Easter Eggs Come From?

Not bunnies. Not baskets. Nor roosters! Not even from capons (see below). Most of them come from the grocery store or the drugstore, as far as I can tell. This question is just an excuse for me to talk about chickens…again.

It ruffles my feathers to think I’d try to lay an egg!

It’s been quite a time in my chicken-raising career, but it seems like things have settled down. I finally seem to have a bunch of hens and dear Bruce, who have stabilized and aren’t getting eaten by anything. I did see the harrier out yesterday, though. Beautiful hawk, but I’m keeping my eye on it.

I do want to get some more hens soon, as soon as the henhouse gets set up to keep young ones separate for a while. I now know which kinds to get, anyway. Tough ones.

Of course, I’m looking forward to seeing if the eggs Star is setting on will hatch. I’m hoping they’re hens, since I don’t know how to caponize (castrate) a cockerel (young rooster). I have no idea if anyone around here does it as a service. I did read, though, that capons make great brooders and surrogate mothers, since they have hen hormones, but don’t lay eggs. The things you learn on Wikipedia!

I actually caught star out on one of her daily food runs recently. She is all fluffy, I guess from sitting all fluffed up on the eggs. I took a peek at the eggs, and they all look fine. I debated removing the dud egg, but didn’t want to confuse her. I’ll remove it when and if the others hatch on the 15th!

Even a good mom needs a break sometimes.

It just makes me happy watching them explore the area and down massive quantities of insects. We always seem to have plenty more, so I don’t think they’re ruining the ecology out here (it’s mostly ruined by herbicides the tenant ranchers put on the fields, anyway).

Henley says to leave her alone. She’s NOT sociable.

It’s so relaxing to just sit on the grass or in my official chicken-watching chair and enjoy what they do. And I guess I’ll always be looking for egg stashes, since I think that darned Bertie Lee may have gone somewhere else now that I took all her supply from under the work bench.

None of these ranch hobbies are inexpensive, but I do get a lot of joy out of the animals, and I think that’s what counts. They got me through the quarantine by giving me a purpose every day and something to do that forces me outside in the fresh air. I’m pretty grateful for the chickens (and the horses) for that.

If you celebrate Easter, I hope you enjoy your eggs, whether from a hen or from a rabbit that poops out chocolate ones. I haven’t had a chocolate bunny in years, though I do manage to snag a creme egg on sale after Easter every so often. They are tasty!

I hope you also are experiencing some hope for the future. I am, because it’s actually raining over here. Rain brings flowers and keeps those tanks full!

You don’t think I’d make it easy on you, so you? Says sassy Bertie Lee.
Springsteen, the Jersey Giant, reminds you that black IS beautiful, as are her pinkish eggs.

So tell me! What is bringing you renewed joy and hope this season? I’d love to hear from you! I’d also love to knit you some washcloths, if you feel like being a supporter of this blog and podcast. Click the support button on the main podcast page, or hey, you can even send me a voice message about what brings you joy and hope from there!

All the Hermits of the Hermits’ Rest send you lots and lots of virtual hugs and support, however you may need it.

The Great Hen Detective Strikes Again!

Take THAT, Bertie Lee! You can’t fool us forever! You’re just a chicken, and we are human hen detectives! I think they could start paying me for this egg-finding work. Yep, I finally found where Bertie Lee is currently stashing her eggs. I say currently, because I only found ten. Of course, she could have just started again after finishing molting, or after the cold episode. I don’t know. I’m not a chicken.

Look at all those sort of dirty Bertie eggs! And one very clean Henley egg that was just laid.

Lee helped on this one, because yesterday he said he saw her coming out from behind the work benches again. He thought maybe she was laying in her old spot, which she’d gotten chased out of. So, this morning, I decided to look even harder than usual, and used the step ladder to climb on top of the sturdy old workbench. I looked down behind it, and there they were! Eggs!

Bertie Lee tells Bruce that she’s glad the garage is such a mess, because it’s easy to hide eggs in. Her eggs are secretly under that white cabinet.

Of course, they were in a really hard-to-reach place, as Bertie Lee is a smart hen. She survived the 2019 and 2020 hen attacks that lost us a lot of our flock. I found the perfect egg-moving device however, our fishing net. I was able to carefully roll them forward and get them, without injury to me or any eggs. Well, two of the eggs were cracked, but I think Bertie must have done that herself, since the mess was dried up.

When I brought the eggs in, I immediately tested them for viability by seeing if they floated, just like I did a couple of days ago when I found Big Red’s egg stash. These were all in GREAT shape, with only one looking slightly iffy. I put it in with Big Red’s, along with a couple others, ready for becoming deviled eggs for Easter!

Bertie is trying to tell Buttercup to hide her eggs better, but Butter is focused on bugs.

Now I have seven hens capable of laying, and six of them are active (I hope; I couldn’t find Springsteen this morning, and she’s the low chicken in the pecking order). Theoretically, I may have enough to start giving eggs away again. And I can’t wait to see if Star hatches any baby hennie chicks! She’s still in there, setting away.

She knows she’s my favorite. Don’t tell Buttercup.

What a great way to start a day off! The Sherlock Holmes of Laying Hens strikes again! I’ve already had my personal Easter egg hunt.

I’m the Sherlock Holmes of Nesting Hens

This one had us laughing much of last night. You may remember that not too long ago, I used my chicken detective skills to discover that my Hermits’ Rest hens had decided to start laying eggs in an artificial Christmas wreath on top of our garage refrigerator. I’d looked high and low, but finally saw Springsteen up on the fridge in the middle of the day, looking very much like she was laying an egg. Now everyone lays there except Bertie Lee (mystery location) and Star, who’s brooding three eggs in the nest box, where they are supposed to be laying eggs. I just climb up on the fridge every day and retrieve the eggs. Not an elegant solution, but it works.

There’s one more chicken, though. Big Red lives with Apache and Fiona, and I hadn’t gotten an egg from her in over a year. Hmm.

I think I’m a horse.

What’s Red’s Story?

Well, once upon a time about three or four years ago, there was a chicken coop and run over the cabin on the greater ranch property. At one point, two people decided to raise some chicks, and got like two dozen production red chicks and two dozen black meat chickens. It was fun to watch them grow and grow. (Here’s a link to a longer story from 2018; podcast listeners can search for chickens on the blog and find it.)

I really loved these guys.

Soon we were getting a LOT of eggs (I say “we” because I took care of them when their caregivers were out of town). I dutifully trotted them up to the neighbors’ storage area and labeled them, where they got sold at farmer’s markets.

Fast forward, and one partner stopped coming around, the residents at the cabin moved out, and I ended up being the caretaker. More babies arrived, some we bought and some that came as gifts. I became the half owner. We ended up with Americaunas, barred rocks, leghorns, and more and more. I sure enjoyed all those chickens, and enjoyed selling my half at work.

Yep, the neighbors had a LOT of chickens back in the day. That’s Buckbeak, the nice rooster, in the center.

At some point, an owl began systematically eliminating the chickens, including the wonderful rooster we had back then. Sniff. I felt powerless, because there was no roof on the chicken yard, and a hole in the door to the coop, which allowed owls in. But it wasn’t my coop, so I couldn’t exactly work on it. The other partner was going to make the hens all into sausage, so I took over as the queen of the dwindling flock. It was sad.

I decided to let nature take its course (which was awful, with so many dead hens), and to just get myself my own chickens at my house, with an enclosed coop, where they would be easier to care for and less vulnerable. As we know, the joke was on me, because we still lose chickens to predators over at our part of the ranch, though we have been working hard on keeping the chickens safe…at least when they are young. The old ones insist on living outside.

Well, I thought all the chickens over there were gone and stopped feeding them. But, soon we realized there was still ONE old chicken left. That’s Big Red. She outlived them all. She was out scrounging for bugs and grain over by the horse area. That made sense.

Plenty to eat around here! (August 2020)

We’ve enjoyed her antics with Fiona and Apache, especially when she drinks from the big troughs. We never found any eggs, but once found her laying an egg with no shell. That led me to start bringing some chicken feed over to her, which we give her when we feed the horses.

She’s a fine hen, and that’s no bull. (This beefy guy is behind our house.)

Once she started eating, she began to look better and better. She doesn’t look at all like an “old” hen, and she’s friendly as heck. She made it through the cold weather, too, and had a nice warm place to hide out. For the past few weeks, though, we’d been wondering if her improved nutrition has enabled her to start laying. I put on my detective hat again.

I’ve been looking in various spots, like the storage area, the cattle pens, etc. No eggs. Then, day before yesterday, I heard an odd noise in the old chicken run. There was Big Red, scratching away. Hmm, I hadn’t seen her over there in a long, long time.

So, yesterday, on a whim, I decided to take a look in the nesting boxes where the hens used to all lay. Oh my goodness. There were 9 lovely Big Red eggs in there!

What??? Eggs!

Well, of course. The great egg detective figured out that the eggs were in the egg boxes. Go me!

Which egg in the Easter basket is not from Big Red?

I took the eggs home, curious as to whether I’d found fresh eggs or ancient eggs. I tested them in a bowl of water, and while none of them floated (which means they aren’t old, rotten, bad, and such), a few of them were iffy. They are marked for future hard boiled eggs.

It’s hard to tell, but this is a picture of the eggs NOT floating.

My guess is that, at her age, Big Red is laying a couple of times per week, so these eggs may be from about the time the cold weather event occurred. I’ll be checking daily from now on, so I’ll know how often she’s laying. I’m so surprised and pleased that she’s still churning out eggs, especially since the production hens tend to lay a lot for the first year, then pretty much stop after their second year. Way to go, Big Red!

Now Suna the great hen detective needs to solve the Bertie Lee mystery. She should still be laying…somewhere.

Trying Again with Chicken Parenting

Since it’s looking like it will still be a while before the relatives are back and I can get some new pullets (I need help rearranging the coop), I decided to try the old egg experiment again. You see, for the past few days when I go outside to feed my little flock of 6 (five hens and Bruce, the rooster), I see this:

MMM, chicken scratch.

Yes, I see five chickens. Someone is missing. That would be Star, the beautiful and large gray Czech Blue Sapphire hen. Coincidentally, she is now the only one laying in the actual hen boxes, since she chased Buttercup and Henley away. I still don’t know where Bertie Lee is laying, but everyone else has been laying away since it warmed up.

I’m busy. Shut the dang door.

Yes, Star has gone broody on us. I guess it’s her turn. I decided to go ahead and let her set on some eggs, if she’s so fired up about it. I took a couple eggs from the other hens and stuck them under her, so I’m guessing she has 3-4 under her (including one dud). I wrote down on the calendar when 21 days would be up, and we will see if she continues to brood away and produces some chicks.

I know she’s eating, because she gets out for a while when it’s warm outside. That’s probably when it’s easiest to maintain warmth. She’s definitely in there all night, and not taking up space in the garage (yay). So, I guess we have another waiting game on our hands, and this time no one is gonna shew the broody hen off the nest. We can spare a few eggs, and who knows, maybe some of them will hatch into hens that lay green eggs (thanks to their baby daddy, Bruce, who’s an Easter Egger).

I’m looking forward to hearing from you all! Send me some comments. Blog listeners can even send voice messages (unless that turns out to be a big mistake).

Mystery of the Missing Eggs: SOLVED

…and other good news

Just what I needed! It’s a day of solving problems and getting life back to normal! That feels really good, especially given the mood I ended up in after yesterday’s phone drama.

My shirt from yesterday said, “I may look calm, but in my head, I’ve pecked you 3 times!’ and has a blue hen on it.

After a good night’s sleep, I was able to figure out all the passwords and other information needed to get all my apps working on my replacement phone. I was way too frustrated last night to think rationally enough to take care of it. But, now email is flowing, Slack is slacking, Zoom is zooming, WordPress is pressing, and Anchor is podcasting. Things are all in the right place.

This sight of new bluebonnets in a field of stork’s-bill blossoms had to make me smile this morning when I went to the mailbox.

After I took the scary old phone out to be returned, I went to check on the chickens again, since the first time I went in, Buttercup was laying. This time, Star was in there, so I came up empty-handed. Oh well, I knew there’d be two eggs in there later.

People may consider false dandelion a weed, but I think they are charming and cheerful, so I took a picture of some over by the henhouse.

Now, every time I feed or check eggs, I also wander around the garage, where I have found two eggs in random spots lately. I just KNEW the other hens were laying, but I couldn’t find them. I looked high and low, or so I thought. I looked under a LOT of work benches and such. I’d also looked on the garage refrigerator, where we know they now like to roost (it’s warm there; who could blame them?).

Apparently I hadn’t looked high enough on that refrigerator, since all I had was a step-stool. Today, the first time I went in I spotted Springsteen, the Jersey Giant, sitting on the fridge while everyone else was out pecking. She sure looked to me like she was laying an egg. So, I resolved to get up a little higher next time I checked. This second time, I got on the washing machine and stood up. Aha.

Merry Christmas? Happy Easter?

Sure enough, Springsteen and Henley (the only one who lays white eggs) had NOT stopped laying after the snow event. They just found this convenient nest-shaped old Christmas wreath and started laying there, out of the wind and cold. There were 16 eggs, which nicely coincides with the weather event dates, assuming a couple days each of not laying. Mystery solved, all right!

I wondered if the eggs were still any good, so I decided to go ahead and boil any that didn’t float. They all turned out to be good!

No floaters in there!

I feel a lot better chicken-wise, but still can’t find where Bertie Lee is laying, or if she took some time off for being our oldest hen. That’s okay, because her entertainment value is VERY high. I’m also relieved that Vlassic isn’t finding all the eggs and eating them, though that may be what’s happening if Bertie Lee is laying hers at ground level. Dachshunds can smell eggs, it turns out.

Things are back to normal, for the time being. I’m vaccinated, the horse is off grass (thanks to Sara), the chickens are doing their job, and I can work, blog, and podcast without worrying something’s gonna explode.

And, oh yes, certain dogs are back to spreading hair on my good pillow, which I forgot to hide this morning.

I hope your St. Patrick’s Day is also full of good luck and positive vibes!

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? To Get to the Garage

Oh, those dang chickens are always up to something. I think I get the whole chicken-mama thing figured out, and they come up with a way to stump me. Some things are good! For example, I am getting four eggs many days, out of five hens. I’m sure I’d have five, if I could find where the hell Bertie Lee is laying her eggs now. I should have just let her keep laying in that corner of the garage; at least I could find them, then. It’s like a never-ending Easter egg hunt!

Perhaps we’d lay more eggs here in the coop if you’d stop opening the door and stealing our eggs all the time, grumbles Star.

Now, however, three or four of them have decided they don’t like to sleep in the chicken coop. Night before last, I only ended up with two hens safely in the house. The rest were all somewhere in the garage. Worst, Springsteen has taken to sleeping on my car. This is not good for one’s British Racing Green paint job.

Yuck. Soon as the dang tire is back on the car, I’m moving it, cleaning it, and putting a tarp on it. Geez, that’s gross.
Today’s offering from the Jersey Giant.

On the other hand, Springsteen does give me a lovely pinky-brown egg nearly every day, so she’s not all bad. It’s funny, though, because she used to be the hen who didn’t leave the henhouse! Something must be up.

I already shared that Bruce, the rooster, likes to hang out on top of the garage fridge. Apparently, that’s where he roosts when I can’t get him inside where he belongs. I really don’t want my last male fowl to die saving the flock!

I’m outa here. I’m not telling you where I roost OR where I lay, even though I love you.

I can never find where Star roosts, nor Bertie Lee, when I can’t get her inside. Buttercup and Hedley (the antisocial one) usually go to bed like good girls.

I wish I had some help in figuring out what’s bothering the chickens about their lovely coop. Is it that the last thing that attacked over there scared them? Are they pissed that I kept them confined for a week? Umm, are the eggs I set in their boxes to see if they’d hatch starting to smell bad? (That’s a distinctly stinky possibility, though I don’t smell them.) Do I need to put in more pine shavings again? That may be, too, since there is more poop there due to them sleeping inside rather than on the branches, like they used to do. And why don’t they sleep on the branches? Ah, they seem to not like one of the grains in their seven-grain scratch. Maybe they are avoiding it? Or is it the bees? Thankfully, the bees seem to have found another source of nutrition and are leaving their food alone. That was weird.

Bees eating chicken food.

I am no match for the mind of a domestic fowl, that’s for sure. I’m glad they like the garage, sort of, but would prefer to keep the cars and tools free of bird poop.

We could be hiding anywhere among all this equipment! Ha ha!

Sneaky Vlassic!

Vlassic, my black dachshund mix, is always a good source of funny stories. Since Penney showed up, we don’t get to hang around constantly, since he’s been quite happily keeping Lee’s brother company over at the RV, but still, we have our good times.

BUDDIES!!

Yesterday I was pretty happy to have time to walk to feed the horses. Since Vlassic was out running around, leaping and jumping, he got to come with me, which he usually does when Sara and her dogs aren’t there. We had a good time heading up to the barn, greeting Copper, the other dog on our property, with no problems.

Then I got a text. Sara was home and heading over. Oops. I asked her if she could leave her dogs, but she didn’t get the message. Vlassic knew just what to do, though, and ran in the tack room, waiting for me to shut the door. He learns FAST.

I’m always up to something. Fish food is tasty!

Naturally, the cattle dogs lost interest, and we were able to leave, though he yelled at me before I picked him up…he has some delicate spot that bothers him. So, back we went, enjoying the weather, etc.

When I got back to our ranch, I stopped to talk to CC, and we were just chatting away, while Bertie Lee pecked at my shoes, as usual. At one point, Lee’s brother opened the RV door and called for Vlassic to come back in. Hmm, where did he go?

We called a bit more vigorously, and he came absolutely flying out of the garage. I noticed, through the blur, that he had something in his mouth. It was round. After he disappeared in the RV, I figured it out. He had found an EGG!

No wonder he ran so fast, that sneaky boy! CC went in to look for the contraband. Vlassic was innocently installed in his bed, looking very nonchalant. But, sure enough, sitting on the dinette seat was a Bertie egg. Obviosly, she didn’t get locked in the coop long enough to teach her to lay eggs in the henhouse.

The front egg is the one we found in the garage. The other two were in the henhouse, courtesy of Star and Springsteen.

The egg had bite marks on it, so we left it for Lee’s brother to cook ASAP. Then we searched the garage for the new egg hiding spot. I was very proud to live up to my “finder” reputation, because I spotted a little brown egg under the utility sink. Oh, Bertie.

CC put stuff in the new spot, to block it off. I looked today, and she hadn’t laid an egg there yet. I’ll have to search around later today.

It’s a Chicken Palace!

Yesterday was just beautiful, sunny with pleasant temperatures, though a little breezy. It was a perfect day to do some more work on the chicken run. When we last saw it, the run was squared off, the roof frame was up and some cover was on it. Today, the chickens have a nice, big roof that will protect them a bit from rain, and most important, give them some shade in the summer.

chicken run
At most hours of the day, this roof will give the chickens some sun protection.

After that, things got even more fun. The water dispenser has been repaired, and even more fantastic, it’s level, so water dispenses through all the holes. I’ve detected chicken action at it, so they know it’s there.

Ready for their drinking pleasure.

Next, CC built a sturdy device to hold their newly improved food dispensers. Now, the food doesn’t spill out, and there are lots of holes for them to eat out of. Plus, the food is in the middle of the run, which means it’s way less likely to get wet unless there’s a particularly driving rain.

chicken coop
You can see how there are two feeders, at two different heights, well away from the edges of the run.

With the basics taken care of, we had to make sure to provide fun and entertainment for our fowl friends. What could be more fun than a double-decker swing, right?

chicken swing
I know a particular rooster who will be all over this for crowing and announcing his glory. And Gertie back there will probably use it a lot, too.

We realize that if there is one on top and one on the bottom, there may be some poop collateral damage, but what the heck. It’s fun!

We also added a few more perches for them, and I put a branch in there, so they will have something fun to peck on (and maybe it will attract some bugs to eat).

You can see random pieces of fun wood at left, and sorta see the branch at rear right.

At the moment, the infirmary/baby cage is not in the run. We plan to put it in when we need to, and surround it with protection, like more tin, to keep young and injured birds safe.

Here is the entire chicken palace. There are 5 nest boxes. One gets used. Dang chickens.

We have also been discussing getting yet another dog run to turn into an area for new chickens, and making a place for chicks, with a heat lamp. Buying all these adult chickens is getting expensive. But, we plan to keep them inside for a while, to deter the chicken hawk and teach Bertie to lay in the coop, not the garage. This explains why we put so many entertainment items in the run.

chickens
This food is NOT enough entertainment for us. But, we like it.

Now that things are pretty well set up (I’m so grateful for it!), and Springsteen (the black Jersey Giant) appears to have gone broody on us, I decided to just let her try to raise some chicks (yes, it’s winter, but we will put the family somewhere warm if babies show up and it gets cold).

fertile hen eggs
There’s one egg from everyone currently laying but Bertie (so, Hedley, Star, and Buttercup). Springsteen isn’t laying, because she’s setting, and Bertie lays in the garage. I only have five hens left, sniff.

This may give us some less expensive chickens, if it works. It can’t hurt to try. Plus, they may lay cool colored eggs, if we get any to adulthood, with Bruce the Easter Egger as the Baby Daddy!

Bertie Lee, a hen
“Today’s shoe had no laces, but I went after the shiny bits,” says Bertie, the nonconformist hen.

Thanks to all of you who put up with my chicken posts. These birds are sure entertaining, even if they are hard to keep alive.

And hey, have any of you thought of a Word of the Year yet?

More Chicken Mystery

When I got home from Austin, I found 9 eggs. They were all in one spot and all plain brown. The place where Fancy Pants lays was empty, and there were no pink or white eggs. Hmm.

Lee says he sees hens in weird places. Sure enough, I found two pink eggs in the far left corner of the garage.

Eggs were in there. Nice.

We looked in the rest of the garage, and there was Bertie Lee, sitting on a mop, in the far right corner of the garage.

Oh, Bertie.

I picked that egg up.

She makes big ones.

I still don’t see any Fancy Pants or Hedley eggs. Where can they be? Meanwhile, I found Sapphire on the mop. This is gonna be fun.

I give you nice egg boxes, but you lay eggs here??

Him reports that the brown hens are refusing to go in at night. They are in the white henhouse. Not good. It isn’t safe. I guess some chicken effort is needed! Hoping the family can help out!