August 18, 2010

Chickens & Eggs

It's been awhile since I've given an update on the chickens.  I reckon I'll start with eggs....

I have seven laying pullets and am getting about five or six eggs per day.  In the beginning, I thought I would keep track of how many I got from each breed, but this quickly became an exercise in futility. This is because initially, there wasn't as much color difference between the breeds as I thought there'd be.

For example, Barred Hollands are supposed to be white egg layers, but mine lays more of a cream colored egg, identical to the color one of my Ameraucanas lays. Welsummers are known for their dark brown or speckled eggs, like the one on the left. Other than occasional, random speckles however, they are the same brown as the Delaware's eggs.  That is, except for the Welsummer that is laying light pinkish-brown eggs (in the photo above). Not the least bit characteristic for the breed! Not that I'm complaining.  It's just made breed laying record keeping a bit difficult so that I finally decided, "oh, well."

Of egg laying places, none of them have ever consented to use my homemade nest boxes. Rather, they consistently prefer to lay under the nest boxes.  Except the Ameraucanas.

Though they lay the largest eggs, the Ameraucanas have turned out to be flyers.  My Ameraucana cockerel flew out of the chicken yard every morning (the reason for that here.)  My two Ameraucana pullets don't think anything of flying out of the chicken yard or the fenced in field, whenever it suits their fancy.  Fortunately, they still stick close to the rest of the flock, and so aren't wandering to places I don't want them.  The downside to this is that they fly out to lay their eggs.

As long as I can find them I don't mind.  But if they change the spot, it's a proverbial Easter egg hunt.

I realize this is a problem with free ranging chickens, so I feel fortunate that most of mine lay in the coop.  I think though, that the urge to lay elsewhere was motivated by two of our three roosters, the Ameraucana and the Welsummer.  These two would hang out in the hen house, waiting to accost the hens when they came in to lay their eggs.  Naughty boys.

This was just one problem we were having with our roosters.  At my last chicken report, we had three of them. The other, bigger problem was the constant crowing and no little ruckus amongst the three. The rivalry was terrible.  There were a few times, when I thought Lord B ....

... was going to kill one or the other of them.  Anyway, we finally "did the deed," so that we now have only one rooster and there's peace in the barnyard once again.  Not that Lord B doesn't ever crow, but he is much less stressed out.  If I do hear a lot of crowing, I know to go see what's going on, because he's usually alerting the world to something he's concerned about.

It was interesting to observe Lord B's rise to "top cock."  We had chosen him for the job a long time ago, simply because DH really likes the Barred Holland breed.  At that time we had 12 roosters (to our 7 hens), so we knew we were going to have to cull most of them.  Some of those 12 were simply greedy troublemakers, chasing the pullets around, squabbling amongst themselves, and eating all the food.  They were the first to go.  When we got down to three, Lord B was still too much of a youngster to step up to the plate.  When he finally did reach the magical maturity day, it was as though there was unanimous agreement amongst all the chickens that he was the rooster.  He knew it, the hens knew it, and the remaining two roosters knew it. There was never any contest over this that we were aware of, it was simply accepted by all.

Most of our rooster problems then, consisted not of the other two challenging him for the job, but for what they were constantly trying to do behind his back.  Consequently he was in a constant tizzy over keeping them away from the hens.

He was the right choice and has been everything a rooster is supposed to be.  The hens love him, even the gal at the bottom of the pecking order.  She has no fear of him whatsoever.  He is alert, watchful, ever clucking to them for some discovered tidbit, always stepping back to keep watch while they have first go at whatever goody he's found, and patient to the point where any pullet can snatch food from his mouth with no protest from him.  Plus he doesn't challenge the humans as potential threats to his flock. In fact, when he sees us, he rounds the girls up and brings them running (in case we have something for them to eat.)  His only compensation for all this is that he "gets a little" from the hens, and interestingly they let him.  They always squawked and ran away from the other two.

So, we have a little flock of eight which seems a perfect number for our homestead. So far we've managed to keep up with the eggs, but I'm planning to try freezing them soon, for winter's use.  More on that project here.

Best of all, everybody gets along like one big happy family.


Razzberry Corner said...

Very interesting post! It's good to get rid of the extra roos, we are now down to 2, and we think that number is good for our flock right now - we have approx 14 pullets and 8 baby chicks which we don't know about yet. It is interesting to watch the roosters' rivalry. They have their own "pecking order" just like the hens, but separate from the hens.

My chickens all like to fly - we have to trim their wings to keep them in the chicken pen. At first we thought we'd just let them be free, but then something (we believe a fox) starting killing the ones outside the pen. So wing trimming became a necessity.

Your eggs are beautiful! I love the speckled ones!

Theresa said...

Peace on the farm...PRICELESS! Seriously, nothing causes more headaches than battles and spats in the barn. Hail Lord B for being a very good roo!

Mama Pea said...

And a very good looking big happy family you have! Lord B is a handsome fella, no doubt about it.

I think I'm partial to our Welsummer eggs over all the others. There's something about a dark brown shelled egg that just looks "healthier" to me. Kinda silly, huh?

Nina said...

Our 11 girls should be laying eggs sometime in the next 4 weeks or so. We don't have a roo and are quite happy that way. They are brown egg layers, a New Hampshire/Barred Rock cross and are incredibly pretty. They are supposed to be hardy, good layers and very quiet; traits I thought were good for a beginner chook owner. They are so sweet and friendly and do like their treats. I'm hoping they'll use their spiffy, new nesting boxes that DH built. up to 11 eggs a day may seem like alot and it was more than I expected, having ordered 10 pullet chicks, received 11 but expected possible deaths or a few males in the mix. However, I've already got my adult kids, friends and co-workers asking for eggs!

Woolly Bits said...

he looks like he's a fierce defender of his girls:)) I think I could get around with even fewer layers - 5 eggs a day - is more than I could normally use! I am interested in freezing them though - fresh eggs were one of or supply problems during our winter "lock-in"!

bspinner said...

Peace has returned to the farm. Can you ask for anything more than that??

Leigh said...

Lynn, I think I need to look up clipping flight feathers. It would probably be safer and it would be easier to find the eggs! I have seen dogs passing though the yard, so that's a good reason to keep the chickens on the inside of the fence.

Theresa, you said it, PRICELESS!

Mama Pea, I admit to being partial to brown eggs too, though supposedly nutrition is the same no matter what the color. When I was researching breeds, I learned that folks used to think white eggs were healthier and lighter tasting. That's one of the reasons the Barred Hollands were developed. I also suspect their white eggs are one reason why they aren't so popular with homesteaders.

Nina, sounds like you've got the perfect chicken for your circumstances. That's so amazing you actually got all pullets. I've heard even the "all" categories can have a few of the others. I'm sure you'll find something to do with all those eggs!

Bettina, I'd actually hoped for more, for the very reason of freezing them. But nature took it's own course and I have what I have! I got an egg from each today, not usual, but fun.

Barb, absolutely not. Everybody seems happier too.

Benita said...

You lucked out with your rooster. The rooster we had part of the time I was growing up was a mean SOB and would try to attack anyone walking out of the house or barn. Yours sounds like a perfect gentleman.

And the eggs look wonderful!! With the latest food scare I'll bet you are very glad you have your own eggs and don't have to buy them.

Renee Nefe said...

I'm glad that your chickens are all getting along now. It appears that you're getting a lot of eggs! Well you don't have to worry about the egg recall. :D

I was just thinking today of all my chicken keeping friends who are doing so well. All this talk of a recall on eggs is making me want some. LOL

Leigh said...

Benita, I think we would have done without a roo rather than have one like that! I'm not sure why Lord B turned out to be so personable as well as watchful. We do feel fortunate.

I didn't even know about the egg recall! A disadvantage of not having TV I suppose, though I could keep up with the news online I suppose.

It's funny because folks want to give backyard chicken raisers a hard time about chickens being so dirty and smelly. But really, the vast majority of the problems come from industrialized producers. There's no way they can keep those huge facilities truly clean, considering how much poop chickens produce and how vulnerable they are to disease by living in such close quarters. Bigger is definitely not always better.

Renee, do you have any town or county ordinances regarding chickens? Some places allow up to three hens as "pets."

Sharon said...

Oh, I do love to look at chickens. They are so beautiful and your rooster is marvelous. It looks much better in your environment. Here our next door neighbor coops them up in an inglorious chicken house or the coyotes would have them. I sure to enjoy seeing yours, much like my brother's. I love the clucking and scratching.

Leigh said...

Sharon, those coyotes really do put a damper on what you all can do, don't they? Even poor Charlie can't go out to do his bird watching close up and personal. Of course, you might not actually want him that close to those birds you've worked so hard to attract.

Josh, thanks for the invite! Your site is a great idea for folks who love to enter giveaways. I'll be over to take a look.

Robin said...

We have never had a problem with our hens not laying in the coop so I guess we should consider ourselves lucky. I think I found an egg outside once but that was it. Other than that I find a random egg on the floor of the coop now and then. I think it happens when one of the loved boxes is in use. We have four boxes but two of them are the "preferred" ones. Go figure. When we get our next batch of chickens we are going to get straight runs so it will be interesting to go through the same process of you to pick a roo out.

Anonymous said...

He's a wonderful rooster! Good that you got that all sorted out. We have had more than one rooster in the past and have had to quickly step in and change that. We managed to find a home for one very gorgeous Americauna and now wish we had him back! A dog got into our chicken house in April and killed all but two chickens. One died later and the lone survivor gives us one egg every other day. So...we are rationing eggs around here. No rooster at all and we miss the daily songs. We do buy eggs from another farmer down the road as we just can't stand store bought eggs. Fortunately we have 6 "teenage" chickens who will start laying in October, we hope. Life is never dull when you have chickens. I love it!