Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bad eggs

I've been worried all along that we weren't giving Wilma enough calcium to create shells around her eggs. I knew we needed to switch over to layer food - that is, food formulated for chickens that are laying eggs - but our chicken-food-carrying pet store, Mud Bay Granary, was always out when I came calling. Anyway, sure enough, on Thursday evening Wilma laid a shell-less egg.

It's probably not what you're thinking -- it was an egg, all right, same shape and everything, enclosed in the membrane that usually lines the shell. Except, no shell. It was weird, and also a bit dirty, and I threw it out.

We were frantic to get layer food, so I sent Greg over to Mud Bay on Friday. They had gotten the food in but were already down to their last bag. Meanwhile, Wilma laid ANOTHER shell-less egg, and this one broke open in the coop and made quite a mess.

When I finally got my hands on the layer food, I stood over her while she gobbled it down. Since the shell-less egg incident, I'd also been feeding her a lot of yogurt, which she loves.

Finally, on Saturday afternoon, she was back to laying eggs with shells. Hopefully, that's the last shell-less egg we'll see.

In the meantime, I've also been giving her ground oyster shells (yeah, they eat those, too) but I'm not sure she was eating those, or recognizing those as food. I started scattering them on the ground, finally, along with some cracked corn.

All in all, those chickens eat pretty well. Among the foods we gave them this week: some over-ripe figs, a couple of slightly burned blueberry pancakes, a bowl of soggy corn flakes, split plums from our plum tree, an overgrown zucchini. Stuff that nobody wanted to eat, which would have gone down the disposal or in the compost pile otherwise.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Six eggs in seven days

Wilma is rapidly turning into a very productive chicken. Since her first egg on Monday, she has laid five more, giving us one fresh egg almost every day.

And how do they taste? Well, Elliott describes them as "saltier" than a normal egg and I call them "eggier." The yolk is a shade darker than a store-bought egg, and the white doesn't run in the pan when you crack the egg open -- it sort of stands up, and when you've cooked it sunny-side-up, it looks like it's been poached.

So yes, they're delicious, and different from store-bought eggs. We love them!

Monday, September 15, 2008

First egg

I could tell something was up with Wilma this morning. She was making a low, unhappy noise and pacing frantically around the chicken run. Sometimes one chicken or another will become agitated for no known reason, but they usually stop after 10 or 15 minutes. But Wilma wouldn't quit. I wondered...

Finally, she went into the coop and I saw that she was sitting in the nesting box, the one with the golf ball in it. Mathilda was keeping her company in the other nesting box, and Gertrude remained outside -- now she was the one doing the pacing.

I had to make a run to the store, and when I got back, Wilma was outside, standing in one place and looking a little stunned. I opened up the back of the coop, and there it was: the first egg.

It's a little smaller than a store-bought egg (my guru Janet says the first eggs are always smaller) and not as white. The shell is a luminescent, pearly color -- almost pink. It also feels very dense and heavy, and there are a few faint streaks of brownish blood on the sides.

I put it in the refrigerator after taking many pictures of it. Perhaps tonight we will eat it!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Watching for eggs

Not much has happened with the chickens in the last three weeks, and we were also on vacation for a bit, but I'll catch up here.

We think Wilma is getting close to being old enough to lay eggs because her comb and wattles have come in. She now looks like a chicken, in the most classic sense. See for yourself.

I never did buy a manual on raising chickens, although I checked out the few books available to me at the Seattle Public Library. They're always on back order -- tells you something about Seattle. But there's a very active web site called, with an active forum of users. If you have a question, you can either submit it on the forum or, better still, just look and see what else everyone is asking about. If it's a common chicken question, at least one person has asked it in the last 24 hours. You'd think the chicken experts would get tired of answering the same questions all the time, but apparently they don't. Anyway, the red pigmentation and the comb and wattles all have something to do with the chicken reaching maturity, so either Wilma is going to start crowing or she's going to start laying eggs.

To encourage the latter, we put a golf ball in the laying box. Said golf ball is supposed to give a young chicken a visual clue about where to put her first egg. We could have used ping-pong balls or plastic Easter eggs, but this happened to be what we had in the garage. Greg said he hopes that instead of laying eggs, she'll lay golf balls. They'd certainly be worth more!

I peek in the coop window every morning in hopes of sighting the first egg, and every few days I do a more thorough search by opening up all of the little doors in back. But so far, she's holding out on me.