The time of year we have been waiting for has arrived – the hens are laying more and more eggs. Now I just find myself longing for drier days. It has been so wet and the forecast calls for weeks of more wet weather. The hens don’t seem to dislike it as much as I do. I think they have had enough rain to finally start sleeping in their coop instead of out under the stars, in a tree or on a railing.
I honestly don’t know exactly how many hens we have but it is somewhere around 18-20. I stopped keeping the exact total last year sometime when our neighbor’s dog started killing our chickens and being set free more and more to terrorizing the whole neighborhood. This issue is finally resolved though it came about due to the death of our neighbor, which is sad, but at the same time the whole neighborhood seems more peaceful as a result.
We currently have 2 roosters and I really should get rid of one but it is tough choosing who stays, esp. after so much loss this year (chickens, family, etc.). Online articles can tell you that you may only need 8 hens to 1 rooster. But in reality you may need alot more to prevent injury due to over mating. And even if you do have 20 to 1 a rooster may still pick a favorite. Last year our favorite blue layer was the chosen favorite. All year she had to wear a chicken saddle due to severe feather loss. She is all better now and that rooster is no longer tormenting her 😉
So why do we keep a rooster around at all? Well, roosters can help keep hens safe and out of trouble. Some even protect the hens from predators (others run, lol). Although, roosters aren’t needed in order to have eggs, they are mandatory if you are to raise your own chickens. So those are just some reasons why we keep 1-2 around.
In the end this means – we end up with alot more eggs at times than we really need!! With spring just around the corner it will become even harder to keep walking past the baby chicks at the feed store or to pull the broody hen off her nest or to tell a loved one that we have enough hens. But with that said, a hen only lays well for 2-3 years so every year we do get more chickens. We get more than we need as you never know who will lay or who will be a rooster, who will make it or who might not.
Recently, I have lost much of my anger and resentment over the dog killing so many hens (and being a terror in other ways). We lost some really good ones; some breeds we may never be able to get locally. But in other many ways I am relieved. I am glad I didn’t have to choose which hen stays and who goes. I had enough of that when we ended up with half a dozen roosters. I am thankful for the ones we do have…. even if that means I am left with another problem – what to do with all the eggs?!?
Nothing left after making quiches, custards, breads, etc. except to sell them!
I don’t know if they call this an olive egg in the chicken world or not. I know many folks try to breed olive eggers. I don’t even know who laid it but hope we continue to get more of these unique eggs!
Our hens that were hatched in March are starting to lay! Everyone is so excited!!
The eggs are so teeny tiny (and cute) but they will get bigger over time. Only time will tell if the hen will lay small, medium, or large eggs.
Most of the eggs were hidden under the roost in the poopy mulch. New layers don’t always know where they should lay and try to make their own nests, lol. Thankfully the Buff Orpington laid her egg in the nestbox this morning. Hopefully the others will follow after her and learn sooner, rather than later.
Today is the 21st day of the hen sitting on her eggs. Which means – the babies are on their way!
This morning we already have 2 baby chicks! Several other eggs have peeped (meaning you can hear them chirping inside) and others have pipped (meaning they poked a hole through the shell). We are am just waiting for them to unzip – cut a line all the way around their shell. This is where things get tricky sometimes and they need help. But you must not help too soon or too late. So today and tomorrow we are all on egg duty.
So what does that mean? Well, for us it means we have one less hen laying eggs. Sometimes farmers will try to break their hen of being broody because all broody hens do is sit – almost all day. They barely eat or drink. They just sit in the nesting box (where other hens want to lay!) and squawk at intruders. But we rejoice when a hen is broody and use her broodiness to our advantage by sticking eggs under her. Then we cross our fingers and hope for more baby chickens!! There’s nothing more cute than a fuzzy baby, whether it be a puppy, kitten, or chicken.
I also love the fact the new chicks are essentially free, and taken care of (for the most part) by the hen, instead of me. Baby chicks are cute, but they are needy! They need to stay warm. If raised by a human, they are often put under heat lamps or heat mats. Lamps are cheap and cover a large area compared to a heat mat. They cost more to run and are more of a fire danger. Yet it is something people have used for decades. Elevated heat “mats” are new, and cost more up front, plus they only cover a small area. So the more chickens you have, the more you need. Plus they will get poopy. Baby chicks poop all the time, but they also start hopping on things pretty quickly – thus everything gets pooopy – the waterer, in the water, in the food, and on the mat if you buy one. And poop sticks – bad! And of course it stinks, so a mat, while it has some advantages, also has some downsides. But a good mama hen, only needs food and water. She will keep her babies warm. She will teach them what to eat, how to forage, etc. And this hen was a good one last time. She abandoned her babies a little early last time, but she did most of the work for us.
The hard part is waiting and learning what to do. Thankfully we have the internet to research but sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know, until something goes wrong. We are hoping we learned from our mistakes last time and have a higher hatch rate, but only time will tell and waiting is just so hard!