It’s been interesting watching the hens in the pumpkin patch. I bring in two at a time. They kick up dirt and eat worms and bugs and leaves. I sit in a chair and enjoy their company. When the two chickens who join me in “hen heaven” are best friends, like Eleanor and Edwina, their interactions are different than if it was, let’s say, Marge and Edwina. Friends in the garden stay close by each other, frequently brushing past each other, feathers touching. One watches what the other is eating, but rarely tries to steal it. There is little competition, but lots of guttural, cheerful clucking between them. On the other hand, put in two hens who are not best friends and they eye each other greedily and snatch morsels out from under the other. They will wander several feet away from the other. They cluck a bit louder and without quite as much chuckle. The two not-best-friends hens are still happy out there in the pumpkin patch, but it is clear that being with a friend is even better.
Late in the afternoon I take a couple of chickens for an outing in the pumpkin patch. It’s a fenced 30 foot diameter area of pumpkin vines, sunflowers and weeds, loose dirt, bugs and wiggling worms. Chicken Heaven. I have two chairs in the middle of it. Yesterday, my 12-year old son and I sat and talked and watched Tweedledum, Snowball and Twinkydink scratch, dust bathe and chatter.
All was pleasant, but then Twinkydink huffed up, walked in circles and looked distressed. Was she ill? No, she needed to lay an egg. Which she did, while walking about. It dropped two inches and broke. Twinkydink then stepped on it, smashed it some more and picked up the shell. The other hens came running to eat the yolk. Twinkydink took the prized shell away from the others and ate it.
Now, you don’t want hens to get to like the taste of eggs. They’ll break their own eggs if they know that they can. So that had me worried. Even worse, the shell was thin and flexible like a balloon, which is a textbook case of calcium deficiency. I bought ground oyster shells at the feed store today. I’ve read that old hens need more calcium, and since some of our girls are pushing three years, it’s probably time for a supplement. The oyster shells should take care of the thin shell problem. I’m hoping that the hens haven’t yet developed the bad habit of egg eating. I’ve been watching the hencam to see.