Blog Giveaway Winner!

David and Wendy Scott, longtime HenBlog readers are the winners of the Goat Notes and book! Wendy, email me your snail mail address and I’ll get the package out to you.

I could only pick one winner, and it was determined by a a random number generator ( which is fun, easy and impartial. But, rest assured that I read every one of your entries. Thanks to Andrea’s granddaughter I will now be calling Edwina, “Egg-wina.” And thanks to the rest of you, I am energized to continue posting about the goings on in my backyard.

But, right now, the dogs say it’s bedtime, and I agree with them.

Thank You For Your Votes!

Happy Dance.

We won the Readers’ Choice Award from Country Living Magazine. You voted, and voted again and dealt with “cookies” and a Survey Monkey that wasn’t as fun as a real monkey. You let me know how much you value what I do.

I value you.

I still don’t know who won the Judge’s Award (and the trip to NYC.) But, I won your votes, and so to celebrate I’m having a giveaway!

While waiting for the results of the contest, I was a bit antsy, and so I cleaned off my office shelves. Everything down, everything dusted, and then put back in order. Do you organize when you’re anxious? At least it’s a productive use of that jittery energy! In any event, I found that I have two copies of Gail Damerow’s classic book, Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens. I don’t need both, so I’m going to give the winner one. I’m also going to include a set of Goat Notes.

All you have to do is leave a comment here. This contest ends Sunday night, September 18, at 10 pm EST. Good-luck! Only one vote per person. No mischievous monkeys here.

UPDATE: this contest is closed. Thanks for all of your comments!

A Change In The Air

Last night I left the bedroom window open a half-inch and this morning I woke to a cold wind squeezing through that narrow space. It’s below 50º. It’s sweater weather. It sounds like fall: the leaves are twisting and turning, and branches are rubbing against each other. There’s a rustling sound of wind in trees, gusting and blowing that you only hear this time of year. It looks like fall, too. Leaves are a darker green, and some, like on this maple in my front yard, are beginning to turn.

The goats are, seemingly overnight, fuzzy bears. Pumpkins are piled at the farmers market. I crave soup.

Hopefully, the swarms of late-summer mosquitoes are gone. They certainly can’t fly in this wind, so I’ll be out doing some yard work that I haven’t been able to get to because of those vicious bugs.

Candy greeted me this morning at the door of her hutch with and eager rattling of the wire. She loves this weather. I’d like it to go on and on, just like this, for months. Candy is the only one who doesn’t mind how short the season is. She’s ready for snow.

This week is the sixth anniversary of turning on the HenCam. Has anyone reading been with me from the beginning? Whether new to the site, or here for years, I’m happy to have you in my backyard.

Guess Which Hen Is Laying

At first glance the two Polish hens, Tina Turner and Siouxsie are look-alikes. However, I can tell them apart because Tina has spurs. Sometimes that happens – a female chicken will grow lethal-looking nails. The spurs don’t match Tina’s personality. She is just as ditzy and mild-mannered as Siouxsie.

These days, there’s an easier way to tell them apart than by looking at their legs. Check the tails.

This is Tina.

And this is Siouxsie.

Notice that Tina’s tail feathers have fallen off. She’s molting. All of the hens will be soon, but Tina is first. Although you can read in books that chickens lose their feathers in a certain progression, the reality is that each bird is different. Some will lose just their tail feathers. Others will lose feathers in patches, looking like they suddenly developed a mysterious tropical skin disease. In all cases, the hen will stop laying. She needs to put her energy into growing new feathers, not eggs. This conveniently coincides with the winter season, when there are fewer daylight hours, and it’s colder, all signals to stop egg production. You can turn on an electric light to encourage more eggs, but that only works once their feathers grow back. For some chickens that happens in a few weeks, for others it takes all winter.

The Gems are also losing feathers, but it’s not a true molt. They’re growing in their adult plumage, and losing their baby quills. Depending on the breed, some of the Gems will be laying through the winter of their first year, and others won’t start until February.

I’m often asked, “when will my hen grow her feathers back?” and “when will she lay again?” There’s no definitive answer. Even chickens that are the same age and breed, like Tina and Siouxsie, molt at different paces. Siouxsie continues to lay four pointy white medium-sized eggs weekly. Tina lays none, not since her tail feathers fell out, which, by the way, happened all at once. They’ll start laying again when they’re ready, and I don’t know when that will be. As they age, the onset of laying after a molt is later in the spring.

There are some questions that I can answer. To the query, “Will my scrawny-feathered hen be cold?” The answer is, “No.” Then I’m asked, “Even with her skin showing? Doesn’t she need heat?” The answer remains “No.” Be amused. Miss the eggs. But don’t worry. It’s all normal.

A Gem Laid An Egg!

For the last two days the talking coming out of the Big Barn has sounded different. Instead of chirpy, “I found a bug” and “oh, the chicken servant is here to feed us” chatter, I heard a lower, more insistent chuck-chuck-chucking voice of a hen who has laid an egg. It’s a stand up and take notice voice. A proud, pay attention voice.

I checked the barn several times yesterday. No chicken sitting in a nest. No egg hiding. But I did notice that the shavings in the boxes had been rearranged and the wooden eggs pushed aside.

I heard that voice again. I ran out to the barn. Nothing.

Steve saw one of the Rhode Island Reds anxiously checking out all corners of the pen. She went up the roost. “Shall I lay it here?” She went into the corner of the compost. “Here?” She perched on top of the camera. “Here?” Steve watched for awhile. No egg.

Then, about 4 o’clock in the afternoon all was quiet. And this was in the box.

It’s a light brown, absolutely smooth like marble, medium-sized egg. There was a smear of blood on it, which is not unusual for the first one. I wiped it off with a damp paper towel and put it in the egg rack in the kitchen. It’s beautiful.

Perhaps Ruby laid it. Or maybe her twin, Garnet. These two look and act alike. The only way I can tell them apart is by the blue leg band I put on Garnet.

Who will lay an egg today? I’m baking bread. The dough is rising in the kitchen. I’m ready for toast and omelets for dinner.