Twiggy Keeps Laying

Only one of the seventeen hens in my backyard is laying.

leghorn egg




She is a two-year old White Leghorn. Twiggy was the first of a batch of twenty-five chicks (that arrived here in the spring of 2013) to lay. She produced her first egg at the age of 17 weeks. She then laid one egg a day for an astounding two weeks straight before taking a 24 hour break and resuming production. She laid all through last winter, not daily, but enough so that there was always a white egg in the refrigerator.

Twiggy is now 20 months old. All of her flock mates are finishing their molts, which is when a hen drops all 8,000 of her feathers and grows new ones. All birds molt. Chickens molt once a year, the first time that this occurs is at the end of their second summer, at about 18 months of age.  Some of my hens molted way back in August and now have perfect plumage, which will keep them insulated and warm through the winter months. Some of the hens are still bare in patches, and their new feathers are just coming in, making them look like porcupine-bird hybrids. Twiggy is the only hen in my flock to not yet even begin to molt. When a hen molts, she ceases to lay. Twiggy is not ready to stop yet. But, look at the tip of Twiggy’s tail. Those are old and worn out feathers. She has got to stop laying. I’ve told her so. She’s not listening.

A hundred years ago, Twiggy’s breed, the White Leghorn, transformed poultry farms. Instead of being marginal animals, cared for out the back door by the farm wife, chickens became the centerpiece of a farm’s business plan. A farm with a large flock of leghorns could turn a profit. This book, published in 1913, is typical of the poultry boosterism at that time.

call of the hen


Instead of laying 90 eggs, like a typical utility chicken of that time, a purebred Leghorn produced more than 200! The evidence from egg laying contests was touted in books, magazines and through government pamphlets.

egg contest


Over the years I’ve had four bantam White Leghorns. They look like miniature versions of the standard-sized birds. But, like most bantams, they aren’t particularly productive. Twiggy is my first large White Leghorn, and she has more than lived up to her breed’s reputation for being amazingly prolific layers. I keep chickens not only for the eggs, but because I also happen to like hens. Personality is important to me, and I’d heard that Leghorns were “production” birds and not all that interesting. I’ve discovered that that’s not true at all – at least not if you have one Leghorn in a flock of seventeen birds of a variety of breeds. Twiggy is active and a tad flighty, but also personable, and her floppy comb makes her look a tad ridiculous. She’s curious and bold and is a fun foil to the more staid, heavier old-fashioned hens. Leghorns are not long-lived birds, but I’d like to have Twiggy around for a few more years. It’s important for her health that she rests and rejuvenates during the ten-week process that is the molt.

It’s time to molt, Twiggy. Take a break!

She says that she will when she’s ready.

Twiggy head

I’m On Chronicle

A couple of weeks ago, I caught you up on the nursing home hens, and told you about how Chronicle, a New England human interest television show, was doing a piece about the project. The producer also spent some time in my backyard.

Chronicle (1)

The half-hour show, which they’re calling Creature Comfort, will showcase unusual therapy animals. It airs on WCVB channel 5, Boston, at 7:30 pm EST on November 13, 2014. It live-streams here. By next week I’ll have a link up on my In the News page.

Thank You

Veteran’s Day has come and gone, but not the respect and appreciation that we have for the people who have been in our military. The holiday began to honor the many, many souls who fought in World War I. Here is a photo from that era: Daisey [sic] Parsons, nine years old, trick riding for troops and others in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

trick rider

An Improved GoatCam

IT Guy has upgraded software and reconfigured things. He explained what he did while we were eating lunch. I’m afraid that my mind wandered. But, I did manage to focus again when he said something about improved streaming. Anyway, whatever IT Guy did, it was quite brilliant.

Caper is also brilliant, but he tries to hide it so that he can get his brother, Pip, in trouble.

Caper and Cam


In the above photo, you can see the cam. The shelf above it is to keep the goats from standing on, and breaking, the camera. Despite the fact that these cameras are designed for outdoor security and remain intact through all weather and major storms, they are no match for goats.

on cam


The cams are made to withstand graffiti, but they are not guaranteed for use with goats. I invite the manufacturer to do product testing here.

There is jostling in the stall. Stuff (of the unmentionable kind) gets on the protective plastic lens.

goats jostling


Here are the goats rubbing against the Goat Maid’s rubber boots. Wearing boots that they can rub against is one of her jobs.

goats rubbing boots


Much to the goats’ chagrin, she often fails at this, and so the goats have to resort to rubbing other things. LIke the cams.

goats rub cam

So, enjoy the improved live-streaming, and I apologize in advance if you see it through a haze of goat dirt. IT Guy can’t solve every problem.

Fussy Eater Rabbits

The late, great, and much missed Empress of the Backyard, Candy, was an imperious rabbit. She turned up her twitchy nose at regular rabbit pellets. She insisted on being fed Exact Rainbow feed. It was hard to find, and more expensive, but she was the monarch, and we did what we were told.



Phoebe is more of a figurehead rather than a ruler. During the day she takes breaks from the melee in the chicken yard and happily hangs out in her cozy bed under the nesting boxes.

Pheobe's nose


Phoebe doesn’t insist on special treatment. She eats regular rabbit pellets, and isn’t fussy about the brand. At least, that’s what I thought. But, the other day I came across the Exact Rainbow feed. I thought I’d treat her to it.

rabbit food


Phoebe ate it all … except for the red bits. This is what the bowl looked like after a day.

red food


I can just imagine her, fussy nose wiggling. whiskers vibrating, carefully picking her way through the pellets and rejecting each and every red pellet. She might not be an Empress, but she is a Princess.

I took a second look at the feed’s label. All of the ingredients looked good until the end of the list where I read artificial color. I’m sure it’s there for the humans, not the rabbits. All too often pet food is designed for what the marketers think the owners will find appealing, and not what’s good for the critters. The Princess has politely asked not to be fed this again. Basic rabbit pellets will be reinstated on the Royal’s menu.