Egg Laying Glitch

Eight of the hens in the Big Barn will be five-years old this April. The others are turning three next month. In chicken terms, that’s old. None of them are laying prolifically like they did their first year, not even the wonder-hen Twiggy. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few don’t lay at all this year. Others are likely to lay sporadically. Misty is already back on a regular schedule, although even she is not laying a daily egg.

As I predicted, February saw an uptick in the number of eggs laid. First it was only one. And that was left in the dust bath box. The first egg of the season is often not where you want it.



I’ve kept three of the five nesting boxes blocked off because the hens had been sleeping and pooping in there, but now that it’s laying season, I’ve opened them up, and the few hens that are currently laying are using them.

Egg laying glitches often occur when production picks up. With older hens it’s to be expected. You might not know about these glitches, because thin-shelled eggs get smashed and eaten before you find them, or what’s expelled gets mixed up in the bedding and manure. I found this on the floor of the coop:


This is a solidified yolk. My best guess is that the hen released a yolk from her ovary, but wasn’t yet making the whites or the shell. This happens. You rarely find such things because the other hens eat it. But it’s been cold. This was a frozen lump. Pushing out a mass like this is difficult. The shell helps the egg slide out of the vent. Without a strong shell, things get stuck. Agatha might have made this mass, she was straining the other day.

This is not lash. I’ve written about that here. Lash is often a sign of a fatal ailment. This yolk is just a glitch. Still, the hens are old and I expect things to go amiss as we head into spring. I’m actually surprised that they’ve all been vigorously healthy this winter. Doesn’t Owly look good? I’m hoping to see one of her beautiful dusky blue eggs soon.


Horse Longevity

Today is Tonk’s birthday. He’s ten. Although I think he looks awesome, he’s not yet in his prime.


September, 2015

The horse’s skeletal structure doesn’t fully mature until they’re five or six years old. Many horses are started under saddle around the age of three, and racehorses are galloping on tracks by the age of two. This is common, but not good for the horse’s longterm health. Some young horses aren’t ridden, but they’re kept in close quarters and don’t have the room to move and develop properly. Luckily for Tonk, he lived in a large field until he was four, then backed, and ridden lightly during those final two years of his growth phase. This is good, because I want him to last a long time.

We have a lot to do.

I bought Tonk to use mostly as a trail horse, but I have a deep background in dressage, and it turns out that he’s rather good at it.



Dressage entails gymnastic building of muscles and ring work. It can be hard mentally and physically on the horse, and can also get stale, so I like to go out and do new things. This past year, Tonk and I tried a couple of versatility competitions. It was certainly different and a break from our usual work!

horse obstacle course


We also get out in all weather. It’s good for both of us. (In this photo he’s enjoying a peppermint candy while contemplating the vista.)

in snow


Horses are in their prime in their teen years. With the right combination of genetics, care and luck, horses can remain active into their twenties, By their mid- twenties, their backs sag, and they get arthritis and other old age issues. Despite that, I’ve known 30-year old horses that are still happy to go for walks on the trail. However, more often than not, I see horses in their late teens who are lame from hard use. With my horse, I’m taking the long view. This past summer, he had a vague lameness and I gave him a month off, even though I had to cancel a horse show (and not get a refund for the class fees.) We do hill work for correct muscle building, and I’m careful not to strain those hocks. He already has minor arthritic changes in the left joint and so I pay attention when he tells me that he’s uncomfortable. To keep Tonk sound I also monitor his diet. A stabled horse needs to have his diet evaluated on an on-going basis. Hay and pasture varies. Activity level and weather changes. Currently, in addition to hay, grain and a protein supplement, Tonk gets vitamin E and a joint supplement.  I hope that Tonk and I will be together for twenty years. I’m doing what I can to keep him as sound and healthy as possible. In two decades, he’ll be thirty and I’ll be in my late 70s. I hope that by then we’ll still be able to share this view, even if we’re both going slowly.


Happy Birthday, Tonka!


(PS I switch back and forth from calling him Tonka, to simply Tonk. I use both. He doesn’t care one way or the other.)

Just for Fun

I have a collection of vintage chicken-themed items. Most were purchased as props for my books. Most are in storage. They’re too fun to be left in boxes, but I have too many to use as decor in my house. I do have a few carefully curated decorative hens on display, but I don’t want this to look like the home of a crazy chicken lady! So, I’m selling off some of my stuff on eBay so it can be appreciated by others.

I love the mid-century colors and design of this coaster and napkin set.



Someone, surely, has a use for these decals.



What about these vintage Hallmark cards with real feathers? Totally charming!



My favorite item that I’m letting go of is this tea kettle.

kettle left


Just look at that face.

kettle rooster whistle


I’ve never risked using it – I think that plastic would melt on my gas cooktop. I’ve nowhere to display it in my kitchen. What about putting it in yours?

This is the listing for the tea kettle.

All of the other items (including more vintage paper napkins and an embroidery decal) are here.

If you do decide to bid and then win, let me know that you’re a reader of this blog – I’ll tuck a few extras into the box for you.

A Walk In The Snow

There’s snow on the ground. After a burst of playful cantering and head tossing, the horses settle into standing around in the cold white stuff. The routine of late winter is rather boring: eat hay outside, eat hay inside the barn. A horse is designed to walk (more than a dozen!) miles a day. Tonka isn’t moving that much in his paddock.

snow paddock

I do get to the barn daily to ride in the indoor ring. I have a phone app that tracks my mileage (amazingly it can even record distance when going in small circles) and I make sure that we do a minimum of 3 miles a day. It’s not nearly enough, but it’s something. Tonk and I miss getting out for long explores in nearby woods. Those adventures will have to wait. It’s been too icy and dangerous to take the horses anywhere.

Which is why when the temperature got up to 40 degrees last weekend, and the sun shone and the wind quieted to a murmur, we went for a walk. The trail system is only a short trailer ride away – but it’s too risky to drive a rig when there’s ice on the road. At the barn, there’s a small path in the woods behind the paddocks and the nice people who own the stone yard next door let us wander around in loops there. It was enough!

It was good to see this view between Tonk’s ears.

ears view


We weren’t the only ones desperate to get out. Trina and Cider came along, too.



Cider and Tonka have known each other for two years. They started out not liking each other much. They made go away faces at each other whenever they crossed paths. But Trina and I are friends. It’s like parents of toddlers who schedule playdates despite the fact that their children have nothing in common. Eventually Cider and Tonka figured out that there weren’t any toys (or food) that they’d have to share. They figured out that when we’re together we go on fun strolls.

It looks like the kids are actually beginning to enjoy each other’s company!


The Rabbit Loves Snow

So far it’s been an easy winter, but this past week we got some snow. It was stunningly gorgeous – the snow was just heavy enough to line every branch.

snow scene


The goats don’t like the feel of it between their cloven hooves, so the boys stayed in their stall munching hay, and the chickens spent their snow days inside of the coop, but the rabbit… she’s been ecstatic.

There’s a Christmas tree in the run. Phoebe has her snow lair there. (Take a close look. The rabbit is in this photo.)

rabbit outside


Rabbits are most active at dawn and dusk. She’d prefer to stay outside at night, but there are too many predators about. We’ve trained Phoebe to come inside her safe barn after dark, where she knows there are banana chips waiting for her. But lately it hasn’t been an easy choice between a favorite treat and a snow den!

rabbit stays put

This is Phoebe clearly saying, Nope, I’m not coming in right now. Come back later. And bring an apple.