It was a couple days after we got our first small egg from the new girls. As I was gardening outside I heard one of the girls making her first attempt at the egg song. A not so good attempt, but it still stopped me in the tracks wondering if we got another first egg!
It’s hard to sneak up on these girls. Being so new to the world they are always on edge. When I heard the squawking I tried to sneak up to the window to see what was going on but of course they heard me.and stopped singing.
Curious if we got any new eggs I went inside the coop and took a look around. There was one hen on the edge of the nesting boxes and a bunch of the others staring at her. Must be the singer!
I opened up the nesting box tray and the only eggs inside were the fake training eggs they knock out . Oh well…..
Here it is a few days later and we have 4 more eggs! But they are so small all 4 fit in my one hand! At least now we have enough to cook! I cracked the first one open and out pops 2 yolks! We got a double yolker here! It’s not unusual for this to happen. I’m just crossing my fingers the eggs get bigger quick so we can start selling eggs again!
Funny story…… I was in the middle of writing this post about training the girls how to use the nesting boxes and how frustrated we are that it’s taking them longer than the old ladies to start laying. All of a sudden I receive this picture from the hubby who is taking care of the girls today! YAY! Our Rhode Island Red girls first egg!
Now I’m going to back track and tell you how we trained them!
We put the latest metal nesting boxes in the coop a few weeks ago so they could get used to it. Then 10 days ago we put the fake eggs in the area we want them to lay. The fake eggs are so life-like, including the weight, that we had to mark an X on the tip of the fake eggs to be sure we didn’t pull and sell them! Both of us had done it.
I let the girls watch me put the egg in the nesting area and backed up. They were very curious! Funny to watch.
Anyway, it looks like it worked because we have our first egg! I’m dying too see how big they get and how many we get in a day. Rhode Island Reds are notorious for laying many very large eggs. Let’s see if they can live up to their reputation!
Today we introduced the girls to their nesting box for the first time. They will be 16 weeks old on June 13 which is usually the age when they start to lay eggs! We are so excited for them!
So how did they react to the nesting box? They reacted just like they do with everything else. They were scared at first, and then they pecked it. They pecked it and then they pecked it again. They loved that it was made of steel. It’s makes a beautiful sound when pecked! I have decided that just like babies or puppies who need to put every new thing in their mouth to see what it is and whether they like it, chickens have to peck everything to test it out…. including my ankles! You’ll hear me get pecked in the video.
Tomorrow I’ll introduce them to the fake eggs. The fake eggs are a training tool to show them where their eggs go. You just sit it in the nesting box. It really works! These eggs are actually made at the same weight as real eggs so they are very life-like. We have even accidentally collected a fake egg from the nesting boxes every now and then thinking it was real. Luckily we thought to put a little X on the tip of the fake eggs to tell the difference. The girls are not as dumb as you think. After awhile the chickens start to realize which eggs are fake and kick them out of the nest. That’s when you know they don’t need them anymore.
Check out the girls investigating their new toy, then nesting box.
So you are saying to yourself, “but didn’t you just change the nesting boxes?” and you would be right! Why did we change again? Let me explain.
First and foremost we want to have the best eggs for our customers. That means big, fresh, CLEAN eggs. Clean to us also means easy to clean.
Our first set of nesting boxes were your standard wood filled with hay. The hay became a problem because the girls kept kicking it out so there was nothing to cushion the eggs. Sometimes an egg would break and we had to take time cleaning out the wood box and disinfecting it. We decided wood, which is porous, was not the most sanitary option for the ladies to nest in. We even tried disposable nesting pads. They increased the cleanliness but a broken egg would still soak through.
PLASTIC!!…..Plastic is easy to clean, right? Of course it is! So our next set of nesting boxes were made out of plastic buckets. We used the nesting pads and could easily pull out the bucket and wash it. The hens took to them right away but we quickly ran into a snag. The ladies grew so fast over the winter that they started to have a difficult time turning around in the bucket, stepping on or messing on the eggs. This was not working at all.
After calculating the cost of the nesting pads we decided that buying a fancy nesting box would eventually pay for itself. This high tech looking box has got some great features. The red flaps give the ladies privacy. There are no walls in the box so more hens can use it at a time. There is a washable rubber mat for them to sit on. The mat is at an angle which causes the eggs to roll down into a tray in front. That tray is covered so the chickens can’t get at them.
At first the ladies did not want to use it. They started laying eggs on the ground. I put some nesting pads on top of the rubber mat which got them started. I slowly removed the material and they are now laying clean eggs and not cracking them anymore.
See the ladies checking out the new nesting boxes on their YouTube channel:
It was another hot day when we got home from work and one of the ladies was getting picked on. On closer look she was panting with her mouth hanging open and walking funny…like a penguin!
We quickly went into medical mode trying to figure out what was wrong and what we needed to do to help her. We quickly put some vitamin/probiotic water down her throat with a dropper thinking she was dehydrated. Then we dunked her in a tub of cold water. That seemed to cool her down and relax her. Finally, we put her into a cage in the cool barn covering with towels to let her rest.
Then we hit the books and the web. We decided she most likely had what they call being Egg Bound. An egg gets stuck in the chicken causing a lot of body stress and can result in death. This girl lays some very large eggs so we suspect that between the heat and a very large egg that this just might be the case here. We followed all the recommendations including holding the chicken’s rear end in warm water to relax her and hold moisture.
It worked! She finally laid that egg after 36 hours and then got back on schedule. Unfortunately she is still walking like a penguin. Not as bad, and getting a little better each day, but still not right. We think that extra large egg may have been too big and injured her back or something. We’ll just keep her comfortable and take good care of her until she recovers.
Watch Penguin Girl walk on the ladies YouTube channel:
It just seems like yesterday when the girls weren’t laying eggs and struggling to get out of their molt. The winter was miserable for all of us.
Along with sunshine, flowers and baby bunnies, it’s so nice to hear the song of the ladies excited to be laying an egg again. Proud hens spouting off to each other….My egg is bigger than yours! No….MY egg is bigger than yours. Oh yah?! I just laid the best one EVER!
It’s getting noisy around here! Now it’s not just the rooster, Stewart, trying to be as loud as possible. It’s quite the competition going on! You’d think they were dying!
I just had to share it with you.
Listen to the chorus on the ladies YouTube Channel:
My mother in-law collects antiques so I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised when we received this gift in the mail. It’s a scale that measures the grade of an egg! It’s pretty cool. It actually still works! Small, Medium, Large and Extra Large were all spot on!
She also sent a page from a collectors magazine that had all the details on it. Patented in 1940 and made by a company called Jiffy Way in Minnesota, it sold for $2.00. It’s worth $100 now which is impressive if you think about it, but nobody’s getting rich, right?
That’s okay. It’s just another fun farm thing to look at and if we were officially grading our eggs we wouldn’t need to buy yet another tool. And from what we understand this scale is still the main tool being used today!
We are currently selling the largest eggs to customers unless one is so large it doesn’t fit in the box. We eat all the leftovers that are small, odd shaped or have questionable shell thickness. We are lucky that our leftovers are as good quality as the eggs for sale with very rare exception.
So, back to the scale…….. I wonder how much it will be worth in another 30 years?!
I’ve decided the ladies are fair weather girls. I’ve also decided their coop must be the Tajmahal because when the weather isn’t perfect they would rather stay inside! Maybe we need to spend less time cleaning it? Make it less hospitable?
Ladies, it’s important for you to get outside in the winter. You need fresh air and exercise to lay eggs! We haven’t seen but a couple eggs a week this winter! Get your act together!
During the last couple snow storms we didn’t let them outside because it was frostbite weather. When it finally stopped snowing, we shoveled the snow out of the way and opened their door. They came storming out with excitement until they came to edge of the snow, and then turned around and went right back inside!
Ladies, ladies! Sitting in the coop all winter is only going to fatten you up and make you look delicious! And if you aren’t laying eggs and looking tasty you may not be here much longer!
Watch the ladies reaction when they finally get outside after a couple days cooped up on this video from their YouTube Channel:
The hens have gotten bigger and more excited about laying eggs to the point they are tearing apart anything we put in the nesting boxes.I can’t tell you how much clean straw has been put into the boxes and then just as quickly kicked out on the floor. I put shelf liner in the bottom of the boxes to make it easy to keep clean, but they scratch it up, peck at it and try to shred it for more nesting material. I’ve even found pieces of shelf liner outside in the field! And it’s not just the hen in the box kicking straw out of the nest, it’s also the chicken next door wanting her nest to be bigger reaching her neck around to the neighbors nest and pulling one piece of straw at time out of the their box and tucking it into hers! Enough is enough! We’ve had too many cracked eggs from them being laid on the bare wood in a strawless nest box.
Once again we set out to research the best alternatives. We found a wood based fiber glued down to a paper backing. It can be built into a nest but since it’s attached to the paper it can’t be kicked out on the floor or be stolen by the neighbor. The fiber with backing is matted down to start, so a chicken has to pull at the fibers to build a nest. Plus, with the paper liner at the bottom the wood isn’t getting dirty. When it gets real dirty you just throw it away and pop in a new one. Still cheaper than buying straw over and over again.
Now it was time to test out the new material. Of the 12 next boxes we replaced 10 of them with the new material. Then I sprinkled them all with some dried herbs to attract attention. The first 2 days we found all the eggs in the two straw boxes. After those 2 days the straw was pretty much gone, like usual. We finally started to find the fibers being slowly built into nests. We knew we made the successful transition when I walked into the coop and a hen started to sing the egg song, jumped out of a fiber nesting box, ran past me out the door and loudly announced “Bukah!” I just laid an egg in the best nesting box EVER!
In the midst of the arctic freeze our brave little hens continued laying eggs! Out of 27 chickens were are still getting between 16 to 20 eggs a day! Much more than anyone I know whose chickens completely stopped laying a couple months ago. To keep the eggs from freezing we had to collect them about every hour. Luckily the coop is in the sun so on a normal day, it’s higher than freezing inside.
The girls tend to spend more time sitting on the eggs on cold days anyway. They don’t want to go outside! We’ve been lucky and only found 1 frozen egg since the hens started to lay. They basically crack like the picture above.
We added heating panels that help the coop stay just above freezing, even in the sub zero temperatures. It’s really made it possible not to have to depend on running outside to collect eggs every hour.