Eat My Eggs, I’ll Eat You

After dealing with work stress (ongoing!) and some health things that needed taken care of , I’ve been away for too long. Add nearly two feet of snow, constant cold and, well, me, the girl who gets cold at 70 degrees–

Let’s just say I’ve been hibernating.

A few things have been going on, as we plan for this next year and some improvements to our property and our gardens, but we are mostly in hiatus. I have some new arrivals to show you, and there is a list of more to come, but I’ll save that for later.

I’m not here to talk about just me. Or just you, and a problem you may have had or may start having or may have nightmares of having. It’s about the hens.

Those egg-eating hens.

I started suspecting it sometime in January, as we’d get a stray egg here or there and then nothing. The Delawares laid for a week solid, and the Welsummers were the only ones to give us a handful of eggs a week as winter dragged on. We ate all the eggs that were put up in the freezer, and I have been guarding our now half-dozen eggs carefully. They’re valuables. When, like us, you can easily go through 2-3 dozen eggs in a week (breakfast, baked goods, pasta)–eggs are key sustenance.

But the eggs would disappear here and there. Sometimes I’d see a piece of a shell, but I would also find an egg for me. It wasn’t so common I was worried. Just common enough to be a thought–maybe it wasn’t an accident, so to speak.

Then I would find shells on the ramp up to the coop. A stray shell in a corner, if I looked hard enough.

I think one of my chickens is eating my eggs. And I think it’s one of my hens.

And I think, if I find her, I’m going to eat her.

We have been thinking of how to get those pesky Welsummers to lay in the boxes, and not on the ground. And how to get the egg eating to stop, and to hope against all hope it’s just one hen and she hasn’t taught the others. So on Saturday we laid the pine shavings on real thick. We picked out the spots where it looked like some old egg damage had been done. We bought more packs of golf balls and laid them 2-3 in each nest box.

We cut up old jeans and stapled them to the nesting boxes, a long overdue move.

Don’t judge the poop. We keep a clean coop, but I can’t spend every cleaning day repainting the walls to keep up with these messy birds.

It felt right. And soon after we did this, we got an egg. Left the house, came home–one more egg. It didn’t seem right. An Ameraucana egg and an Ancona egg, but my Welsummers should be laying. My Delawares should be laying. My Marans are much slower.

Then I looked closely and in the fresh pine shavings, egg yolks. No shell, but surely some egg yolk from some nasty hen ruining my breakfast.

So, I’m sorry to say that, unless she stops herself, as soon as I figure out which hen (please say it’s just one!) is eating my eggs, she’s going to be dinner shortly thereafter.

How can I be expected to hatch chicks if I can’t even eat breakfast?

Note: If you, like me, weren’t proactive and haven’t covered your nesting boxes, I highly recommend it. We dragged our feet until we finally had a pile of jeans. Even aside from the egg eating, it was a smart move that we should have done a long time ago. Jeans are sturdy enough that they should hold up to the environment, and this way we are reusing something that would otherwise go to trash (too many holes to be worth donating or saving).

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Critter Update

Originally, I was going to post about my pumpkins or a full post on our new rabbit hutch system in all its glory.

Then, something crazy happened today. It turns out, you’re never too old for surprises.

So, instead, I’ve decided to give you an update on the animals you haven’t seen since they were chicks–or even since they were eggs. Plus, some details on our newest additions, and at the very end… our surprise. It’s both embarrassing and exciting all in one. Continue reading

Handing the Garden Over

I’m giving in. I have handed the garden over to the chickens.

These past few weeks, I haven’t been giving the garden the attention it needs, or that it deserved. I’ve put at least 1 bushel of tomatoes in the compost, likely more. I’ve let at least another half bushel or bushel go bad on the vine, all because of the simple fact that I got married. Continue reading

Update with Pictures

It’s over 90 degrees here. The bees are so hot they’re bearding across the front and sides of their hive, and reaching to the back. One hive is strong–the other I don’t think will make it to winter, let alone through winter.

I was proud of how well our garden was growing until I saw a picture of a friend’s garden. A few months ago I gave them some pepper plants that are now heavy with peppers; our own are wilting and the leaves falling from the bottoms. I’m not sure why, but some 6 of the bell pepper plants are dying, the rest struggling.

Still, life goes on and things grow. Continue reading

Incubating Eggs – Round 1

Warning: Behind the cut are pictures of cracked open eggs–some simply scrambled, some with development. If that bothers you, please don’t click, or find a way to hide the pictures. There is a picture of cute baby chicks at the very end of this post.

If you remember, back in June I got some hatching eggs and an incubator at the Maryland Poultry Swap. And so started my new adventure and new addiction.

The problem is, those 9 eggs I picked up at the swap were anywhere from 10 to 17 days old when I set them. If you know anything about hatching eggs, that is incredibly bad for fertility. I got an additional 15 eggs from another local breeder that were roughly 4-5 days old at setting, so while not ideal, they improved my hatching odds. Continue reading

Scaredy Cat

As I tucked myself into bed tonight, I thought of all the things I should have done today:

  • I should have put in another hour of work so I would have less work come morning
  • I should have written out the wedding invitations instead of buying return labels
  • I should have written a story
  • I should have cracked open that last egg and written a post
  • I should have closed up the chickens

Wait, what? What was that, Jessica, you said? You should have closed up your chickens?

Yes indeed. At 11pm I was trying to fall asleep with the dogs on either side of me (Mike still at his friend’s house, fixing the truck). I debated whether to leave the TV on or off, because I appreciate the sound. I wondered if the dogs would fight each other in the middle of the night. I thought, “If something gets at the chickens, the dogs will hear it, I’ll hear it, and then I’ll go outside.”

I know what you’re thinking. That’s not how it works. You don’t get to have a night off because you don’t want to go outside.

But here’s the thing–I was a bit scared.

Yup, me. Twenty-six years old and I’m still a little afraid of the dark. Continue reading

A Quiet Morning

This was one of the quietest mornings we’ve had in a long time.

We left the windows open. We came back late. We were tired. Huck would move around in his crate. But nothing too loud. Nothing that would wake you and keep you up.

I almost missed it.

I almost hoped one of the Ameraucana roosters would have started crowing right away.

But, no. Still silence on the mini-homestead, and I must say it’s a little lonely. When I opened the coop to let all the birds out, I looked around. I thought to myself, surely that can’t be it! I counted them all to be sure nothing had gotten to them.

20 Ameraucanas, Welsummers, Olive Egger, Anconas, Delawares.

No, nothing had gotten to the rest of my ladies (and four gentleman?), except us yesterday morning.

It’s an odd feeling, but certainly not a bad one.

Birthday Chicken

A year ago today, I was scrambling around my kitchen to finish up potato salad and make cheddar/pepper venison patties for a bonfire that night. I headed out at 12 to go to wine tastings (and wine bottle tastings) with a group of friends. We rode down the road in the Jeep with the top down. I was happy, healthy, and living it up for 25 years of life. We finished up the night with said bonfire, lots of wine and beer straight out of plastic tubs, the Jeep flood lights on for light, fireworks and a styrofoam container of shrimp that the neighbors dropped off halfway through the night.

It was a good time.

This year?

Oh, I will have a great time. It is just so very different from what I did a year ago, though even then I think my mentality was veering off course for what my friends considered “normal.” Tonight will still end with a bonfire, some good food, and likely some wine and beer. I’ll still ride the Jeep to get where I’m going

But my 26th birthday will pan out a little differently. Continue reading

Maryland Poultry Swap Haul

Yesterday we went to the Maryland Poultry Swap out at Green Hill Farm. This is a bi-annual event that Erin (owner of Green Hill Farm) runs every June and September. I think this was the third year, but I can’t be sure because it’s the first for me! All I can say is I cannot wait until September 14th to make the next one! If you live anywhere relatively close to the Maryland/West Virginia/Virginia line, I suggest you make the trip (some vendors came from Ohio!). And if you’ve been needing to take a cross-country trip towards the East Coast, I suggest you do so that weekend and make a detour at the swap!

We got there at 10:30am and I can’t even imagine what it would have been like had we gotten there earlier. I’ve seen a lot of the poultry vendors say they had sold half of their stock by 11am. So if you’re used to showing up halfway through an event like us–this is not the time to do so! I wonder what we might have picked up had we gotten there earlier. Actually, I can tell you exactly what would have happened. I would have come home with more birds and probably slipped a duck or two in my purse.

There was almost anything you could have ever wanted there when we got there. Incubators, cages, show cages, feeders. Quail, pheasants, turkeys, and guineas (I now understand why people say they are loud little beasts). Peacocks and peahens of all varieties. Rabbits (primarily Lionheads, Rex, Lop, and New Zealand)–I resisted because they didn’t have the breeds I wanted. Ducks and geese. Chickens of all types, though I saw mostly polish and I think the silkies were cleaned out by the time I got there. Hatching eggs. Candles. Bat houses. Pizza. Soap. Found vintage items. Guinea pigs. Goats. Pot-bellied pigs. Bluegrass music. Fudge. St. Berndard puppies. Flowering pots. Vegetable starts. Terrariums. I’m probably missing things because it was so overwhelming that the first time I walked through I thought it was a little small. The second time I walked through took over an hour, though to be fair I had to rush back to a few stalls a few times.

There were things I missed out on either because I got there too late (more chicks), I shouldn’t have brought them home to begin with (St. Bernard puppies, pheasants, and goats), I waited too long to go buy them (hatching eggs), or I never got a chance to go back and get them (terrariums, paintings, and soap). But trust me, I made out with a good haul. Pictures (though not the best) are behind the cut. Continue reading