Thursday, September 20, 2012

From Chick to Hen.

When exactly does a chick turn into a hen? At a year of age if of course it's a she. Well the teenage era she is called a pullet. This time is when the hen is capable of laying and is becoming sexually mature. They are filling out adding their adult plumage and generally this is the time when their systems get going as well.

Most chicks start this process somewhere between 18 - 24 weeks of age. At this point a most people have a hard time telling them apart from adult birds.

One of my (not so) little hens Dusty, had a false start at around 20 weeks of age. She laid a single perfect egg. WOW! Small (as most pullet eggs are, but perfect. About a week later she laid another but this time it was very thin. A few days later she laid 2 and both were very soft. Neither of them were in the nest and both were broken. These are sometimes known as rubber eggs. Chickens can be culled (nice word for made stew out of) for continuously laying them. She laid 2 a day for another week and then...not. another. egg. Time passed and I was very concerned about her.

Was she egg bound?  I tried soaking baths, apple cider vinegar, adding extra protein, extra calcium, all sort of things. You see I was not concerned about the eggs. This particular bird is my girls pet. The other birds are egg layers, but this one? Not so much. This one is much more of a pet. She's a lap bird. I wasn't sure just how long she could go without laying again. 1 week went by and all was well. 2 slipped by and this was when I started to worry and the home remedies began. 3 went and that is when I started to think that I should possibly start looking for a replacement. Turns out right now isn't a good time to buy this type of bird (a Brahma) all the hatcheries are sold out!!! But, in my search I also noticed something else. She's not acting sick. After 3 weeks of not laying if she had a problem that was keeping her from laying she should be showing signs of some kind of illness. Upon further inspection I found that a few of her wing feathers had been replaced. Crazy chicken was MOLTING! Pullets (young chickens) aren't supposed to molt like that. But, she's a very heavily feathered bird and it is summer in Florida after all. Who could blame her? 4 weeks. Still no egg.

Then, just as I'd given up seeing an egg until Spring guess what I got? What?! You know the answer to this because I posted about it already! 4 out of the last 5 days I've had 3 eggs in the nest. I'm proud to say that the 5th day the third egg that was missing wasn't Dusty's egg.

How can you tell when a bird is getting ready to lay an egg? There are a few ways to tell, but the easiest way to tell is by looking at the development of the comb, ear lobes and wattle.

This is dusty:

Let me restate that. This is Dusty, NOW. Now that she is actually mature enough to lay regular edible eggs. On a regular basis.

Here she is at 18 weeks of age. Just prior to her false start:
You will notice that she had almost no wattles at all and no real comb. There are no ear lobes present at all. In addition to all those things (since not all chickens have combs or earlobes that stick out) the skin that can be seen is pink. This is a sign of one of 2 things. Either she is sexually immature and not ready to lay eggs or she is ill. We know this little ladies age and breed and can easily distinguish that she is simply young and ill equipped to lay just yet. But, she tried to lay only a few weeks later anyway. No wonder it led to disaster. Here she is 3-4 weeks later when she was laying rubber eggs, right about the time she quit laying:
She has little bitty wattles, some ear lobes and she is starting to grow her comb - but compared to what she has now, only one month later? What a difference. This girl has really stepped into her maturing while she took a little time off. It looks like that false start was a good time for her to rest her system up. Good thing. It's officially Autumn this weekend. That is when most hens start to slack off and since she's just coming into lay she should continue to lay all winter she may have a lazy day here or there but our weather is pretty warm here so I'm betting she'll keep laying 5 or 6 days out of 7.

It's the feathered feet that gave her the name. Can you see them there? I actually give her bathes! She has her own tub and she's the only chicken I bathe. Spoiled I tell you. Spoiled! The other 2 are Campbell (Barred Rock - think about it... Soup is good food!)  and Blondie the Rhode Island Red.

More stories later, but I thought I'd post this here. I can't tell you how many times I've searched and searched for people out there that had stories about their pullets going 4 weeks, or laying 2 rubber eggs a day looking for the outcome and couldn't find anything. So hopefully someone who needs this info will find it and they, too will watch as they figure out that their pullet just wasn't ready yet to lay that first egg.

Maybe it was just 'peer pressure' or group hormones because of the other hens. I mean women cycle together I'd imagine that animals together might as well, no? Possibly. And, if so her body just wasn't ready yet. Good for her to have gone for a mini-molt instead. She looks marvelous and will have a great warm layer to keep her warm for winter. *cough* Well. The nights can get cold and I have no intentions of heating the coop after all they do carry their own down blankets. ;-)

'Till next time!


Monday, September 17, 2012

Harvest Monday 9.17.12

This week brought a rather large amount of disappointment for me. I continued to pull the peanut patch. It was all for naught. The peanuts are riddled with nematode damage. Pounds of them - ruined. The chickens are enjoying the heck out of helping, but they are the only ones. :-( I'm nearly done clearing the patch. Too bad I chose the wrong area to plant them. Seems they WOULD have been a good, productive variety after all. *pout*

What I did bring to the table isn't much. But, I'll brag that my 'pet' hen Dusty is finally laying again. I got eggs from her this week! It brought my normal dozen eggs for the week up to 17!

Hers are the lightest colored eggs there. They are also the smallest as she has laid the fewest eggs of all. I'm just so happy that all three hens are finally laying at the same time for once. YIPPEE!

Unfortunately I also had 2 visitors to the coop this week. A feral cat and an opossum.  >:-( I'm not happy. I don't know what, if anything I can do to keep them out. I took away the ladder from the coop. That should keep the opossum out of the coop. I think it only comes after the food. I do know that if it is truly starving it will eat a chicken, but I'm reinforcing the wires under the gate (where it came in at) as well to try to keep it out. The d*mn cat came in from over the fence. Most cats won't actually attack a chicken, but I don't trust that. Not for a nanosecond. This is the THIRD time I've seen this cat come in and that tells me it's only a matter of time until it is brazen enough to try. I just hope it tries during the day when they can defend themselves. If it does that it won't try again if it gets torn up by chicken claws. :-D

 I guess I'll be looking for some sort of way to turn the coop around and then another way to open and close the coop from inside the house in the morning. If anyone has ideas - I'm all ears.

Also harvested 2 more handfuls each of black beans, zipper peas and pink eye purple hulls. A few black eyes thrown in just for fun and a mess of chocolate mint (after drying I still need to take the leaves off here)
The picture is horrible, but my cell will have to do. Once again my memory card was where my camera wasn't. Sorry.

Linking in to Daphne's Dandelions for Harvest Monday! Thanks Daphne for being such a great hostess.

Till next time.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Three hens- three eggs- Who knew?

After months with these hens i finally
Got 3 eggs in one day. Not only one day this week but TWO!!!

Someone please tell me this us finally a trend?!?


See you tomorrow for Harvest Monday.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE DROID

Monday, September 10, 2012

Harvest Monday 9.10.12

Rain. Rain. Go away... You ruined my weekend - AGAIN!

Harvest Monday holds a dozen beautificus eggs.  That's about it. The peanuts that I paid for? Uh- not producing too well. Apparently they are more susceptible to nematodes. Even being interplanted with the marigolds they are falling pray. Severely. That and the excruciating amount of rain we've gotten. It's just too much I think. The beans have all rotted in their pods, on what is left of the vines. They need turning under. But, I'd need a tiller to do what is necessary now. The garden is too far gone. Only the perma-beds need left and cleaned, the rest all need to go.

This stinks. I need to be starting my Fall garden and can't even do that. Booo....2 cucumber plants are ready to bloom any day now and other than that the pesto is ready for making. Not much besides mint and rosemary are gracing my tables. The giant mulberry bush has fallen to some sort of fungus - we are trying desperate measures to save it, but with rain still forthcoming and the dry season still 6 weeks or more away it is not looking good.

So I sit and wait. I got one out of 7 sections of bed cleared this weekend. That's not much of a start, but I'll take what I can get for now. Apparently the heat and rain keeping me out of the garden was bad for me. I have blisters just form that little bit of work. Soft handed so quickly. How shameful. :-(

It's not that I haven't been busy. While the humidity has been at 96% outside -  I've been slaving away inside (when not in Baltimore on business) on a couple rather large projects. I'll be back to share more soon. Must. fetch. camera. I tried to take pictures with my phone and that did not work at all.

'Till next time!