Saturday, January 8, 2011

Catching up.

Wow, I just looked back and realized I have written virtually nothing about my girls in six months. Hmm, where to begin.

I mentioned Betty just quit laying on me. This summer was hot and I remember the day my daughter picked Betty up to show a friend and a soft egg squirted out of her in a burst on the ground. It was kinda cool, but that marked the last egg we've seen from her. She hadn't moltted, didn't seem sick, but a few months down the road when I was reading outside, Betty walked by and pooped, as she does often, and as I looked at it, I noticed a squiggly worm. Damn! I hate treating for worms.

Treatment means giving some dreadful chemical and a minimum of 14 days of egg laying and they all have to go in the trash. You can't treat one hen, it is assumed if one hen has worms, then they all do. So I began treatment and we waited.

Betty had been looking not herself, as I mentioned in my previous post. Her comb was floppy and not the red I had come to love in contrast with her black and white feathers. She then started to molt and feathers were everywhere.  We just waited.

Then, about three or four weeks after treatment for worms with Wazine-7, Lulu started to molt, which also meant the end of the eggs for her.  Zelda has laid steadily since we got her and we have been very grateful because her eggs are big and a beautiful blue.

Now that Lulu is back with fresh feathers, we still wait for Betty, but I am confident she'll start laying again.

Another adventure that has changed all their habits happened a few months ago.  One evening as my husband and I were outside talking, my dog went nuts at the hens pen. he was barking and scratching at the gate and finally managed to get the door open. He was circling the coop, sticking his nose in the cinder blocks that keep the coop off the ground and we went in to investigate.

It was really dark and the security light that flicked on as we entered proved useless.  We grabbed a flashlight and discovered a possum hiding underneath. Max must have scared the bejezus out of him. He played dead as we tried to force him out with a broom handle through the dark cinder block hole. He wouldn't budge, so we put the dog inside and came back out to give it another try, but her was gone.

Zelda decided she wasn't interested in her coop any more. Zelda is my skittish wild girl. An Ameracauna with crazy beautiful eyes and was the only of my girls I had never managed to catch and hold.

The next night, I peaked in the coop and Zelda wasn't there. I wasn't home as dusk led them to bed and I searched everywhere. Around the house, under the deck, in the bushes, at the neighbors house, behind our house in the bamboo forest. Nothing.

Then it occurred to me that she had some serious wings and could fly high, so I started looking up high around my house. Maybe she was roosting on the six-foot fence. Nope. I came back into the backyard with my flashlight and spotted her high up in our Cedar Elm tree. The silly girl had leaped from our picnic table up to a high safe branch almost completely out of my reach.

This posed a couple problems. I could reach some of the branch and pull it down, but this silly bird has never let me hold her. I haven't even touched her since she arrived.

Also, assuming I could pull the branch down to grab her, how could I hold the branch and secure her amongst all those limbs and leaves without hurting her or making her fly higher.

Well, I dropped my flashlight and just went for it. I gently pulled down the branch and she squawked quietly. I maneuvered through the spiky limbs and managed to get near her feet. I figured it was easier to get her feet than try to encircle her body. It took several tries and she protested mightily, but I managed to get her on my hand, lift her over the poky limbs and gently release the Elm.

She flapped and protested, but she didn't peck me. She seemed pretty disoriented and that's when I realized that hens are completely drunk after dark.  She gave me permission to carry her to the coop by not attacking me and I got her safely inside.

The next night I urged all three hens into their coop and closed them up at dusk, but the following night, we didn't get home until after dark and sure enough, Zelda was in her new favorite spot. Damn.

I pulled the same tricks, but not as easily this time and managed to get her to bed.

Fast forward a couple weeks and Zelda found a new spot to roost. She flew up roost on my husbands bicycle wheel, which was hanging about seven feet off the ground.  We continued the ritual of carrying her to bed every night, when Betty decided that was a great idea. She roosted on my bike, which was on the ground. Fast forward another few weeks and Lulu thought this was a grand idea. She was lonely in her coop and the rubber grips on the handle bars of my daughters bike were nice and comfy.

Every night, if we haven't ushered them into the pen before dark, we now find all three of them perched on my treadmill, which is much easier to roost on than a spinning bicycle wheel.

So much more to tell, but this is a long post. I love having these girls in my life. I want to build a bigger, more secure coop and get a few more hens, but who has time to build structures. Not me. So I will continue to dream of a larger hen family and of the perfect coop, while collecting and eating the eggs we get semi-regularly.

Finally, an Egg from Lulu!

Betty, my sweet Barred Rock hen hasn't laid an egg since July. She went into molt in early-November and all the advice I have received said to give her time. One hen father said give her until February. Dude, that is a long time, but what's a hen mother to do except wait. Since she molted, her feathers are back in full fluff and her comb is getting more red and finally standing at attention after months of flop and sallow pinkness. She isn't laying yet, but I have hope for her.

Lulu began molting in mid-November and quit laying. I thought, "Great! Three hens and about five eggs a week." This is not what I was expecting when I dubbed my weekly dinner, "Fritatta Tuesdays."

Yesterday the hens were completely out of feed. I made the oatmeal with flax seed and scrambled eggs (store bought out of desperation), with some cut up green beans. They ate it so fast I made another batch, but added quinoa and left out the eggs.

After a new batch of feed was supplied late afternoon yesterday, I looked at Lulu his morning, and she was squawking awkwardly. I thought, "She's gonna lay an egg." Sure enough, an hour later I went outside to visit with my girls and survey my garden, and I noticed Lulu missing. I peaked quietly around the corner to see if she was in the run eating, but she wasn't there. A few minutes later, she came waddling out of the pen and joined her sisters as they scrapped and picked under the fallen Red Oak leaves around the compost bin.

I peaked inside the coop and lo and behold, a sweet little brown egg.  As I clutched it from the trap door in the back of the coop, I felt the eggs warmth spread through my very chilly hands. Lulu's back!

Maybe we can restart Fritatta Tuesdays, if not this week, then definitely next. Not sure what prompted the lay, but maybe it was my gourmet breakfast yesterday.