Our chickens finally started laying again!
Except one chicken laid what looks more like a bird egg…it’s so tiny! We cracked it open and there was no yolk. So weird!
Ya know what?
Country life isn’t always flowering meadows and bubbling brooks, like I had expected. Actually, it doesn’t necessarily include any lush grass or leafy trees at all. When you’re out west, a good country day might just give you billowing dust clouds and coyotes. Not very picturesque.
But I’m getting off topic. I really do like living out in the country. The peace and quiet. All the open space. It’s good.
But sometimes…country life stinks. Literally.
My sweet son gathered this beautiful basketful of eggs this morning. Lovely, aren’t they?
I love my little hens and the beautiful eggs they give me.
What’s better, though, is what’s inside those beautiful eggs. Because I know that if I crack any of them open, I’ll find rich, dark yolks that are free of hormones and antibiotics. They’re full of rich free-range nutrients. And that makes me marvelously happy.
When I was a kid, there were three things that really grossed me out. Banana strings, chicken veins, and eggs.
When I ate eggs I thought, “Ew, I’m eating an unborn baby chicken.” How disgusting. And cruel, too. The only way I could stand to stomach an egg was to have them well cooked – scrambled. None of that easy over or sunny side up stuff. Shiver.
I had pretty well gotten over my egg issues as an adult. Although banana strings and chicken veins still gross me out.
These past few weeks, though, I have reverted back to my childhood horror of eggs. Get them all away from me!
All this egg trauma because somebody, in my little flock of feathered ladies, was laying a rotten egg. The egg looked perfectly fine. I couldn’t distinguish the bad one from the good ones. But as I was cooking one day, I cracked open an egg and immediately a green haze filled the kitchen and left me unconscious on the floor. Well, just about. It really did make me gag, though.
Remember yelling to your friends and siblings, “Last one there is a rotten egg!” Yeah. This experience has brought new meaning to the phrase “rotten egg”.
So for weeks now, I’ve been forced to smell all the eggs we’ve gathered from our hens to make sure we’re not going to eat a bad one. Sometimes I forget to crack them separately and I ruin several eggs at once just because I cracked the bad egg into my bowl full of good eggs.
I’ve gotten to the point where all eggs smell rotten. The stench now lives in my nose. I go outside and I can still smell the foulness of those bad eggs.
I had to find the culprit. This couldn’t go on. I decided to separate each chicken until we discovered who was laying these horrid eggs.
Well, we lucked out. We found the offender on the first try.
The guilty party was: a Rhode Island Red.
Strangely enough, she looks healthy. She’s lays nice brown eggs with good hard shells. The yolks are nice and dark like always, but somewhere along the way something has gone very wrong. Because my oh my, she really is laying one very bad smelling egg.
Now that we’ve found our suspect, what do we do with her?
It’s not like we’ll be able to sell her or give her away. Who wants a hen who lays rotten eggs, right?
The only solution I’ve come up with so far involves dropping the said chicken off somewhere in hopes that some hippy vegan will keep the little bugger as a pet. Because vegans don’t eat eggs, do they? Well, if they aren’t vegan, they will be. One whiff of a rotten egg and your stomach decides you’re vegan for you.
If you had a chicken who laid rotten eggs, what would you do?
I want to find out why/how a chicken could lay a rotten egg. What’s causing this? Is it something she’s been eating? I’ve googled several different things and checked my chicken handbooks, but I’m not getting anywhere.
For now, we’ll just hang on to her until we figure out what to do.
If you have any ideas, please leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you!
P.S I’ll update this post if we ever DO find out what’s causing this strange phenomenon.
Squeamish, girly, and blonde.
In three words, that’s me.
And I guess there’s no changing any of that.
I thought that moving out to the country would somehow magically turn me into this “I Am Woman Hear Me Roar ” kinda country girl that I’ve always wanted to be.
You know…like those women who can milk a cow or a goat with their bare hands. The ones who don’t bat an eye if a mouse happens to scamper over their bare feet. The ones who have the guts to hug their chickens one day and butcher them for dinner the next. The women who can deliver their goats’ kids in the middle of the night with no vet for miles around.
That’s the kind of woman I had dreams of becoming…
It didn’t happen.
So back to reality.
Today the kids and I picked up our order of chicks from the feed store.
While we were checking out, I noticed that one of the chicks seemed a bit lethargic but I figured, “Ah, she’s probably fine. Just sleepy.”
I honestly couldn’t think very clearly with my son loudly proclaiming his love for the cute little fuzz balls while I was trying to sign the receipt with a pen that wouldn’t work. And my daughter, whom I was holding because I forgot her shoes again, was trying to get down and touch everything.
After we got home, though, and I started placing the chicks in their new little home and this little one I had been worried about definitely looked much smaller than the rest.
As I was placing this chick inside the pen, I felt some gross stuff stuck to its belly.
I touched it!
Oh, the horror!!!
I washed my hands with ten different hand soaps and yet I still can’t put my fingers near my mouth. So gross!
I flipped through all my chicken books on raising chickens, to find out what I could do to help this little chick out. I found out that new chicks often have a “pasty butt” problem. (Their words not mine.)
To resolve the issue, it just said that I needed to wipe the chicks bottom with warm water and a washcloth.
Great! Sounds like a simple solution that my husband can handle. <grin>
I called my husband, who was at work, and begged him to come home and rescue me from the sick chick situation.
I went over all the reasons why I could not handle this situation and all the reasons why he most certainly could.
And to no avail. He said he just couldn’t come home early. I pleaded…
Not even to save your wife from farmish calamities? Not even to save the life of a poor sick chick? *cry*
Well, the thought of that little chick having to suffer until hubby got home outweighed my fear of touching an icky chick. So, in my desperation, I decided to pull up my big girl panties, ahem, my purple nitrile gloves, and help that little chick out myself.
And not because I’m a cool country girl but because I’m a sappy city girl that tends to cry over poor little sick chicks.
I took the poor little limp chick in my protected gloved hand and brought it over to the garage sink.
The belly of this little chick was covered in chick poo, egg shell, and green gagable grossness. Seriously traumatizing stuff for both the chick and me, but mostly me!
Well, the warm washcloth technique was accomplishing nothing. I mean this icky stuff was stuck on like super glue and it wasn’t budging. The chick in my hand was squawking at me and I was really stressing out at this point.
I decided to try running a little warm water over the chick’s belly to free up the ick instead. Chicky hated that more. So did I.
And then for one awful moment the chick went limp and I thought it had died in my hand! I looked that chick straight in the eye and told her “Don’t you dare think of dying in my hand!”
This poor chick couldn’t handle the trauma it was undergoing and I wasn’t getting anywhere so I dried her off and just made her as comfortable as I could.
I went back into the house and walked around in circles, stewing over the situation.
What was I going to do now? I could not handle having a dying chick in my care.
Then it hit me.
Take the chick back to the store!
Duh! Of course. Why didn’t I think of that in the first place?
Off to the feed store we flew!
During the drive, the poor little chick would squawk and then fall silent, causing me to say, “It’s okay poor baby! We’re gonna be there soon, Honey! Just hang on a little longer!” And then during periods of silence, “Don’t you dare die on me! Don’t you even think about it! You stay with me, you hear me?”
The feed store owner was none to pleased to see me again, even though I had called ahead and explained everything.
And unfortunately she had no clue what was wrong with my chick either. She admitted that she had never owned a chicken in her life and vows she never will.
Maybe you’re in the wrong business field?
I seriously think I need to find a new feed store to frequent whose owner is knowledgeable in raising chickens.
Well, we came home from the feed store with a much healthier looking chick, although we were all feeling sad to have left our little sick chick at the feed store.
And I’m not at all sure what our little chick was sick with. It really looked like something more serious than “pasty butt” but I guess I’ll never know.
All of the rest of our chicks are doing well so far.
Happy healthy little fuzz balls. Thank goodness because I’m just not capable of handling sick poultry all by my lonesome.
In a couple of weeks I’ll check back in and show you just how quickly these adorable little fuzz balls grow into ugly stinky teenagers. <wink>
A few days ago, I was buying stamps at the post office when I heard faint little sounds of…
“Cheep, cheep, cheep!”
You know you live in the country if you hear farm sounds at your local post office.
Sure enough, a crate of little chicks had arrived at the post office that day and were waiting to be picked up by someone. Eeeee! Sweet sounds of spring!
For us, bringing home a bunch of adorable little fuzz balls is the highlight of our spring. They’re irresistibly soft and cute.
We’ve been “raising” (because it’s more of a hobby than a serious farming endeavor) chickens for four years now and have enjoyed every moment…well, maybe not every moment, but it has been a lot of fun.
Chickens are a source of crazy fun entertainment!
Whether they are scratching at the dirt looking for bugs, taking dirt baths, chasing each other, or running full force across the yard to be the first to partake of kitchen scraps, they’ll keep you entertained for sure!
And of course, they obviously produce food for your family, too. Now, whether you can stomach eating the egg that just popped out of the chicken’s butt is something to consider. It took me awhile. I did get used to it, though, and the eggs that come from your own free ranging chickens are so much better for you than the ones from the store.
Photo shows: Buff Orpington chicks
So are you ready for some backyard chickens of your own?
Here are some factors you might want to consider before selecting a breed.
Each year when we start flipping through the McMurray hatchery catalog, we make a list of all the chicken breeds we are interested in and we start organizing them by different criteria. We consider the following six criteria in choosing our new breeds: temperament, weather hardiness, meat birds versus layers, foragers, egg color, and chicken color.
Different chicken breeds have different temperaments. Some birds are flighty, some are aggressive, and others are sweetly docile, meaning that they are quiet, calm, and easy to control. I look for birds with a reputation for being docile. I want my chickens to be sweet! Our chickens share the yard with my kids so not only do these birds become family pets, they’re around my children a lot. They had better be nice.
2. Weather Hardy
For those of you living in a place where it never snows and 85°F is a major heat wave, you can go ahead and skip this section. For the rest of us, weather hardiness is one of the most important criteria to consider. Some breeds with long combs and wattles are more likely to get frost bite and are not well-suited for cold climates. Other breeds don’t do well in hot weather and can easily succumb to heat stress. Although breeds with feathered feet look great, they have more problems in muddy conditions.
We have days in the summer with temperatures above 100°F. We also have days in the winter with sub-zero temperatures and 40 mph winds. On cold winter days, we’ll put a heat lamp in the coop and pile snow around the base of the coop to help insulate it. However, when the water jug (sitting directly beneath the heat lamp) freezes solid, you know your birds had better be cold hardy! Amazingly, we have never lost any of our chickens to the cold weather.
Depending on where you live, you may be like us experiencing both hot and cold conditions or you may only need to look for a bird that does well with one extreme.
Photo shows: Buff Orpington (yellow chick), Rhode Island Red (reddish chicks), and a free mystery chick (black chick) that I never quite figured out
3. Meat vs. Eggs
If it’s eggs that you’re after, choose a breed that lays well. Once they are mature, the hens from most layer breeds will give you an egg every one to two days. Other breeds lay hardly any eggs at all. The breeds that do not lay well are commonly raised for their meat. Although any healthy chicken can be eaten, good meat breeds are broad-breasted and grow to their target weight quickly.
If you want to spend less of your hard-earned egg money at the local feed store, and you would like your chickens to provide double-duty with pest-control around your house, a breed that forages well is a good choice. We have about an acre and a half of fenced backyard where we let our chickens run free. They love to chase grasshoppers, scratch in the dirt, and nibble on the grass.
On the other hand, if you have limited space and can’t let your chickens free range, there is no need to worry about their foraging skills.
Photo shows: Buff Orpington chicks (yellow) and Ameraucana chicks (multi-colored)
5. Egg Color
Egg color really isn’t that important when it comes to the health of your flock or the health of your family. However, if you’re raising chickens for their eggs, gathering a variety of different colored eggs is the best part of raising your own backyard chickens!
Our first flock of chickens were Ameraucana chickens (also called Easter egg chickens). Some of the hens laid different shades of brown eggs and others laid bluish-green and greenish-blue eggs. The other chickens that we have had (Buff Orpingtons and Rhode Island Reds) have all laid brown eggs. At some point, I would like to get some hens that lay those beautiful dark chocolate colored eggs, as well as some hens that lay nice white eggs.
Photo shows: an egg from an Ameraucana hen (the greenish-blue egg) and a brown egg from a Buff Orpington
6. Chicken Color
Similar to egg color, the color of your chickens doesn’t make much difference to their health or yours, but a good variety certainly adds to the enjoyment of raising them. Out of the chickens that we have had, our Ameraucanas had the most individual variety with hens ranging from almost completely tan to almost completely black with unique markings on each one.
Photo shows: Ameraucana rooster (left) and hen (right) when they were a couple months old
We have been very happy with our Ameraucanas, Buff Orpingtons, and Rhode Island Reds. All three breeds did well in the heat of summer and cold of winter. They were good layers, they did very well foraging in our backyard, and had easy temperaments for beginners.
Photo shows: two full grown Buff Orpingtons, a Rhode Island Red, and that black Mystery hen
There are a lot of excellent resources to help you find a breed that has the perfect characteristics for you. We used a table from Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, but there are other similar tables posted on the web, such as this one from Backyard Poultry and and this one from My Pet Chicken.
I should warn you, though…when you have to start narrowing down your list, it gets really hard. Because chicken breeds are like potato chips. You can’t have just one!