Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Three days at Shawshank

Since there is a chicken currently residing in my home office, I must get this off my chest.  Either Elsie, our RED laced Wyandotte chicken, is channeling Ellis “Red” Boyd, or she has gone broody.  Hmmm, notice the similarities in name....Elsie....Ellis.  No wonder she was the one to go Shawshank on me.
Angry, Broody Elsie refusing to budge from the nesting box earlier this week.

Elsie, the chicken, has gone broody.  What that means:

  •  She doesn't want to eat.
  •  She refuses to leave the nesting box causing an actual "waiting line" of chickens trying to lay an egg this afternoon.
  • She is plucking her own feathers to keep her baby “plastic egg”  and her sister's real eggs warm
  •  And she is wreaking havoc with all the other chickens with her growly, moody antics.

All this because she really, really , really wants to have a baby.

Much as I would love to let Elsie nest away and hatch a clutch of cute, little, baby chicks, we had to take drastic measures.  You see, we don't have a rooster so no baby chicks can happen here.  And, from what I understand, if a chicken goes broody and can’t actually become a mom, bad things happen.

  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Aggressive behavior
  • And that really long waiting line at the nesting box
"Red" waiting her time in solitary.

Our only recourse….Solitary confinement in a cool, quiet area.  As I type this, Elsie is sitting in her cell, a dog crate in my home office, with only food and water and a short roost.  Seems a bit sad but this is the most calm she has been in three days.  From what I've read in various chicken blogs, she will be in the office for a few days before getting parole and then it might go something like this…

2014 Parole Hearings Woman: Elsie chicken, your files say you've served 3 days of a broody chicken sentence. Do you feel you've been rehabilitated?
Red: Rehabilitated? Well, now let me see. You know, I don't have any idea what that means.
2014 Parole Hearings Woman: Well, it means that you're ready to rejoin the chicken society...
Red: I know what you think it means, missy. To me, it's just a made up word. A politician's word, so young ladies like yourself can wear a suit and a tie, and have a job. What do you really want to know? Am I sorry for what I did?
Red: There's not a day goes by I don't feel regret. Not because I'm in here, because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid chicken who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to her. I want to try to talk some sense to her, tell her the way things are. But I can't. That chicken’s long gone, and this old bird is all that's left. I got to live with that. Rehabilitated? It's just a bullshit word. So you go on and stamp your form, missy, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don't give a chicken shit….

Stay tuned to see just when Elsie gets parole and is allowed back in the yard with her sisters.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Alma's Science Fair Egg Experiment

Remember the Science Fair?  Remember watching or participating in events like Build a Boat Out of Ping Pong Balls or Grow Beans in Microwaved Water vs Plain Tap?  It seems I have a chicken who has entered herself in her own Science Fair.

First, in egg laying, all chickens are not created equal.  Some are big egg layers. Some are loud egg layers and some, like my two Wyandottes, are not "straight to the nesting box" kind of gals.  The first Wyandotte to lay, Elsie, would lay her eggs in the dog house.  It only took me about four days to figure that out and redirect her to a safer spot, the nesting box.  She took to it right away once it was pointed out.

Next, meet Alma.  Alma is one of our Blue Laced Red Wyandottes and she is almost a year old. Alma is a very special chicken.  Alma is a student of physics whose goal is to successfully lay and egg from the highest point in the coop without breaking.  It would be quite the feat and this little girl  is up for the challenge.

Over the course of two weeks we would periodically find an egg inside the coop, broken and outside the nesting box.  My first thought was an angry chicken kicked it out as part of a "pecking order" protest.  But it kept happening.  Day after day of broken egg.  Then a Saturday rolled around and I was able to observe who was laying and when.  One by one the ladies took their turns in the nesting boxes until Alma was ready to lay.  In to the coop she went.  Then back out.  Then back in. In and out for several rounds of confusion until in she went and stayed.  After a few moments I heard it.  The awkward flapping and stumble of a chicken going to bed.  Going to bed?  Its 2 in the afternoon!  I carefully peek in the coop and there she is, Alma on high.  

Alma, preparing to lay an egg from the highest roost in the coop.
Much to our amazement, Alma manages to not only lay her egg but she drops it from about three feet and it lands successfully in the crevice between the coop door and floor.  Please forgive the chicken pooh splotches.  It is life in the coop. 
Seriously?  How did she do this?

The ledge egg, unbroken.  Rather amazing
Who lays an egg, drops it three feet and has it land exactly in this two inch gap?  Alma really needs to play MouseTrap.  (Yeah, I'm dating myself here)

A few days later, she inches closer to the mark.  And, I get smart and line the coop floor with several inches of shavings to "break" the fall of our precious egg.
We seem to be getting closer to the mark.
Alma ended up proving her point.  She could lay an egg where ever and when ever she wanted.  We are very grateful that she decided the nesting box was good enough....for now.