3 July 2013

First eggs

Yesterday I got such a treat! I found that the first of my new little pullets has started to lay. This is her first, small egg. They get bigger with time.

She didn't use the nestbox - she tucked down in the straw beside it (and pulled all the straw out of the nestbox!). Neither did she today when she produced egg number two, but I'm quite happy with that, because with five hens and one nestbox, things could get a little crowded in there. I've seen three in there at once before, and it looked cosy but not comfortable! (Especially when one's an Orpington the size of a not-so-small dog.)

I wrote about the arrival of the three teenaged chickens a few weeks ago. Life was quite scary and brutal for them at first, but after a couple of weeks they seemed settled and happy, and were no longer being bullied by this lively lady.

She has the biggest, reddest comb of all the hens I've had so far, and on the day the new birds arrived I swear it doubled in size and got much redder. Her hormones got all fired up, I suspect, and her comb (and her aggressive behaviour) announced her dominance.

She's been laying through winter, though, although she's two years old. I think the hormones might have helped out. It suits me because she's been the only one giving us eggs until now. With the shortest day over, however, we will soon have plenty of eggs.

Here are some photos showing how comb size changes with maturity (it's under hormonal control, I'm sure).

Immature pullet (she's about 16 weeks old, I think, but I
forgot to ask when I bought them!)
This bird is a bit more mature - see how the comb is a bit bigger,
and the skin around her eyes is red too. I'm pretty sure she's the
one who laid her first egg yesterday, which is two weeks since
this photo was taken.
Compare the two brown birds' combs, one mature and one not.
Can you see my old Orpington resting her eyes? She's now entering her grandmotherly phase of life, and is sometimes a bit exhausted by it all. She's still very beautiful, but I worry about her age, and if she doesn't start laying this spring, a tough decision will have to be made. In general though, she's as dapper as the next hen and darts about the place with ample energy.

And finally there's the cat-bird interaction, which worries so many "I want chickens" people. The chickens are in control, as I've written before. The cat's curiousity remains, though, and sometimes I feel sure that he enjoys their company and wishes they'd be more friendly. He reclines in the sun up against the mesh fence of their run. The new pullets were terrified of him when they first arrived, and kept making alarm calls when he strolled into sight. Now, six weeks on, they've realised he's a pussycat, and take no notice.

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