22 August 2013

The old beauty lays again

You may have previously read my raves about my oldest chicken, a magnificent black Orpington who never fails to draw gasps from visitors: "She's so BIG". She is indeed huge - the size of a small turkey, I think (I say that having just seen a small turkey in a shop's freezer). She's called Clever Clogs (Jack named her).

Today she laid her first egg in many months - a smallish, tubular egg of a certain shade of cream that I've come to realise is peculiar to her. Once she gets into the swing of it they will be a perfect oval. I am relieved: I don't need to send her the dismal way of non-laying birds. She's four years old now and I'd feared she was no longer any good for eggs.

But it was never going to be that simple, because I've been noticing how she distinguishes herself in other ways. Last week I had a sick chicken - another case of sour crop, I'm afraid. As the young, sick brown shaver stood away from the rest of the bunch, hunched up and obviously miserable, who went and stood by her? Clever Clogs.

On Saturday I went outside and noticed that the coop and run were empty, and the fence had been left down, allowing a mass exodus into the garden. I spotted the chickens far away in a side garden under the feijoa trees, having a ball. Suddenly there was an "I've just laid an egg and now I can't find anyone" crow from the coop.The oldish brown shaver had emerged from the nestbox, and was letting everyone know.

Clearly responding to the call, off strode Clever Clogs from the feijoa garden, her black and slightly poo-ey bustle swaying behind her as she strode along the path to join her old friend. They hung around together for a while, then made their way back to the others.

When we throw food scraps into the coop (which I've recently read is illegal in the UK! Yes, illegal! To stop the spread of salmonella or something), the chooks are after them like crazed, starved things, although in fact they always have pellets freely available. But one stands back in a dignified manner: Clever Clogs, of course. She lets the others eat first.

And to final my testament to her good nature. When it was just her and the oldish brown shaver living together idyllically, I once threw down some especially good scraps - chopped bacon rind or something of the sort. CC loudly made the same distinctive call that mother hens make to their chicks when they're telling them there's something good to eat. She would not take a bite herself, and kept making the call until the brown shaver pecked at the food at CC's feet. Mrs Shaver had the same food at her own feet so didn't much need CC's, but she obeyed eventually.

I believe the old Orpington has become a kindly grandmother bird, albeit still a very beautiful one, and it's marvellous to see that she can still turn out the odd egg.

Clever Clogs today, perky of comb and freshly delivered of an egg.
(Note: Orpingtons' combs never get very big, even when they are in full lay, but they do go this nice red colour, which sets off their plumage beautifully.)

ps The bird with sour crop fully recovered. Had she died, either by herself or as a mercy killing, I would have dissected her to find out the cause of the blockage. I can't stand the idea that something I'm doing or giving them causes this problem. All those biology labs would have held me in good stead for the process, but I have no idea where to get a sharp scalpel.


  1. I love big orpingtons they are so beautiful. Wow she sounds like such a character. Bet she brings much joy and laughter. Mx

  2. Hi, just to let you know I'm keeping an eye on you through this blog!! And our chooks are flat out laying again as its been so warm. Catch up soon? Hope so xx

  3. I love your chooks and garden! We also have 5 hens, almost all the same as yours bar one. We love our black Orpington too. She stopped laying over summer (far too hot for her) but has started again now. Her eggs are cream coloured and slightly smaller at one end.


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