Thursday, 23 June 2011

Our first egg-centenery... and a chicken update.

I'm please to say that we have had our 100th and 101st eggs laid for us by Team Chook. So what have we done with 101 eggs???

 This amounts to 2.73 eggs per day on average. The 33 eggs we sold has made us £8. Not enough to buy the next bag of feed for the girls, but we didn't get hens to make a profit from, although it would be nice to have loads more chickens in the garden and eggs to sell! The eggs have been eaten in cakes, on sandwiches, in omelettes, and boiled, scrambled and are delicious every time! I think I'm going to have a go at completely home made egg mayonnaise when we have our next surplus...

The girls have been enjoying their freedom with us still, although we have decided that they need to be confined to their own area of the garden in a few months time in a very big run rather than taking over the whole garden all day. This is because soon my 7 month old baby will be wanting to toddle around the garden and chicken poop is not good for her to play with, and I imagine the chickens may be a little scared of her. A couple of days ago her cry scared them so much they ran straight into the kitchen and weren't happy about being evicted!

Here are some more pictures of the girls...

All three ladies having a meeting in the corner of the garden.

Benni showing off her bald spot in the rain

Benni again looking a bit damp

Custard experiences the joy of a dust bath in the sun

Custard (Right) and Omelette sharing the same dust bath

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Which Came First: The Chicken or the Egg?

Well, I am not about to start discussing the great philosophical question of which really did come first, although, I believe that the egg must have come first as dinosaurs and reptiles laid eggs, and these came before the chicken. However which came first the chicken or the chicken egg is a different matter. There's the joke to consider about a chicken and an egg laying in bed one of them smoking, but that not only is a little cheeky, it also condones smoking. Anyhow, in my life the chickens came and then they laid eggs. This post is a closer look at the miracle that is an egg...

 View the source of this diagram by clicking this link

Eggs are amazing creations. They take between 24 and 26 hours to make. They are made from the inside out. The chicken releases a yolk from her ovary, and is held in the funnel for 15 minutes to allow for fertilization (which would occur if there was a Mr Chicken around). It then passes to the magnum where the white forms after 3 hours. The yolk rotates as the white (or albumen) is added and fibres form to make the chalazae which holds the yolk suspended in the centre of the egg.

The shell membranes take 1 hour 15 minutes to form in the isthmus. The egg is now its full shape and size. It passes along to the uterus to form the shell after 19 hours, its colouring and protective coating are added here. After a few minutes in the vagina the egg is laid through the vent.

Random facts about eggs:

  • A hen has 2 ovaries like all female creatures, but only use the left one. The right one stays dormant.
  • Like human females, a hen is born with all the ova (yolks) she will use in her life.
  • Size of eggs increase as the hen gets older.
  • Laying is known as oviposition.
  • A hen has a 30 minute break after laying, then the whole process starts again.
  • The egg moves through the hen small end first, but it rotates just before laying and comes out large end first.
  • The colour of the yolk depends on the hens diet, for yolks that are more orange she should eat more grass and plants.
  • Egg shells are made from calcium carbonate.
  • Eggs are 40.5*C when laid.

Eggs are very versatile and I love being able to collect them each morning. Considering that our girls are "spent" commercial laying hens, we have had at least 2 eggs every day between 3 of them. And we have had 3 eggs on a lot of days. I'll work on some egg stats for another post. We've not managed to get a huge surplus of eggs, we have sold a few and given a few away and eaten loads! Yummy :-)

Chickens: A photo update

We've been spending a lot of time looking out of the window at our hens, and they are flourishing. In just over 3 weeks they are behaving like real chickens; its like they've never been in battery cages. The following videos and photographs show their eggsploits of the last week or two!

All the ladies have been out free-ranging for at least 8 hours a day since they settled in with us; and have mostly been taking themselves to bed. I say mostly, because one night, Custard (who is having a well deserved rest in this picture, watched over by Omelette) didn't go to bed! We locked her out of the coop by accident, and the poor girl was out all night. Luckily there were no foxes around, but our neighbour saw a big ginger cat in the garden in the middle of the night after hearing lots of loud squawking! There were lots of feathers on the grass in the morning and Custard had a very blood-shot eye and really was not her usual self. She kept flopping down on the grass and I was really worried about her, she was the first one in bed that night. I think she had been attacked by a cat, but been feisty enough to fight it off!

But I had no need to worry; she was the first one out of the coop in the morning, as usual. She had her beak in the food bowl within a few seconds and has been completely back to her normal cheeky self and her eye has healed well. In this video she is trying to sneak into the kitchen. In fact, all of the girls keep trying to come inside the house, they are usually crowding around the door within a minute of it being opened.

Bennie (left) has been laying away from the coop, she made a nest at the side of the shed, which isn't a good place as there is lots of junk around there (you can see pieces of wood with old nails in them), and it is now fenced off. She was really disgruntled about being moved and she tried everything to get back into her special area. And while she was looking for somewhere else to nest she almost laid an egg in the kitchen, we could tell by the tone of clucking that there was one on the way! Thankfully then she found the nest box in the coop and she now regularly lays there! Unlike her sisters who lay next to the perch in the coop. They lay where they're supposed to sleep and sleep where they are supposed to lay.
We know where they sleep now because we open the nest box to do a full beak count every night after Custard's nocturnal adventure. They all cuddle up together in the nest box, with their beaks facing inwards; they look so sweet in there.

Bennie eggsplores the garden

From L-R: Custard, Bennie, Omelette

Investigating the new fence that prevents access to the veggie patch.

Bennie having a good scratch in the dirt

Lovely rain water to drink, so much better than the fresh stuff out of the tap...

From back to front: Bennie, Custard and Omelette

Custard being checked over after her "night out".

Omelette enjoying her first dust bath...
And relaxing after the dust bath; she was sat in  there for ages!