hen happenings # november round up

Hello, well it’s 1st December already, so time to do a November round-up of hen happenings in this neck of the woods.  All four gals are happy & healthy.  And Ruby is looking (almost) splendid with her new feathers.

Ruby is the red hen on the left. Easy to differentiate from Doris, because Ruby has quite a few dark brown feathers at the end of her tail, and she’s also slightly smaller in size.  There are still a few spikey bits on her head, but I think you’ll agree the scrawny look is behind us (until the next moult).

On the egg-laying front, gals are not firing on all cylinders.  Some days there are 3 eggs to collect. The one top centre here was a double-yolker – I’m pretty sure that was laid by Rita.  Most days there are only 2 eggs in the nesting box.  It seems they’re taking it turns to lay but, with 4 hens, that still gave us a total of 67 eggs for November.  Since I took the above photos we had our first snowfall – hens not too happy about that.

hen happenings # october round-up

Well the last month, things have been hunky dory in the hen enclosure.  The new gals took a few weeks to settle in, and it took Ruby just as long to accept their presence, but the four of them seem to be getting along nicely now.

It certainly didn’t take the newbies long to recognise the reuseable ice-cream tub as meaning “treats” every day.  Depending on what leftovers we have, here they are enjoying some GF pasta from our dinner the night before.  Anyway, we’ve had eggs in a variety of shapes and sizes in October, including several double yolkers!  There have also been broken eggs because someone (I don’t know who) insists on letting drop from a perch instead of laying in the nesting box.   Agatha, our black & tan, hasn’t even worked out how to perch yet. So, while the other 3 all spend the night balancing on the same perch, Agatha just sleeps in a corner of the coop on the sawdust covered floor.

Anyway, total of eggs collected this month (including the broken ones) was an all-time low. Only 60 eggs for October, despite having 4 hens!  The good news . . . Ruby’s feathers are finally growing back and she’s looking like a red hen again.

I think you’ll agree that Ruby’s appearance now (on the left) is a fast improvement of what she looked like late September (below).

best layer of the month # september

After the events of last week, with “murder in a French orchard” we went out and bought 3 new laying hens to keep Ruby company.  Hens are back in the veggie garden coop, so they’re closer to the house and (we hope) safer.

Anyway, before I do the introductions . . . first, let me tot up the number of eggs this month.  Before their untimely deaths on 23rd Sept, Mauricette had laid 12 eggs  and Florence had laid 18.  Ruby, understandably, has been a bit off her laying since, what with seeing two hens killed before her eyes, and then having 3 new companions arrive.  She laid a total of 21 eggs this month.  Big surprise, only a few days after the new girls arrived – they started laying.  Only tiny eggs for now, but we’ve had a total of 13 small eggs in the last 7 days.    Which makes a total of 64 eggs for September.   I think in future, I’ll stop the “best layer” posts, and simply do a monthly round-up of hen life.  I haven’t been able to identify who is laying what, so from October, I’ll just do a monthly hen & egg-count update.

In the meantime, let me introduce you to the new hens!

Here they are, on day 3, when they finally felt brave enough to come down the ramp and start exploring.

This is Doris – a red hen.  She doesn’t appear to have the same dark brown tail feathers as Ruby, and she’s a darker red, so I shouldn’t have any trouble telling the two apart when Ruby’s feathers all grow back.

Agatha is a black & tan.  She seems the less adventurous of the three.   She’s also quite happy to be picked up for a stroke.

And finally,

Rita who is a French blue.  She’s a much lighter silver grey than Mauricette (who was also a French blue) but, like Mauricette, she is a very large bird.

We had some fun & games in the first days. Despite clipping flight feathers on left wing, on the 3 new gals, they were managing to helicopter out of the enclosure.  But after adding some extra netting higher up, we seem to have solved our Houdini problem.  There is also a certain amount of confusion at bed-time with Rita heading up the ramp, closely followed by Doris, then Agatha . . . only for Rita to turn around at the top and want to come back down. This causes a hen-jam on the ramp before Rita does another 180° turn and goes to bed properly.  It’s early days yet though.  On the whole, they seem to have settled in very well.

murder in a French orchard

A very unwelcome bit of excitement in our part of the French countryside yesterday . . .

I’ll spare the gore but, heading to the orchard yesterday at noon, to collect eggs and have a chat with the hens, I was very surprised not to see all three out pecking & scratching in their enclosure in the shade of the apple trees.    Everything was eerily quiet . . . and the only hen visible was Ruby, looking scrawny & hen-pecked as usual, but also acting worried and wary.  At first, I thought the other two were in the nesting box, but no.  Coop & nesting box were empty.  It was only then that I noticed , in one corner of the enclosure . . .  a pile of feathers and a corpse:  Mauricette.  No visible signs of injury, just dead, on her side. On further inspections, in another corner of the enclosure, I found a different pile of feathers

but no corpse.  That would have been Florence (missing, presumed dead).

We took Gibbs out in the orchard, where he sniffed and followed a scent trail which stopped at the boundaries of the orchard and a neighbour’s garden.  We even had Moka, a neighbour’s labrador) out in the orchard, who sniffed and followed the exact same scent trail as Gibbs.  There were more Florence feathers the other side of the fence . . . so with our Sherlock Holmes cap on (plus the husband googling fox hunting habits) we deduce that deaths were caused by a fox even though it occured in broad daylight.

We’d been lucky up until now.  We’ve lived here for 7 years, and kept hens for 6 years.  This is the first time hens have fallen prey to a predator.  Anyway . . . Ruby, as I say, was completely shell-shocked yesterday, poor thing.  Yesterday evening, we moved her back to the hen coop in the veggie garden.  And I got on the phone to our usual hen breeder.

This morning we went and collected 3 new laying hens:  a black & tan, a red hen, and a French blue.  I’ll show you photos as soon as they’re settled in and brave enough to leave the coop.  In the meantime, Ruby is even more worried, because of the 3 strange birds in the coop.

Saying that, it didn’t stop her laying an egg in the nesting box earlier today!  I hope she gets on well with the new hens and that her plumage eventually grows back to its former glory.

best layer of the month # August

You wouldn’t think it to look at her, but August’s best layer of the month is Ruby (again), still looking very scrawny on the right of this photo.  She’s been going through a massive moult this summer and her golden feathers are taking an age to grow back, despite extra vitamins.  I suspect she’s also being somewhat hen-pecked by the others too.  However, that hasn’t put her off her egg-laying.

Total eggs collected this month: 70.  Of those, Mauricette (far left in photo) laid 21. Florence (centre) laid 23. And Ruby laid 26.  So well done Ruby – she’s a star!

 

best layer of the month # July

Using a photo from my archives today, as 3 eggs in the nesting box has been a regular sight this month.  Hens have all been laying more or less the same amount, with a few days off due to the excessive heat.  For the month of July there were a total of 70 eggs (which is quite low).  Mauricette laid 21, Florence laid 24 and it’s Ruby the red hen who wins the “best layer award” this month with 25 eggs.

I need to buy some vitamins to add to their drinking water. Ruby, despite being the best layer this month, is looking very scrawny, with lots of baldness around her head & neck.  She had a big moult not long ago and feathers seem to be taking their time to grow back – hence the need for extra vitamins.

best layer of the month #June

Gosh, June has flown by!  Time to do the egg count in the coop.  For this month, hens laid a total of 75 eggs.  Ruby came in third place with 23, Mauricette in second place with 25 and it was Florence, June’s best layer with 27 !  Here she is, strutting her stuff, and looking very pleased with herself!

best layer of the month # May

Weather is warming up.  Kiwi vine is in flower.  Days are getting long, and it’ll soon be time to move the hens to their summer quarters in the orchard. In the meantime, they’re still in their enclosure in the vegetable garden, and laying well.  For this month, of 31 days, I collected a total of 76 eggs.  24 – Ruby, 25 – Florence, and it was Mauricette who wins best layer of the month, with 27 eggs.

best layer of the month # April

Three eggs snuggling in the nest hasn’t been a very regular sight this month as Ruby is having a massive moult, and that’s put her off her laying.  Just as well the other two gals are being productive! Total egg count for April is 67.  Ruby laid only 16, Florence laid 25 and Mauricette laid 26.   Mauricette is in the husband’s bad books at the moment, so is obviously trying to redeem herself!  She kept escaping the coop earlier in the month, flying over the fencing, then pecking & scratching at freshly sown seeds, which earned her a “I’m going to wring her neck!” threat from the husband.  I clipped feathers on one wing.  Seemed to have solved the problem until Mauricette learned to helicopter up onto the roof of the nesting box, then glide over the fencing and out.  Where she then set to pecking & scratching at more freshly sown seeds.  That earned her a “where’s my shotgun?” threat from the husband . . . and ended up in my spending an hour or so rigging up some netting higher up, to prevent further escape.

Anyway, for the time being Mauricette is staying inside the enclosure, and not getting into any trouble.  Which is just as well since another thing hens like is sand . . . and our asparagus are doing so well, we don’t want any fowl interference.