we got our first egg today!

when we moved to sunflower river, the four chickens that we moved over from Mulberry House (‘s and my previous place) had just stopped laying for the winter. they’d been gradually tapering off throughout October, and the move itself was enough to stop them laying for the winter. the shorter day lengths combined with fierce cold within a couple weeks after we moved.

since then, one of those hens (Breaca, the original Barred Rock, and my favorite) was eaten by what i strongly suspect was a coyote, we got several more from a feed store up the street that sells pullets, two more hens were eaten by a hawk (including our little Silky, Cory, and one of the new Rhode Island pullets), and one of the older girls (Crest, the “80’s punk hair” hen, for those who knew them) died of what we believe to be natural causes (age), as did one of the young Rhode Islands–that was more of a mystery. We have done a LOT of coop-work since then, and their run–a chicken-wire + livestock-fencing enclosure approximately 16×20’–is very well protected now from attacks by land or by air. at the moment, we have six chickens, of whom only one, Ora, is from that original flock. the others are pullets we’ve been raising–young birds not old enough yet to lay, just now entering their first laying season, now that it’s warming on toward spring.

not that it’s warm out there today; it’s not. but somebody laid an egg anyhow! it’s a deep brown, so we suspect that Penny, our Rhode Island Red, laid it. Three of the birds are Americaunas, who will lay green/blue eggs (Ora consistently lays pale green eggs– see icon: Ora’s is the pale green one, Crest’s the white one, Cory’s the small one on the right, and Breaca’s the pale brown one), and the other two birds are Barred Rocks, who will lay pale brown eggs. We can’t tell the Barred Rocks apart yet, so as yet, they don’t have names. The Americaunas are Ora, Washington (she’s a silver americauna) and “the other auracauna.”

Here are the girls, except for Penny:

That’s Washington and Ora in front, the other Americauana pecking the ground behind Ora, and the two black-and-white birds are the Barred Rocks.

And here’s Washington, who is possibly the smartest of the lot except for Ora, posing for the camera:

So this is good news, that Penny gave us the first egg of spring, because we’ve been wondering whether she’d be worth keeping in the flock. she’s got something wrong with her feet. we thought at first that she was ill with something viral, because she couldn’t stand up for long or walk straight, and her wing droops (all of which are symptoms of contagious disease in chickens–hence the question of viability). so we separated her from the flock, gave her her own pen and feeder and all. During her quarantine, she didn’t get worse, did continue to eat at a healthy rate, and closer observation (largely on the part of revealed that she was using her wing to balance herself upright when her feet wouldn’t work properly; hence the droop. her feet cross over each other when she tries to walk far, so she doesn’t really range much, and doesn’t leave the henyard when we let the others out to roam. having come to the conclusion that she’s fundamentally healthy, we reintegrated her into the flock. nobody else has gotten sick, so that has worked well. she hangs out in the roosting box most of the time, venturing out to eat and drink. We decided that if she proved a valuable member of the laying flock, she could stay, and if not, she’d become soup and provide our first animal-harvest learning experience, which is going to come sooner or later.

But i’d rather have another layer, and it looks very likely that she’s that!

This photo is from autumn: neither of the dark red birds are Penny, but you can see how her coloring differs from the orangey-tan Americaunas. The two dark red ones are the Rhode Islands that we lost earlier in the winter; Penny looks just like them, but she sits more. The paler red-orange one is Ora, and the black and white in front of her was Crest. The one headed out of the photo is one of the Barred Rocks.

Yay, eggs!