Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Homestead: Fake Eggs

StellaWell, no one can ever say that I have never had my finger inside of a live chicken. While there’s not a ton going on at the homestead this time of year, the chickens have been keeping me pretty busy. But tonight takes the cake.

Whitey was acting strange all day. She’s usually the sketchiest one of the girls, so her allowing me to pet her was definitely out of the ordinary. With her being so lethargic, I decided that it would be best to bring her inside for the night. She can be warm and get plenty of rest, plus if she had something contagious this will hopefully keep the other birds from getting it.

I did some research and found that the three most common issues would be mites, worms, or being egg-bound. I checked her for mites and was good there, and I have to wait for her to poop to check for worms, so the next thing on the list was to check for a stuck egg.

I felt her belly and didn’t feel an egg or anything abnormal, so the next way to see if she has a stuck egg is to reach inside and feel. I enlisted my nine-year-old step son to help and we scooped her up. I put on a latex glove and smeared some medical lubricant on my finger. We parted the feathers around Whitey’s vent and as he giggled nervously and backed up a couple of steps he commented that her vent looked like a mouth. He didn’t get any closer.

I felt up inside the vent to see I could feel an egg, and found nothing. I still have to check for worms in the morning, but am hoping she just had a rough day and wasn’t feeling well. I doubt very much that my finger helped, but we won’t really know until tomorrow.

With the unrelenting cold forcing the chickens to stay inside more than normal, we’ve had some behavioral issues as well. Stella had taken to eating her own and the other hens’ eggs. She was definitely the instigator, trying to get to eggs that hadn’t even been laid yet by pecking at the other hens as they laid in the nesting box. But once the eggs were cracked, it was a noisy free-for-all that left all the chickens with with yolk on them.

This was a problem for the obvious reason that we were getting only an egg or two a day, and also in the nasty behavior department. They had plenty of water, and the eggs we were getting had rock-hard shells so it wasn’t a calcium deficiency. Sometimes an egg will just break on it’s own and once they get a taste, the chickens can’t help themselves.

But since it was such a serious issue and not a random egg now and then, I had to take action. I checked the coop as often as I could, and made sure they had more than enough food and water, as well as giving them supplemental treats like mealworms and fresh greens. Nothing I did for the first couple of weeks worked.

So I ordered some fake eggs, made of ceramic. They arrived and looked exactly like the eggs Brownie lays, and best of all, they are rock hard. They’re so realistic that I added a big “F” to each egg in permanent marker so I could tell they weren’t real eggs.

I opened the coop and tossed the two fake eggs into the corner area where the girls lay. Immediately Stella came over and started checking them out. She eyed them all sorts of ways, tilting her head this way and that. Suddenly, she took a shot and pecked one of the eggs.

Her beak and head bounced off the egg with a loud and sharp “crack.” She once again eyed the eggs and then wandered off. The next morning there were four real eggs in the corner in addition to the two fake ones, and we’ve been getting between four and six eggs a day ever since. I may have to occasionally stick my finger into a chicken butt, but at least now I can keep getting eggs in return.

 

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Justin A Levine

Having grown up in the southern Adirondacks, Justin has always been at home in the mountains of New York. After graduating from Paul Smiths College, he began his career in the environmental field working for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. After a brief five year detour to Florida, Justin returned to the Adirondacks to live off the grid in a small cabin with no running water or electricity.

Justin continues to work and play in the outdoors, and maintains a blog about living off grid, hiking, and being outside in the Adirondacks called Middle of the Trail.







4 Responses

  1. Rose Anne says:

    So good to hear from you, Justin!

  2. Tim-Brunswick says:

    Wasn’t eggxactly what I expected, but there’s nothing like a little “Fowl News” to break up a long dreary winter…….

  3. adkDreamer says:

    Justin – I love your ingenuity! Great story, very entertaining and it started my day with a chuckle and of course – a cackle.

  4. DebbT says:

    I always enjoy your posts, Justin…keep up the good work, and thank you for sharing a little bit of your life with this “Armchair Adirondacker”

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