Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Giddy Moments

This is Patti. Patti is one of our two Partridge Cochin hens, both of whom are named Patti, and both of whom had not yet started laying. We had decided we had to have a Cochin because friends of ours had a Buff Cochin, also named Patti, and she was everyone's absolute favorite hen!! Of course, it was after we placed the order for our cochins (we got partridge to be a little different) that we found out their Patti was really a rooster. In hindsight, if we had known that we would've ordered Buff Cochins as well in the hopes of being able to breed. Of course, by the time our chicks were old enough to go outside, the very beloved Patti had been "lost to the wild." We had gotten two Cochins to make sure we had one that lived to adult-hood, since this was our first time having chickens, we didn't want to run the risk of Murphy's Law. They both of course (Murphy's Law?) lived, and Shannon decided that they both should be named Patti. How can you argue with a 4 year old?
When we decided to get chickens, the question of how many we ultimately wanted was a big one. At first, as I was trying to convince Justin that this was a simply must-have thing, I told him I would be ok with just 3 or 4 hens. After all, we have never been big egg eaters, so why would we need a lot of chickens? Of course, then I looked at all the breeds and types of chickens there are. Then I learned about heirloom chickens, and how breeds of chickens are in danger of going extinct. I checked out breeds that were known for being quiet and calm, as well as good in cold weather. That last one seems to be a very, big, cruel joke, as here we are in mid-February and having days in the mid-60's. But, I digress.
One thing I did notice is that some breeds are more prolific egg layers than others. Since we were now at having 8 birds (instead of 3 or 4), this wasn't too big of an issue. I knew Cochins and Brahmas weren't prolific egg layers, but ~ meh, we aren't big egg eaters! What they DIDN'T tell us in the catalogs is that there is no set time when birds begin laying, and that it can and DOES vary a lot between breeds!!!
Right around the age of 6 months old our Buff Orpingtons began laying. Shortly thereafter we lost a Buff Orpington and a Dark Brahma. We then acquired two Americaunas (ooohh .. they lay blue & green eggs!), who although they were 2 months younger, also began laying right around 6 - 7 months of age. We get almost an egg a day from those two! Our Dark Brahma began laying right before Christmas, at 8 months of age. With the addition of the two Americaunas to replace the two we lost, we are at a total of 6 hens. As of Christmas we were averaging between 2 & 3 eggs a day. As of February 1st we began getting almost 4 eggs a day - not too bad with only 4 of our 6 laying. And this brings us back to our Cochins. I'd read someone post that theirs' didn't start until 9 1/2 months of age.
For those of you who haven't had chickens, the thrill of the first egg is hard to describe. I can only compare it to having a good friend go into labor. I know, comparing a chicken laying an egg to a good friend giving birth is probably a good sign that something is "off" in my head ~ but that is the giddiness that you feel. Everytime you walk out to check on the chickens and suddenly spot a new egg, your body immediately starts doing a happy dance, jumping up and down, dancing around, flailing your arms, and all the while you're just trying to figure out who to call and tell first. You almost don't want to pick it up, for it may ruin the happiness of the moment.
Yesterday I went out to look for eggs, lifted the nest box, and found one of the Pattis sitting in the box, ready to lay an egg. I quickly shut the lid. Then I opened it again. Then I shut it. Then I ran back up onto the deck, where I could look down on the coop and tractor. The other chickens stood at the door to the coop, as if waiting for the moment to happen. They tend to do this whenever one of them is in the nest box, sometimes even going into the coop to wait. I think they feel the excitement too.
I stood up on the deck, listening to them. I know that when a chicken is about to lay an egg, they will make some noise. For those who don't already know, our chickens don't cluck like normal chickens - they tend to make a quacking noise like a duck that kinda sounds like they're laughing at you. So, it made me bubble over with excitement and giddiness when I heard "bwak, bwak, bwak, bwak ... BAWAK!" (that is how I am guessing you type out that chicken noise) ~ This was repeated several times. By now I was beside myself. I saw Patti finally leave, and went down there to look.
The egg on the left in the photo is from Patti. I'm not sure who laid the egg on the right. When I went down there to look after I saw that Patti had left, Bunny (who lays green eggs) was in the box as well. I saw that she had an egg coming out (a kinda cool sight), and gave her a minute. When I looked back in, she was gone and so was the egg. Only Patti's egg was there. I went to take it, but the gals started making a fuss at me. They all suddenly started making that exact noise I (ever so eloquently) desribed above. I must admit it flustered me, and I felt as if I had somehow made a very huge faux-pas amongst the chickens. I left the egg and went back up to the deck. Not good enough, they knew I was up there watching them, and they continued to fuss at me. I finally went inside. Apparently, it isn't good chicken manners to immediately try and confiscate a 1st timer's egg!!
When I went out a little bit later, there was another brown egg laying next to Patti's, and I was able to take the picture. I still was curious about the green egg. It wasn't in the nest box, and wasn't outside. I opened the coop and found it there.
After I had seen Patti's egg, but been unable to take it inside, I did the above-described "Happy Dance." I opted for calling Justin first. Justin who now has 6 chickens to contend with instead of the "maybe 3 or 4". I was very pleased to hear as much excitement in his voice as was in mine. He didn't even roll his eyes at me when I asked him last night if he wanted to see the egg, he excitedly said yes and followed me to the kitchen. Now we're just as eagerly awaiting the day when we go out there to find 6 eggs.

1 comment:

Carole and Chewy said...

And people thought I was overboard about schnauzer pack behavior and our box turtles culture!
You should keep a notebook with all your notes on the chicken behavior and chicken manners -I doubt if its ever been documented before, you could be the first.
Jane Goodall, but with chickens.
(Yes I'm serious.)