As we wrap up the Christmas holidays, I get a daily preview of the next “big” holiday, Easter. You see, my little free range hens like to lay eggs where they wish (rarely IN the roost I provided). For awhile, I assumed they’d quit laying for the winter, and in the case of my tattered, bedraggled hen that is Marble’s favorite toy, quit laying due to trauma. Then one weekend I was out in the backyard and lo and behold, in the corner was a nest of pine needles with over a dozen eggs. Given that more than half were small, that meant my young hen has begun laying. It also means that Miss Bedraggled is probably not laying. I don’t blame her.
No sooner do I locate their stash of laid eggs when they decide to lay somewhere else. The nesting site is clearly compromised. As it is winter, there’s not a lot of green stuff to hide in back there. You’d think that would make it easier to spot the eggs. Well, yes and no.
It’s dark when I get up. It’s dark when I get home. Quite frequently I end up waiting until Saturday to locate their stash. I send Mr. Smarty-Pants out looking when he gets home in the afternoons, but since the eggs are not filled with candy, he doesn’t look very hard.
Lately, I have competition. The dogs don’t mind the dark or the cold. Well, at least Marble doesn’t and Zeke braves it long enough to do his business and hunt down an egg. I haven’t found any eggs for a week…aside from the ones in his mouth. I’m sure the first time he found one he thought, “Ooh, a ball!” Then he crunched and it turned into, “Ooooooh, a tasty ball.”
It seems I need to step up my game if I want to get any eggs. It doesn’t help that the neighbor’s dog killed one of my hens. I first assumed it was Miss Bedraggled, but no, she’s a survivor, that one. The neighbor apologized. I wasn’t mad. These things happen and it was the stupid chickens that decided on a field trip to the neighbor’s yard. However, she seemed utterly bewildered when I declined her offer of the bird’s corpse.
Hmm, let’s see. Your dog mauled my hen several hours ago, AND she falls into the “tough old bird” category at this point. Yeah, I think I’ll pass, but if you want to cook her up, you go right ahead.
I was, of course, a bit more tactful than the dialogue in my head.
Yesterday I was chatting with her husband over the fence after Mr. Smarty Pants collected the silly chickens from another field trip. (Yes, it’s time to clip some wings again. You’d think they’d learn, but not so much.) He also mentioned the hen that had been killed and apologized. I brushed it off, stating that Marble had gotten Miss Bedraggled more than once, but with doctoring she was doing fine. He then proceeded to explain that in his dog’s case the hen’s guts were all out and….. yeah I tuned out then. Ewwww.
I have to say that Marble does not intend harm when she plays with the hens, unlike the neighbor’s dogs. She merely has a feather obsession. “Must, play with FEATHERS!” It isn’t her fault that she’s 75lb of feather loving playfulness and they are three pounds of thin-skinned feather balls. I suspect the tiny bird she killed at the beginning of the summer was an accident. She likely put her paw on it to make it be still so she could investigate its feathers and broke its neck.
When she injured Miss Bedraggled or the one bird I put out of it’s misery way back, they are, in all honesty, surface wounds. The skin is torn and that’s it. Chickens don’t have thick skin and there’s really nothing between their paper thin dermis and the muscle beneath. Yank a fist full (or in Marble’s case, mouth full) of feathers the wrong direction and you get what looks exactly like the stuff in the packages at the store, only it’s still walking and clucking.
Yes, that’s a bit disturbing.
Marble is also just smart enough to know that messing with the hens is a foolproof way to be let in the house instantly. One day earlier this week, I had her outside most of the morning while I was cleaning. I checked on her periodically, and she ignored the hens until I failed to let her in when she barked her request.
About ten minutes later she’s laying in the yard with Miss Bedraggled under one paw. She isn’t, however messing with her, but rather keenly looking at the back door. She sees me. I give her the command through the glass, “Leave it.” She eyes me smugly and tilts her head down just a bit– a threat. I open the door and she immediately releases Miss Bedraggled.
That’s my competition for the daily egg hunt. Eggsellent.