It was my intention that The Great Chicken Adventure was to be a three-part blog, culminating in the discovery of eggs. I am many things, but one thing that I am not is a tease. There have been many discoveries since I last wrote about the arrival of hens in my back yard, but eggs are not among them.
Those of you who follow The Great Chicken Adventure may well be a little trepidatious. Did I not threaten one of them (probably Constance) with plucking and stuffing for thanksgiving if they did not produce eggs soon?
Well, fear not. Constance has turned out to be quite a charmer. I am still not convinced that she not the dimmest bulb in the flock. However, she has developed a friendly demeanor that includes running up to greet me when I walk out to see how the girls are doing. Abigail, on the other hand, was an early favorite of mine and has turned out to be somewhat aloof and not a little snotty. Her latest parlor-trick is to sleep in the nesting boxes and produce prodigious amounts of poop while doing so. This brought about a swift modification to the coop to ensure that the nesting boxes are sealed off at night. Since chickens lay eggs during the day (or so I am told), this barrier is removed when I open up the coop in the morning and the nesting boxes are open for business. Not that the hens have noticed.
Different breeds start producing eggs at different times. Different conditions encourage or discourage the laying of eggs. During the shorter days of winter, for example, there is usually a 50% drop in egg production. On average, hens begin to lay eggs at around 6 months. Mine are at about that (give or take a week or two) just about now, so eggs could be imminent. Conversely, the change in weather may complicate matters and it could be spring before I see breakfast in the nesting boxes.
So why corn and brussel sprouts for thanksgiving and not the cruelest of revenge upon the hapless Abigail? Well, gentle reader, I discovered that I was not the only one with designs upon the tasty meat of my hens. The usually quiet girls were kicking up quite a din one morning and, as I headed out of my back door to see what the fuss was about, I glanced out of the window and got quite a shock. There, sitting beside the coop, on the handle of an abandoned dolly, was what I subsequently discovered was a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk, better known as a “chicken hawk”. I snapped this picture through the window with my phone before I disrupted it by crashing through the back door. Is it me or is that drool dripping from its beak?
So I am going to spare the members of my non-productive flock and be a little more patient. At this time of year, my local supermarket stocks brussel sprouts on the stalk and long-stalk artichokes. Both make visual impact for your Thanksgiving Table and, let’s face it, are just plain fun to buy.
One final note.
Artichokes are weeds which will grow anywhere in almost any soil conditions. These, admittedly, are fine specimens of the type. However, if you are half-way inclined to eat fresh artichokes – and I, for one am not, they are entirely too fiddly for too little pay-off – then consider growing them yourself. Just like tomatoes, you will wonder if you will ever have anything edible. Just as you reach the point of frustration, they will bloom and proliferate like the weeds that they are. Artichokes may seem like a good idea at the time of planting, but, mark my words, come harvest time, the only plant more invasive than the humble artichoke is bamboo.