Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Saga Continues

This past week has been super crazy so I didn't have time to share the great news until now.

We have collected our first eggs!

I went out Friday morning to feed and water our birds and goats and thought that I should go into the coop and check for eggs. The chickens are getting old enough now that I had been thinking that we would get eggs any day. Plus, I like to check out the coop every other day or so to check on the most recent vandalism. Right now there are a lot of bare bales of straw in there (we're currently working on fixing that) and the chickens and goats just love to pull it all apart.

Anyway, when I went in Friday there was an egg on the floor. It was a little smaller than a chicken egg that you would get from the grocery store, but not super small. I read that when chickens first lay eggs they will be small but get larger as the chicken matures. I came back later in the afternoon to check around for more eggs and found the little one on the left in the picture up on one of the straw bales. It was so tiny! This picture doesn't really do justice to the size of the eggs. They're not like song bird egg tiny, but there is a definite difference in size than what you would get at the store.

I checked again on Saturday and then today and there was one more egg each day, both of them teeny like the second egg, which is sorta weird. As near as I can figure, we have just one chicken laying eggs right now, and her first one was just strangely large.

I decided to cook all four eggs today, and found out that the first one was indeed strange, as it had two yolks. I scrambled them and then the three big kids and I ate them. Everyone was so excited to be eating our very first eggs. I have to admit, it was sort of weird to me to be eating a something that one of our pets produced, but eggs are eggs, I guess.

I know that I write about our animals a lot, but it's funny to me that we have ended up with the flock that we have when you consider what we tried to get. When we first moved into this house, there was a flock of seven ducks that roamed around the yard. There were two females and five males. We could tell which were female because they had very few feathers on their necks, backs and tails and they were covered with bite marks. Apparently two females weren't enough to satisfy the appetites of the five males, if you get my drift. Those poor girls. I would hear frantic quacking from the yard so I would open the door and yell "No means no!" but by that time the male would already be finished with his business. It was just their foreplay that was so rough.

Then the ducks started to disappear one by one. In the fall there were one female and three males left. One of the males was quite a bit larger than the others and he was obviously the alpha. He didn't let the others near the female so her sores healed and her feathers grew back. I was hoping that we would get some ducklings from her in the spring, but one day the rest of our small flock disappeared. We think that coyotes got them.

The point of this whole story is that after watching how abused the females were, we decided that we only wanted female birds. The idea of eating fertilized eggs kind of grossed me out, too, so on the day that we bought our first batch of birds, we requested all females. The people at the store said that they could give sexing the chickens a try and figured that they would be about 98% accurate with them. Ducks are different and too hard to sex so we just had to guess with them.

We randomly selected four ducks - two mallards and two domestic. Then we got three Leghorn chickens, which came from the chicken hatchery pre-sexed. We were told that they were guaranteed pullets, which is chicken-speak for pre-laying hens. Guaranteed female? Great! Then the lady attempted to sex two Barred Rocks and a Rhode Island Red for us, giving us those which she thought were female. A few days later I saw some Bantams and couldn't resist their cute little tiny fluffiness so I got three of them. My ultimate goal was to end up with a flock of eight to ten hens and no roosters.

If you read my Lady McBennett blog, you know that a lot of our birds died. Here are the amusing and ironic facts:

  • Of the first three Leghorns (which were guaranteed female, you remember) only one is still living. His name is Foghorn and he love-love-loves to crow.
  • We totally lucked out by getting a male and female each of the mallards and domestic ducks. They make cute little couples, always going everywhere together. The mallards are especially affectionate and are rarely found apart from each other. Even though we wanted all females, so far they seem to be quite content in their separate relationships and maybe we'll end up with some ducklings.
  • The two Barred Rocks did indeed end up being female, so mad props to the lady at CAL Ranch for her chicken sexing abilities.
  • Maybelline, our Rhode Island Red, just showed her true colors one day last week as she attempted to mount the male mallard. Not only is she obviously not female, she, I mean he, has his species and gender preferences all mixed up.
  • Mike won a chicken at a church party last month, and it ended up being, you guessed it, a rooster.
So our current bird population stands as follows:

  • Three confirmed roosters, one of which was a "guaranteed" female.
  • Two cute little pairs of male and female ducks.
  • Two confirmed hens. (yes!)
  • Four youngish chicks, gender as yet undetermined.
All I can say is that those four babies had better end up being female. While having roosters around isn't really a problem (yet) and I don't mind their crowing, we will probably end up killing them or trying to find someone who wants a living alarm clock.

All in all, we bought 27 chickens and four ducks. The chickens we wanted for eggs as well as pets and the ducks we bought on a whim to have as pets. Of those 31 birds, all of which were supposed to be female, only 13 are still alive. Of those 13, at least five of them are male. 18 of 31 died. That's over a 58% mortality rate! At least our mortality rate for our children is at far.

It just goes to show that no matter how much you may plan, life will be what it wants to be and you'd better just roll with it.

And if anyone ever tells you that something is guaranteed, take it with a grain of salt.

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