Tuesday, 14 April 2009

We shell overcome*

We have been having trials and tribulations with our chickens of late. We have had blood, guts and gore. In fact awful things have been happening.

The first was the death of a bantam. Brian found it at the crack of doom, decapitated, blood splattered over the inside of the coop.

Then things started happening to the eggs. They were laid and then they were pecked. Shell, yolk and white everywhere. We didn't have a single whole egg for days.

Then bantam Number Two went the same way as bantam Number One (but with slightly more head and a little less blood on the walls.) More eggs were pecked. Not so 'Chicken Run' any more, unless you imagine it as a new version as directed by Quentin Tarantino.

We immediately suspected the new birds and started removing the ones that looked the most suspicious. These girls have had a tough start in life. Where the bantams were fluffy little country bumpkins and not street wise at all, the new ones were Girlz from the Hood, all ferocious of beak and feisty of attitude. These birds would look at you and say "Dead bantam? Whatever. Loser." Then strut off to eat another egg.

These had their wings clipped and a cable tie put on a leg for ID purposes. Still the eggs were pecked, but we did have a couple of sunny days with fluffy bottomed hens scratching prettily around the vegetable garden. They may murder each other and eat their babies, but they're still cute.

But still the eggs got pecked, although (touch wood) there have been no more bloody feathery corpses in the morning. But no more pretty white bantam eggs either. Happy Easter from the brown hens.

We tried mustard eggs for a few days. They enjoyed eating those too.

So Brian spent yesterday constructing a roll away egg box. This required many hours spent in the company of the murderous birds (amazing how innocent they can look, scratching around, fluffy bottoms in the air.) He observed a hen sneak away under the potting bench, so he followed her and found her adding to an impressive clutch of eggs. It seems she had found away of hiding her eggs from her egg-pecking peers. She laid another one there today too. But it's not just her. Her contribution today has been joined by yet another one. It's almost as if they're laying a trail across the garden to a nice, secretive nesting place.

As for the roll away nest box - it works! (See picture).

* "We Shell Overcome" is the heading suggested by Brian. I think he has spent too long with the hens.

UPDATE: In a previous post I wrote about Itsy (aka The Prettiest Pony in the World) who had a hoof abscess. She's all better now and today had a visit from the farrier for a hoof trim. All, it seems, is well again.


  1. Oh, dear.. no suggestions, sorry! Does put me off having chickens though. Good luck.

  2. Wow! I learn so much from reading your posts. (That's learning about farming, cooking ... and always about writing.)

    Thank you, dear Mags.

  3. Bizarrely we have had similar experiences (minus the decapitated bird...) with eggs in the nesting boxes being partially eaten. We also suddenly had fewer eggs being laid (but they may have been stolen/eaten)and our hens were also becoming very agitated/nervous and started to lay soft shelled eggs whilst some hens were becoming egg bound... eventually managed to track it down to a marauding moor hen (of all things). Moor hens can be quite viscious and this one was terrifying our girls and then eating the eggs.

    So I took great pleasure in terrifying the moor hen and after a few days of concentrated effort it has decided to find easier pickings. Woe betide it if it returns.

  4. Ewwwww what a sight to greet you, and what a shame, poor banties. I do hope that your new ones settle down soon.

  5. I love the picture of the secret hideaway for the eggs, and clever Brian to make the roll away thing AND for suggesting 'We shell overcome' - I think it's a good pun anyway. Why are they eating the eggs, are they getting enough grit or whatever it is they need?

  6. How soul destroying! Glad the roll away egg box is working though. If you want to try to cure them, try a rubber egg. Peck as they might, they won't break it, and hopefully the lack of success will put them off for good.

  7. Sounds awful - we have had a couple of soft shelled eggs but nothing on this scale. I like the roll away egg box (and the blog title!). Good luck with retrieving the rural idyll from the hands (beaks?) of the Girlz.

  8. Sounds horrendous, decapitated chickens. Urgh. Mine won't lay in the nesting box anymore since the new birds came, they will only lay in the straw bales, and despite putting a rubber egg into the nice, clean, softly fresh nesting box no hen will lay there. I suspect, like yours, a few are laying away, but I'm yet to discover where.

  9. NZ experience, my hen'rietta being attacked had an infestation:(
    dust the nesting boxes and roosts with derris powder
    Very few eggs eaten, only when there was a lack of protien - I was new to hen keeping and was told this by the neighbour, 70yr + ex shepherd/farmer, hens need protien and if you don't supply it they eat the eggs to get it - go figure. Soft shelled eggs lack of grit. Hope this helps:)

  10. I feel for you when things go wrong with the hens - ours do strange things too from time to time and it is so puzzling. Best of luck with yours - love the post title and the roll-away box.

  11. Aha, my suspicions are confirmed...chickens AREN'T all niceness and fluff - they're vicious nasty creatures!
    Yup, have to confess I'm looking forward to five days in the sun with no work to do - but quite agree about the child-free aspect - I did try to nab a seat for James but 'budget won't allow'. Heck, if Disney can't afford one small extra child, y ou have to worry!

  12. I would check for Polecats ref. the decapitation . . . Don't think the hens would do that but it IS classic Polecat treatment. We gave up our last few ducks after a Polecat managed to get through the tiniest crack into their home and murdered them one by one . . .

    What a wonderfully inventive husband you have! And glad that Itsy is all mended now too . . .


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