August 11, 2010

Of Molting and Egg Eaters

First, the chickens are molting. There are enough feathers in the run to assemble a seventh chicken. If you didn't know better you'd think a chicken had been ravaged by a weasle or racoon or opposum.

The chickens look pretty funny too. One is missing all the feathers around her neck and the new feathers look like really coarse white stubble. Another one has no tail feathers left, except one - like she is flying a flag out her toosh.

Of course this is normal fall (can you belive fall is here already?!) activity. They molt and grow back new feathers for the winter. The down side of molting is that they also lay-off the laying. We are averaging 2-4 eggs per day, not the 5-6 we were getting three weeks ago. And to top that off, we may have an egg eater on our hands.

Twice in the past couple of weeks we have found just the yolk and white in the nest box; no sign of shell. Chickens need calcium to keep their shells strong. We supplement with oyster shell in their feed, but apparently we haven't added enough. So it seems that one of the chickens decided to eat eggshell instead. The problem is that eggs are yummy and once the chicken gets the taste for egg, it's like a shark on an open wound, no way to get her to stop.

What to do? First we have to figure out if we have an egg eater and then who the offender is. I think the only option, as I have read online and in other blogs, is to catch her in the act. Problem is that we are not home for 8 hours of the day and we sleep for another 8 hours - if my math is correct that only leaves a third of the day within which to see a chicken eat an egg. I'm sure eventually we'll figure out who it is. Unfortunately, the only course of action, as far as I can tell is to kill the chicken. I'm not opposed to killing our farm animals for food; however, I have grown to like some of the chickens. What if the offender is Pearl?! I can't kill Pearl!

8-14-2010 Update
It's official, we have an egg eater. Today I was down doing chores and one of the Buff Orpingtons laid an egg. Just after she left the hen house, one of the Light Brahmas went in. I peaked in through the door and sure enough, she was sitting there eating the egg. That hen is now in the bard in a cage awaiting her fate. (PS - I'm so glad it's not Pearl!)

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