Friday, April 26, 2013

Cache Discovery

Sad to report that the two buff coloured silkie chicks from the last post have died.  The black one is still fine, as is the production brown layer.  I feel really sad about the silkies.  In both cases, they were fine one evening and then dead the next morning.  So fragile, but they all had plenty of food and water, so it makes me sad when they seemed so active and healthy to lose them with no apparent reason.  Hopefully the black one will continue to be alright, because I really do like silkies and would like to have a few more in future.

Speaking of chickens, though, I had been noticing an abrupt drop in egg laying for about the past week, and thought that was strange.  I know I have a couple of potential egg-eating hens, because sometimes I find one in the nest boxes that has been eaten, as evidenced by the remainder of the shell and a gooey spot on the bedding.  Usually though, there is only one eaten egg...sometimes two.  So, I wasn't sure where the eggs were going when this sudden decrease occurred.  I did go on a walkabout to the areas where I see the hens congregate around the yard.  I peered under the wood pile and under the porch.  Hens like to lay in quiet, dark areas.  I kept checking the old dog house which I wrote about previously, but all my efforts were fruitless (eggless?)  Here are a few of my flock - Egwene in red, either Flora or Flounce on the left (two matching black hens and I never know who is who!), Mimi the cuckoo maran, and a hen from last year's hatch in the front who hasn't got an official name.

My biggest concern with a hidden cache of eggs is that eventually, a hen will decide to try to hatch them, and once a hen goes broody, she'll just sit on those eggs for 21 days, only coming off once or twice a day to grab a quick bite to eat and a drink, and to relieve herself.  If the hens had found an outdoor spot to amass their eggs, then one day I'd likely have a chicken who didn't come back to the barn at night and she'd end up as food for the raccoons or the foxes.  I looked around for shell fragments, wondering if they were laying somewhere outside and then the raccoons were eating the eggs at night, but I still wasn't finding anything.

Today, I noticed a robin fly by the barn door when I let the sheep and goats outside.  I went to take a peek to see if she was going to a nest.  My Dad made these great steps for the barn - one set for outside and another set for inside - so that the animals (and I) can easily get in and out.  This was necessary because the floor of the barn is not at the same level as the door.

Here are the steps inside the barn...
 ...and here are the matching steps outside the barn.

I went up the steps and tried to see where the robin had gone, but I couldn't see it, so I turned to come back inside.  As I went up the steps, my eyes caught a flash of white through the opening between the steps and the edge of the barn - see that little gap on the left side of the inside steps?

Would you like a closer look at that gap?

Ah yes, I know that you now see what I saw!  I came inside and peered around the bottom edge of the step, finding a little space that was just the right size for a hen on a mission.  Don't let that woolly bear caterpillar distract you from the egg!

So I lifted the steps.  OH!  Yes indeed, I had found the cache.
Indeed, there were 32 eggs in this hiding spot!

Let me tell you, the hens were NOT happy that I'd discovered their secret spot!  Here's the reaction that began when I lifted the steps.

So, I brought them all inside and cleaned them and subjected them to the float test to see if they were all fresh.  All of them passed the test with flying colours - confirming they were all very recently laid.  So, now I have an extra (almost) 4 dozen eggs to use.

Egg custard, coming right up! I'm so fond of the lovely shape of eggs, the subtle shades and colour differences, the occasional spots and speckles and the size differences.  Perfect little protein packs!

There were also a couple of interesting eggs in the batch.  I'm always intrigued by different or unusual looking eggs.  Today there was this one with a lot of extra calcium deposited on the surface.

Then there was this very unusually patterned egg.  You can see how it has a speckled surface, but the speckles disappear for about a 1/2 inch "stripe" that goes right around the egg.  I have an artist hen in my flock but I don't know who she is!


Lola Nova said...

I was just thinking this morning, when I collected eggs, that I still find it amazing to find them there.

Sorry about your chicks.

Patty Woodland said...

Stupid birds.
It's like an egg hunt around here all the time. Drives me crazy

Spinners End Farm said...

Nice cache! We generally find the hen and eggs when she has been on the nest for two weeks...each year we've had a big clutch of chicks so most of our hens now resemble one another and they are all broody like their mum! Sorry about your silkies...they are such sweet chickens but they are fragile aren't they? Xo

Nancy Craig said...

What a great mystery story! Knowing nothing of hens, I would not have thought that possible.

Lin said...

BUSTED!! Hahaha! That's so funny that you found them on accident! The Easter Bunny has nothing on these hens.

MandD said...

You live and learn. next time I will completely enclose the steps!

MandD said...

You live and learn. next time I will completely enclose the steps!

IsobelleGoLightly said...

Hee hee. Angry hens! What a lovely find! I'm glad you found them before they started to have a smell! Do you have a rooster? I think you do! Can you imagine a kamillion billions wee chicklets if the hens were broody? hee hee

Marigold said...

Ha! This is what comes from chickens who get lost in the snow. They learn how to conserve. :) And conserve. :)

edenhills said...

So glad you found their little secret hiding spot! Time to bake!

Kim said...

I had to run back to work after lunch and find your blog! See you next Thursday at Deanne's.

Willow said...

I always find these unexpected places to be so much fun to find LOL