Happy Hens Love Smiling Goat's Milk
With everything going on in the world today, I have to admit if it were not for the simple things I would worry more. The animals and farm give me a particular calm that is very much needed. Last week, after many years of telling Eric we needed laying chickens he conceded. We had talked about getting peeps to raise, but we really want eggs now. We had found a company that has pullets, or hens that were just about ready to start laying. They were more money, but we didn’t have to feed them for almost a year before they laid a single egg. We were ready. We had them in our cart and were checking out when the shipping was calculated. The shipping was over $600! Now being that we ship and know there is no way for a small outfit to get around shipping, we anticipated a higher shipping rate. If one factors in the fact that they are live birds, needed to be next day mail, are heavy, and also have to be in special boxes, it’s not surprising the shipping was so high, I get it. However, $600 will buy a lot of eggs that don’t require feed, water, and constant care.
Plan B, Eric then had the idea of checking locally. We checked Facebook, a Pennsylvania classified site, and finally Craig’s list. We have always been a bit leery of Craigslist. There is a lot of the world that is not understood by us, but if a killer has a company’s name attached to his serial killer nickname, well we tend to avoid. Never the less, we found layers for sale. The gentleman on the phone sounded older and not murdery at all, he also had not left his house in a week, was out in the country and would keep his distance. Hmmm, after reading that statement, perhaps I should rethink my definition of murdery. Anyhow, at the time it sounded perfect. We were all overdue for a change of scenery and not being in public while we were doing it. We jumped in the truck with our trusty hand sanitizer and PPE and headed down the road. As it turns out, the chickens were a 4-H project. The man’s grandson had raised them and given them names. These lovely ladies will fit in well with our farm family. We were in and out, maintained a safe distance from everyone, and had 21 laying hens ready for their new home!
When we got home my job was to catch the chickens and hand them to Eric. He would then put them in the coop. Jordan was in charge of running the door, easy peasy lemon squeezy! It really does not sound like a difficult operation until you factor in there are twenty-one chickens that apparently were not fans of truck rides and were ready to get out. As soon as we opened the cap one brave hen made her escape. We decided to just keep unloading the rest and try to catch her when we were done. Luckily, we had temporary fence up and she could only get so far. The rest of the hens were content trying to get away from my reach and scurrying away the entire time. Unfortunately for them, there was nowhere to hide and they were all caught in a few minutes. Except for Lightning, the Easter egg laying hen, who made her exit as soon as the window was open and was also running around inside the portable fence. The three of us tried to corner the hens and were able to catch the first one. Lightning was too fast, she refused to be cornered and would not get within six feet us. However, she would get close to the fence. Since the fence was unplugged and is more or less a net, we pulled two of the step-in posts out of the ground and when Lightning got close, we dropped the fence on her. She was caught! Finally, all twenty-one hens were inside the coop to settle in and get adjusted. We would soon be in the egg business.
The next day we were not expecting to find many eggs. Being that the chickens were moved and in a different environment, we figured at least a couple days to a couple weeks seemed reasonable for production to diminish. We had three eggs that day. The next day two eggs. The following day Eric saw a hen eating an egg. Our hens were lacking something or bored from being inside. I hated the thought of leaving them out too soon and then having them lay eggs all over the farm. We had no choice, we set up another portable net fence around the coop and set them out. Fingers crossed it was just a matter of boredom and they would not have the terrible habit of egg eating. It was late in the afternoon when they finally went outside, so hopefully the next day they would be back to normal.
The next morning, they were let out of the pen at daylight. They enjoyed picking at their yard and ran back and forth into the pen. However, we still only had four eggs that day. We couldn’t find any broken eggs or see any hens eating eggs, but surely production should pick up at least more than one egg. I researched chickens eating their own eggs and found out it could be one of three things: stress, lacking in diet, or boredom. Our lovely ladies could check all three boxes. Being the self proclaimed control freak, I got vitamins for their drinking water, oyster shells for calcium, and let them out in the yard as long as they pleased. Then we remembered when we had bantam chickens that ran free range, they would come in and drink the goat’s milk we had put in bowls for the pigs. If our hens were indeed lacking calcium, a bowl of goat’s milk would certainly give them a boost. Our milk bucket is just a bit over half a gallon. I set a bowl feeder in the hens’ yard and dumped in the entire bucket. The hens devoured all the milk. Within a matter of minutes, our hens drank the entire half gallon. This has to be the ticket! As the Bibbed Wonder pointed out, it isn’t like the chickens were weaned too early and still needed milk. Hopefully, they are chickens that just needed calcium boost and were devouring the milk to get the calcium they were lacking. We are going to have almost two dozen eggs a day in no time, we hope. However, I do not see us branching out into Happy Hen Eggs; smiling goats will have to suffice.