Thursday, September 3, 2009

A watched chicken never lays

If there was ever a way to turn a person into an anxious neurotic lunatic, waiting for chickens to lay their first egg is now tops on my list. I check the nest boxes, coop and run at least two times a day - sometimes 173 times a day. Each time I search every square inch of their living area and come up empty. It's so frustrating because according to everything I've read, it's time. Honestly it's like the longest labor you've ever experienced. I've boiled the water, fetched clean towels, called the doctor and now I'm just sitting around watching the signs and waiting for "it" to happen. And I've come to realize that much like a watched pot never boils, a watched chicken never lays.

Here are a few signs that means a hen is ready to lay:

1) They're old enough to lay. Around age 5 months is a typical laying time. Mine are over 5 months old. Yes, I know some chickens are late bloomers, but mine feel like early birds to me.
2) They have bright red combs and wattles. Check. Red as raspberries.
3) They start doing the "egg squat." This is a submissive posture chickens do right before they lay. Yup. Egg Squat City.
4) There's a 4th thing that is something to do with their pelvic bones, but I'm not that intimately personal with the hens, so I'm okay with knowing we've got items 1-3 on the list, thank you very much.

Everything I've read online says that most chickens tend to lay about a week after they begin the egg squat. Mine have been old enough, red enough and squatty enough for almost two weeks and we're still buying store-bought eggs. I was seething in the grocery store yesterday as I bought a half-dozen box of $4 organic free-range eggs and was picturing my hens sitting in their coop with tightly-crossed legs holding out until I dropped the money on yet another box of overpriced "hen-friendly" eggs.

I've even sculpted the hay and shavings in their nest boxes into a nest shape with the hopes of enticing them. No luck. They get in there and hold a mini kick-boxing tournament with the nest contents leaving the nest boxes almost empty by evening.

And I put a golf ball into each nest with the idea that they'd see it and think that's a good place to lay an egg. All they do is kick the golf balls out of the nest boxes with great chicken disdain.

Maggie spends a good bit of her day wandering in and out of the nest boxes, which is a good sign. Sookie and Clementine aren't quite as interested, but I have seen them peering at the Titleists I stole from Farmer B's golf bag with curiosity.

But no #*@*$( eggs!

Listen you freeloading hens! It's time to ante up! I have a new quiche recipe, a hankerin' for some eggs on toast and I'm about to have a therapy bill for my newfound first-egg neurosis. It's time for me to lay down the law! Sadly I think that might be the only laying that goes on here this week. But watch and wait I do….again…

(Remind me of this when I have too many eggs and can't possibly eat them all and can't find enough people to give them too).


Brandi Parshley said...

Hehe! Too funny! One of our first hens didn't lay until she was 8 months! It's such a wonderful surprise when you've given up and then you open up the coop one day to find a perfect little brown egg.

The Hip Homemaker said...

I am right there with you. Except I got it in my head that they should lay at 3 months, so I have been waiting FOREVER!!! Good luck with the insanity!

Lo said...

aww Kate you crack me up! Ryan calls you the chicken lady when I mention you, LOL Cant wait for the news!!

Darla said...

You are crazy....don't you think the hens are feeling just a 'little' pressure here...LOL

Erin said...

Free loading golfball kicking hens...too funny! I am sure if you went to the store and bought one of those huge boxes of eggs you would come home to some eggs, lol! Maybe they are waiting for the cooler weather like me :)

Daphne Gould said...

I think Erin is right. Buy a whole bunch of those expensive eggs. As soon as you get them home you will find your first eggs. As long as those chickens know you need them they are going to hold out on you. When you give up on them, that is when you will get your eggs.

Momma_S said...

Haha! Too funny! My first thought was, "Maybe they're a little plugged up, and need more fiber in their diet." LOL!

Unknown said...

Hee hee...hey, remember the Click Quack Moo book you've probably read with your sons? Don't be too hard on those Ladies of Laying or they might go on strike with their cow friends.
No milk.
No Eggs.

And definitely don't let them near a typewriter! ;O) hee hee

Can you knit? Maybe busying yourself with knitting egg cozies would help?

Jamie said...

I'm right there with ya girl! Our hen Geraldine laid her first egg two weeks after she turned four months old, but Edith just started laying this week (two weeks later) and Echo, our RI Red has yet to do anything other than cheer on her sisters. I can't wait until I go out and see three eggs in the nest!

Tessa said...

You're too funny! And I'm so glad you're writing about your chickens because I'm hoping to add them to my garden some day- very funny and educational!

Daphne Gould said...

I left you a meme on my blog if you want to join in. Sundays post.

Deena said...

Dear Kate... I happened upon your blog while trying to find out if urban chicken farming was allowed in suburban Orlando. Although I still haven't found out the answer to that, I have thoroughly enjoyed your blog. I had to call my best friend in Raleigh and read some of it to her. She was having a grumpy morning but by the time we hung up she laughing and happy. She asked me to please send the URL to your blog so she could read it too! I also loved the story of your lovely dog who passed in Feb. I had a once in a lifetime dog too. I had been having trouble conceiving with our first child when I lost my beloved Rasta. Two months after his death, I was due to begin infertility treatment and found out I was pregnant. I always say he asked God to send me a baby to heal my broken heart over his passing. It's really amazing how a dog can touch your heart and change your life forever. Anyway, LOVE your blog!

Corner Gardener Sue said...

Oh, Kate, you cracked me up! I wish you had eggs from your own chickens to crack, though. What a fun post, even though you are having difficulty waiting.

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