The 47th Northern Parallel

Last week it was goats chewing holes in tree bark; this week it’s hens pecking holes in eggs.  What is going on?  Why now?  I look for meaning always.

Are the animals bored in these endless 17-hour longcloudycolddays of June here on the 47th Northern parallel in the far northwest corner of the USA?  Official summer starts in 2 weeks, yet the high yesterday was 49 degrees Fahrenheit.  It’s raining and supposed to rain all week. It was light this morning at 4:30 and won’t be dark until 9:45 tonight.  We’re getting light but not heat.

I have an internet friend in Tasmania, Australia, on the 42nd Southern parallel where winter is beginning.  I didn’t know where Tasmania was a month ago, and she didn’t know where Washington was.  She has decided against getting goats, at least for now, after seeing how destructive our Pearl, LaLa and Sage can be to trees.  This cross-planet connection seems surreal.

I write to her that we wrapped 6 of the cedars with 2 foot wide, 1″ poultry wire, 6 feet up each tree and it seems to have solved the bark eating, at least for now.

It was easier to install than we thought.  The poultry wire is flexible and I pleated it and we secured it with plastic twist-ties.  We wrapped 6 cedars with a 100 foot roll.

Now it’s egg pecking.  Specifically Jane’s egg — Ameraucana blue — but the membrane isn’t punctured, just the shell, which is the good news inside the overall bad news.

We’ve had just one other pecked egg, several weeks ago when a broody banty hen laid a tiny one in the Broody Box, and it fell into a gap in the poultry wire siding and cracked.  It clearly had been pecked at.  We discovered a yolky mess and guessed that at least one hen had most likely eaten some.  Not good.

All hens will eat a broken egg, I read on-line from a “chook” farmer in Australia.  “It’s nutritious and tasty,” he wrote.  “What you don’t want is for them to develop a taste for eggs and learn to peck them open and it becomes a habit.”

Maybe the full moon on Monday and the Venus Transit on Tuesday had something to do with it.  Venus won’t pass between the sun and Earth again for another century.  Was it a wildly active cosmos that swirled one of the hen’s brains?  The first pecked egg was pretty much cracked and on the ground.  The second one was way up in a nesting box.  It feels like some hen has developed a taste for eggs.

To stop egg pecking, first make sure the chickens have enough calcium in their diet so they don’t peck out of nutritional deficiency.  Ours free range and have feed that is made for layers.  All the eggs have hard shells.

The second and best prevention is to collect the eggs at least once a day.  We do.  We may start picking them up throughout the day.

A third is method is to install “roll-away” nest box inserts so the eggs roll down to a collection box after they’re laid; but the Australian farmer wrote that after installing the expensive inserts that the chooks would not go near the bloody things.

*     *     *

We are in the boonies — “We’re still in America!” our nurse daughter joked to her sweetheart when they finally pulled into our driveway this weekend.  We’re actually just an hour and a half from downtown Seattle if I drive to the Bremerton ferry.

Which is what I did last week to attend an Environmental Protection Agency hearing at the Federal building, to protest the contemplated Pebble Mine, a gigantic open pit gold and copper mine in the headwaters of the rivers feeding Bristol Bay, Alaska, (the 58th Northern parallel) which supplies fully 50% of the world’s salmon.  It’s a no-brainer, but that doesn’t mean much when big money is involved.  Save Bristol Bay is a good cause that our eldest daughter works for.

Security wouldn’t allow my sign in — a tennis racket sandwiched between two posters, hand-crafted by the Bearded One — for fear I’d whack someone, so I mounted it between two newspaper boxes on the corner of a busy intersection in downtown Seattle.

It was still there 3 hours later when I left the hearing and headed back for the ferry and the farmlet, emotionally exhausted, but glad, too, to have spoken up for our Earth egg, and against those peckers who would gut it.  Eggs or Earth — we’ve got to watch out for both.


13 responses to “The 47th Northern Parallel

  1. Terri Cohlene

    Yes, definitely the Venus Transit. We’ve all been pecking at each other around here (and “out there”). Hooray for you. I always have an opinion, but almost never have your gumption to attend hearings or rallys. Keep up the good works!


    • Thanks, Terri, and as to my gumption, Molly invited me to the hearing and saved me a seat. Pretty coddled gumption, eh? Ha! Looking forward to our visit next month…

  2. Christine Widman

    Spent this past weekend in Flagstaff. Enjoying the Venus-Love Transit of my daughter and son-in-law’s 10th anniversary.
    We hiked into Red Mountain – an eerie, secluded place – the cinder cone of an eruption eons ago. Red rock, hoodoos, slit canyons. It feels there as if one could possibly be on Venus.
    “Surreal”….and intensely spiritual.
    It’s also surreal to think that you are experiencing June with 49 degree temps and we are experiencing June with 106 temps.
    I celebrate our collective “Earth egg” connections.
    And hope your hens stop feeling “peckish.”

    • I’m sure Venus herself was there with you celebrating, Christine. Red Mountain is truly a treasure, as is Bristol Bay and our whole magical planet. Stay cool, and we’ll try to stay warm until we can meet in the middle some place:)

  3. Not too sure about venus causing the egg problems but hey…it may as well get the blame! 😉 Our girls are suddenly laying better than they have all year and its winter…time to stop girls! Nothing is normal here on Serendipity Farm! Collecting firewood and boosting the wood stove for the dogs to lay spreadeagled in front of and attempting to halt the banana passionfruit in its tracks and wondering why possums only eat one of the mandarin trees and not the other one? Is nature nuts?!

    An old trick to stop hens pecking their eggs is to put a hollow egg (you can apparently buy them) filled with mustard powder into the nest. Our girls aren’t eating their eggs but most of them are not laying in the nesting boxes and who would know where the ducks are laying! At least you know where most of your eggs are even if they ARE pecked…still speculating about goats and that conifer fix looks quite steampunk… might be able to grow something up there? (something that goats abhore!)

    Thank you for mentioning us here in blustery cold Tasmania and reminding us about how you are just about to head into summer. I am thinking about tomatoes already and winter has hardly started…I can’t complain too much as my favourites are now easily available (potatoes, pumpkin and sweet potato) so roasted veggies are the go. So glad that you guys are environmental loraxes for your hemisphere…between us we are covering the world! Don’t get despondant about your girls…they might be bored. Time to get them an enormous hampster wheel…

    • Good suggestion about the plastic eggs! I read that on-line — also that the mustard etc. deterrent doesn’t work because chickens have different taste mechanisms. The plastic eggs do act as a visual interest (less boredom?) and when they peck, they aren’t satisfied. We put some plastic eggs in the nests and it’s worked! No pecking since. What would we do without all our helpful friends on-line??! A hamster wheel! Excellent.

      We’re still cold and cloudy, but it’s not raining this morning, which is very nice. The rest of the USA is burning up. I should be more grateful. I’m working on it.:) It sure helps to wake up to your lovely comment. Hugs across the globe.

      • Yeh…I love mustard…must have been the chickens chanelling me to protect their 47th parallel mates! 😉 The hampster wheel would also give you the ability to harness their energy! (too much mustard will always result in too much energy! 😉 ) Right back at ya’ with the hugs 🙂 by the way…its 3C here and we are off to cart more wood today…the wood stove hasn’t been off in over a month so we had best ensure our continued woodburning “futures”! 😉

  4. Hi Christi
    I was just nominated for an award. I don’t usually participate in that sort of thing but I realised that it was actually a vehicle to give kudos to blogs that were very important to me so I nominated your blog for “The Illuminating Blogger” award. If you want to participate you can, if you don’t feel free not to. I just wanted you to know that you have made a difference out here in the worldly ether and that someone waits for your posts with anticipation and truly appreciates your efforts to enlighten us . Here’s the link if you want to check it out but its not really about the award (which I suspect is to increase blog traffic to the awarders site to be honest…) its about being able to give you some kudos for your efforts 🙂

    • Wow, THANK YOU! This is so gratifying, whether it increases my blog traffic or not. Numbas!! What counts, as you say, is that we’re connecting. This is sure fun, though. 🙂

      • Yeh…and if you like you can display your award on your sidebar :). I just wanted you guys who write blogs that I LOVE to get some kudos 🙂

  5. Christi,
    this story cracks me up. no pun intended. i enjoy your relay of everyday life with the hens and goats.

  6. Lorie and Keith

    You and Keith can take a walk on the beach and grap up some of the plentiful oyster and/or clam shells, bring em home, crush em, and distribute througout the “hen walk” all over the ground.
    They will be entertained and satisfied buy the salt in the crushed and the calcium/mineral content…….Also……… fire up that brooder, the chicks are coming in Thursday morning, they will be at the post office about 5:30 am. ……Momma goose

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