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.
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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.