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I was there when it happened!
I went out the door to check on the girls, and I thought I heard an egg song so I dashed inside for my camera before walking over to the garden. I looked in the nest box. No egg. Big circular hole in the straw, though, with the linoleum showing through. I went and got some straw to add to the nesting box, but when I got back One Patch was already there–fussing and making swirlies in the straw and playing with the wooden dummy egg. No more complaining, just quiet clucking.
Then she settled in and just sat. I took a picture or two. Lumpy and Two Patch came up to visit and watch her. After about 10 minutes of me watching them watching her, I was ready to head inside and leave One Patch alone for a while.
I took a look at the other birds, who were hanging out in the downstairs of the ark. I inspected the 4th Barred Rock for distinguishing marks–they’re quite hard to tell apart. Just as I’d decided it was Jumpy, two more Barred Rocks came down the ramp. And then another. Drat! I thought, now I have to figure out who you-all are too. And then Wait! that’s 4 Barred Rocks! Who’s minding the nest?
I went round to the egg door, opened it, and there it was, a beautiful light brown egg exactly the size of the little wooden dummy egg sitting next to it, but speckly and yes! still warm!
The flock is exactly 21 weeks old today.
Well, the girls are 21 weeks old tomorrow, and we’re all waiting anxiously for the first egg. There’s been pacing, and growling, and constant checking out of the nest box. And that’s just me.
One Patch (Barred Rock) has been ahead of the game all along. Her comb and wattles were the first to redden, and a couple of weeks ago she started to do the “egg squat,” flattening herself to the ground and spreading her wings. Since then, Feather (Ameraucana), Stripèd (Silver Laced Wyandotte), and Jumpy (Barred Rock) have all started doing it too. The others still run off, skittishly, when you try to pet them.
We’ve moved the portable ark to garden bed #2 and fenced it in with bed #4, so the girls have a place to play, forage, hunt for bugs, and generally be chickens while cleaning up the debris from my tomatoes, pole beans,and cucumbers. After they’re done here, we’ll move them down to beds #4 & #6, #6 & #8, and so on till winter, when they move into Chickhenge, the fortress-like permanent winter coop.
Today, One Patch has been more edgy than ever, pacing the edge of the fence and popping into the ark several times an hour to look at the next boxes. She’s being very vocal, too–a sort of raspy, downward, protracted, complainy kind of growl, like a rusty barn door being opened and closed repeatedly by a restless toddler. It’s about equally cute and annoying.
I understand all of this is pretty typical behavior for a pullet about to lay. (Some people call it “chicken PMS”.) And I know that first egg could be today, tomorrow, next week, or November. But it’s sure hard to wait…which is probably why I’m sitting here balanced on the corner of the asparagus bed with my laptop on my knees.
Do chickens really have personalities? Is it, perhaps, just their owners’ weakness for anthropomorphizing, or maybe a tendency to project their own problems and fixations onto their pets? Is it, once again, a case of subjectivity overcoming the rational mind?
Who cares? Let’s do it anyway!
The apparent brain trust of the flock thus far. Jumpy (at right, with a white “J” on her head) is the smartest of the group–the first to find the feeder, the first to eat an ant, and likely to be the first to escape from the box. She’s very curious, and jumps a lot because she wants to see what’s outside. Lumpy (at left) looks almost identical to Jumpy, except she doesn’t have a J. Also, she’s a thug. If there’s trouble, Lumpy’s usually at the center of it. She likes to poke and walk on the heads of her sleeping sisters, and if somebody gets a treat, Lumpy tries to steal it. She’s called Lumpy because her beak was pink and knobby when she arrived, though it’s less so now.
Two Patch (at left) has a white patch in front and back of each eye, which makes her look a bit bespectacled. She’s a bit of a loner, but she’s big and no-nonsense. She’ll peck at any bird who’s encroaching on her turf. One Patch (at right), though rather shy and oddly dirigible-shaped, is the friendliest of the Barred Rocks. She’ll sit on my palm for minutes on end and often snoozes peaceably with the other birds.
Feather (at left) is named after Zoe’s fish. She’s also been called “Big Blonde” and “The Mean One” (after her behavior the first day). She’s mellowed out since then, but she is still cliquish and mostly hangs out with Spalty. Spalty (at right) was called “the darker Ameraucana” for a while, until it occurred to us her plumage looked a bit like spalted maple. Spalty was the most wide-awake of the birds and took a while to settle into a nap routine. Both Ameraucanas seem super-thirsty and are at the watering trough every few minutes.
The smallest and most docile of the birds, Stripèd and Stormy also look as though they’ll be the most beautiful. Stripèd (at left) is the kids’ favorite, with her high-contrast markings and mostly white face. She’s also the underdog (underchick?), having been weak and borderline on arrival. Now she’s feisty. Stormy, despite her name, is the sweetest and calmest of the lot. She has thunderhead-grey plumage, dark cheeks, and a quiet temperament. Unfortunately, Lumpy harasses her a lot. She’s usually as far from the action as she can reasonably get, and she likes people.
It’s still too early to say who’s in charge.
We have 4 Barred Rocks, 2 Silver Laced Wyandottes, and 2 Ameraucanas.
I can’t believe how much they already behave like, well, chickens–drinking, pecking, cheeping, napping, pooping, attempting to fly, and falling on their heads.
There are already personalities. At one point all of them fell asleep except the darker Silver Laced, who promptly started cheeping at the top of her lungs and woke the rest of them all up. The big Ameraucana sleeps on her feet. The Barred Rocks seem more adventurous and (slightly) more intelligent.
Can’t wait till the kids come home!