Exploding hens and wobbly eggs

OK, before you start to worry, let me assure you that no hens were harmed in the production of this post.

One of the joys of being a gardener is watching the seasons change and savouring the different produce. However, keeping animals adds an extra dimension to this connection with nature. I know, for example, that there will be fewer eggs from the hens in the winter, which makes them all the more precious in the summer. But hens do other stuff than lay eggs and perhaps the most spectacular is the autumn moult. Now, not all hens moult and not all moult completely, and those that do moult don’t always do it in the autumn. However, every so often one of the hens embarks on a complete change of feathers…

and so, Tiffany has gone from being fully-feathered last week to well on her way to oven-ready today. There are feathers all over the garden and in the hen house… to look at it, you really would think one of them had exploded (or been got by a fox).

Anna had a much more gentle moult over the summer and you can see her beautiful blue-grey plumage in one of the pictures above. Anna has always been rather rubbish at laying eggs, but having got over her moult, she is doing her best now. The other day she produced the egg on the right in the picture below (the middle one is ‘normal’ sized and the one on the left is from Aliss our smallest hen):

3 eggs

well, that’s not very impressive, Anna

Yesterday, however, she did manage to lay a normal sized egg:

IMGP4153

well, that’s a better size

However, all that effort that went into making a white and a yolk left no energy for a shell:

We’re hoping that the next one is full-size and fully formed!

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23 Comments

  1. Here’ hoping it is third time lucky!

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  2. I know absolutely nothing about keeping chickens. Those lovely uniform eggs you see in the store obviously don’t represent what’s actually happening. I do hope Tiffany get her feathers back before winter sets in. How do they manage in the cold?

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    • The new feathers push the old ones out, so they will be there just under the skin ready to burst forth!
      Hens tend to lay quite standard eggs very regularly in the first year after the start laying – after that it all becomes much more random. So, in big commercial flock, the hens are slaughtered before they become ‘unreliable’. We keep our hens for their whole life because they do other jobs for us (eating pests, providing fertility, being entertaining) so we often have odd eggs.

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  3. That title certainly got my attention! Talking of moulting I had noticed for the first time in my short life that there are more bird feathers on the ground at the moment, so I had wondered if there was a moutling season. But that egg with the soft shell would have totally spooked me. I have never seen anything like it. Hope she does better next time. Poor little hen.

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  4. We have had quite a few wobbly or soft shelled eggs over the years from our chooks, though none from the banta (I am sure that is the correct plural) yet, though the Chinese Pekin Banta are so rubbish at egg laying that they don’t need that much energy or calcium, or alternatively it all goes into their fluffy plumage which covers their legs down to their feet.

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    • The bluebells are a dual purpose breed and so are big hens, that along with their beautiful plumage means they don’t give a great return in terms of eggs, but they are lovely birds. Aliss the Black Rock has been a great layer as has Mags the Light Sussex. I’ve never kept a Bantum, but they are cute.

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  5. All my attention (and sympathy) went to Aliss on laying that egg!! Hens are so fascinating – I never have seen a shell-less egg before. Poor girl, she’s obviously trying…….

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  6. Ah, the moult, always a time for cranky, embarrassed birds and rubbish laying. Still, once it’s over the girls do get back to business, and while it’s happening, you do get some nice feathers, very pretty some of them!

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    • The bluebells do produce rather lovely feathers – rather soggy ones at the moment though!

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      • I used to love the blue/green sheen on my Australorp feathers, but I could never think of a way of using them. Not until it was too late, and I didn’t have chooks any more…. I thought of using a glue gun to stick feathers to a sheet of paper in a pretty fan arrangement, or in the shape of a wing.

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  7. It was her beautiful feathers that caught my eye. Such a soft colour, like stormy clouds. I like your phrase ‘oven ready’, knowing they will be nurtured through this chilly phase!

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    • The bluebell hens are glorious and their feathers are so soft that it’s really tempting to pick them up. Fortunately they tend to have a very gentle nature and Tiffany doesn’t mind at all being handles, except during the moult when their skin is very sensitive and the newly emerging feathers can easily be damaged.

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  8. Most of our hens are going through a molt now so we are getting less eggs. It is strange how some molt and some don’t seem to at all. Even the roosters do it and seem embarassed when they lose their tail feathers. I think our molt was triggered when the door to the pen where they roost was closed and I didn’t notice until the next day. They had no food or water. Then a few days later I accidently ra​​n out of feed. Next thing I know they are going into a molt. Oh, well, they needed a break.

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  9. Gosh I never knew you could get eggs without the shells. Or of such different sizes. Here’s hoping the next one will be perfect!

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  10. Julia

     /  September 28, 2017

    Chanced upon your blog while looking for recipes to use with the shark’s fin melon (I’m Chinese but I want to use it spaghetti-style) and while I’m no farmer — I live in a tiny apartment in Singapore — I must say I was intrigued by your entries!

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