For various reasons this week, the flock’s usually abundant egg yields have plummeted. Mabel and Audrey, the Araucanas (AKA The Terrible Twins) have both gone off lay. You’ve got to admire their solidarity – they do everything together, even laying their very first eggs on the same morning practically holding wings as they laid in the double nesting boxes. So, invitably, when one decides to shut up shop, the other follows. This last week or so, they’ve steadily dropped their egg deliveries to the point where we’ve zero. A little alarmed, I tried to work out why and, when one night went into the run to lock them up for the night, was horrified to see a wild scattering of both white and brown feathers all over the ground. Fearing that some poultry predator had attacked them, I feared the worst as I looked into the nesting boxes where they defiantly sleep, never having taken to perching like other chickens (I blame the parents).
There they were, perfectly in tact and happy enough snoozing away, and it suddenly dawned on me that they were showing all the signs of the annual moult when birds shed feathers, look a little out of condition and can, temporarily, stop laying. This is a particular shame as my Country Living colleagues are missing out on the Smallholdings’ USP: Audrey and Mabel’s beautiful pastel-blue eggs. I’ll add some poultry spice to the girls’ pellets to help them through the moulting phase and, hopefully, they’ll resume production.
Down in the big girls’ run, our Rhode Island Red’s gone broody, which is rather touching having hatched her out and raised her over the past year. When our Speckledies (hybrids) have gone the same motherly way, they’ve pecked furiously at our hands when we’ve lifted them out of the nesting box, but Rhodie, bless her, has very gently let us pick her up, with nothing more than a mumur of protest, and placed her back on the perches with her colleagues. However, in her maternal state, she isn’t laying either so that’s one less egg a day.
All the same, I managed to scrape enough together for two half-dozen boxes which have been pre-ordered by Chris and Julie in Country Living’s art team, though the designers – who are far and away my best egg customers – might be a little disappointed when they see their boxes, minus Audrey and Mabel’s pale-blue eggs, aren’t as colourful as usual. Come on girls, lay one for Mum.