Coop Snoops and Chicken Fingers

July 25th, 2014


Detective chicken

Your narrator.

It was 6:30 pm. I was sticking my head in the chicken coop to see what was doing. For a couple of days I had been finding yellow patches of wood chips under the roosts, and was unsure of what to make of it. Looked a little like egg residue. I decided to look for some clues. So there I was, eye to butt with six chickens, and one of these butts decided to dump an egg without a shell right there in front of me. You know, white, yolk, the whole nine yards, except for that tenth yard – the shell. I have seen some things since I started raising chickens. I have seen chickens attempt to maim one another over a stale piece of bread. I have seen frozen masses of chicken poop bigger than my head. I have even seen a chicken eat its own egg. But this – this was new. But maybe it explained why there seemed to be eggs without shells winding up in the wood chips. Something had to.

shell-less egg


I was completely at a loss, so I posted a question online for my internet chicken snoops to see what the chitter chatter and the jibber jabber about this sort of thing was. “Eggs in coop without shells,” I said. “What gives?” The wizards were pretty much as confused as I was. One of the louder theories about this was that I had a shell-eater. I couldn’t understand why a chicken would eat the shell when the egg itself was the obvious prize here. On top of that, I have never seen one of my chickens eat anything so thoroughly that there wouldn’t be some evidence of it left behind. Unless they had suddenly gotten real conscientious, I wasn’t buying this theory, but like many conspiracy theories, it was hard to make go away.

tin foil hat

I don’t look so good in tin foil hats.

My having witnessed the actual exiting of an egg with no shell from the chicken itself caught some people’s attention. No one seemed to have seen anything like this before, and they were as puzzled as I was. But then an idea appeared: maybe the shell was stuck inside the chicken, and only the innards of the egg were able to escape. I had thought of this myself, but since I had seen evidence of the shell-less eggs on multiple occasions, I figured the shell would have come out at some point, but I also realized I had to rule this out if I was going to make sure the chicken was o.k.

A chicken is a series of tubes.

A chicken is a series of tubes.

I went into the living room and told my wife, “I have to do something awful. I need you to hold the chicken while I do it.” That’s not something you want to say, much less hear, but she came into the kitchen. She’s a good dame, that one. Gams from here to Kalamazoo. I went out and brought in the chicken. I instructed my wife to hold it like a baby, so it would lay still. And then I stuck my finger up the chicken’s butt. It was weird, and it was warm, but it was also free of any eggshell fragments. I put the bird back into the coop.


Not this kind of finger.

You’d think there might have been some awkwardness in the household after something like that, but not in our house. After washing my hands, I sat down next to my wife and said, “You know, I’m not even sure that’s the grossest thing I’ve ever done.”

“I don’t think it is,” she said. Then we agreed that there’s a chicken finger joke in here somewhere, but maybe it was best to leave it be.

chicken finger

Not this kind of chicken finger.

The weird mystery eggs stopped coming shortly after that. No one could ever figure out what it was, and I had to close the messageboard thread about it without a good explanation. The coop snoops who had piped in with help were glad she was o.k., but also a little disappointed in the lack of closure. Often real life lacks satisfying endings. Since then, however, anytime I open the coop door, that chicken makes a beeline for the farthest point away from me. I can’t say I blame her. Case closed.



(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Trumpet: waldhorn33 – Paloseco Brazz Muted Trumpet Blues Samples)

Season 2 premieres next week!

July 18th, 2014

If all goes as planned, next Friday you’ll be able to listen to the new season of Too Many Chickens! right here. Stay tuned.

Also, I pick up my new chicks from my parents’ house this weekend. EXPECT TO HEAR ABOUT IT SOON.

Changes on the way

July 11th, 2014

It’s been a while since Garden Guys aired, and as far as I can tell, it may be a while before they air again. Meanwhile, I’m itching to tell some chicken stories. So, in the next couple of weeks I’m going to start posting new “episodes” of Too Many Chickens! that I record myself. When GG picks it up again, I can go back and do them live, but for now I can’t withhold anything from the public for much longer. So stay tuned.

Other changes that are coming are some new baby chicks, currently at my parents’ house. I’ll be bringing them home in a week or so, and I’m sure I’ll have things to say about them. I tend to not shut up sometimes. Keep your eyes on this space!


coming soon

Peckin’ in your earholes

My advice to chicken beginners

May 16th, 2014

I’m no expert, but since I tend to be vocal about how much I like keeping chickens, people sometimes ask me questions. A friend of mine’s neighbor is interested in getting chickens, and wanted to know how much it cost, how much space they might need, and how much of a time commitment it was. This was my response. He was so happy with it he suggested I post it somewhere, so here it is. You may disagree with me, as this is the internet, that’s what people do. Have fun with that. Anyway, here’s my first advice column.

dear chickie

Dear Chickie,

A few days ago, our neighbors proposed the idea of raising chickens in our yard. As our town allows such a thing, we want to figure out what it takes to do this, so I’m asking you, our resident poultry farming expert, for any advice you may have. We want to find out how much space we need for say 3-4 hens (we don’t want to keep them constantly “cooped” up), how much effort is required to feed/clean/etc., and a rough ballpark of cost.

 Your friend,

Bawking in Belmont


Dear Bawking in Belmont,

On days I don’t let them out, I spend maybe 10-15 minutes in the morning with the chickens, and then maybe another 5-10 in the evening. Mornings I open the coop door to let them out into the enclosed run attached to the coop, fill their food and water if they need it, and then throw fresh pine shavings on the night’s poops. (On Saturday I scoop all that out, which takes another 10 minutes. Some coops have a removable board under the roosts, so you can scrape that off instead of adding more bedding. There are multiple ways to do it). At night I collect the eggs and then close up the door to the coop. I really only need to do that in the winter to keep them out of a draft. My coop and run are fairly secure. Chickens generally require less time than a dog, maybe about the same as a cat. When I let them out I prefer to be out there with them to keep an eye on them, but it’s usually when I’d be out in the yard anyway. Yardwork, AMIRITE?
The main cost is really the initial cost of the coop. If 3-4 is the amount you’re going for, you’re in luck, because the cut off between “kind of expensive” and “wicked expensive” coops is at 5 chickens. Under 5 you have cheaper options, over 5, it gets pricey, due to the size coop you need. I started with 6, not realizing this, which is why I built my own coop, which was a bit of an ordeal. You could get something like this for less than mine cost to build. (The hardware cloth you need to keep out predators is expensive. Chicken wire keeps chickens in, but it is really easy for varmints to chew through, so you need hardware cloth.) That website has a lot of options. I would suggest something with a built in run so they can get outside of the coop whether you’re around or not. The rest of the costs aren’t so bad. Food is like $15 for 50 pounds, and that lasts me over a month. Bedding is $7 a bale, and that also lasts over a month. You might need other things here and there, but they aren’t too bad. Scratch lasts a long time because you don’t give them that much. Oyster shells to give them calcium are expensive up front (I think like $25 for a big bag) but they last a really long time because you only give them a little bit. Then a feeder and a waterer are maybe $10-20 depending on what you get. I would recommend a plastic waterer so you can put unfiltered apple cider vinegar in the water to ward off vent gleet, among other things. It’s good for them, but the metal waterers are bad to mix with vinegar. You’ll need a different feeder & waterer for chicks (smaller ones) and a heat lamp, but that all comes out to under $25, if I remember right.
How much space do you have? My friend in Brooklyn has 3 chickens in a coop like the one in the link above, and they never leave it and are perfectly happy. A yard for them to run around in is good, but mine often stay in the same general area that’s not very large, so they don’t need a ton of room, depending on the chickens. I recommend not letting them out unsupervised for too long because of predators. Hawks especially, but also dogs. Dogs kill more chickens than anything else, because no one suspects them. If you have a fenced yard, that’s good, though it doesn’t save you from hawks, but it limits roaming.
Does this help? I also recommend this site.
They’re who I go to when I have questions. They have forums that are helpful, but the learning center spells a lot out for you. You can also research breeds there, which is helpful, since it gets both cold and hot in MA, so you want hardy ones.
Bawk and roll,

Roosters are unimpressed

May 9th, 2014

Doesn’t matter if you know karate, don’t mess with a rooster.


Big Rock Candy Mountain

May 2nd, 2014

Depending on your definition of “candy.”

dung hill

Some day this will be delightful fertilizer. That is not this day.

I’m running out of space on this heap, and it needs time to mellow, too. I’d better find another spot to start a new one. This reminds me of a time a friend of mine, who was not a native speaker, asked what a dung hill was. Another friend replied, “It’s a hill of dung.” The asker, suprised, confused, and delighted, said, “There’s a word for everything in English!” She should try German sometime.

Forgetful chickens

April 25th, 2014

Someone seems to keep forgetting that the eggs go in the nesting bucket in the coop, NOT in the dirt under the feeder, or elsewhere in the run. Every so often they forget, and then it rights itself. Well, get to righting it, ladies. I put that plastic egg in the nesting bucket to spell it out for you and everything! Also, you have been doing this for over a year. Maybe they’re just bored and trying new things. I don’t really know how their minds work.

Meanwhile, here’s a chicken and some baby otters.


Double dippin’

April 18th, 2014

I’m not sure what’s going on, but twice in the last couple of weeks it would seem that Boss Chicken has laid two eggs in one day. This is pretty unusual, as it takes a lot for a chicken to lay one egg a day. Two would really tax her system, but there they are in her hutch.

She's as surprised as I am.

She’s as surprised as I am.


All I can figure is that I miss one of them the night before, but there’s nowhere for an egg to hide. If there’s an egg, I’d see it, and I check for them at night when I close everyone in for bedtime. Very odd. But hey, more eggs!

Full-time Spring time

April 11th, 2014

With nights being above freezing now, Boss Chicken gets to stay outside 24/7. Her rabbit hutch isn’t so well set up to deal with wind, so if it gets too cold or windy, I’ll bring her inside in the winter. I think we’re finally over winter, and so she gets to hang out in nature all the time now.

"You gonna just stand there, or are you gonna give me a treat?"

“You gonna just stand there, or are you gonna give me a treat?”

Still no word on when Garden Guys is going to be back up and running, but I’m as anxious as you are. As soon as I know, you’ll know!

Developments in broody chicken maintenance

April 5th, 2014

Last week I mentioned that I had a broody chicken. The broodiness was really hard to shake, in spite of my having the Miracle Broody Hen Cure. She’d be in there for a while, seem better, I’d put her back in the coop, and she’d go right back into the nesting bucket. So then I’d put her back in the MBHC, and she’d act all agitated, so I’d put her back into the coop, and you probably can see where this is going. It turns out I was doing it all wrong. Observe the below photo:



What do you notice about this? That’s right, you can see everything. My mother-in-law, just out of trying to get a moment’s peace, went and covered the cage with a dropcloth. (The chicken can be quite vocal when the mood grabs her, by which I mean I now know what an unholy racket sounds like.) Well, it turns out this cage coverage was the missing link we needed. A day later, the chicken was cured!



We’ll see how long it takes them to get resistant to this new cure, but hopefully this works for a while.

In the meantime, I’ll keep telling you I’m not sure when Garden Guys is back on the air, because I don’t know. But I’ll be sure to make a post about it when I find out anything.

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