Chickens keep you guessing, oh yes, they do! My year-and-a-half old hens (Ethel and Punkin) molted this fall. Feathers everywhere! And the feathers still attached looked like their owners had been pulled through a brier patch backwards. Quite unkempt.
Ethel and Punkin laid eggs faithfully for a year. Mature hens stop laying while they molt. They also stop laying in cold weather. So it was no surprise to me when they stopped laying sometime in October; I haven't had an egg from them since. Their feathers grew back; their combs brightened again. Bernie started stomping at them again ... I figured they would lay again soon.
Bernie, Ethel, and Punkin have the run of the entire orchard. They are spoiled birds.
The back of the orchard is still a jungle. This morning Adam decided to use the sunshine and warmer temps for clearing out the back of the orchard. I'd hunted there for a hidden clutch of eggs, knowing that some hens will randomly begin laying in a hidden spot. I have a friend whose hens laid about 40 eggs in a flower pot in the top shelf in her garage, before she found them!
See that jungle back there? Adam had already been clearing when I took this shot. He came inside to beckon me with my camera. He found the eggs.
Nine eggs, all Punkin's. She's been laying daily for a week and a half. Naughty girl!
I gathered them in my coat pocket and took them inside. Then I tested to discern if they were still good. These eggs were much fresher still than any grocery eggs, which are stored for many weeks before arriving on the shelves there. To check an egg's freshness, put it in a bowl of water. If it sits on its side on the bottom of the bowl, it's very fresh. If it sits on its end on the bottom, it's fresh enough to eat. If it floats, IT'S BAD. Throw it away.
All Punkin's eggs were very fresh! I thought they would be -- it's been quite cool, and the eggs were in the shade. I scored 9 eggs from my orchard! How many women can say that?
Adam decorated the front of the house for Christmas. The porch/greenhouse is doing well again. I dug three volunteer cherry tomato plants from the garden weeks ago. They are growing and even ripening fruit, on the front porch.
I'm not sure how well they will do out there, considering it regularly gets to 40 degrees at night. But I had basil last year throughout the winter. We shall see!
Oh -- I nearly forgot! I just went to check on the chickens, and Punkin took the hint! I found a huge green egg in the laying box in the coop. Yay! Now, I just have to discover where in the world Ethel has been laying her eggs for the past two weeks. As I said, chickens will keep you guessing!