I got the raised beds in the ground and leveled today and the compost bin (yes, another one) finished, in and leveled. It’s pretty sweet. But more importantly, I had the most lovely conversation with my neighbor, who is probably a little older than my mom and with whom I have spoken very little in the 11 years we have lived here.
He was very excited about the raised beds and actually worked with his kids today to put in some of their own. (They have more sun and I’m jealous.) We talked about his garden from his younger days when he grew corn and lettuces and Romania tomatoes the size of a heart-shaped fist. He talked about growing up in Lawrenceville and raising chickens and rabbits as a boy in the 40’s, and mean roosters used to keep away rats. He gave me some suggestions on my compost bin, asked if they could feed the chickens extra lettuce, and remarked at how good the eggs were that I gave them the other day after the chickens ended up in their yard.
He does not think I am crazy to plant a tiny garden on what amounts to a sloping rumble heap, to want to use our leftovers to improve our soil and decrease our garbage, to raise chickens for eggs and a lesson on where food comes from. He does not disapprove of clotheslines or DIY rain barrels or the probably dozens of other things that most suburban neighbors would complain about. He made me miss my grandparents.
She ain’t big, but her eggs are HUGE! (But not freakishly so.) And her feathers are beautiful.
There’s a lot of pressure with the first post to anything. What do I say? Today solved that problem. I went out to check on our hens today, and one was clearly not having a good time. She was struggling to get an egg out. This chicken has done some weird laying over the past few weeks as she’s begun laying, soft shelled eggs, soft shelled eggs with a regular egg inside it. Weird stuff. I decided she was just trying to figure things out – she as a chicken being the expert in such matters. Today seemed different.
I went back inside figuring she’s a chicken so she ought to know what to do. Came back a while later and same thing. Thought about it for a while and realized she hadn’t laid an egg in a couple of days. Only two of our hens are laying, and the other one is nice enough to put her eggs in the nest box, so I know who’s eggs are whose.
Picked up the struggling chicken and felt her belly. The entire thing was hard as a rock. From the size -it felt like there were three eggs in it. I could see the egg she was trying to get out of her vent. Went back inside to read up on egg bound chickens. Most folks seemed to agree that soaking in warm water and applying oil to the vent would help relax the muscles and let the egg slip out. Ok then, bath for the chicken.
Had some chicken bath experience last month when the hens got lice and we successfully treated them by soaking the chickens long enough to drown the lice. Worked great. So I ran the hen a bath and brought her inside.
She was pretty desperate to get the egg out, and didn’t take long to relax in the water and keep pushing. Eventually the water was cooling so I wrapped her in towels and proceeded with step two: lube job.
Ok – I used a LOT of olive oil. I oiled that chicken up enough that I thought surely the egg would practically slide right out. Left her to it for a while. Nope- not even close. Now what?
I decided to get a really good feel for the situation. Serious chicken abdominal massage under a warming lamp. Help the egg move perhaps. And that is when I realized exactly how big the egg was. This was no normal egg. And it was NOT coming out.
I slowly began, using both hands to move the mass in the general direction of the vent. I knew I had to be sure to not break the egg inside her. She seemed to like what I was doing so I kept doing it and somehow I became a chicken midwife. We kept working together, us both pushing and then holy hell – what finally came out made me almost pass out, and the hen and I both exhaled in relief.