Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Trip to the ZOO

Somebody was eating our profits.

Day after day, there were broken eggs in the henhouse.  Lots of broken eggs. Broken eggs cannot be sold. …and without selling the eggs there is no money for more chicken feed.  Something had to be done.

Some investigation revealed that the hens were indeed eating the eggs.  Not all the hens…just a few of the more opportunistic eaters.

Did you know chickens will eat anything?  …and I do mean ANYTHING. Hens are not above eating eggs and on occasion will become cannibalistic.  Your mental vision of a sweet, little mother hens may need some tweaking.

But, which hens were eating the eggs? We suspected the old biddies…there were some pretty old hens down there.  (each flock is banded with a different color leg band, so identification is fairly easy) I spent more than a little “quality time” in the henhouse. …and caught them in the act.
I watched the hen on the left lay the egg in the middle
before I could pick it up, the hen on the right pecked a hole in it!

the Boss explaining the project

A pre-dawn project of catching all the offending flock was planned.  (you work chickens in the early morning or late evening when they’re slightly sleepy and less flighty---well, that’s the theory anyway)   
biddies in the brooder

They were then re-homed in the brooder until we could decide what to do next. During their time in the brooder yard, more evidence was gathered against them.  And, on the "biggest egg day" there were just FOUR eggs from FORTY chickens one day….another day there was ONE.  Definitely time to do something about this!

caught in the act of egg eating!

Since we’re not running a retirement home for hens…everybody needs to pull their weight around here…keeping them was never an option.  While I’m sure someone, somewhere may think that’s cruel…that’s just life on a farm.

We generally have Toughchick take the old layers to a poultry sale where they’re bought by backyard poultry enthusiasts who just want the occasional egg.  (Egg production gets pretty erratic after the second season…while this doesn’t matter to a lot of folks, when you’re selling eggs…it does)  Since the hens were not laying well…and then eating the eggs they did lay, it just wouldn’t have been ethical to sell them. Option #1 down the drain.

We considered processing them for sale as stewing hens.  Can I just say….yuck?  I really don’t like processing old hens (and we have done it) They are scrawny and bony…and those dark-colored feathers are a real pain to get rid of.  …and why use a stewing hen when you can eat a tender and delicious broiler? That was a NO vote on that option.

The final option was to take a trip down to the Natural Bridge ZOO. The zoo is only about an hour away and it would be a nice little break during a hot and hectic week. (Years ago, we found out that the owners are glad to take our spent hens to become food for the big cats.  And, for a chicken delivery, we are granted a free pass to visit the zoo!)

This time we worked the hens at night, loading them into crates for easy hauling in the morning.

In the morning, we set off for a trip to the zoo.

I hadn’t been on a zoo trip in over ten years. 
Looks like it's been more than 10 years!
Who ARE those children?
A lot had changed since I was there last.  They’re always adding new things (an aviary was under construction this time…you will be able to experience parakeets “up close and personal” cool!) The owners and staff have a mission to breed and maintain endangered species while providing an educational experience for visitors.  It’s a cool place and totally unexpected as you drive through the Virginia countryside.

The old biddies delivered…we got a chance to see all sorts of critters.  There was a newborn zebra (born just the night before) and a young giraffe and baby camel…

this little rooster greeted us 

baby camel

see the baby giraffe?

the newborn zebra

look at the eyes on this hornbill!

When we got back to the hill (and back to work) it was SO nice not to have a bunch of broken eggs!

Today, I’m thankful for the ZOO!  Not only are the old biddies gone…but, we got a cool little fieldtrip…and we did our bit to let the big cats at the zoo eat LOCAL…and our profit margin should now improve. 

 ... actually, I have a lot of things to be thankful for on this Thursday.

this just made me laugh


  1. Hey Barbara, how many chickens did you have to, uh, re-home? Re-zoo? Re-move? Re-locate. (Hey! This is fun!) Re-establish. Re-lease. Re......... Your turn.

    PS: What a cool-o zoo! Baby giraffe SO cute peeking out at you.

    1. Hi Maureen!
      We re-commissioned/re-assigned 40 hens to the zoo.
      It IS a cool place.

  2. I feel the same about my hens - they look such gentle creatures when they are clucking about in the yard with their brood but in reality they are cannibalistic and will stop at nothing. Loved the baby zebra. A 'farm' near here has a cafe and a menagerie. About a fortnight ago the camel had a baby and they didnt even know she was pregnant - they bought her about a year ago.

  3. Glad to hear a sticky situation ended up being a fun day for you! :)