Sunday, October 10, 2010

Decidedly More Than Ten Cents' Worth of Effort!

My black chicken, Espie (on the left), has finally taken a decided interest in spending time on the nest. Buffy, my egg-laying machine (on the right) is trying to deal with this. This was Espie's first real effort on the nest, and she picked the opposite corner from Buffy.

However, the last few days she is moved over to "Buffy's spot", and Buffy does NOT like this. The other day, Espie got up to the nest early (around 8:30 AM). Buffy usually goes up around 9:30 and begins her routine. Espie was carefully arranging the wood chips around her, picking up a few of them in her beak and throwing them on to the top of her back as chickens in a laying mood are wont to do. After a little while, she started making whirring noises, lasting about 5 seconds apiece, one after the other. It almost seemed like her little body was trying and trying to get an egg out, and she was practicing LaMaze breathing or something!

Most of the color had drained from her wattles and comb too. A chicken who is mature enough to lay eggs has a bright red comb, wattles, and face area. Espie's had turned a pale, muted, washed-out pink. I have a theory that the blood was going towards the effort to try to get that egg out.

While she was in such deep concentration, Buffy came along and started attacking Espie by biting her anywhere on the comb, wattles, and face that she could. It was time for Buffy to lay her egg, and there was OBVIOUSLY nowhere else to do so (HIC!). Espie did not fight back; she just turned her head or bowed it so that Buffy could not get at her as easily. Buffy gave up momentarily, and tried to hollow out a nest next to Espie, but for some reason that wasn't satisfactory to Buffy, so Buffy resumed her attack on Espie. After about 20 minutes of this, Espie finally gave up, got up, and Buffy laid her egg about 30 minutes later. Espie never did lay her egg, though I think she did lay one the day before, as that was the only day I got two eggs.

Now, how much is all of that worth to you? How much would you pay a chicken for her labor, anyway? The waiting (Buffy goes up to the nest up to 4 hours ahead of time), the competition for nest space, not to mention the physical effort it takes to lay an egg. I've seen Buffy lay a couple of her eggs, and she stands up to lay an egg, and really does have to push it out. I think that is worth more than the 10 cents or so eggs command at retail. Something to think about at your next breakfast!


  1. I am baking cookies -- the last egg I will crack open, I will consider the effort of Buffy! Yay, Buffy -- for without you, there would be no cookies.

  2. Did you make the coop, and where is this fine project located? :) Very highly thought out indoor configuration. You should go into Chicken coop research and consult with the hatcheries. I think they could benefit from the behavioral observations you have been doing with the indoor chicken industry.

  3. I designed the coop, and my honey and I built it, and he improved on my design even more, handy guy that he is! It is really interesting to watch their behaviors, and something I don't think you'd be able to observe on a larger scale.

  4. I don't mean that you should observe on a larger scale, I think that the in house research lab that you have hosted has helped you to share this knowledge with others. You should check out the movie-- "Temple Granden" with Claire Danes. She played a brilliant autistic person who observed the way cattle were raised and taken to the slaughter house. By closely observing the cattle she designed a cattle dipping shoot that in now used today in the cattle industry. It was a VERY good movie for people that are farm oriented as well as creative like you.