Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Poultry PMS

It started with Gertrude. We thought she'd be the first of the five young hens to lay. She was the biggest and the oldest, and the leader of the rooster-less flock.

One morning I noticed that she wasn't with the other girls. Their feathered busy-body selves were off scratching for bugs, eating weeds, and flattening themselves out for a nap on the cool earth under the raspberries. Gertie was on the other side of the yard, near the coop.

I watched her for a bit. She'd hop up on to the little landing by the hen door, wander around in the coop making deep, anxious errrrrr sounds that sounded a little like a squeaky wheel. Then she'd go into a nesting box and scratch around with discontent. Then she'd be back out in the yard. She was restless, cranky, and a little worried for no reason. She had poultry PMS.

Poor thing. Every time I went outside, she'd run to me with a panicked look and an Errrrrr that roughly translated meant something like "What the heck? Why do I feel like I should be in the coop?" If she could have wrung her wings, she would have. I gave her some leftover blueberries and she seemed happy for a minute. Then we were back to her whirring, anxious Errrrrr.

This went on for several days. The two older Bantams, who've been laying for awhile, seemed a little perturbed that she was fiddling around in the nesting boxes when they needed them. The other hens were oblivious.

Then her Errrrrr changed to more of a, well, crow. A "bock, bock, bock, bi-gock." And there, in the the nesting box, was a small, slightly off-shaped egg. She strutted around happily, and went back to scratching for bugs and eating weeds. One down, 799 more to go. (The average hen will lay about 800 eggs during their most productive years).

I headed back toward the house with the fruit of her labors, when Violet, the barred rock, hurried up to me. "Errrrrrrr?!" she said. She looked at me as if to say, "What the heck?!" Then she hopped into the coop and headed for the nesting box.

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