Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pearl's first egg

Pearl's first egg.
I thought maybe Pearl was getting close to laying her first egg. I noticed her fussing around in the nesting box a few days ago, scratching and fluffing busily. Then, when I went to pick her up, she squatted down, wings slightly akimbo. That's a sure sign of a laying hen--a submissive posture meant for a rooster.

This morning, there it was, in a random spot among the shavings on the floor of the coop (did it surprise her?)--a tiny egg. Really tiny. Pearl sized, in fact. It is not that much bigger than a quarter, more like a dove's egg than a chicken egg.

M&L were excited. Pearl is the first of the four new girls to lay. She wasn't exactly chosen for her egg laying potential. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most productive egg layers, d'Uccles rate a 3, and that's fine. She brings more than eggs to the coop.

Belgian d'Uccle chickens are small--they are true Bantams that don't have a full-size counterpart in the big chicken world. (Many breeds of chickens can be found in pint-sized "bantam" sizes, but Belgian d'Uccles are all Bantam sized.) The breed originated in (no surprise) Belgium, in a small municipality called "Uccle" in the 1890s.

d'Uccles are known for being very calm, sweet birds, and Pearl fits that description well. I've never seen her peck at or boss another bird, but no one seems to boss her around either. When the two new baby Australorps showed up in the coop, she cuddled up to them in a motherly way, like the Welcome Wagon hen. She has feathers down to her toes, and stiff feathers on the back of her hocks called "vulture hocks"--which does not sound at all girly and delicate, but she carries it off elegantly. Her cheeks are fluffy, giving her the appearance of a beard. d'Uccles come in several colors, and Pearl is called a Porcelain Belgian d'Uccle. 

L wants to blow out Pearl's first egg to wash it and save it. We seem to be creating a chicken shrine of sorts. L has placed feathers in a small silver-laced glass creamer in the curio. There are Lacey's, Gertie's, Paprika's and Marigold's feathers, soft reminders of birds we lost. She added one of Mabel's feathers the other day, and will want to place Pearl's first egg(shell) there as well.

It's beginning to look like an ornithologist's specimen display. But I like it, her treasury of delicate gatherings from the coop.

Mabel should be next in line, and then Betty and Poppy (who probably won't be laying until February or later). By spring, we should be back up to four to five eggs daily.

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