Tag Archives: Perky

Egg Mountains

Where shall I lay my eggs today?

The usual nesting choices.
The usual nesting choices. Top left: The new nest in the kindling pile (preferred by Honey, and the older hens, i.e., Lottie, Lulu or Leila); Top right: Pompom’s choice is under the edge of the barbecue cover; Bottom left: Francesca, Pearl (in situ) and Hannah use the nesting boxes in the hen house. Bottom Right: Fatima always lays in a nest box in the barn.

As much as I love our hens dearly, sometimes they can be very annoying. This particular tale concerns a couple of our ‘saved’ hens, Honey and Perky.


Our saved hen, Honey.
Our saved hen, Honey.

In mid-September, Honey went missing for almost a week. Then on two mornings in a row, Ben spotted her eating pellets in the barn with the other hens – as if she’d never been away. Then she’d disappear again.

After some sleuth work (which involved spying and following), we found her in a grassy hollow in the back paddock, sitting on a mountain of warm eggs. She’d been sneaking back to eat at intervals, then returning to the (impossible) task of waiting for the eggs to hatch.

She was well into broody mode, so we had to remove all the eggs and separate her into the back hen enclosure for a few days. When we tested the eggs using the ‘does it float or not?’ test, they all looked a bit borderline so we disposed of them. (Ben later remarked that they didn’t look good when he broke them, so I’m glad I wasn’t involved with that process.)

Honey has stayed around since then, and has built a new nest in amongst the pile of dry kindling in the barn. And for a time, Perky, and our older hens started laying there as well. So there were generally 3 or 4 eggs in that particular nest when I’d check them each day.

Hens don’t usually lay an egg on every day of the week, so when the number of eggs in that nest dropped down to 2 or 3 on most days, I didn’t think too much of it.


Our saved hen, Perky.
Our saved hen, Perky.

Yesterday, I was deliberating on the fact that our total daily egg tally still looked a little low. I’d still have expected to see 4 eggs in that nest every so often. And we remembered that the week before last, we’d had to rescue Perky when she got herself stranded between two fences along the edge of the back paddock. (I still have no idea how she got there. It was raining and she was as wet as a shag.)

Missing eggs + Perky behaving suspiciously in the back paddock = one conclusion.

Testing the Theory

Last night, Ben shut the gate to the hen enclosure and let the girls out early this morning so that he could see if any of them ran off somewhere.

Believe it or not, there are 18 eggs in this pile!
Believe it or not, there are 19 eggs in this pile!

Sure enough, Perky headed out (the long way) to the back paddock and settled herself down amongst the long grass. Ben found one egg all by itself nearby and left her there to finish laying. When he went back an hour or so later, he found a nest with an additional 19 eggs! Not again! So he brought all the eggs inside and left a fake egg in their place.

At least we know to look there now, and at least Perky hasn’t shown any signs of broodiness. It seems she’s been content to lay an egg on that huge pile, then join her sisters for the rest of the day.

Eggs in a bucket.
Eggs in a bucket.

I’m going to check the 20 eggs for freshness, and I may end up discarding a few of them, just to be on the safe side. And if I do… well, that will be the annoying part. The waste of all those beautiful big eggs.

Molly is generally oblivious to the goings-on of the hens.
Molly is generally oblivious to the goings-on of the hens.

Woolly Hen

Strategies to Counteract Hen-Pecking

Perky chicken bare of feather
Looks out at the murky weather
Not for her the field next door
Nor sunny nooks on forest floor

Perky looking out towards where the other hens are scratching.
Perky looking out towards where the other hens are scratching.

Attempt 1: The Knitted Jumper

The idea of knitting a little outfit for Perky didn’t work out as we’d planned. And I suspect that Perky wasn’t impressed with the whole process, either.

Ben found a jumper pattern online, as well as comments indicating that dressing Perky in such an item would be a workable idea, and would help protect her and keep her warm until the feathers around her neck, chest and crop grow back.  I duly knitted away and produced the outfit below: –

The completed hen tunic.
The completed hen tunic.

That night, we crept up to the hen house under the cover of darkness, grabbed Perky (who was sound asleep) and while Ben held her snugly, I put the tunic over her head, fastened the two buttons, freed her wings and adjusted it as best I could.  Perky wasn’t that impressed but didn’t wriggle much.

Ben went out later on to see if she was still okay, and she was sleeping peacefully with the woolly jumper on. So far so good.

A disgruntled Perky, wearing her new 'jumper'.
A disgruntled Perky, wearing her new ‘jumper’.

The next day I went out first thing to check and was dismayed to discover that Perky had become entangled in the little outfit. She’d somehow managed to lift one of her legs through the ‘armholes’, where usually only her wings would go. So part of the garment was now under her body and the bottom edge of the garment was wet and muddy and dragging on the ground – of course to make matters worse, it was raining.


Dismayed, I managed to corner Perky and pick her up.  I stroked her for a bit to soothe her, and then re-adjusted the tunic, ensuring it was sitting correctly and that her wings and legs (and head, of course!) were free. I pulled it up so that it sat nicely below her neckline and set her back on the ground.

Even after adjusting the tunic, I could see that it was too loose.
Even after adjusting the tunic, I could see that it was too loose.

Thirty minutes later when I went back to check, I could see that the tunic was actually too large for her – she’s such a tiny scrap of feathers.  The hem was down to her ‘knees’ (not sure if hens have knees) and it was clearly annoying her – she kept trying to lift her legs to scratch it away with one or other of her feet.

Sadly I had to catch her again – Poor Perky, I hate chasing her to catch her when she’s not really tame enough.  I gave her some cuddles and removed the offending item.

Attempt 2: Stockholm Tar

The other three saved hens were still pecking at her bare skin, so on Saturday we applied some Stockholm Tar to the exposed flesh, thinking this would be a good solution.

Wrong again. The other hens just pecked it off – we could see who the main culprit was (Crinkle) by the tar on her beak.

Attempt 3: Isolation

It doesn't seem fair that Perky has to be the one kept away from the outside world.
It doesn’t seem fair that Perky has to be the one kept away from the outside world.

Perky is now all by herself in the rescued hen section of our fenced off area.  The other three saved hens have been integrated into our main flock and are doing fine.

One amusing thing though… while chasing Perky on Saturday to apply the Stockholm Tar, Ben found a pile of more than 30 eggs, all nicely piled up under some long grass.

The secret nest area.  We've left a fake egg there so that Perky has something to lay her own egg beside.
The secret nest area. We’ve left a fake egg there so that Perky has something to lay her own egg beside.

We checked them all using the ‘will they float in water?’ test, and ended up only discarding about 10. We had visitors over the weekend so have eaten the remainder already.  It would appear that all the rescued hens have been laying since we’ve had them.  I think that’s ironic considering that the battery farms cull them for going off the lay.

The short poem to Perky at the top of the page is a quatrain.