Spring Cleaning & Soft Shell Eggs

This weekend has been a flurry of activity as my husband and I continue packing for the big move into our dream home, and did some spring cleaning at our current home.

This winter was tough, as some winters can be. With snow storm after snow storm, and my constantly growing pregnant belly, it was difficult to squeeze between the dog run and coop to do the necessary coop cleaning. I’m not proud when I say I did a much less acceptable job this year than last year, so our spring coop cleaning required some more in depth scraping and shoveling than usual.
I spent a good 1.5-2 hours removing the plastic tarp pieces from the coop, shoveling and scraping out old hay, pine shavings and chicken poop, and dealing with the chickens who were both so curious that they had to get right up in my face while I cleaned, and in turn would then freak out when I moved a garden tool and go flying and screaming across the yard. *smh* Chickens . . . you never truly understand the meaning of “what are you, chicken?” when referring to someone’s fear until you have kept chickens.

In preparation for our move this year, I split, propagated and dug up any perennials herbs and trees that were coming with us. My husband & I loaded up our trailer with plants, planter boxes and other outdoor equipment to store at my in-laws until we close on the new house. I was disheartened to see that the container I put my Burdock in did not drain well (despite all the rocks I put at the bottom!) and the root had rotted away . . . the root had nearly doubled in size! What a great harvest I would have had this year. Oh well!

Some our trees are in desperate needs of being planted in the ground, as they started rooting through the bottom of their pots and into the ground. I knew the pots I had were snug and would only be a temporary solution, so I am very, very grateful that we are able to move this Spring while the weather is cool and they will take to a transplanting well.

One of our other troubles this Spring is our dear Ms. Sassafras. She had molted a little in the early winter, and then stopped. While she never regained the nice tail feathers she had prior to that, she appeared to be done. Well she is molting again! Her entire back side is bare, although she acts as sassy as she always has! Despite her molting, she is still producing eggs, er well . . . what should be eggs. For the past week she has laid soft shell eggs, which is basically like finding the egg yolk swimming in the hay of the nesting box, with what appears to be a popped balloon but is in fact the shell.

Saturday she had some real difficulty passing the egg, and instead of going to the nesting box, actually started trying to lay it right in the middle of the yard. I guess she felt like I do sometimes when I’m trying to run my 7-month pregnant body to the bathroom and I think “Omg, I’m not going to make it!” Ha!
In any event, it was a good reminder that sometimes chickens need more attention and help than they let on. I watched Sassy attempt to push out the egg for a long time, and finally decided I needed to get involved.
I found myself kneeling on the ground, bent over with my head in the dirt (and Pogo pecking at my braid because she has made it clear she does NOT approve of me checking Sassy’s backside) and gently tugging on the soft shell when Sassy pushed. For something that you would think would be easier than laying a real egg, she sure had a tough time and the dry skin from her molting had cracked and bled a little, my poor baby! Together we got the egg out. I checked the egg shell to make sure it was whole, and that there were no pieces left inside her vent that could cause infection.
Immediately after, she went right back to pecking around and acting normal, another good sign. I’m keeping a close eye on her until she stops laying, or starts laying “real” eggs again, but so far she has been normal and perky since Sunday.
I have to admit, as much as I hate seeing my birds struggle through something, or not feel well, I love these opportunities to get involved as well as to witness the wonderful bond that all the chickens have. After Sassy laid the soft shell egg, her sisters came around to see what had happened, and to help groom and clean Sassy up. The defensiveness that Pogo displays in making sure I am not hurting Sassy, as annoying as it may be to be pecked in the head a few times, is sweet and endearing.
Spring brings so many wonderful things – the excitement of the return of favorite plants, the opportunity to plan and plant a new garden (and this time, at our new house!) and the all-time favorite of watching chickens scratch and dig in the freshly thawed ground, clucking and talking to each other. Moments like those make up for all the stir-crazy, cabin-fever feelings of winter!

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