Collecting, Cooking, Canning, and Chickens

When we came home from Tennessee, of course the garden was prolific with produce. We knew that we'd have to get busy eating and preserving some of the bounty, ASAP. So Tom and I got picking and  cooking.

Romaine Lettuce, for lunch
String beans, several pounds of them
All kinds of tomatoes
some cucumbers went right to the chickens, but
there were plenty left for us
Hot sauce
Sweet pickle relish
Tomato Paste
Apple Pie Filling
Bread and Butter Pickles
Freezing eggs for winter
The new pollinator garden is coming along nicely; we were glad to see it in full bloom! Here are  some especially pretty new flowers:

the bees like the cosmos
This cosmos has ruffles!
While we were gone, we had a very capable friend living in our house and taking care of all the animals and the garden. She called us Thursday to let us know that she found one of our chickens, Minerva (a Plymouth Barred Rock), dead in the corner of the run. It was fairly traumatic for her, and very sad for us, as it was rather sudden. The chickens had all seemed healthy and happy, with plenty of food and water, so the cause was not readily apparent.

But the more I research it, the more I think I know what happened. In the week before our trip, we started getting five eggs instead of six. It was very hot, and I didn't think much of it, because you're always told that chickens might lay every day, but might not. I thought because it was so warm, maybe someone was taking a break. And I knew which one it was, because Minerva was the first one to lay in the morning, leaving an egg in the box before 6:30 when I went out to clean the hen house every morning. Suddenly that egg wasn't there each morning. What I should have realized is that after two days of not laying, something was wrong. Minerva was young, in her first year of laying, so to go two days without laying is extraordinary, let alone more than that. I should have realized, and should have looked at her more carefully. But all the chickens seemed fine, I was busy with camp, and then  packing and organizing to go away. I think what happened (and this is all speculative; our house-sitter's father buried the chicken for us before we got home, bless him) is that Minerva became egg bound, and then died because she wasn't able to get that egg out of her body.

This is horrible, and shows both our inexperience dealing with livestock, and my casual attitude about caring for the chickens. It's a case of bad husbandry, there's no way to sugar-coat that. So you can be assured that I am now much more involved in watching the chickens and counting eggs and making sure things are a-ok in the coop.

We'll miss Minerva, she was the first chicken of our flock to start laying, she was a curious and inquisitive bird, though often quite mean to the lower chickens in the pecking order. We are fond of our birds, but since we don't pick them up often or spend a lot of time cuddling them, we weren't as grieved as we might have been. What upsets me is that she was sick, and possibly suffering, and I didn't know it.  A hard lesson.

RIP Minerva (on the left)