Posted: July 20, 2009
Entirely Homegrown: Lack of eggs a concern
Spock the cattle dog complicates backyard experimentBy Mike Taylor
This update is about my four young Rhode Island Red hens that so far have consumed about 120 pounds of “Egg Maker” chicken feed but have yet to make any eggs. Eleven days till my month-long all-backyard diet kicks in, and no protein source to speak of, although I have managed so far to harvest and freeze 11 small plastic bags of spinach, broccoli, peas and yellow squash.
But as I said, not much protein there. This is not a problem I expected to be dealing with at this late date, July 20. Back in the early spring I had a different quartet of hens and was getting four brown eggs every day – so many eggs that I was bringing them to work to get rid of them, and co-workers were helping me out by bringing me empty egg cartons to fill up for them.
Enter Spock, a 7-month old Australian cattle dog I adopted from the Denver Dumb Friends League four months ago. He’s smart and curious. He has boundless energy, and from the outset he’s displayed an amazing knack for figuring out what a human might value and destroying it. He’s severed extension cords (somehow avoiding electrocution) and garden hoses (about five times so far -- any time I forget to detach the hose from the spigot), he’s chewed the covers off books and gnawed most of the stems off two lilac bushes I bought from a local nursery.
And then the hens.
They used to have the run of the yard where they’d forage all day and return to their coop at the instant the sun dipped below the mountains. Before he died, my previous dog, Opie – also a cattle dog – was completely indifferent to the chickens. The hens could even peck at his shiny dog tags, and he’d do little more than turn his head or get up and find a different spot in the yard to nap.
Spock looks inside the chicken coop
Still, I spent about 10 days observing Spock with the hens before leaving them together unattended. I’ll spare the details – OK, a fox got one of them, so it’s not all on Spock -- but let’s just say he took to sport hunting with great zeal, and as a result I’m starting over with a new young flock I can only hope will start producing eggs real soon. I wish there were a way to communicate to these four hens a sense of urgency. And to let them know I will get my protein one way or another, whether it’s eggs or barbecued chicken.
Mike Taylor is the managing editor of ColoradoBiz. He writes about small-business money issues and how startups are launched. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.