Assessing foraging behavior from yolks

Orange egg yolks

A week or two after adding
supplemental lighting to the coop
, our pullets started to
lay.  First, it was just the australorps (hatched April 20), but
soon the
Cuckoo Marans (hatched May 17) also began
to churn out eggs.  I was sure that these youngest pullets were
producing not just because I saw the ladies coming out of the hen house
now and then when everyone else
Cuckoo Marans eggwas out foraging, but also
because we started getting beautiful dark, speckled eggs like this one.

It’s helpful to be able
to guess who laid each egg, or at least which type of chicken each egg
came from.  You can build fancy trap nests, but my favorite method
is just to head to the coop when I hear cackling, then see what kind of
egg the lady in residence has come up with.  Using that technique,
I was able to learn that the darkest eggs were Cuckoo Marans’, next
darkest were Black Australorps’, and the palest eggs were from our
White Cochin.

With that data in hand,
I could get an idea about how well each breed forages.  I cracked
two eggs from each chicken breed into a bowl and took the photo at the
top of the page.  If the photo were a clock, 11 and 12 o’clock
would be Cuckoo Marans, 2 and 8 o’clock would be White Cochin, and 5
and 6 o’clock would be Black Australorps.  The Cochin yolks are
biggest, probably because the others are all still pullet eggs, but
what’s really striking is the color difference.  All of the eggs
look better than a supermarket egg, but the Cochin eggs are quite pale
in comparison to those from better foraging breeds. 

Omelet ingredientsI guess my gut feeling is
right that our Cochin is befuddled by the concept of rustling up her
own grub — yet another reason to plan to put her in the stew pot
sooner rather than later.  It’s always hard to make the decision
to cull a hen, but you know what they say — you’ve got to break a few
eggs to make an omelet.  (Research sure is tasty at this time of

Our chicken waterer never spills or fills with

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