April 17, 2012

Consumer Q’s

Q: I have 17 hens and one rooster. What causes them to eat their own eggs? I heard that oyster shells would help stop this, but it must not work. They are getting worse. They have plenty to eat at all times. Can you tell me what to do?

A: Egg eating is not normal behavior for a hen. Here are some tips that may help:

The habit sometimes begins when an egg breaks accidentally and one or more chickens start pecking it for moisture or nutrients. To help prevent eggs from cracking or breaking, line your nests with lots of soft nesting material. Provide one nest per every four (or less) hens to prevent crowding. If too many hens use the same nest, eggs are more likely to get trampled or broken. Having nests off the ground may help since fewer chickens will be stepping on them. Collect the eggs more regularly, at least two or three times daily. The longer the eggs remain in the nest, the greater chance of breakage and consumption.

When an egg breaks, clean it up as quickly and thoroughly as possible to prevent the chickens from tasting the egg. Don’t throw broken or cracked eggs on the floor for chickens to eat. If you feed them eggs, make sure they're cooked and the shells are ground or crushed as to be unidentifiable as pieces of eggs.

If your flock’s eggs are weak, ground oyster shells provide calcium which may strengthen the egg shells. Provide plenty of clean, fresh drinking water. Hens need greater amounts of water than other birds and may consume their eggs for the liquid content.

Cull non-laying hens from the flock. Keep an eye on your birds. It may be only one or two culprits instead of all of them. Maintain a disease-free flock that is treated regularly for internal and external parasites. Egg eating can also occur when the light is too bright.

Some people recommend placing golf balls on the nest. Repeated unproductive pecks at the balls may help cure the hen of the habit.

You may also wish to contact your local Cooperative Extension office to see if they have further advice or more specific advice for your particular case.

Q: I set aside an amaryllis in my basement in the fall so it could go dormant and bloom again. I forgot about it and discovered it already sprouting. The leaves are practically white from sprouting in the dark. What should I do?

A: Place your amaryllis in a sunny window. The leaves will turn green in a couple days. If you are placing it outside, set it in an area of bright or filtered light until the leaves turn green; then it can be transferred to a spot receiving full sun.

Q: What is blackberry winter?

A: Spring is a mixed bag of warm, cool, cold and even hot weather. After weeks of warm weather with leaves on many trees and spring flowers in bloom, we can still get frost, snow or extremely cold temperatures. Blackberry winter is a period of cool or cold weather that arrives late, often when blackberries are blooming. This period of cold weather has happened often enough over the years that it acquired a name. In some areas the country similar periods of cold weather are called redbud winter, dogwood winter or locust winter.

 If you have questions about services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, visit our website at www.agr.georgia.gov or write us at 19 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Room 227, Atlanta, GA  30334 or email us at info@agr.georgia.gov.  To learn more about agricultural issues, get garden tips and find sources for flowers, livestock and other agricultural products, consider a subscription to The Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin. Subscriptions for Georgia residents are $10 per year. To start or renew a subscription, send a check or money order payable to Market Bulletin at the address above.


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