Egg topper

I have always removed the top from our soft boiled eggs with a knife. A swift side ways cut through the top and remove.

However with the little serama eggs it’s a little more difficult. I think because they are loose in the saki cups holding them is much hotter on the fingers and the shells themselves are also harder and the whole operation is much more fiddly. Plus I have to do four instead of two.

My husband suggested that I look at gadgets to take the top off boiled eggs. I looked on Amazon and as I didn’t know what they were called I typed in to the search – taking the top off boiled eggs.

It turns out they are called egg toppers. The one I chose was the princely sum of £2.99 and free next day delivery. I couldn’t go wrong at that price.

I wasn’t sure if it would close small enough for a serama egg but I thought that if it didn’t work it would still be worth having for our winter medium sized shop bought eggs.

Egg topper open
Egg topper closed
Egg topper over a serama egg

I was waiting to try this out before giving it a review.

In the mean time, in case anyone hasn’t read the comments, David said that his wife uses an upturned regular egg cup for bantam eggs. I thought this was a genius idea that I would never have thought of.

Serama eggs on upturned regular egg cups

Left, regular egg cup, next it’s upturned and right serama eggs in the dip of the base. Thank you to David and his wife for this tip.

Now for my review of the egg topper. The next time we had soft boiled eggs I tried it. It didn’t seem to close tightly enough on the tiny egg and although it did make a cut it didn’t remove the top of the egg shell and I had to finish with a knife.

I decided to wait until this morning and try it on the slightly bigger eggs of Ebony and Flame. I thought this would work better but it was exactly the same. It crushed the shell a bit but didn’t remove it.

I squeezed it a bit harder and the egg topper came apart in bits. Well I suppose this is what I get for buying the cheapest one.

My husband put it together again easily enough. I will keep it for the winter and try it with regular sized eggs but I won’t bother using it again for my little eggs. Oh well, it was worth a try.

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Hard and soft boiled eggs

Over winter while our girls weren’t laying we were having a soft boiled egg and toasted soldiers for breakfast one day a week. It became one of my favourite breakfasts.

I hadn’t often done this with our girls’ eggs because I thought it would be difficult to judge the timings. However I decided on a bit of trial and error so that I would know for the future and I now have it down to a fine art.

I had to also take into consideration the two different sizes of my eggs. Regular bantam sized for Ebony and Flame and tiny serama sized for the rest of the girls.

It may help others as a starting point and then you can tweak it to suit your own tastes. I like my soft boiled egg to have a firm white but a liquid yolk to dip in. I like my hard boiled eggs to still have just a little softness to them.

With a medium shop bought egg I give them 5 minutes for soft boiled and 10 minutes for hard boiled.

With Ebony and Flame’s eggs I give them 4 minutes for soft boiled and 8 minutes for hard boiled.

With the serama eggs I give them 3 minutes for soft boiled and 6 minutes for hard boiled.

As we get many more serama eggs than the bigger ones it seemed more useful to get the timings right for these. The next problem was what to use as egg cups.

I have loads of regular sized egg cups of course. I have only one bantam sized egg cup that my youngest son gave me one Easter with a chocolate egg in it. It is perfect for Ebony and Flame’s eggs but not much use as there are two of us and only the one egg cup.

The serama eggs drop so low in the bantam sized egg cup that you wouldn’t be able to get at them. I then had a brain wave. I have four sake cups that were also a gift from my youngest son in the days when a lot of my gifts had a chicken theme. They have cockerels on them and sit in my kitchen display cabinet.

The eggs are loose in them but they are low enough to be able to get to the eggs and they actually work fine for us. It’s been nice to have a use for them rather than just decoration.

Saki cup on the left, bantam egg cup in the middle and regular egg cup on the right
Two serama eggs in the saki cups
Ebony’s egg in the bantam egg cup
Serama egg in the bantam egg cup
Demonstration of the size of a serama egg in a saki cup
Serama eggs for breakfast

I have to cut the soldiers a bit thinner to dip in the eggs but this works perfectly. We are having this as our regular mid week breakfast and I love them.

Although the eggs are small you get more yolk ratio with smaller eggs so they are really lovely. I am pleased with myself for solving this. Perfect little eggs every time.

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An abundance of eggs

The girls have really got into their egg laying stride. Even Ebony is now laying again. Ebony laid an egg three days ago followed by another one yesterday.

I am glad that Ebony is laying again. It’s not because we need the eggs but because it means there is no problem going on with her. I really don’t want any more health problems with the girls.

For the first time in a very long time the entire flock is laying. For the first time this year I am using all three of my egg rollers in the fridge.

Eggs on three rollers

Also for the first time this year I have enough eggs to give some away. Yesterday I gave all the eggs from the back roller to my lovely neighbours. There are three of them as their adult daughter lives with them.

Because our eggs are so small I needed to accumulate a good number of eggs before I could give some away. We have them two or three each at a time.

My neighbour shares books with me. We each put the books that we have enjoyed on the wall to be read and then passed back. We pass each other small gifts from time to time. It is lovely to be able to share some eggs.

It is lovely having such an abundance of our girls’ lovely eggs. Thank you girls!

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A Tribute to Speckles

I have to warn that this will be long. We had Speckles for so long that there is a lot to say about her and I have lots of photos of her. I spent all yesterday afternoon going through photos and then I had to half them to a more manageable amount.

Speckles was the most amazing girl we have had. We bought her home at the end of July 2015. She was already moulting and promptly lost her tail.

This means that she was two years old as hens lay through their first year instead of moulting. That means that Speckles was about eight years old. I have just been researching bantam ancona to see how many eggs they are expected to lay and it says that eight years is the average lifespan for an ancona.

This makes me feel better as Speckles has lived a good, full, life. It says that ancona are prolific egg layers laying between 200 and 270 eggs a year. Speckles was never a prolific layer and halved the number of eggs she laid each year.

Speckles laid none with us in 2015 as she was already moulting and she always moulted that early every year since.

Speckles number of eggs were:

2016 – 50, 2017 – 27, 2018 – 12, 2019 – 6, 2020 – 1 and of course none this year.

I have often thought that her lack of egg laying probably gave her her longevity as egg laying wasn’t wearing her out. When she did lay though they were the biggest bantam eggs we have ever had. They were a long, oval, shape and were white and huge.

Speckles came into the flock as bottom girl. She was so nervous of all the girls and of me. She soon got used to me though and within six months of having her she would regularly jump on my back. Speckles continued to do this all the time that she was with us. When I would poop pick the run she would jump on my back and ride with me until I passed a perch where she would step off.

Speckles was also my most chatty girl. She had an easily recognisable voice and would follow me round the run chatting to me and I chatted back to her.

Because we had her for so long Speckles saw a lot of girls come and go and she soon rose up the ranks to become top girl. Speckles was a very gentle top girl. I have never seen Speckles show aggression. She would just give a gentle peck to her underlings when needed and even Ebony who is quite a thug has never challenged her being top girl. I think she gained respect through age.

During the time we have had Speckles we have re homed 5 girls and lost 13 girls plus 1 cockerel. That is many more than those that came before her which were 3 re homed, 3 lost and 1 cockerel.

Speckles also formed close friendships. From the time that we lost Toffee and Emerald became the only other remaining bigger girl the two of them formed a close friendship. They were always together.

Speckles also took on a mothering role towards some of the little girls. When Cinnamon, Dandelion and Apricot joined the flock Speckles acted like a mother hen towards them. She never pecked them and she would call them to treats or titbits.

When we lost Apricot and then Dandelion Speckles formed a really close bond with Cinnamon. They were always together until we lost Cinnamon.

After losing Emerald we got Ebony and Flame so that Speckles wouldn’t be the only bigger girl. Speckles was equally at home with the bigger girls or the little girls.

At bedtime the bigger girls use the side perch which is wider for their bigger feet and the little girls use the back perch which is narrower. Speckles would equally perch with the two bigger girls or with the little girls. She was the only girl to divide her time between the two perches.

Speckles was always the first to the lunch time apple and she loved chopped tomato. On her last day with us she was as usual first to the apple at lunch time. I gave the girls chopped tomato later in the afternoon as one had gone soft and Speckles was very quick to hoover it up.

Speckles came running when I shook the bedtime corn. It was less than an hour later that I found she had gone. She was still warm and had a full crop. It is as though she was good and then she was gone which is why it was such a shock.

I am so glad that Speckles was able to enjoy a long time as top girl with us and enjoyed all her food and treats right up to the end. She has had a good innings as they say. She will be very much missed.

I have picked some photos from each year. There were many photos of Speckle’s huge red comb and of her on my back but I limited myself to just one of each. I always said that when egg laying Speckles had a comb that a cockerel would be proud of.

September 2015 Speckles has her tail back
March 2016 Speckles on my back
June 2016 Speckles magnificent comb and wattles
March 2017 Speckles was always happy to share a nest box but four is probably too many
May 2017 Speckles and Dandelion share a nest box
July 2017 Speckles surrounded by her little girls

October 2017 Cinnamon Speckles looking out
December 2017 Speckles with the little girls in the small shelter while Emerald watches
December 2017 A wet day send all the girls to the big shelter
March 2018 Speckles and Emerald had taken to perching here at bedtime in the summer
April 2018 Speckles and Emerald share a nest box
June 2018 The girls perching together
April 2019 Cinnamon would often join the bigger girls
April 2020 Speckles shares a nest box with Ebony
January 2021 The three bigger girls together

What an amazing girl. She is already very much missed but we were lucky to have had her.

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A shock – Speckles has gone

Speckles was our oldest girl and we knew that the day would come when we would lose her. What we didn’t expect was for it to be now.

What I would have expected was a gradual slow down. Speckles was still eating well and enjoying the treats. She was always the first to the lunch time apple every day. She was still full of life and was always chatty. She was our most vocal girl.

I could see her age in her eyes though. She still had a red comb but her eyes had become very narrow.

Last night I went out to give the girls their bedtime corn at half past five. I always give it at about an hour before the pop hole closes which at the moment is at half past six.

I rattled the corn and Speckles came running as usual. After the corn the three bigger girls always go in the chicken shed first followed by Spangle. Spangle has worked out that it’s easier to go in before Smoke who will block the pop hole for a while.

Shadow, Sugar and Salmon are always the last in. Since I have stopped leaving the shed door ajar all the girls have been in before the pop hole closes every night.

I closed our bedroom curtains as I always do before going out to the chickens. I was surprised to see the white shapes of the little girls running back and forth across the edge of the patio area and knew that they must be shut out.

I went out and as soon as I got to the gate I could see why they were out. Speckles was lying, dead, in the middle of the patio area. I think that Salmon, Shadow and Sugar hadn’t wanted to pass her.

I felt her and her breast was still slightly warm. It had been less than hour since I had left the girls. It was such a shock.

My husband took her from me and put her in the shed until morning as it was quite dark by now. Shadow first and then Sugar jumped on to my back and I got my husband to pass them to me so that I could perch them. Salmon by then had made her way to the open shed door so I picked her up and put her on the perch.

I inspected Speckles and there was no sign of anything untoward and her crop was full. I think she would have been on her way in to the chicken shed and just didn’t make it. It must have been quick.

My husband said that it was the best chicken death you could want as their was no decline and no decision needed but the quickness of it has left me reeling. I am just stunned and I didn’t have any time to get used the idea of her going.

I can’t believe that Speckles has gone just a week after Marmite. This morning my husband dug a deep hole in the chicken’s strip to bury her and I planted a big primula on top of her. My husband made a wooden cross to mark her spot. Sadly Speckles is number seven in the chicken’s strip.

Speckles a week ago

I took this photo a week ago to show how pale Marmite’s comb was. Even our elderly Speckles had a red comb. You can see her age in her eyes though.

Both my husband and myself had noticed her eyes over the last couple of days had narrowed a bit more and had a far away look to them.

I took a photo for my record and wasn’t sure if I should put it here or not. I decided that as it is blurred I would because I feel it shows how I found her and how sudden it was.

Poor Speckles
Speckle’s resting Place

I will do a tribute to Speckles over the next day or two. I have many years of photos to look back through so it will take me quite some time but I want to do her justice.

Speckles was a very special girl and will be very much missed.

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Sharing a nest box

Flame seems to like sharing a nest box. If another girl is in a nest box Flame will always choose to share.

Today Sugar was in the nest box first.

Sugar in the nest box

Flame was making the mournful sound that she always makes when she is about to choose a nest box. The next time I checked on the girls Flame was settled in the nest box with Sugar.

Sugar and Flame share a nest box

The next time I checked Sugar and Flame’s eggs were side by side. It looks as if Sugar is just putting up with Flame’s company. It is quite sweet though how Flame likes to share. I love seeing the different sized girls together like this.

In other news Smoke laid her first egg today since her broody spell. This is only two weeks after her last egg so not too bad. Just one week broody and one more weeks break.

That’s all the girls laying except Speckles and Ebony. Speckles I don’t expect to lay but I am a bit perplexed by Ebony’s lack of laying.

Plenty of eggs though so not a problem as long as all the girls are happy and healthy.

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Egg laying

This is another example of being able to tell my girls eggs apart. I know Sophie is always surprised how well this works for me but I am guessing that her girls’ eggs are very similar.

I am not saying that there won’t be occasions, if I haven’t seen a girl in the nest box and if it is the more similar shaped eggs that I won’t be certain and sometimes it is a process of elimination, but most of the time it’s easy to tell.

Today both Shadow and Spangle wanted to lay at the same time and in the same next box. Familiar story! They were both in and out and being very vocal about it taking turns to shout.

I decided to put Shadow in one nest box and Spangle in the one next to it. To my surprise they accepted this and both settled down in their nest boxes. I decided to get my camera and take a photo of each girl in her nest box.

Some of the photos were a bit blurred so I decided to go back and take a few more photos. I just happened to catch Spangle laying her egg.

Shadow in the nest box
Spangle in the next nest box
Shadow a few minutes later
And Spangle now in the laying position
And then just laid and the egg still wet
Spangle and Shadow’s eggs

Spangle’s egg is the torpedo shaped egg on the left and Shadow’s is the small round egg on the right.

You can see how different they are. Although Smoke lays a round egg her eggs are quite large for serama eggs and she isn’t yet laying after her recent broody spell. Salmon’s eggs are round but bigger than Shadow’s. Shadow’s eggs are the smallest of all the eggs. Sugar’s few eggs have been oval and also bigger. Spangle’s eggs are always this long and narrow shape.

There may be a few times when I can’t be sure but most of the time it is easy to tell. I love how different all the eggs are. It is rather a fun thing.

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Differing eggs

Both Salmon and Spangle have now started laying. I am amazed that at the moment I can still tell the eggs apart.

I didn’t catch either Salmon or Spangle laying but I knew it was them that had laid. I found Spangle’s egg just inside the pop hole in the morning. I knew it was her egg as it was the typical torpedo shaped egg that she always lays.

Salmon’s egg was in the nest box and although I missed her actually sitting before laying I knew it was her egg as she was very vocal and kept returning to the nest box after I removed the egg. The girls get a bit confused before they get into their stride.

Shadow laid her egg soon afterwards and it was the typical small size that all her eggs have been so this proved to me that the other egg was Salmon’s.

Sugar had laid some oval shaped eggs but is erratic at the moment. She doesn’t seem to have hit her stride yet.

Other than these girls Flame is the only other one laying at the moment and there is no mistaking her eggs. They are large and always have calcium bubbles on them.

Eggs on the roller

On the left is Spangle’s torpedo shaped egg. Next is Shadow’s small round egg. Next is Salmon’s slightly bigger round egg and on the right is Flame’s egg.

Eggs on the stand

Again Spangle’s egg is on the left, next is Shadow’s egg, next is Salmon’s bigger egg and on the right is Flame’s egg.

I took these photos a couple of days ago put didn’t put out a post as I wanted to do my tribute to Marmite.

Today the same girls have laid again and once more Spangle’s is torpedo shaped, Shadow’s is the smallest and Salmon’s a bit bigger. Today’s eggs are pretty much identical to the eggs above.

Shadow has turned out to be a really good layer and has just laid four days in a row. I am happy her eggs are small as I think it is easier on her laying small eggs.

I wonder if this means Shadow may turn out to be a broody girl as it’s the good egg layers that tend to go broody.

Sugar doesn’t seem to have properly got going yet and I have no idea why Ebony isn’t laying. Ebony has a very red face and comb and is as active as normal. Maybe she will turn out to be another Speckles who never laid as well as her breed usually do.

In other news Smoke has just come out of being broody. As usual she began having longer spells out in the run and for the last few days has only gone in the nest box when there is an egg to sit on. Once I take the egg she stays out. Smoke has also perched in the chicken shed for the last three nights instead of a nest box.

Luckily there are plenty of eggs even without all the girls laying. I expect Smoke will start laying again in about a week’s time. Well done girls!

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A tribute to Marmite

It has been so sad to lose Marmite at only three years old. Marmite laid soft shelled eggs plus a few weird shaped ones all last summer and we always knew that the beginning of the laying season this year could well be her downfall.

Marmite was able to enjoy another six months of being happy and healthy over the winter though so we are thankful for that. While looking back through my photos to do this tribute I realised how different Marmite’s first laying year was.

In my blog posts I have said that closely behind Smoke, Marmite was the best egg laying serama, that year. I had also forgotten that she went broody several times during her first year.

Marmite was quite a character and was always happy to join another girl in the nest box. Marmite was bottom girl until Shadow and Sugar came along and had such a sweet nature.

The five amigos just after we collected them in September 2018
Marmite with a yogurt beak in December 2018
Marmite shares a nest box with Ebony in May 2019
Marmite and Smoke broody together after I had just lifted from the nest box in August 2019
Marmite sharing a nest box with Smoke in August 2019
Marmite sharing a nest box with Flame in May 2020
Marmite dust bathing with her flock mates this year in January 2021
Marmite looking beautiful in April 2019

Marmite was such a beautiful girl and had such a lovely nature. One of the things that made it so hard to let her go was that she still showing her spirit just a few days ago.

Sugar got close to Marmite and Marmite rose up and gave her a light peck. I could almost read Marmite saying that she may be down but she was no longer bottom girl and Sugar and Shadow had best not forget that.

I am glad that she had the chance to rise up the pecking order a little. She is gone but will never be forgotten and will be much missed.

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Marmite has gone

I have had such a struggle to come to a decision with Marmite. After a summer of laying soft shelled eggs last year I knew there was likely to be a problem this year.

Over winter Marmite has had an extra, happy and healthy, six months of not having to lay eggs. Twice last summer I had gently pulled a soft shell egg from Marmite’s vent and always worried that one could break inside her.

What made this decision so hard is that Marmite was still eating corn twice a day and pecking at apples. We have seen girls give up in the past. They stand looking hunched and refuse to eat even the treats. We then know it’s time. Marmite was still perching and preening and eating treats.

I said I would give her the weekend then on Monday just one more day and then again Tuesday just one more day. Today I knew that I couldn’t leave it any longer.

I knew that she wasn’t going to be fixed and it was only a matter of time. Marmite’s comb and face were pale. Marmite was like a chicken in slow motion. She wasn’t doing all the normal chicken things. I knew that she wasn’t having a good quality of life.

I took a last photo of Marmite and gave her some corn and apple and called the vets.

Marmite before we took her to the vets

My usual vet at Flackwell Heath was too busy and said to go their sister vet in High Wycombe. We had never been there before. We had an appointment for twelve o’clock.

When I put Marmite in the cat box she didn’t want to go in and was quite spirited in trying to escape. Once in though she settled down and sat quietly. I gave her some corn but she wasn’t interested.

The vet was really busy but well organised. We parked and someone, masked, asked who were and said she would let reception know we were here. Soon a masked vet came to the vehicle. We too both had our masks on. We gave the vet the cat box and I explained Marmite’s history. I explained that I had been putting off bringing her and that she may well try to escape the cat box as she was still quite spirited when I had put her in.

He said he could see from the colour of her face and comb how poorly she was. I said that I usually hold my girls while they are put to sleep but that I could see that wouldn’t possible. He said that he would take good care of her and bring her back to me afterwards.

The vet was soon back and asked if I would like to hold Marmite which I did. He said that I had done the right thing. She was very weak and quite empty and was ready to go. She didn’t struggle at all and went very quickly.

He said that he gave her a whiff of gas and then put the drug up inside her as it is more humane than trying to find a vein to inject.

He said that he was certain that if she was opened up he would find peritonitis which is an egg either stuck or broken inside. He was very kind. He said I could pay later over the phone or go to the reception hatch which I did.

I am so glad that this is over and we can stop keeping going over what to do every day. We have said that in future we will decide sooner but of course that is easier to say than do and every case is different.

Marmite was only three years old and had such a sweet nature. I will do a tribute to her soon with some photos. She will be missed.

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