My Tiny Brood of Backyard Chooks

chooks, hens or chickens?


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Don’t take your chicken’s freshly laid eggs for granted

When your chickens are moulting and having a break from laying, you miss the eggs but you understand the girl’s need for a rest.

When your chickens are back in full egg production, you appreciate those eggs and get used to having freshly laid eggs daily.
You get used to watching the girls stop whatever they were doing and rush to the nesting boxes with a sense of purpose.
You get used to having an egg or two nestled in the wood shavings when you lift the lid of the nesting box each day.
You get used to walking smugly past the egg aisle in the supermarket.
You get used to reaching into the fridge each time you need an egg for cooking or baking or even a quick meal.
You get used to lovingly placing eggs into an egg carton and proudly giving them to your friends and family.

Until one day, they stop laying in the middle of the laying season. The anticipation and excitement is suddenly gone and is replaced by worry.
Have my chickens stopped laying?
Could my chickens be laying in the bushes?
Could my chickens be sick?
How can all three hens stop laying at once?

No more eggs in my nesting boxes for more than a week. So I shut the girls up in their coop until the afternoon for a week and then had to shut Hannah Hen up full time for a few more days until I could see if they were actually laying or not. They were laying, but very sporadically.

But a few weeks on and the girls are now back to their normal egg production and laying in the nesting boxes. The anticipation and excitement is back as I look in the nesting boxes each day. I no longer take my freshly laid eggs for granted and I don’t just expect them to be there each day.

So what was it that caused this hiccup in my chicken’s egg production? It took one of my readers to point out what probably caused my girls to go off the lay. A few days before they all stopped laying, a possum was found in their hen house, all curled up asleep in one of their nesting boxes.

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Did locking my hens up stop them from laying in the bushes?

I suddenly stopped getting eggs in my nesting boxes and suspected that my free ranging girls were laying somewhere in the bushes but I have never found their nest.

So I locked them up each day until late afternoon, for one week.  During that week, the Barnevelders, Helen and Hilda got the message and started laying in the nesting boxes again. But Hannah Hen, my best layer, only laid one egg during that week.  She has not laid an egg in the nesting box since.

While they were locked in for that week, my neighbour was letting them out each day after 3pm and I am now wondering if that wily bantam was holding onto her eggs  until she was let out and then scurried off to her bush hideaway to lay her egg.

I don’t mind Hannah Hen living here and eating my lovely food and not producing eggs. But if she is producing eggs, I want them. I do wonder if maybe she has just stopped laying. I think she is probably quite old and maybe has passed her egg time. But I am not so sure.

The only way to tell if she is laying or not is to lock her up for a week and not let her out for an afternoon walk. So I have set up the spare (maternity) coop and tonight after she has gone to bed, I am going to grab her and put her in the spare coop. I got it ready for her today with nice fresh wood shavings and fresh water and food bowls. She will hate it but at least I will know if she is laying or not.

 


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My chickens have forced me to do an egg hunt!

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Where on earth do I start to look for a nest of eggs? There are so many wonderful and safe hiding places for a chicken to lay her eggs. I am sure the nest is on this side of the house, somewhere in these bushes because this is where I saw George patiently waiting.

So Haitch and I entered the bush and started scouring the undergrowth for a nest of eggs. Surely the eggs would stand out against the dark floor of the bush. This shouldn’t take long.

We looked and looked and looked in the general direction I had seen Hannah coming from the day I thought George was protecting her whilst she laid. But there was no sign of a fresh nest.

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But although I couldn’t find the new nest, I found an old nest hidden under the fern fronds. I had no idea that any of my girls had ever laid in the bush before. And here I was thinking they were such good chickens compared to other people’s! Clearly not.

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When Haitch put these eggs in the bowl, one slipped out of his hand and cracked and oh dear. This is a very old nest. Smelly, smelly eggs. I am surprised that no critters had eaten these eggs, weasels, stoats, ferrets, possums even?

My girls are currently being locked up every day until mid afternoon when my wonderful neighbour comes up each day to let them out. We will do this for the rest of this week and see what happens in the weekend.

Hilda and Helen are both laying in the nesting boxes while being locked up but Hannah has not yet. She is either not laying at the moment (hmmmm) or she is holding onto her egg and then laying once she is let out. I might have to leave her in all day if she doesn’t give me any eggs over the next few days. She may be cleverer than I thought.