My Tiny Brood of Backyard Chooks

chooks, hens or chickens?


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.



A new bigger and better coop for my chickens

In the background is the original rather small coop I bought for my chickens before I knew anything about chickens. Here is a post about my original rather small  coop.
It was bought to hold three to four hens. At least that is what it said on the box.
It was bought before I realised how big my heavy breed Barnevelders would grow.
It was bought before I realised I would fall in love with having chickens and would want more than three.

So once I had captured Hannah Hen, I decided that the little bantam and the two rather large Barnevelders where a bit squashed in the rather small sleeping quarters in the rather small coop and were probably sleeping on top of each other. And that isn’t fair.

So I searched Trade Me and found a hen house that is meant to hold eight to ten chooks and bought a run to go with it. So I set it all up  with nice soft wood shavings in the nests and on the floor, moved the handles so the run would fit properly against the house and added perches to the run so they could sit on them and watch the world go by.

Then we moved them in. I was worried that they might not settle straight away and that they might not even want to go into the new house! I had already disrupted their lives. I had captured Hannah Hen and locked her in a rather small coop for ten days when she had been roaming free in a paddock for years.  I had locked the two Barnevelders in with Hannah Hen to get them all used to being together when they had been used to free ranging all day . How they must be hating it.

But no need to worry. After about five minutes of exploring the run, the rather brave Hilda Hen walked into the house.

And then came back out to tell the others all about it.

This is what she saw .

Since then they settled quickly in their new bigger and better coop and continued to lay their little brown and little green eggs. And they have enjoyed sitting on the perches in the run watching the world go by.
That was last weekend. This weekend it was all about letting them out to free range again. That post is for another day.


A rat in the chicken coop!

Nooooooo, I knew it had to happen but I didn’t think it would be this soon. I was in the house and I heard one of the chooks make a strange noise. I thought that maybe Hannah Hen had laid an egg so I went outside to investigate.

When I got outside I saw a rat run into the woodpile at the entrance to the bush (or woods as people would say in the US). Maybe the chooks had seen the rat and were frightened. But then again I’m not sure what a chook would do if face to face with a rat. Would she be frightened? But the chooks were ok, they were sitting on their favourite perch looking non-plussed.

A little later Haitch looked outside and saw the rat actually in the chicken coop eating chopped dates! (Some would say what are chopped dates doing in the chook coop!) So Haitch thought he would “deal with” this rat and crept quietly away, picked up a big rock and tip toed back to the chicken coop to throw the rock at the rat! But of course, the rat was far too clever for him. As Haitch got closer with the rock held high, the rat trotted off out of the coop and bounced into the bush.

We have had rats in the compost bin before but I thought we were keeping on top of them using our bait station but obviously not. So we refilled the bait station and put it nearer the coop, hoping the rat would come back and decide the poison was tastier than the dates.

Just as the chooks were putting themselves to bed, the rat came back. I happened to be watching out the window as I was waiting for the girls to go into the coop so I could shut them in for the night. They were having their last fill of grass before bedtime quite near the coop as they always do at dusk.

Then they saw the rat who was quite near the bait station. It was only a few metres from the chooks and they both stopped eating and they took a few steps towards the rat. The rat froze. They took a few more steps towards him and they peered at the rat with their beady eyes. Then I think they realised he might be a threat to their food (particularly their dates, maybe) and they both ran at the rat. The rat ran off back into the bush. They looked very pleased with themselves.

Hopefully he will come back tonight and have a lovely feed of bait and bring along his whole family. I had better buy some more bait and maybe a few more bait stations. I think this is going to be an ongoing battle.