Outsmarted by a Chicken
I have had chickens for five years, and I thought I had them figured out, until today that is. The chicken yard is mostly an open grassy area. When we set up the fence a few years ago, we decided to fence off two small Douglas fir saplings and the surrounding bit of ferns and small native shrubs to protect them from overgrazing by the chickens and eventually provide a bit of shade for the girls as the trees matured. I noticed about a month ago that a couple of our young golden comets had taken an interest in these fenced off areas and were flying in over the top of the fence and laying the occasional egg or two under the cover of the dense vegetation. I have been keeping an eye on these areas for eggs, and I thought I was managing to get them all. Today, we decided to remove the fence from around the trees so we could pull out the blackberry that was growing inside the fence, and I discovered a stash of 21 eggs! Here I thought I was doing a good job of looking for eggs, but apparently someone else was doing an even better job of hiding them from me.
I think the problem arose due to the several broody hens (Wishin’ and Hopin’) that we have had for the last several weeks. The broody hens sit in the nest box almost all day, every day, making it difficult for the other hens to get some time in the nest box to lay their eggs. Even though we have six nest boxes to choose from, inevitably the ladies all want to lay in the same couple of boxes. One of the broody hens, a sussex, is extremely ill-tempered when she is broody. She puffs herself up almost as big as a Thanksgiving turkey and will peck anything that comes near her, so the other hens give her a wide berth. With a couple of hens camped out in the favorite nest boxes all day, some of the ladies resort to finding other places to lay their eggs. I have been finding a small pile of eggs every day in the corner of the coop, and I’ve seen Squeeky-2 drop an egg in the middle of the pasture on more than one occasion recently.
I had noticed a slight decrease in the number of eggs laid recently, but I was attributing it to the several broody hens (they don’t lay eggs while they are broody) and the extremely hot weather we have been having. But now I know there is another reason for the decrease in the number of eggs in my egg basket lately. Since we took down the fence, I have seen the comets exploring anything and anywhere that looks like a good hiding place, so I can see that I am going to have to up my egg hunting game in order to keep up with these clever ladies.