Those hens loved their taste of freedom. So much so that a few determined ladies decided that they needed to get out of their field and find a 'better' place to lay their eggs. Larry had a very early morning doctor appointment on Monday, so after he left I stayed outside and puttered in the garden, and all of a sudden I noticed a hen behind me. I wondered how she got there, but didn't think too much of it, and herded her back through the gate and went back to what I was doing. I heard a flappa flappa flappa, and there she was again. I got her back into her field and went back to my transplanting. Then I heard a flappa flappa flappa again, and then again, and then there were two hens in the garden. Put them back in their field, and figured out that they were standing on top of a little rinky dink shelter on the north side of the coop and launching themselves over the fence. I took the rinky dink shelter apart. The hens still got over the fence. I put some more fencing up to make it higher. One still got over or through or somehow ended up in the garden AGAIN. I showed her the nest boxes in the coop. Not impressed she said. By that point I had to go in for breakfast as I was starving. When I checked later I didn't notice any wayward hens, and didn't think any more about it. This morning was a repeat performance of yesterday. Larry had gone to an early physiotherapy appointment. One very determined hen was using an old ladder shaped roost that was leaning against the fence, to help her on her way over the top. I took that down. Then she used the overhanging branch of a maple tree. This time she ended up in the driveway area, but kept trying to fit through a hole that was too small to get back in the garden. I kept showing her the eggs in the nest boxes in the coop. No way, she said. Then I found an egg in the garden, hidden in the long grass, right near that too small of a hole that she was trying to force herself through. Once a hen has decided where she is going to lay her eggs, she is determined to get back that same spot every day, no matter what she has to do to get there. There were another couple of hens that were pacing the fence line next to the garden, sticking their heads through the small holes in the wire, hoping to get through. I went in the coop and threw some more hay around, added some more to the nest boxes, anything to try and make them more appealing. Still not interested, those hens said.
So then I brought in some milk crates that we had made into nest boxes last year. Eureka! All the hens seemed to think they were just wonderful, even those desperately trying to lay elsewhere. I went back out a bit later, no hens were pacing the fence line, no hens were in the garden, and a couple of milk crates had three hens jammed in each. In the end, 6 eggs were laid in those milk crates, and 20 were laid in the other nest boxes.
Two of them had holes in them. Yesterday two of them were dented. I wondered yesterday whether those two had been banged on the front edge of the next boxes, but the two this morning had definitely been pecked. I thought 'oh wonderful, not only are hens trying to get out of their pen, they are also starting to eat eggs' And just the other day I was feeling all warm and fuzzy about them, thinking how personable they seemed, how they would run to the fence when they saw me, how they had really adjusted well to their lifestyle change, etc. Huh, and now two days later they are egg eating escape artists. A bit later in the day I saw a crow on the roof of the coop. I've seen them there before, and have watched for a while, but have never seen anything happen. I know there is a crow's nest in the Fir trees along the south property line. So then I figured that the (naughty word) crows were going in the coop and stealing and or eating eggs to feed their young. I took a piece of plywood and leaned it at an angle out from the wall of the coop, to make a sort of leanto in front of the chicken door. Not that the crows couldn't figure out how to get around it, but it might feel like more of a trap to them that way, and they would think twice about it. Crows are smart birds. Less than a week after we got the new hens, one started laying, we got a few eggs. And then all of a sudden the eggs seemed to stop. So now I'm thinking that the crows were getting her eggs. Another naughty word!!
So I'll see how it goes tomorrow. Let's hope the milk crate laying boxes continue to see like luxury suites for those few picky hens. Let's hope the crow(s) have been discouraged. Let's hope the sun comes back out after the sudden temperature drop and rain of this evening.