Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why did the chicken cross the road?

To lay an egg of course!!  Despite providing lots of laying boxes for the hens, probably some of the same ones that like to wander around on the other side of the fence also like to lay their eggs in a spot of their own choosing.  Well you have to admit, the laying boxes are rather utilitarian looking, and there is NO privacy, but it is darker in the coop than the picture indicates. For a while I did have a 'curtain' hung over the front of a few boxes, to see if some hens preferred the privacy suites, but it didn't seem to make much difference.  As you can see, some boxes get more use than others, and I have seen as many as four hens all trying to squish into their favourite box at the same time.  No wonder some eggs get broken.  Of course if they were living in the wild, the hens would find a secluded place to lay their eggs; a spot that was hidden away from predators.

We have actually had two hens that literally did cross the road to find a spot to lay their eggs.  We have two chicken coops, and each has their own field attached to it.  One is on the south side of the property, and one on the north.  A hen from the south side would run down the field and around the vegetable garden.  She would hop halfway up the fence and find a spot big enough to force through.  Down the driveway to the road, looking both ways before crossing:), and then across the road and into a patch of undergrowth in our neighbours field.  Another hen from the north field would run down her field, get through the fence, run up the neighbours field, down into the ditch, across the road, and into some almost inpenetrable underbrush there.  Thankfully after a few days of me picking the eggs up each day, they gave up.  We did have one that laid an egg almost every day under one of the junipers along the driveway, and we had to remember to pick that egg up each day fairly quickly or the crows would get it.  Those crows are very smart birds and they seem to learn very quickly where the hens were laying, and if it is easily accessible, they steal the eggs.  If we suspect the hens might be laying in a spot we don't know about, one day we don't get let then out of the coop until mid morning.  By that time they are pretty desperate to get to their own private maternity ward, so I just tag along behind and follow them to their hiding spot.  If there are eggs accumulated there already I remove them and they are not sold.

                                             A nest in the blackberries                             

 and this hen is under the rhubarb

                                                     Along the fence line

In a plant pot at the front of the house.  There was certainly nothing private about this spot.  I think the two hens laying here were a little unclear on the concept!

In the garage on the work bench.  We used to have catfood in the red dish, which a few chickens found and would help themselves to when the garage door was open.  We finally had to move the cat food to the house to discourage the hens from coming in there.  This hen laid an egg there for quite a while.  Thankfully now that we have Luna, we don't have as much trouble with the hens out in the back yard, as they don't enjoy being herded by her.

In one of the old dog houses that weren't being used any more.

These last two pictures are the two other places (besides the coops) that we are collecting eggs right now.
In a shed on a pile of feed bags, four hens are laying here

In an empty stall that now has some hay and 'junk' stored in it.  Actually right now we are getting three or four eggs a day from the left side of that blue rolled tarp.  Oh yes, as well as the crows, the dogs will eat the eggs also if they get a chance.  Luna is 'herding' this hen, but she has eaten the eggs from here if we forget to keep the gate closed. 

Sometimes we come across a nest of eggs. Last week I discovered 14 eggs in an partially open drawer in an old workbench. Just to reassure you egg buyers, when we find a nest like that, you do not get those eggs:) We don't know how long they have been there, so they are used by us or the dogs get them as part of their meal.   Actually, if the eggs are rotten, the shells have a different look and feel and they sound different as the hit each other.  Not something that you want to have break in your hand though, as rotten eggs live up to their 'rotten' reputation.  Gross:( 

It would make it much less work if we didn't have to wander round to as many as six extra spots (as well as the two coops) to collect eggs, but I love that the hens have retained some natural instincts after many generations of crossbreeding and domestication.

Update - March 19.  After I removed the 14 eggs from the drawer, there was an egg or two in the next couple of days, and then nothing.  Now there are two hens laying in there again.

Why we have a drawer containing an old dirty facemask, the end of a hockey stick, a short piece of black water pipe, and a couple of metal parts of a trailer hitch, well just never know when you might need them:)


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