It’s winter here in New Hampshire, it’s dark and it’s cold. I don’t even want to get out of bed some days and I certainly don’t blame our hens for not wanting to go to a cold box in order to lay some eggs. But enough is enough, even with knowing that egg production drastically goes down in the winter months (simply a normal reaction to the lack of sunlight) we shouldn’t be down this low.
Right now we have about 35 laying hens (including 7 chicks that were born this spring.) During the summer we were getting almost 2 dozen eggs a day, now we are lucky if we get 10. That’s quite a decrease and while I know that to increase egg production I can install a light (roughly 16 hours of light is needed a day for maximum egg production) I think that something else might be going on.
This past weekend we did a little investigating. For the most part our girls lay their eggs in or near the nesting boxes. We don’t remove the woodchips during the winter months so some of the girls make their own nests in the deep chips in the corners. Our first clue that something was up was that we were no longer getting our beautiful small bantam eggs in the nest boxes anymore. Where did they go?
Bantams are the small birds, the toy poodles of the fowl kingdom, and they also have a tendency for flight. When we let the chickens out in the yard to graze, it’s always the bantams we find on the low hanging branches or on the top of the chain link fence. So we started looking up.
Sure enough, when we looked at the henhouse roof rafters, we found a spot where the roof meets the walls where our smaller birds like to hide in order to lay their eggs. We found about 7 eggs up there.
One mystery solved.
Our henhouse is also designed with a low overhang that goes back 4 feet. Initially this sounded like a good idea, in hind site, it’s been hell. Chicks run to the back and hide (the only way you can get them out is to crawl on your belly and reach under), sick birds will also crawl under to die, and my guess is that several of our birds are also laying eggs in privacy way in the back out of our reach.
This weekend we are going to clear out that entire area. I’ll take a photo if (when) we find a hidden treasure trove of eggs (which will all be tested to see if they are good) and then we are going to seal off that fowl cave. No more lost eggs for us, after all if one of our hens is going to go through the effort of creating and then laying an egg, the very least I can do is make sure her efforts and hard work are appreciated and shared by all.