We have been letting our chickens free range all spring, summer and now fall. It worked out well, the older hens got some exercise and the youngsters got to explore (and boy did they explore.) The problem is, however, that because they are free ranging, now we can’t find their eggs.
With the older crew I had set up nest boxes outside that they used without fail, but nope, no one is using them now. This could be for several reasons:
- The older ones are too old and the younger ones are too young. Although I think that this is a general trend with our flock, I find it hard to believe that NOT ONE chicken is laying. Not one. Some of my older hens are only a few years old, they still have it in them. And my youngsters are at right at the point where they should begin laying (in fact, a few weeks back I had found some smaller eggs which I assumed were starter eggs from the kids.)
- Predators, those darn predators. Marc and I have carefully inspected the coop. We can’t find any place where the chicken wire has failed or where anything has tried to burrow under. Based on a Facebook photo I had once seen, I still scan the entire of the coop for large black, hulking snakes (and I have my phone set to dial 911 if I ever find one, not for them to take care of the snake, but rather for them to take care of me after I’ve had the heart attack I’ll have if I ever see a large, black, hulking snake.)
- Just the wrong time of year. It takes roughly 16 hours of daylight for a chicken to lay an egg. We all know that their egg production slows down when the days get shorter. But all 27 birds have just stopped? For a few weeks? I don’t buy it.
My last guess (and this is the one I’m putting my money on) is that somewhere in the back woods of our house is a large cache of eggs. I think that our birds have found their own private nest boxes and are using them.
Marc and I walked the property looking for a clutch, or at the very least broken egg shells, but we’ve found nothing (it’s sort of like an adult Easter egg hunt without the jellybeans.) It doesn’t mean that those eggs are not out there, it simply means that if I’m right, we just haven’t found them yet.
So for now, the flock is on house arrest. We’re keeping them cooped in the coop for a few days to see if they are laying and to perhaps retrain them to use an indoor nesting box. Our flock hates the snow and stays in the coop and enclosed hen yard all winter so nest box training will be coming soon anyway, but for now, we need to find those eggs.
I’m missing my scrambled with bacon in the morning.
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
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