Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hunting for eggs

See this four-unit nest box condo?  I made it myself.  My first hens obediently used it each and every day.
As I get closer to my quest for a self-sustaining flock, well, my hens are abandoning the trappings of civilization in favor of the habits of their ancestors.  I should admire them.  Yet.....Is the floor of the coop really a more attractive alternative to leave your future offspring?
Or the corner of the partially cleaned buck house?
A deeply bedded corner of the does' communal stall is more attractive, yet rather vulnerable to crushing under the hooves of goats squabbling over food.
See any good spots here?  This is the kidding stall, currently being used to store hay and grain.  I'm down to three bales in here, and will clean it out in preparation for kidding once the hay is all gone.  Yesterday, a screeching hen came noisily out the door when I went in to get food for the goats.  I figured I'd better look for her egg. 
This nest made more sense, cozied in the protected spot made to keep kids warm under a heat lamp.  When I went to see if she laid an egg in there, this is what I found:
How many days without eggs for breakfast is that?  Sheesh!  Girl!  I've been feeding you organic wheat that I lovingly pre-sprout for you to make it more digestible!  At least sit on those eggs and raise a brood!

I also found two in the I'd never have found had I not seen the hen sneaking quietly into a tight spot behind a bucket earlier.  We suspect there are eggs being laid in the neighbor's yard, under some equipment and trailers that are parked in a far corner.  There are likely other spots on our own property that we haven't found.  I'm sure some eggs are taken by dogs or other protein-loving creatures before we can find the location of the nests.

Here is an example....see the hen?  This is the tarp that covers one of our diminishing wood piles:
Same hen, using a flash this time....see the attitude?  Defiant little creature!
The hubster and I hunt for eggs at least twice a day, reporting new hiding spots to each other.  I imagine it will only get worse with the addition of the Icelandic hens.....I can hardly wait!

Have you hugged your nest-box-using hen lately?  Go give her a big ol' smooch right on the beak!


  1. hilarious! we found a huge nest in our garage... grrrr. hennies!!!

  2. At least this time of year they are refrigerated! I'm gonna boil up those 16 eggs and hope they are all good. Should be. It is high time to clean out the garage before really warm weather....imagine if an egg exploded in the heat of summer? YIKES!

  3. You can test the eggs in a bowl of cool water. If they float, dispose of them VERY carefully.... This is how I tested the eggs I stored in waterglass. It was about 95% correct.

    One thing I noticed about the nest boxes is how open they are. And then the hiding places. One thing I've learned is hens do NOT like to be able to see out, or for anyone to see in. So we built our 6 nestboxes like this:

    There's a hallway of 8" wide down the front of the boxes for access. I would have preferred it opened on one end, but with doorways for chickens and people at those ends, it had to be the center:

    Our hens aren't free ranging but they very seldom lay outside the boxes. It's usually the new pullets each year who, for a short time, will lay in the corners of the coop or under the nestboxes.

  4. Great job on the coop! Nice picture gallery.

    Yeah, all bets are off once they are free-ranging. I now have mostly hens that we raised from chicks and that free-ranged from an early age (or were broody raised and foraged from day one) so all bets are off. They are not 100% domesticated! But for about 22 birds, I fed about a pound of grain for their evening meal for the past few days, and about double that for their morning meal. And the four goats got a fair amount of that! The hens find most of their own food when the ground is not frozen.

  5. And they've obviously survived predators. Here the entire flock would be gone inside of 3 days due to high aerial and 4 footed pressure. We've found it easier to say what 4 footed we DON'T have: wolves, wolverines and lynx. We've even seen the mountain lion twice.

    I expect hen raised chicks are more able to take care of themselves. Just wondering what your rate of lay ROL is for the 22?

  6. Most are every other day layers, all heritage breeds, and I have a half dozen older hens that I should cull. That means sell here, I admit to being a bit fond of the girls and only the roos end up in the pot.

    We mostly lose hens to hawks and young bald eagles. I lost half a batch of chicks to some small four-footed predator last year when they were growing out in the chicken tractor, but that's it. The neighbors all have dogs and that seems to keep other four-footed predators mostly at bay. There dogs have left my wandering hens alone, fortunately.