The past several weeks have been very frustrating with the hens. They are about 2 1/2 years old now, so should be at the peak of laying. Egg production has been dismal which leads one to believe that their nutrition is off or they are hiding eggs. They get premium feed, oyster shell, and until yesterday, free ranging all day every day, so it must be egg hiding. A search has been made in their hidey holes and all around the house and gardens, but no hidden nests have been found. Monday through Wednesday there were only 16 total eggs for 13 hens. There should be at least 9 or 10 each day as they don’t all lay an egg every day and some breeds only lay 3 or 4 times a week. Yesterday, they weren’t released from the coop at all and there were 8 eggs. This morning, some extra fencing and some 8 foot poles threaded through their shorter fence were cobbled together to make the fence about 6-7 feet tall around three quarters of their run. The other quarter already had fencing over the pop door in an angle down to the fence so they couldn’t jump from the door over into the garden.
This kept them in the run today and so far there have been 8 more eggs today, so as many in 2 days as in the prior 3 combined, still not as many as there should be.
To add to the reduction, there is a second Buff Orpington that has decided to be broody just as the other one was broken of it. They are a broody breed. This time, she was put straight into the chicken palace with food, water, and a ladder for a perch, but no nesting box. She will stay there for three days and three nights and hopefully will cease the nonproductive behavior.
Not knowing if their coop could be the cause, it was thoroughly cleaned today and pine shavings instead of straw added to the floor and nest boxes. It is probably time to consider replacing them for next year. There will not be as many added this time. After this year, there will only be enough kept to for daughter’s and our use. This fall, the hens will molt and their egg production will stop entirely during that period, so a good time to cull them.
Yesterday, a mouse was caught in the house and tossed out into the tall grass on the edge of the upper hay field. It is on the path over to the coop. Seeing activity there, a closer examination showed American Carion Beetles. I had never seen them before. There are quite an interesting looking bug.