I started raising chickens a decade or so ago to provide us with eggs. With new chicken syndrome, too many ended up here and too many young randy roos, so Son 1 and I learned to dispatch them and put them in freezer camp. I find them too tough to eat but for a few years, he would take frozen ones home occasionally. His situation doesn’t provide the facilities for that to happen at this point and there are several still in the freezer. Over the years, fewer chicks were purchased at replacement time, but last time, they were purchased in February and half died, they were replaced and several died, they were replaced again, thinking I would end up with only the few I started out to get, but ended up with 15, two were roos and dispatched that summer.
With more hens than are necessary, I found a friend that would gladly take a couple dozen a week off my hands. Daughter also welcomes some, but I have found that my priority for the eggs has shifted from producing them for our use to hoarding them all week so friend and daughter get what they want. The current 13 hens are going on 2.5 years old, molt is starting for the first time as last winter they hadn’t yet had a winter as adults and didn’t molt. Their age has also slowed laying. One has taken to becoming an egg eater, though I haven’t caught her in the act to isolate her, just finding evidence later. And I hear egg song, go look in the coop to remove the egg to stop her and there isn’t one there, so they are hiding them.
This morning, I heard egg song from this thicket.
There were three hens in there and rooting around from two sides, I couldn’t find where they might have laid their eggs. Only 4 have been in the coop today. A few minutes ago, I heard egg song again, right behind the house. The walled garden built last summer is pretty overgrown due to patio construction and rocks being tossed aside out of the way until it is finished, so weeding has been sporadic and the vetch and comfrey have taken over. The herb part I have tried to keep clearer, but the deer were eating down a tall flowering plant against the tall wall, so I leaned a piece of old fence there to protect them and the weeds had grown up under the leaning fence. I found this:
Six eggs hidden. There must be another cache somewhere else also. So it seems that they are laying them in the flowers and thickets instead of the coop. I guess they will have to lose their free range time except for a few hours each late afternoon. As they think nothing of going over a 4 foot fence, using electric mesh that can be moved through the orchard to give them fresh grass ever day or so won’t work.
Since my priority has gotten skewed, when these hens are replaced, there will only be 5 or 6. I will stop providing eggs for my friend (she can buy free range eggs from the Farmer’s Market) and will give daughter extras, but our household will come first.
On the plus side, while rooting around in the thicket, I spotted peaches. We didn’t plant a peach tree on that side of the yard, but there must be a volunteer, I have seen it bloom in the spring, but never followed up later in the summer. Maybe the thicket needs to be cleared back so the peaches on that tree can be accessed, giving us two peach trees and more fruit than we can possibly use.
This is the plant the deer eat back, the butterflies love it.