Saturday, January 12, 2013

The great egg-scape

Well, long time no blog. I'm sorry for the delay. It's been that type of...two years... Where you seem to always be busy. I can't remember what our chicken count was at last time I blogged so I'll quickly update you: we now have 13.

Of our original five girls, only two remain: Talulah and Ruth. The rest have either been found out as roosters (Betsy) or went to chicken heaven (Dorothy of heat stroke I think and Esther died last Easter having given up her will to live)
The second two showed up shortly after, Polish and OWC. OWC was also called home last summer (also heat stroke) and Polish is still with us, all though retired.

Since then we've collected a few at different times. Flower Girl, a Rhode Island Red, came to us with a friend who turned out to be a roo. Stager and Ronald Weasley came together and are a pair of New Hampshires. They are HUGE!! Honestly twice the size of Flower Girl. Those two would be delicious if we had the heart to eat them.

Then we have 7 girls remaining from an order of 15 mixed brown egg layers. We don't know for sure the breeds although some are quiet obvious. There are at least two gold laced Wyandottes in there, one Rhode Island, and then the rest are a little questionable. A smarter chicken farmer might know.

Anywho, with the addition of all these chickens, we had to come up with a different storage solution. The older girls were living in an Eglu Cube, the iPod of chicken coops, until the little girls got old enough that they needed to be moved out of the goat house (did I mention the goats? Oh, well I'll catch you up on that in another post! "How do you forget us?!?" they bleat). So, a few weeks ago we moved the big girls into a smaller house made for five chickens, and the seven little girls and Polish moved into the Cube. Since the move, two of the little girls have started laying, and many of the big girls have stopped. Dum dum dummmmmm...

There are several main reasons why a chicken stops laying: excessive heat, excessive cold/darkness, molting, age and stress. Right way we can rule out heat. It's been very cold lately. However, not cold enough to be excessive cold. Remember some chickens live in the Midwest where it's below zero. The days have started getting longer since the egg cessation so I doubt that's it. So we are down to the remaining three.
Age: this could be the case for Ruth or Talulah since they are both coming up on two years. Polish gave up the nest box months ago, although Polish chickens are notoriously bad layers. But Stager and Ronald Weasley are both under a year and only recently started laying so they shouldn't be giving it up already.

Molting: without a doubt, this is Talulah's problem!! See photographic evidence! Talulah only showed her booty for this picture, probably cause she's ashamed of her nudity. Look at all those feathers! Ps that's Ruth and Flower girl in there. The big girls are under the house.

Stress: here is where I suspect the problem lies. Ruth, RW, and Stager are the three biggest. Although Ruth is only 3/4 of the other girls' size, she's still a bigger girl. The new coop has a nesting area that is very low, probably cramped for girls their size. The girls tend to go into the boxes and kick all the hay into the interior of the coop, likely for the warmth and the nest boxes are empty except for the manure left by one of the smaller girls at night. Although, most nest boxes are the same size if not smaller. So the big girls could just be being fussy. Or mad that there is now no hay in the boxes. See?

So, how to fix this problem? Here are my options, you tell me what you think.

Option 1: Move the larger girls in with the little girls. However, that means I have to move out some of the little girls to live with the older ones. The little ones have been together since they were a day old. Literally. Also the larger girls are borderline psychotic. There is a pretty heavy risk of pecking if we put them in with girls who are smaller and younger, which would be a shame since the little girls NEVER peck.

Option 2: put a nest box under the new coop. That way I can make it bigger for them, but since it would be outside the coop it has a chance of failure because its TOO open.

Option 3: put down something that is harder to move in the nest box (batting that has been stapled down?) so they can't move it, and wait for them to just get over themselves and start using it.

I look forward to your thoughts. Next time we can talk about WINTER GARDEN!!!

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Location:The farm

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