Every year there is a issue that just won't go away...just won't get resolved. This year that issue happens to be the CHICKENS.
We raise chickens for eggs: brown, free-range, farm-fresh eggs. Simple, huh? Not this year.
Our chickens have this cute, mobile barn for housing that Tom built a number of years ago. Built-in nest boxes and food brought right to their door, what more could chickens want? Apparently, more....much more.
When the daylight begins to fade in the fall of the year, so does egg production. That is normal. What was not normal was how very far the production fell off. hmmm, maybe they were cold. We had been having a very, very cold winter.
After days of cleaning, re-arranging, re-furbishing and re-building, the hens moved into the barn. This was great! A big window, nice chips on the floor, and brand-new nest box unit....what more could chickens want?
Then they didn't want to eat the feed...we changed feed and feeders. That seemed to help, a bit.
But, wait....that new nest box? They would rather lay their eggs on the floor in the corner, thank you very much. This made it much easier for them to EAT the eggs, too. We put crates in the corners to discourage them from using the corners....and they laid eggs on TOP of the crates. sigh
Still not much improvement in egg production. Wait, what's that? Are these hens molting? No, maybe they have mites. Oh, bother. We donned our work clothes and masks and sprayed the entire bunch with a natural miticide. Whew, now THAT was fun! Maybe we got it. mmm, yeah production improved. The vet once told me that positive response to treatment was evidence of a correct diagnosis. I suppose we solved that problem.
Now, back to that nestbox unit...one of the great things about this unit is the fact that the eggs roll away from the hen and collect in this little cup for easy pick-up. I will pause here to remind you to think where an egg comes from....yep, it's important for cleanliness that the egg roll AWAY! Cool concept, great design...until the chickens decided that the TOP of the nest box unit was a GREAT place to sleep. Then, the egg cups began collecting the very thing (the chicken poop) that we were trying to keep the eggs from in the first place! No problem....Tom would rig up something so they couldn't sit on top...that seemed simple enough.
He strung a wire from end to end of the nest box unit to discourage roosting. They sat ON the wire! He tried a piece of wavy poly-carb...they apparently found it just as comfy. He put up a rolling pipe....they sat on that! He wrapped the rolling pipe with barb-wire...they roosted there, too! oooh, this is getting annoying. We made an "emergency trip to Lowe's". After installing carpet tack strip, (you know the kind with all the little nails?)he was certain he had solved the problem. When I heard laughter from the henhouse during morning chores, I knew...back to the "drawing board". The next thing he tried was a piece of straight metal with a sharp edge. Of course, they sat on THAT, too! I'm not sure what the next idea will be.
All of this in pursuit of clean eggs...and all this diabolical behavior from animals with brains the size of a walnut (and I am being generous). I would hate to admit that we've been out-witted by a chicken, but this situation has definitely required more brainpower than warranted by increased egg production. Oh, well....it's given us something new to talk about!