Fall has arrived at Tilly’s Nest. We never really had a moment to warm up after spring. Cape Cod had a cool and wet summer. We were all waiting for beach weather and it really didn’t show up. This happened a few years ago too. I guess things are cyclical. This past week cooler temperatures have ushered in. It seems to be the circle of life. We said goodbye to a dear Uncle who was battling an illness for a long time and now the leaves are keeping us occupied on the weekends. It’s a labor of love. I seem to have a love-hate relationship with the beauty of fall and the daunting amount of leaves that seem to return as soon as they are raked up from the gardens.
Have you ever seen this? Do your chickens seem to lay all their eggs in one nesting box? Well, my chickens certainly do. My flock has this strange habit but it turns out that I am not alone. Other chicken keeper’s chickens do this as well.
Fifi is at the bottom of the pecking order. It is not such a bad thing in our flock. Some chickens in other flocks are terrorized in that position. Not in ours, Fifi is left alone for the most part until she needs to lay an egg. I am not sure if it is due to her rank in the pecking order or just plain confusion as she is learning to lay eggs, but every other day or so, she lays an egg in one of the large dusting holes. She seems to think that is a nest.
I have added fake wooden decoy eggs in the nesting boxes to try and lure her into laying in the coop. I have also tried to feed the others snacks more frequently, so she can get into the nesting boxes when the bigger girls are distracted. Nothing has worked. Over the past two weeks, I have scooped out 10 eggs. Yesterday, I had accepted that I would be scooping her delicate tiny eggs from the bathing bowls as they were laid. At least everyone else was laying in the nesting boxes.
This afternoon, I went to check for eggs and found, Feathers in the nesting box. Usually, she lets out a growl as I pet her captive body in the box waiting for the egg to arrive. Strangely today, she did not growl. She was quiet and let me pet her. This could only mean one thing. I was petting Fifi, not Feathers. Fifi was in the nesting box laying her egg! I quickly ran into the garage and distracted the others with dried meal worms.
Fifteen minutes later I returned. Inside the nesting box, was the tiny cream colored egg laid by Fifi.
Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest
Over the course of my nursing career, I have seen some pretty disgusting things. I’ve smelled things that were even worse. However, nothing could have prepared me for the wrath of Dolly’s broody poo!
Every time after cleaning the coop, the chickens love to rearrange the pine shavings and straw. When I first started using this coop, the chickens were so efficient at scratching. They would scratch all of the bedding out the front door into the run. They accomplished this feat within an hour. After replacing the bedding multiple times and being out smarted by a chicken, I decided to place a brick at the door. This solved the problem. The brick now acts as a boundary and keeps the majority of the bedding inside.
As winter approached, I decided to make the pine shaving bedding deeper for added warmth. This created a lot more fun for the chickens and many more opportunities to do some chicken redecorating. The chickens are fantastic at keeping their home. They have preferences with how they like the bedding. Some areas are kept deeper and others without bedding at all. I had no problem with this except when it came to the nesting boxes.
My coop and nesting boxes are lined with commercial grade linoleum for easy cleaning. The roosts are removable, making cleaning a cinch. I just push all the litter into the center of the coop, and then empty it out. It takes only 5 minutes. However, because of this design, there is no barrier in place to keep the bedding in the nesting boxes when the chickens are redecorating. Several times a week, I found myself adding new bedding to the nesting boxes. Unfortunately for me, as quickly as I replenished the shavings and straw, the chickens quickly removed it; until this week. I came up with a solution.
I decided to cut a 1″x2″ piece of non pressure treated wood to fit across the nesting boxes. I did not adhere it into place. I left it free floating. I wanted to be able to remove it for easy coop cleaning. It has been 3 days now; so far so good. Despite some scratching to make themselves comfortable while laying, I think the eggs are happier to land in soft pine shaving beds.
Photo on the left shows the new divider running across the nesting boxes.
Dolly, a lavender Silkie Bantam, is our best and was our only egg layer up until a couple of days ago. Yesterday when freshening up the three nesting boxes, I found a rouge egg laid in a corner piled under shavings. It was smaller than Dolly’s and pointier; another silkie had a laid an egg. Who laid it is still under going investigation.
Silkie Bantams typically lay approximately three eggs per week. However, Dolly seems to be in overdrive. She has laid an egg everyday. I love getting her fresh eggs daily, but I finally realized why. She wants to start a family.
Amongst the coldest and snowiest days so far this winter, her hormones and maternal drive have begun to overpower her chicken brain. She has babies on the brain. Yesterday, she spent the majority of the day sitting in her favorite nesting box. She just sat and sat and sat. No matter what I put in the run to lure her out, she sat.
I have not been able to touch her at all until yesterday. Typically she is skittish and shys away from me. Yesterday was different. I stroked her back and she purred. I thought that maybe she is not feeling well. I picked her up from the box and held her in my lap. I thought that cooling her down might do the trick. I gave her body a quick check, she seemed fine.
Over the course of the afternoon, I repeated removing her from the box and trying to break her of this broodiness. Each time after I returned her to the coop, she would go into the run, scratch around for about a minute and then return again to the box. Finally, around 3:30pm, I checked. She was still in her box. I felt underneath her body and there it was, a small silkie egg kept warm under the feathers of her breast. I gently removed the egg from underneath her. She then went out into the run. She stayed out with the rest of the flock until it was time to come in for the night. Great, I thought, she has snapped out of it.
This morning, the whole flock came out into the coop to scratch, drink and feed on delicious treats. When I returned from dropping my son off at the bus, I checked on the chickens again. Dolly had returned to her box; sitting on invisible eggs for now. I am not sure how long this will last, but her drive to be a mother is strong. Maybe, we can let her do just that come Spring.