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Friday, August 1, 2008

Who Wants to be Stewed?

Ethan and I have been a bit disappointed with our new hens. If you remember, we brought back 6 from Ethan's uncle. This is the same number we had last summer when we were getting a 2-3 dozen eggs a week. With these hens, we are happy to get 1/2 dozen a week.

I have had my suspicions about these hens. There has been a time or two when we have been out to the farm in the evening and have pulled up to see an egg in the box. When we go to collect the egg before we leave, however, it is gone. So I've been thinking that maybe it isn't the laying of the eggs that is the problem, but the eating of the eggs - by the chickens.

Well, today we were out at the farm for 2 hours talking with the Des Moines register. When we pulled up there was an egg in the nest box. I grabbed it right away. While we were visiting, 2 more eggs appeared in the nest box. Out they came too!

Hmmmm . . . as many eggs in 2 hours as we sometimes find in a week. Something doesn't seem right about that! So, unless we can find a way to get these hens to stop eating their eggs, they might not stick around that long. Feed is too expensive to just end up feeding them the eggs that pay their keep.

Anyone have any ideas or things that you know work?

9 comments:

QuiltedSimple said...

No ideas here - other than chicken soup! hehe. What a bummer that they are eating their eggs...we've just got little chicks right now (2 weeks to 5 weeks old) - can't wait for fresh eggs.
Kris

PS - your house is looking great!

All8 said...

You may need to give them some ground oyster shell or something to the like. I've heard of pulsing dried eggshells in the blender and adding it to their feed to help meet their calcium needs. Good luck. I miss our gentle and very calm Buff Orpington chickens. (Sigh)

I found your blog quite some time ago when I was researching sprouting sweet potatoes. My husband enjoys reading your husband's farm blog. Right now he's earning his ag. degree with an emphasis in sustainable ag..

Jen L said...

I've heard of pregnant women having strange cravings, like chalk or dirt or something because their bodies need whatever nutrient is provided by that source. So maybe it's the same for chickens, like all 8 said.

I am no expert, but I think the calcium thing is worth a try. Or maybe it's the protein they are craving.

I sure hope something works, otherwise you can always enjoy soup and some canned chicken meat.

The Beginning Farmer's Wife said...

Thanks for the suggestions everyone. We will see if oyster shells in their diet start to make a difference. I'm not sure if they were getting them at Ethan's uncle's or not.

I also heard about putting golf balls in the nesting boxes. I know you can do this to make a hen broody or keep a broody hen on the nest. It was suggested that this might stop them from breaking the eggs to eat too - golf balls probably aren't that fun to try and break open! I am only putting 2 in each nesting box. I don't want to put too many in and make them go broody on me!

One other thing is that their nesting boxes are milk crates on the ground right now. Our wall boxes are at Ethan's dad's with last year's chickens. So we are also going to see if hanging them will help. Kind of the out of sight out of mind theory.

I'll try to update if we notice improvements.

Keep the ideas coming though!

colliefarm said...

Hmm, I don't think it's your chickens... Though there are some animals (like rabbits) that fairly commonly eat their young due to nutritional deficiencies, I don't think it's common for chickens. And I would be surprised if they were very good at cleaning up the eggs entirely-with no trace left behind, in an hour or two? Plus, if they were suffering nutritionally, I doubt they would be laying at all.

I suspect it's a rodent- a rat, weasel, or the like. Your coop looks like they could easily get in under the walls. They are clever, and they love eggs, and will return over and over once they find an easy source like that.

I've even had a rat nest right under my duck house, he probably thought that was pretty "phat" living-grain, water and eggs right in the next "room"! :) My mom has had weasels slip in, kill ducklings, and try to yard them through their entrance hole- only to get them stuck in there, and settle for eating off the heads and departing! :-P

So, you may want to set some big rat traps all around the bottom edge of the coop first, and see who might be dashing through- before you stew any of those hens! :) Good luck!
Michelle

The Beginning Farmer's Wife said...

Colliefarm-
At first I wondered if it was an animal, but when an egg disappeared within 10 minutes after we saw it, and we were within 50 feet of the pen during the day, I decided that it most likely wasn't one of those animals. They usually come out in the evening, and rarely when two adults and kids are running around close by.

Chickens are known to eat their eggs, and in fact, if you throw them an egg, they fight over it and it is gone in just a few seconds. Boy do they love to slurp them up! If one starts eating eggs, the others soon learn to also. It is a bad habit that is hard to break in some hen houses, and most people have to end up secluding hens to see which one needs to go.

The last two days we have gotten 2 or more eggs with the golf balls in the nest, but today I also found an egg that was broken a tad in the nest box so I'm thinking that they do need some oyster shells to toughen up the shells of the eggs they are laying. We don't know if they were given any before we got them. If their eggs were breaking, and they noticed it, it could very easily start an egg eating epidemic.

So . . . we'll see if this golf ball thing continues to help, and also if the added oyster shells toughen their eggs up a bit so they aren't as easy to chow down on.

Kent said...

Last year, when we went with my sister-in-law to get eggs from a small producer, we hit the jackpot. The eggs were great, but the gentleman-in-charge told us a great deal about dealing with the chickens, and about the use of zeolites in soil-building. The useful idea for this problem is their nesting "boxes." They use a cage-wire tray for the layers, which slopes gently down to a slot in the plywood wall of the henhouse. Eggs are layed, and then roll down through the slot into the people side of the structure. It should be possible to make a small two compartment nesting box with a sloped bottom, maybe of wire, so the eggs roll from the chicken side into the other compartment, and out of reach of the hens.

Kent

The Beginning Farmer's Wife said...

Kent-
Thanks for the suggestion! That would definitely help out! :)

colliefarm said...

Hey Becca, I ran across this article and thought of you and your egg-eating-chicken problem, so came back to find this post. These people found that making smaller nest boxes helped the problem:
http://www.byexample.com/homestead/barn/chicken_nesting_boxes.html

Enjoy! Michelle

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