It has been quite frustrating for us having to spend so much time finding out where the hens go to lay their eggs – for some reason it isn’t often in the nest boxes that are provided.
On the first occasion when we found a hen sitting on some eggs in the woods, we were quite interested to see what would happen. We didn’t know what the previous owners used to do in that situation so we just left her to it and watched over her from afar.
In retrospect perhaps this decision was the start of our problems but since that time two more hens have hatched some chicks – one batch of 5 and one batch of 7.
No eggs in the nest box
No amount of regular cleaning, dusting with red mite powder, fresh straw and even the use of china fake eggs seems to make much difference. Most of the hens are just not interested in those nest boxes although we do occasionally get a token egg or two.
I’m starting to wonder whether our hens can hold their eggs in until we aren’t looking before popping them all out in one go somewhere in the woods as soon as one of them decides to sit on a batch.
For the moment we are getting relatively few eggs with no idea why but we are able to check them all in at night so at least none of them are sneaking off to a hidden clutch of eggs somewhere else!
The current dilemma
It was entertaining the first few times to follow the development from hens sitting on eggs through to hatching.
It’s one thing understanding what will happen but quite another thing when you actually see it unfold before you.
After that the big surprise was the speed at which the new chicks grow. It doesn’t take that long before you have difficulty telling the chicks from the grown ups!
However eventually it slowly dawned on me that there are two inevitable outcomes for us once the chicks have all hatched and grown:
- There will be a lot more chickens in need of housing
- At least 50% of the new chickens will be male
The first problem is relatively easily solved while we still have a little money left in the bank. As a treat for us and the chickens, we splashed out on a new chicken house from Steve Fisher Woodworking who are just down in North Yorkshire.
After some initial concerns over damage on arrival and an error during manufacture which stumped me for a while, some excellent customer support (and prompt delivery of replacements meant that the assembly was soon completed. Just in time in my opinion as the newer chicks were growing fast and the existing housing was starting to bulge at the seams!
I am also hoping that providing a shiny new house with brand new nest boxes will help the hens see the error of their ways and they will start leaving their eggs in the preferred location.
Introducing a fence round their housing is another trial to see if we can encourage egg laying in the nest boxes by containing them for the first part of each day. It’s worth a try and putting it up was relatively easy given that we’re only trying to keep them in for a few hours. It must be much harder putting up something strong enough to deal with a more serious problem like keeping out predators!
The second problem with the excess of male chickens is still not completely resolved but there are two obvious solutions. We can either find new homes for the unwanted cockerels or learn a new skill – how to “dispatch” a chicken.
It seems that re-homing them is not a simple task because there are always lots of spare cockerels and it many cases you can’t even give them away.
This means that we’re left with the difficult but necessary task of dispatching and processing our unwanted cockerels – something I’ve not done before but it’s all part of the experience I suppose.
Doing the deed
Although there is plenty of discussion on the web about the various methods for dispatching chickens, the decision does come down to a personal preference to some extent. This is not so easy for us first timers though as we’ve never done anything like this before.
I’m off now to build up some badly needed will power before I do the deed – luckily the two chicks that hatched from the first batch turned out to be one male and one female so I have my first “volunteer” at some point near the end of October or early November!