Expansion of Chicken Lane

Chicken Lane - before

Chicken Lane – before

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

Mother and 7 growing chicks

Mother and 7 growing chicks

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:

  1. There will be a lot more chickens in need of housing
  2. 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!

Chicken Lane - almost complete

Chicken Lane – almost complete

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.

The unwitting "volunteer"

The unwitting “volunteer”

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!

 

4 Comments

  1. It is useful to do a weight check on any cocks that you have to cull to make sure you are getting a usable carcase. Allow one third weight reduction, so a four lb. bird will give you oven ready weight of just under 2 and three quarter lb. One of the best videos on the net is on Wikihow. Just Google slaughtering a chicken and it will come up. Always bleed out the bird and with a non table cock you will need to hang the bird for a day or so to tenderise it. We have been rearing our own birds for the table for over twenty years but still do not like culling but it is a job that has to be done. It is nearly impossible to rehome a cockerel even pure breeds unless you show birds and have a champion.

  2. Thanks for the info Anne – I’m not sure how we’ll get to weigh that first one but I like a challenge so I’ll figure something out!

    Many of the videos on the web I’ve seen have been about bleeding out the bird which somehow I don’t like so I’ll probably go for “manual neck dislocation” to use the technical term 🙂

  3. Hi Richard, you will still need to bleed it one way or another, If you are going for manual neck dislocation make sure you hang the bird by it’s feet, the blood will then pool into the neck cavity. Regarding weighing, what you need is a small spring balance scale, they are very cheap on line, I think we paid less than fifteen pounds for ours. You just pop your bird into a shopping bag or a sack and hang it from the scale which is hand held, don’t forget to deduct the weight of the bag. Very useful to have one of these scales as a small holder for weighing veg as well as poultry.

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