Checking in on the Chickens

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I’m happy to report the chickens are doing much better than they have been in recent months. Elsie is finally, finally laying again! Little Girl’s eggs are harder and she hasn’t had a soft egg in weeks. Gertie is my laying champion now! The only one I’m not sure if she is laying again is Clare. She might be and I don’t know it but I suspect she isn’t laying. I think there are a couple of reasons why. One, she might be molting now although she is squatting for me (chickens stop squatting when they are molting). The other reason is that she might be taking on the tendencies of a rooster. Some hens will do that when there isn’t a rooster. But as long as she isn’t sick I’m fine with her not laying.

Speaking of Clare. She stopped getting on the roost at night. I don’t know what caused this but it started a few weeks ago. She also doesn’t run as fast as the other girls. She’ll start out running but then slows waaay down. She is my biggest girl by far but something happened, I suspect, that makes her not get on the roost, i.e. she hurt herself and doesn’t feel confident jumping on the roost, or she’s gotten too big to jump up. Either way is fine. I just lift her up on the roost. It means that I have to stay up long enough to make sure she gets up on the roost, but I think that’s a small price to pay.

Why do I think the girls are doing better? There are a couple of reasons for that too. I really think it was a combination of two things. First, the light that I put on them in the winter sent them into a molt this spring once I turned the light off. It makes sense. With the light on they thought it was summer and then I turned it off and the ‘days’ were shorter which signaled molting season. Elsie molted for a long time (at least 3 months) back in the fall. She molted for at least that long this time too! The other girls probably had some light molting that wasn’t as pronounced. I think the second reason was because I was giving them so many treats and they weren’t eating their food so all their nutrients were out of balance. I don’t know enough about making my own chicken feed in order to make sure they are getting the right nutrients so I feed them layer pellets. I free feed them their food, meaning they have food available all the time. They have two feeders-one in the coop and one in the run. I take the one in the run away every night and give it back to them the next day at some point. But the feeder in the coop is there 24 hours a day. However, I was supplementing their food with various treats. Sometimes it contained their food, sometimes it didn’t. I think they lost too many nutrients from me over feeding treats. Therefore we had egg issues for the past few months. I took away the treats. They only get them on very rare occasions now. I have seen a marked improvement.

Our free ranging days are numbered here at the fishing lodge. You might recall that I’ve lost a hen due to a hawk attack over the very early winter. Well, now we have a fox issue. Our road is closed due to construction but the construction hasn’t yet started. There is a fox den on the other side of the construction. We’ve seen foxes around through the years and you can see them playing by the river when you float past where their den’s located. There are even people on that end of the road who feed the foxes. But now that the road is closed the foxes are literally running down the middle of the road! I had the girls out two days ago free ranging while I did some more planting and the Mister came over to me and told me that a fox was running down the road towards us. He started walking toward the fox but it had eyed the chickens and was making a beeline towards the girls. I gathered them up and put them back in the run before anything could happen. The Mister also was finally able to scare the fox away. But we know how cunning these foxes can be. I have a game cam that I use at night to make sure we don’t have any predators lurking around unbeknownst to us. I had been meaning to put chicken wire over the windows of the coop and this gave us a good reason to get that chore done! This was the second time we’d seen a fox running down the road. The first one was running back towards the den but still didn’t seem bothered that we were sitting out front.

I don’t know when I’ll feel comfortable letting them out again. And I don’t know when I’ll feel comfortable that the foxes aren’t lurking at the edge of the woods trying to figure out how to get to the chickens. I do think having the coop so close to the house and it being prime fishing season and lots of people running around has helped keep the critters at bay, but I don’t know how long that will last. We’ll keep a diligent watch and figure it out. But I’m happy that the girls are doing better now and that we’ve got a good handle on what was going on with them.

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