Each morning I tend to the chickens first. In order of priority, they take the number one spot: because they are the only bread winners on the farm to date, and in order to keep them happy, they need the light on in the morning and the tarpaulin cleared from their nesting boxes so the early birds can tend to their business.
Several months ago one of the chickens (Leona) stopped coming home at night, and instead roosted behind the big red barn on the goat fence and waited for me to pick her up and escort her back home. After a couple of days I began seeing two of them around the yard during the day, Leona and a caramel colored hen (Carmel) hanging out together like the best of friends. Apparently Carmel had decided to join the mutiny and from then on was found perched beside Leona on the goat fence each night.
And so the routine continued for several weeks. Finally, I decided to put these two gal-pals (Leona and Carmel) in with the ducks in hopes they would adjust and make like chickens and put themselves to bed. The personal escort service wanted to shut up shop! I moved a new set of nesting boxes in with them so they would have a place to do business, freshened the bedding and hoped they would sign the new contract.
However, despite my best efforts at attracting them to the nesting boxes, nary an egg has been laid in the duck house. In fact there are now four chickens in with the ducks (two more decided they too wanted to live in what I am now calling Amazonia–because of the plethora of female critters uniting for some unspoken cause).
The dog discovered one of the nests in the big red barn, and has been happily taking her lunch out there on a daily basis. But one egg per day for four hens doesn’t add up–there had to be another clutch somewhere. I’ve searched the paddock to see if they’ve got a hidden clutch anywhere but have found nothing. That was, until two days ago.
For the past couple of weeks, when I let the goats out in the morning, they burst on to the scene like race horses out of the starting gate, hell bent for their sweet-feed. Malcolm, however, has been taking his sweet time at getting up in the morning and, because of this, I was worried about him: Did he have sore feet? Was he not well? Was he not warm enough at night? None of the questions explored seemed to be the reason for the slow emergence from his house in the morning and so I watched him more vigilantly than normal, but came up empty-handed–until two days ago.
I decided to change his bedding and found the answer to his less than quick morning roustings: he’d been sleeping around a vast clutch of hens eggs. There, inside his wee house was the hiding place of the rogue chickens. It seems they hatched a plan with Malcolm. He would keep their secret and take care not to break any eggs and maybe, they would one day come back and try to hatch them.
Apparently Malcolm agreed and took the job seriously. For many weeks now he has been carefully tending to the eggs each night and, despite his diminutive sized bachelor pad, he’s broken not a single egg. There were 16 eggs in the first clutch and it averages between 3-5 every other day now. Instead of the goose that lays the golden egg, I have goat! Now collecting eggs from Malcolm’s house has become part of my afternoon chores.
Yes, I have taken some eggs and put them in the nesting boxes in the duck house in hopes that the hens will take the hint–so far there are no takers!