We are up to 52 laying hens and 2 roosters. Keeping them alive from all of the predators in our woods sometimes feels like you are part detective and part revenge hunter. Two weeks ago our egg numbers started to drop dramatically. Was it the light? Was it the cold? Were they getting enough food? There were no feathers strewn about as you will often find the night after a grisly attack and kill. It is always such a sad feeling to see that trail of feathers into the woods. We are almost surrounded by woods and full of critters that enjoy hunting after our chickens. We've tossed around the idea of getting another farm dog (no offense Lilley, but you are 13 and can't hear) but until then we just have to keep a watchful eye and look for signs. This leads me back to our current situation. We fed them more laying mesh, corn, & made sure they had extra piles of fresh compost to scratch around in. No eggs came. We kept the light on longer thinking they needed more light & heat. Nope. Nothin'. But see, we are learning something here in farming--patience. The hardest lesson to learn, in my book. But if you practice patience one of two things happens--you either find a pile of feathers or you catch the culprit in the act! Enter stage left, Possum. Andrew suspected a foul play possum at the center of this egg hold up but it wasn't until one night after turning the chicken house light out and locking the door that he heard commotion in the coop. Swinging the door open, he found the Possum attacking one of our fearless rosters, ready to give his life to protect his flock. Skittering off to the corner of the coop Andrew discovered a series of holes burrowed beneath the ground attached to the feed room. We filled in the holes and took some other extra precautions for the coop and since then our layers are back in business. Poor things were getting scared to death and were too afraid to lay. We are grateful to have roosters this year and we think that is why we had not lost any chickens yet as he probably was going after eating the few eggs that were left. Our roster is limping, but he seems like a tough guy who is gonna pull through.
It's amazing how protective we can feel over these animals that we take care of. I think trying to save chickens has take a few years off of our lives but here's to hoping that we have a break from critters and our girls get back to doing their job for awhile!