It was only two weeks ago that I wrote that the guinea hens were done with their egg laying and nesting for the season. I was wrong.
Last week I was outside working on a project. The guinea hens were making a racket, which is not unusual when they are touring the yard, and as long as they are staying put it usually doesn’t mean anything, so I didn’t worry. Then I heard the call we only hear when the females are on a nest, it’s very distinct. They call out when they think the males have wandered off and are no longer guarding them. What the heck?
I went across the yard to the other side of the house where I saw them gathered and walked over to where they were. Most of the boys were further up on our upper lot, but Harry was in the brush to the side of the roughed in road hubby had made going up to his log landing for that lot. He started squawking at me, and then moved away and perched on top of the nearby stone wall. He was watching me, so I just knew something was going on! I left them alone and a while later when I saw they had moved on, I went and checked the brush in the area, and sure enough, I found a guinea nest with 4 eggs in it!
Since then we’d been keeping an eye on things, and Sally had been in that nest leaving an egg daily. I had marked the eggs that were in there after that first day, so we’d know which ones were new and we could pull them for eating, and hopefully once again keep her from trying to sit on the nest for any extended period (which would make her vulnerable to predators).
The odd thing is that our other female, Victoria, has not been on that nest, and as far as we know, she is not laying now. So, I was maybe half right that they were done for the season?
Then another odd thing happened. After a few days of collecting a daily egg (along with an occasional chicken egg), I went out to check the nest and it was completely empty! I’m guessing wildlife found that nest and had a nice feast. Since then, Sally has not been back on the nest, and if they’ve started another one, we aren’t aware yet. So, maybe now they are really done? I guess that remains to be seen!
On another note, as long as we’re talking about our birds keeping us guessing, our chickens have not been laying well. We have 18 birds and some days lately we’ve only gotten 4 eggs, 8 on a good day. We’re not sure what to attribute this to, either the heat or the new chicks being in the coop and run being possibilities. I also read it could be their diet, so I told the Dadz to stop bringing them home so many treats (veggies from his work that were being discarded). The chicks have been in the coop for a while now and the heat wave we were having broke, so that shouldn’t be it. But our older girls are now 2 years old, and that does mean they will start to slow down. Slow down though, not stop yet!
Now I’m on the hunt for a hidden chicken nest. It was also a couple weeks ago that the Dadz accidentally stumbled on a nest in a pile of lumber when looking for something. There was a wire screen in that pile and underneath that in an open area was a nest with 17 chicken eggs in it!! We took the eggs out, and the worst part was that we couldn’t use them because we really didn’t know how long they had been there or if they had been rained on. Getting wet would take the bloom off the shell which protects it from bacteria getting in.
They haven’t used that nest since, and I was convinced they have another one somewhere. We have girls that lay eggs in random places – on a shelf or in a box in the garage. I check those spots daily and some days find one there.
One afternoon I was outside and one of the chickens, who we named Kelly, went running by me and into a brushy area near the coop. I looked in to see where she was, and sure enough saw a pile of eggs! There weren’t quite as many in that one, but now I check that spot daily and often find one there; we marked and left one so that they’d keep using it. At least we know where it is!
We have 17 acres of land and woods. The chickens mostly stick close to the house and coop, but still there’s a lot of brushy and wooded areas. Another nest could be anywhere; and so far, all I’ve found when searching are ticks crawling on me!
This is how it typically goes: back in the spring we had cartons full of eggs piling up on the counter. Most days we were getting an average of a dozen/day. I had to find new places to sell them. The farm stand I worked at last summer is open under new ownership, and she was happy to buy the eggs, and wants more whenever we have them. One of the stores hubby works at is also happy to take them. All our backstock sold. Then the girls stopped laying so prolifically and now demand is way exceeding supply! The new birds won’t start laying until fall, but I’m sure glad now that we have a dozen of them.
It’s SO frustrating sometimes, but those are the challenges of free ranging our birds. I still wouldn’t do it any other way. I spend many evenings on the deck with a glass of wine, just watching the birds running around the yard enjoying themselves. I guess at this point you might say they are probably more pets than productive farm animals. 😊
Perhaps you could teach Luke to sniff out nests:) I know that my pups might eat the eggs but perhaps Luke has more self control? It is an endless Easter Egg Hunt 🙂
Self-control – Luke? Ha ha, no! However, if we try it, I would keep him on a leash and I don’t think he’d grab the eggs immediately if he found them. He’s stolen them off the kitchen counter before though!
JoAnn Stancer says
I wonder to why egg production went down. Usually that happens in the winter. I loved having chickens to feed my scraps too.
I think ours were laying better over the winter! We’ve figured out now that maybe some of the older ladies are broody and that might be part of it. I think they’re snapping out of it now, so we’ll see!
Monika, Sam & Elsa says
Free range is always a gamble, albeit an entertaining one. Good luck…hope the egg bonanza isn’t on hiatus.
We knew free-ranging would be challenging as far as predators, but not as far as egg collecting! LOL
Ellen Pilch says
They really make you work for those eggs. How sweet of Harry to guard the nest.
Harry is a good mate to Sally! They seem pretty inseparable lately.
Melissa K. Clinton says
I don’t see how you could possibly find a nest hidden so well. That is so cool that they lay so many but it’d be great if they’d lay in a designated egg drop spot. LOL!
We have to either be very observant (seeing them go in there), or just get lucky! Maybe I need to get a sign that says “lay here” with an arrow pointing at the nesting boxes! LOL
The Island Cats says
We didn’t realize that they build nests just anywhere. Certainly keeps you guessing…and looking. 🙂
It was news to us too, we thought they’d lay in their nesting boxes only!! I guess it’s all part of the fun. 🙂
Brian Frum says
That is some ongoing game of hide and go seek!
And the chickens are winning! LOL
Never done the free range thing, but that wasn’t something I knew about in the 50s and 60s. I will join you for a glass of wine though.
Have a fabulous day. ♥
It’s a date!! 🙂
Ducky's Mom says
My goodness, you certainly have your hands full, don’t you?! Sounds to me like farming – even a small farm – is a full-time job. Now it’s time for Luke to earn his keep and start sniffing-our those hidden nests for you. 😃
He needs another job, and I need something else to write about! 🙂
Oh yes, since we’ve started the farm I pretty much never get a day off, unless I go off with the girls and leave the Dadz in charge!
Molly the AireGirl says
Playing “seek the eggs” might be fun! If you need help, I’m in, Luke☺
That would be frustrating trying to figure out where the eggs could be. I guess it is the fun of chickens. Maybe teach Luke to sniff out eggs?
It’s a good excuse to be out wandering in the sunshine anyway! I think I might try that with Luke!
They are so entertaining, but do sound like a lot of work! We’re really enjoying our neighbor’s chickens. Lately every time I go outside they’re right there by my back door. They scatter away but are so much fun to watch.
At least you get the entertainment value from your neighbor’s – and maybe some eggs?
they are amazing and they have a lot of suprising idea… I always grin when I see this guys… thyt’s su guinea how he looks out of the green jungle LOL
They like to pretend they still live in the wild! 🙂
And I thought cats were … complex! The birds really keep you on your toes! Is it possible you can use Luke to sniff around for the nest? I think you were working with him on recognizing scents – I’m not sure which scent you’d send him after. The suspected layer I guess?
That’s a good idea, and I’m thinking we might give it a try!