It's been awhile since I've talked about our chickens, so we have some catching up to do! So much has been going on.
First, though, I must tell you about Cali. You see, last year we had this mice issue in our house. It was our worst year yet for mice, and as we talked with our neighbors, we found out that everyone was having a big mice issue. Knut and I don't consider ourselves "cat people" but we seriously considered getting one as a mouser. The traps were not working, and the mice started bringing the poison from the part of the basement that the kids don't get to into, and building little poison nests in the kids toy bins. I pretty much freaked out.
This winter, we never needed to get a cat, though, because Cali showed up. She's a stray cat that came into our yard, and since she arrived we have not seen a single mouse. This has been a no mouse year so far which is just fantastic. So we encouraged her to stay by setting out warm water on bitterly cold days. He/She has been around for a few months, although since she is a stray we have told the kids to not touch her. That's fine, because she's pretty skittish around us and I doubt we could catch her if we wanted too.
Anyway, this winter has been unseasonably warm and the chickens have been allowed out of their coop much more often. Lately, we've noticed their egg production drop. It went down from 4-8 eggs a day to 1 a day. Then we had 3 days of no eggs.
Then I went to the coop one morning and there was Cali resting in one of the nesting boxes, licking her lips with egg shells all around her.
O, I yelled at her, and she ran like the wind. The chickens did not like her around. She didn't touch the chickens but she sure liked the eggs. At this point our solution has been to leave Lena outside when the chickens are out, as she guards their coop like...a guard dog. She doesn't even notice the chickens anymore, but she does not like that cat, or anything else in her yard.
I will say Lena isn't thrilled with this new arrangement, as she spends most of her day begging to come in at the front porch window. She will growl and run off if anything enters the yard, though.
So for now it's not the season that mice flood into the house, and everything in that regard seems under control. Except the chickens are being a bit naughty themselves. I blame the cat.
You see, now they're laying eggs outside the coop. I honestly think that's because the cat was all over their nesting boxes. We're finding eggs in the garage, in the summer kitchen, and once outside under a tree. The kids like to "hunt eggs" and are pretty good at it.
So to retrain them, we left them in the coop for a few days where their only choice was the nesting boxes. They in turn went canabalistic on us and started eating some of their eggs, which is very common in chickens. However we're trying to put a stop to it. I'm trying to make sure we're bringing them out some interesting slop to distract them. I've read eating their eggs is what chickens often do when they're bored of being "cooped up."
So besides having a bit of an egg shortage around here (we only have one full 18 ct carton we keep up in our fridge these days. It's starting to grow again. Previously, we'd have 3-18 ct cartons in the mix in our fridge.)
Spring is on the way, and that means that we're about to see exactly what these girls can do. You may remember that they started laying just when the weather turned cold and we have not yet seen them lay at full speed. We've just been enjoying the winter crumbs of them laying.
New Year...New Stuff.
We are also starting talk of expanding our flock. Well, our 17 girls can rest assured they won't have to share their little house. No, we're considering this summer getting some meat birds and housing them in a portable "tractor" they call them on the south side of our yard. These ones will not have names, and the kids won't play with them like the laying ones...although I don't think I'll be able to keep them away from chicks.
Knut learned to "harvest" chickens last summer at our friend's house and he thinks he's ready to do our own this year. He said he'd do the chopping, and I'll do the plucking. I watched the plucking last year and I'm gearing up for it. Deep breaths...
On the upside, I think I'll need some new specialty knifes in my kitchen to deal with our "fresh" meat and I'm all about new kitchen gadgets. More deep breaths...
We want to be sure to keep the laying birds and meat birds separate as they require different things and can tend to bully each other. We're hoping for some pasture fed meat and we might join in with Knut's cousin on this venture. Anyway, I'm supposed to be researching meat breeds right now, so I should probably sign off. Planning is half the fun sometimes anyway!