Currently I have four hens laying out of six. But things are changing and it is not all good.
Our Isa Brown has not layed since the dog attack in March. Then she went through her first moult. Her wattle is still pale. But twice I have found eggs, like the ones she used to lay, in really weird places on the property far from the usual haunts of the flock. So is she really 'off lay' OR is she hiding them?
Our Light Sussex continued to lay after the dog attack but then she contracted a serious case of double bumble foot. She had two vet operations and a long recovery. Her foot has only just finished healing but she still limps. She started her first moult through this time and so the egg laying stopped.
Unfortunately she also lost more than third of her body weight during all the trauma. Plunging from 3Kg to 2.2 and then down to 1.8Kg! As I was on a three month weight loss journey (deliberate) myself, she was pulling bigger numbers than me! Thankfully she has now regained 600g and back to a safer 2.4Kg. She has not resumed laying.
This little black Australorp X Lohman Brown is our HUGE egg layer. Usually every second day the kids find hers in the nesting box. I started noticing that she would chorus afterwards and learned that this is an egg song. Not uncommon. (I read a funny Egg Song story about them over at City Boy Hens last month).
The Barnevelder is my regular layer of chocolate brown eggs but in the last two weeks her eggs have gone missing from the nesting box. She is not moulting and her comb and wattle are still red. I found one of her eggs at the bottom of the Freckles stash but no more. She disappears at times during the day and I think she is stashing them somewhere in the chicken run amoung the native grasses.
Our Ancona has been laying since May but started hiding her eggs in June. I discovered her stash site. I take out all but two and collect the rest lest she move sites.
Out Lohman X Sussex has not been laying long and used to lay her little eggs in the nesting box until last week. Then I found one of hers in Freckles' nest stash this past week.
I am not happy to lose 3 out of 4 layers to the secret stash movement that has gripped my flock. So I am taking evasive action. (inspired by City Boy Hens' solution to his Swiffer egg problem). I am putting the girls in 'lock down' until lunch time every day. No more free ranging until I see the eggs back the nesting box! I feel a bit mean but they will have the large run to range in. IF things don't improve I may have to lock them into the chook house.
We have found the occasional one on Obama and Breanna and they were dusted two weeks ago. But I was not aware of a huge infestation until last night. We had brought in some of the chickens for a twilight blow dry as it had been raining all day. I was feeling under Obama for wet tummy feathers when I felt stiff feathers. Closer inspection (with a torch) revealed she was riddled with lice eggs on her feather shafts! Poor girl. I know she dust bathes but we flipped her onto her back and gave her a serious dose of lice dust.
Last to be dried was Silver MacGregor our rooster. I checked his belly and found the same stiff feathers. Onto hhis back for a closer look. Not only was he carrying eggs but many many live lice. Yuck. He stands on the girls' backs everyday to mate them and so is infecting them all. I feel so bad that I had not realised until now.
Last night I read up on all things lice (are you scratching now?) over at Tilly's Nest and The Chicken Chick and learned three very important things.
1. They can make chickens stop laying and their combs pale. Could this be Breanna's problem?
2. They bite the feathers so it looks like a moth has eaten them (I have noticed this on the backs of my girls and just assumed that they had been pecking eachother or it was due to Silver standing on them).
3. The life cycle is two weeks and so follow up treatments are necessary.
Far out! Chicken keeping is a relentless learning curve. Lucky I love them.