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. 😊