Thursday, August 18, 2011

If You Build It

... they will come.

We lost our older two red hens, Ruby and Lucy, during this past year. They were wonderful, sweet, hard-working girls. We rather miss their very sweet little chicken personalities, but truthfully, what we miss the most are the eggs. Our three remaining hens are laying and all, but just not as aggressively as those one-egg-each-day red hens.

Seems Betty and LoisandMarge (still can't tell them apart) have been s-l-o-w this summer. And in a way, who can blame them? This summer's long spells of hot, hot, hot weather, horribly humid weather, and rainy weather haven't exactly made it great to be a chicken in Minnesota. So these days we are getting, oh, an egg or so a day. Sometimes even two! More often we get zero.

Betty is 3 years old, and so we don't expect a lot from her (egg-laying slows down considerably after age 2). But LoisandMarge, just over one year old, are in their laying prime and should be giving us at least 4-5 eggs a week each. They're not. All three of them seem to be very happy and healthy, so we are not sure what the deal is. What we are sure of is that we'd like to be getting a few more eggs. And the only way to achieve this is to beef up our flock a bit.

We've started with chicks the last couple of times we added to our flock. Chickies are beyond cute and all, but they are labor-intensive. And the 22-24 weeks you have to wait for them to mature and start laying turn out to be some of the longest weeks of your life. So this time I'm looking for a couple of pullets, at or near point-of-lay.

Step one: Seems there are a few pullets to be had fairly locally on Craigslist. But all chicken owners know that the answer to the age-old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg is neither: it's the coop. We already have a fine, spacious coop and run, but all new chickens must be quarantined for 30 days before assimilation. So adding a couple of hens means providing temporary housing for them for a month. So ...

Step two: Attempt to build one weatherproof chicken tractor. Items needed: scrap wood, chicken wire or hardware cloth, and the building skills of one brother.

If we are successful at step two, we can go back and pursue step one.

Stay tuned.

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