I don’t count the chickens every day, but occasionally when I feed them I do a quick head count. Even on my worst days, I feel fairly confident that I can count to 10. Since when I moved the hens to the coop I started with 4 Barred Rocks and 5 Buff Orpingtons it was pretty easy to keep up with all of them, even if I can’t identify individual birds. I think periodically about banding them so I can tell them apart, but it really hasn’t been that important to me.
Several weeks ago, before the turkeys took their trip to Scio, I counted heads and came up one Buff short. There were no signs of any sort of attack, no holes in the fence, no sign of her loose anywhere. I figured that a large bird of prey must have got her. We have eagles and Great Horned Owls in the area, so I thought that one of them must have taken her. Not happy about it, but there were no more disappearances so I moved on.
I have one Buff that has decided for the last few weeks to go broody. Two major problems with that: (1) I don’t have a rooster, so it’s a waste of her time, and (2) even if I did have a rooster, this is the wrong time of year to raise chicks. At least twice a day I go out to the hen-house, pull her off the nest and toss her into the hen yard and collect the eggs that she is setting on.
Last week I went out to feed and did a head count. Four Barred Rocks and 4 Buffs. Yay I think, I’ve finally gotten thru to the broody hen. I go around to the hen-house door to collect eggs and find my broody hen still setting on a nest. Doubting my mental acuity, I toss her out, then go back around and do another count, and come up with 5 Buffs. My missing hen is back! Never saw any sign of her loose in the yard, but I’m not going to look the gift chicken in the mouth.
The next day I go out to feed. Three Buffs in the hen yard, and my broody hen in the house. I’m back to four. What the heck?! I head into the pole barn (which the hen yard backs up to) to look for a tool. Under the work bench I’m looking at I find a nest with 15 warm eggs in it, and I notice that the dirt under the back wall of the barn is low enough at one point that a determined hen (which apparently I have!) could squeeze through. The eggs make a quick trip to the compost heap, and a long board makes a quick trip to the hen yard to block off access under the barn wall.
One problem/mystery solved. Now if I could just cure my broody hen!