Things are changing. It has frosted overnight for several days, the hours of daylight are slipping away, and my little flock has stopped laying eggs. Now, it could very likely be due to a problem while we were away for a week on vacation.
I contracted my local FFA student to come to refill their food and water one day while we were gone. They are on a schedule of refills every third day now. I called the boy to make sure he hadn’t forgotten and he said they were fine. (He is a man of few words.) When I got home, their food and water were empty and they attacked the refilled food bucket with even more ferocity than they normally do. The check I’d left for the boy was still taped to the food bin. Hmmm.
I was feeling pretty mad and betrayed, but still trying to give him the benefit of the doubt when I happened to notice in the little local paper that there was an obituary with his last name. On closer examination, the boy’s father died the same day he was supposed to attend to my chickens! That poor kid. He had much bigger issues to face that day, and I can understand if he was too overwhelmed to focus on a minor chore.
That said, the chickens have totally stopped laying. Our refrigerator has only one egg left in it, where there are normally excess dozens to be given away. They say stress can cause a temporary stop to production but that it comes back to normal when the stress goes away. At the same time, the seasonal changes may be related so we decided to do some more winterizing. As you can see, the chickens have been pecking away at the insulation we put in on the north wall. We plan to cover it with plywood today to prevent any further damage, and we bought more foam sheets to insulate the ceiling and the other walls. We also bought a heated water bucket to put into the coop when the chicken nipples begin to freeze up.
To add a little more comfort, I set up the heat lamp from their baby chick days on a timer to extend the daylight hours in the morning and evening. I peeked out the window this morning at 7:00 and sure enough, their window was lit. If this doesn’t get them back on schedule, I don’t know what will.