Chickens start laying eggs at around 20 weeks, so we hoped our three baby hens (the fourth is definitely a rooster), would begin producing mid-November. Our older hens have slowed down considerably. The Ancona stopped altogether—possibly she is moulting, or she objects to the new chickens in the coop, or there is some other reason (she seems perfectly healthy). The Dominique lays sporadically. Only the RI Reds are consistent, but now lay every other day. We’ve been getting enough eggs for our weekly consumption—just over a dozen—but we’ll need a lot more for holiday baking.
Today when I checked for eggs I found a beautiful, tiny speckled one. A pullet egg, from one of the babies, a couple weeks earlier than expected. The babies have been trying to sleep in the nesting boxes, to stay away from the older chickens. To prevent this, Cherisse blocks access to the boxes at night, so the chicks are forced to go on the perch with the others. Today the young hen figured out what the boxes were for, laying her egg right next to a RI Red egg.
We took far less pleasure in checking the bees this afternoon. As suspected, the older hive has died—there was one bee inside which we think was a scavenger, after the now unprotected honey stores. We took three of the full frames from that hive and placed it in the other. Frames that had contained brood as well as honey we kept aside—we don’t think the older hive died from sickness, but we wanted to take no chances. In the newer hive the small population clustered together, but their numbers seem too few. We will keep checking on them…if they stay alive we will need to supplement their food supply, and if the winter is cold, we can wrap the hive to keep it warmer. If they don’t make it, we will take any honey that is left. Come spring we will need to start two new colonies.
Our discouragement over the bees was offset by the excitement of the new layer. We’ve seen chickens die and new ones hatch, plants wither while others flourish. In the balance, we’ve done all right so far.