On Saturday all three of my hens laid an egg. No surprise, all three lay an egg every day. Okay, about once a month an egg is missing, but otherwise it’s like clockwork.
On Sunday, only Rosie laid an egg (I can tell who laid by looking at the egg). I was surprised but not overly alarmed. Women who live together often enter the same cycle, why not chickens?
On Monday & Tuesday, only Rosie laid an egg. By this point I was really worried. Frank was really worried. The girls looked totally nonplussed. Frank went so far as to pick up each chicken and squeeze her in what we imagined would be her egg reservoir (or whatever it’s called) fearing Bronwyn & Isabel had begun internal laying. He felt nothing which calmed us a little. They ate and scratched and chuckled and waddled and did everything normal which calmed us a little. Bronwyn slept a lot – which worried us some.
There were a few theories bouncing around our house. We they just getting lazy (that would be okay, we are also lazy)? Did they have a little chicken cold (more of a problem but they are healthy and we believed they would get over it)? Had they noticed all the attention we paid to the bees and so were on strike (I have no idea how clever my girls might really be)? Internal laying, a marauder visiting them at night, something they ate???? Could they – against all odds have found a spot to lay that we couldn’t locate (trust me, we had searched)? We decided to keep them in their run on Wednesday on the off chance that they were laying in some super secret spot. Also, if they’d had a fright, being in their smaller space might calm them down.
On Thursday, Rosie laid an egg and we let them free range again. It was obvious that there was no egg hiding going on, just egg withholding. We saw no point in making them miserable by keeping them confined.
Late Thursday night it dawned on me that maybe Isabel and Bronwyn were moulting. I felt a wave of relief wash over me. That would explain everything.
On Friday (today) Rosie and Bronwyn laid an egg. Whew, both Isabel and Bronwyn do lay, just not as often as they did last week.
I searched for moulting on the internet and found that it probably is moulting. The symptoms are loss of feathers and lack of egg production. Okay, it’s not a perfect fit because the feather loss is very minor (just a bit of fluff at this point) and it is spring (moulting normally occurs in autumn). But a spring moult is possible and common enough to be given a name – vacation moult. Worryingly, one reference to spring moulting suggested they could stop laying for months. I’m going to assume this is a vacation moult and they’ll be back to their normal daily drop in a couple of weeks.
In the mean time, you go Rosie. She is such a sweetie and now the hero of the nest box!
Update 4 Novemmber 2012: All 3 girls have laid for the past 2 days. Which means it was a 6 day moult. That has to be some kind of record. All that worry over pretty much nothing. I’m obviously too hysterical to be a real farmer 🙂