Consequences of that Cat

Well, since that scary cat attacked my chickens, their behaviour has continued further down the same path. Not only do they avoid foraging in the bottom of the garden, they don’t seem keen on laying down there either.

For a few days Bronwyn and Isabel stopped laying altogether. I attributed this to moulting – it is that season and I’ve seen a few feathers about the place. But I could have been wrong. At the same time as they stopped laying, they developed a fascination for the box where we store the paper we put under their roost at night. It sits under the house and is well and truly in the safe-zone. All 3 girls started checking it out, mainly in the morning. While climbing in and around it, Bronwyn and Isabel kept making whining noises that I’ve learned to interpret as, “I’ve gotta lay, I’ve gotta lay NOW”.

Rosie and Bronwyn vying for position

Rosie and Bronwyn vying for position

Isabel checking out the box

Isabel checking out the box

Then Bronwyn spent about 1/2 hour in it one day while I was under the house. When she left the box, I was sure she’d laid an egg in there. I peeped in to see I was wrong. She hadn’t left an egg and, in fact, didn’t lay at all that day.

The next day Bronwyn laid a huge egg in her normal nest box and I thought everything was going back to normal.

Then this …

Bronwyn really settling in

Bronwyn really settling in

And this …

Bronwyn's egg

Bronwyn’s egg

Bronwyn’s egg sat there all alone and Rosie laid back in their normal nest box. Isabel didn’t lay at all.

Then, the next day…

Bronwyn, Rosie and Isabel's eggs all cosily in their new nest box

Bronwyn, Rosie and Isabel’s eggs all cosily in their new nest box

Clearly where Bronwyn, the head chook, goes, the other girls follow. (Frank put that straw in the box when Isabel kept hopping in and turning around and scratching at the paper. He thought she might be more relaxed if it had the straw she’s used to sitting on in her nest box. He’s a total softie when it comes to the girls. Ain’t it cute?)

All else being equal, I’d probably try to stop the girls laying here by putting something in the box. I might even consider locking Bronwyn (and Isabel & Rosie?) in the coop to reinforce proper laying. But I think the girls, Bronwyn in particular, were truly terrified by that cat and they are now uncomfortable in their coop which is in the danger zone. Perhaps they stopped laying because they didn’t feel secure where they had to lay – scary cat territory. So, as long as they lay in this one box, what do I care? I just want them to feel safe, be happy and stay healthy. Holding an egg because you’re too scared to lay has got to be a recipe for disaster.

Now my chickens have 2 nest boxes: one in their coop and one under my house. That works for me if it works for them.

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About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: www.laurarittenhouse.com for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
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18 Responses to Consequences of that Cat

  1. Well it is good that they are laying in an accessable place and not hiding them in the bushes and such.

  2. I have considered having chickens, but have not gotten to it yet. I have really underestimated the complexity.

    • They aren’t the dumb birds we’re led to believe when we see rows and rows of them in farms. They are quite sensitive clever little thing and they are really sweet. My advice is to get them because the eggs are great and they are a nice addition to any family. Who wouldn’t want a pet that makes cute chirrup noises and follows them around the garden 🙂

  3. pattigail says:

    Such clever girls! So glad they found a place to feel safe. They really are distressed when they want to lay and can’t. This winter I brought my girls into the “coop under the stairs” in my basement a few times when it was really cold and they never got used to laying there. Not that I didn’t try to provide proper nesting boxes…it just wasn’t right. So I am very glad that your girls found a solution that works for everyone. Has the cat been back?

    • I haven’t seen the cat since “the incident” but I never saw the cat unless my girls were screaming so it could still pass through the bottom of the garden and everyone ignores each other. Which at least means that it’s not hunting my chickens so that’s a great thing!

      And yes, they are clever. It took them a few days to find a new spot, but now that’s the only place they want to lay. I have no idea if they’ll ever move back down into their coop to lay, I suppose when we have to leave them locked in their run all day they won’t have access to their new box so they might have to.

  4. Gosh I am amazed that they are still afraid the cat might come back. I hope you haven’t seen it again and that it stays away.

    • I wonder how much they remember of the cat and how much is just a general sense of unease. I haven’t seen that cat but maybe I just haven’t been around when she has. The most important question is have the chickens seen the cat. If so, they haven’t made any noise that reached my ears.

  5. allarminda says:

    I don’t think Frank is the only softie where these girls are concerned, but one thing is certain: that cat is bad news.

    • Yeah, but at least I admit I’m a softie. He acts like such a tough guy – and is a lousy actor 🙂

      Agreed 100% about that cat. I just ran outside because Rosie and Isabel were squawking. Turns out a cat (I am not positive it’s the same one, but…) is sitting on my neighbour’s balcony. It had its head through the rails staring at my chickens. I clapped and hissed and it looked at me. I had to throw a rock at it to get it to pull its head in. Grrrr.

  6. Poor you, what a nightmare, poor things!

  7. I would do exactly the same. Poor girls. I am very impressed at your husband putting the straw into the box of paper.

    • Yeah, that was good of him to help them make the adjustment. I rather worthlessly stood around fretting. A man of action, that’s my hubby – unless it comes time to scrub the bathroom that is 🙂

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