Monday, November 10, 2008

Adventures in the Chicken Mansion

Since it's nearing the middle of November, this weekend, I decided it was time to get the Chicken Mansion winterized.

You know, so that all 3 hens and 1 rooster can stay warm and toasty this winter. (Since I put that in writing, today, when I get home, I fully anticipate to be down to 2 hens...)

On Saturday, after shooting his deer, Kev got some wheat from my Dad. A pick up load. It was waste wheat, left in the grain cart since harvest. We were more than happy to take it, but...well, we only have 4 chickens and what on earth would we do with so much wheat?

(I suggested we buy a grain mill and grind it to eat, but I got funny looks from the men in my family. I always get funny looks...but this one was a doozy.)

So, on Sunday, Kev and Andy transferred wheat from the pickup to a couple of 55 gallon drum barrels and several left over dog food, rabbit food, and cat food bags. And there was more in the pickup. We decided to dump the rest in the pasture.

So, we put all this wheat in the chicken house. I put new shavings on the floor for insulation and to help break down the poop. As it breaks down, it will emit some heat, helping to keeps the chooks warm.

As we were shifting things around to make room for the wheat, I asked Kev if he'd found that dead mouse we've been smelling. He hadn't, so he boosted Andy up to check the eaves, thinking Mr. Mouse might have died up there.

Now, we've been smelling Mr. Mouse for a couple of months, much longer than we all knew to be normal.

Andy looked up in the eaves and said "Holy crap. This is full of eggs."

You might call this a light bulb moment for all of us. We hadn't been smelling Mr. Mouse, we'd been smelling rotten eggs.


Andy pulled down about a dozen--carefully. He broke one, but it was empty. In fact, it had been emptied by Mr. Mouse. Who probably thought he had hit the jackpot.

You see, Kev had put up a high roost for the chickens. It annoyed me because it was right above my head, and I always worried about the chickens dropping poop on my head. And, there were times this summer when I wondered why we weren't getting more eggs... I now know the answer to that one.

The hens were nesting up in the eaves, laying eggs in the eaves. We counted over 75 eggs in the eaves. Eggs which are now rotten and smell every time Mr. Mouse and his family get hungry for a little protein. And, none of us had ever seen any chickens up in the eaves. Never. So, it never entered out minds that they would attempt to get up there.

So...what to do with more than 75 rotten eggs...well, we left them there. Some were packed in so tight, that by trying to remove them, we'd definitely break them. Eventually, they'll all evaporate and such. But, next spring, we'll have to remedy the situation and close off the eaves so that our new batch of chickens don't go up there. And, we are not putting in that high, eave-egg-laying-enabling roost.

Stupid Chickens. They had nice, comfortable nesting boxes, and instead, they chose to lay eggs way up high in the eaves. Stupid birds. (Thank goodness none were smart enough to go broody up there!)

Since we were out there, making wonderful discoveries, Kev pulled down some foam insulation he'd put in on the north side. It had 3 nice holes in it. he carried it outside, and out popped Mr. Mouse. Then, out popped Mrs. Mouse and a couple of friends! They scurried away, upset at losing their nice comfy warm, safe, winter home. The chickens caught one (it was caught by my only smart hen.) The cat's gave chase to the rest.

My new chicken mansion. Home for more than chickens. Somehow, that's not quite what I expected...

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