Our chicken egg production has been dwindling in the last couple of weeks. I suspected that the chickens had found another hiding place and I stumbled upon it last week. They have been taking turns laying eggs in the guinea hen's hiding place. So, there is this huge stash of eggs - guinea and chicken - out behind the pig pen.
So far this year, the guineas have started three egg stashes that I know of. One was in the tall grass early in the spring that I ended up mowing over because I couldn't see it until after I mowed over it. Eggs broke and scattered everywhere, but at least none of the hens had started sitting on them yet, so there were no babies forming. (Guineas wait until there are about 30 eggs in the nest before one will decide to start brooding.) Another was started in the tall grass of the pig pen. That one surprised me because I thought Piglette would have trampled or eaten the eggs. Apparently, she left the nest alone because Tom ended up mowing over that one. The third nest, the guineas had made across the road from our entryway. That one was raided and the guinea hen lost her life trying to protect it.
So, all summer the guineas have been unsuccessful. Even out of all the eggs they brooded last year, only one hen survived into adulthood. I guess this is why there is not an overpopulation of guineas. And, it's no wonder. They just pick a spot, totally unprotected, but fairly well hidden, out in the open. Any predator could either sniff them out or happen upon them at any time. It seems to be pure luck that any are hatched at all.
Since I found the nest, and while waiting for a hen to decide it's time to brood (and one of them has started brooding as of two days ago), I've been pondering this dilemma and trying to decide what I should do. I mean, could I make the situation any worse for them, or could I help them get some eggs hatched? If I disturb the nest, will she abandon it?
I thought about building a temporary pen around the nest so the dogs can't get to it. They won't bother the guineas, but if they find eggs just laying about, they will eat them. Ginger has the decency to look guilty, but her guilt doesn't stop her. And, I guess Harry pretty much thinks he's entitled to eat anything he finds, so his conscious is clear. Anyway, Tom and I figured that even if we keep the dogs away with a pen, a raccoon could get in there and raid the nest and the dogs couldn't get to the raccoon to chase it off. So I discarded that idea.
I'm left with the option of just leaving the nest there, unprotected, or moving eggs and hen into the guinea coop, risking her abandoning it. I've pretty much decided on the move. Today I got the coop ready.
At first, I thought I'd just tuck it back in the corner of the coop where it's all cozy and covered. There are nesting boxes in there, but guineas nest on the ground, out in the open. They don't care if the sun is beaming down or if it rains on them. I also thought that maybe they nest out in the open so that they can catch any breeze that blows. It's in the high 90's and low 100's during August/September, so the guinea is going to be pretty hot.
So, I decided to move the spot up to the open area in the coop. I piled hay on the ground, even though they pretty much just scoop a hole in the dirt for their eggs. Then I took a bunch of wisteria vine I had just cut last week and piled it up around the hay nest.
I piled more on the outside of the coop, propping it up against the chicken wire.
I tried to make it so that she'd feel hidden in brambles or tall grass, which is what she chooses on her own.
So, I'm going to move her and all the eggs tonight after dark when she's in her semi-trancelike state so she, hopefully, won't freak out and tear up my hands or break eggs.
So, y'all can be in suspense with me while we wait to see if she'll sit on the nest after I move her. I figure it can't be any worse of a track record than they already have this year. Plus, I can start gathering the chicken eggs if they continue to lay them in the same place.