it was an 'I've just laid an egg' cluck emanating from the backyard this morning, but alas no eggs. None yesterday either, and the numbers have been slowly dropping for a week or so.
The chickens (Roxanne, Penelope and Gwendoline at the moment) all appear well. Their combs are red, their appetite as voracious as ever and they follow us around and talk to us just like normal. There aren't any signs of them being sick or needing to stop laying. Unless the ginger cat that hangs around all the time is putting them off.
Nests have been popping up all over our yard and the neighbour's for a while now. An egg in the coup and two by the garage for a couple of weeks, then two hidden in the long grass at one end of the neighbour's yard and one tucked away at the other end. A heavy burst of rain sent one of them back to the coup to lay. Then output dropped to just one at the top of next door's yard. Now none.
I've hunted high and low, scrabbled around in grass, fought my way through prickles and weeds and blackberries, climbed over cement blocks and train tracks (the neighbour's yard is a veritable wasteland)... still nothing. So last night I closed off the hole in the fence, determined to make them lay in our yard. There aren't so many places to hide, and I know their favourite spots.
Great plan, if only it had worked. Roxanne nests on a branch that leads over the neighbour's fence. On hearing all the clucking I went down the back... and there she was, stuck in the wrong backyard. I still have no idea where she lays. Rather stupidly I removed the sheeting from the fence and all the chickens sallied forth into the other yard. Now I don't know where any of them laid.
I meant to go down at dusk tonight and sprinkle some seed in the coup, then lock them in for the night. Ha, that'd show them. Except I forgot to do it, so now it looks like another day of not knowing is heading my way.
On the bright side, I have three dozen eggs sitting on the bench. We won't starve any time soon, but I'm still determined to get them back to laying in the right place.
(And please don't offer me any well meaning advice about chickens slowing down sometimes, or hot weather putting them off. It hasn't been hot and I've had chickens for long enough to know their routines... but this one still has me stumped!)