There were a few weeks there when things were tough. We knew we’d be getting our laying hens soon so we didn’t want to buy too many eggs, and of course we ran out before our chickens arrived, being the egg-lovers that we are. When our chickens finally arrived, we felt life was good again.
We made sure they were nice and comfortable, giving them lots of fresh grass clippings and scratch to peck at outside, their coop already full of fresh rip and food and water topped off, especially the outdoor water trough, which all of our chickens have always loved. I spent some time just hanging out with them, petting them and letting them get used to me.
In previous years, we’d always been in the habit of leaving a sealed bucket of scratch outside to easily scoop some out and toss into the hens’ enclosure. So with one last quick check to make sure the scratch bucket was full, we went back to our own home.
With my parents away for the weekend, we went back to visit the chickens every day, even taking the dogs with us one night. And then the next day we learned a lesson.
Bringing the dogs back home before heading off somewhere, we noticed the scratch bucket was gone but we didn’t have time to worry about it. Once we returned, we investigated.
I found a trail leading into the bush behind the coop, and even though I was unsure whether the trail had been there before, I followed the spoor until I had the proof I needed. Suddenly fearful, I called for Marc to join me, the slight panic in my voice ensuring my backup would arrive rapidly.
“Look, Marc, the bucket lid and the scooping jar.” Marc saw the bite holes in the lid before I could point them out. “Stay with me,” I said, “I’m going to try to recover the bucket.”
I followed the trail to the marsh behind the house, but the spoor ended by the water’s edge. The bear must have carried the whole bucket right across the swamp! Now we keep the scratch inside the coop with the rest of the feed.
Our laying hens are still a bit young and are only producing at half-capacity so far, so we’ve had to meal-plan ahead of time to make sure we don’t run out, and we’re not used to that. The family’s only got nine chickens this year, so we’ll soon have just enough for ourselves and it’s not likely we’ll have anything to sell.
But we sure are happy with our new pets! We’ve been giving them strawberry greens and it seems they’re happy with their new home, too (smiley face). That’s a good thing, because if all goes well, we’ll be keeping them throughout the winter this year. If we do that, I’d like to get enough chickens so that we can sell eggs again, but the family’s a democracy, so we’ll just have to wait and see!
Bonus tip: Boiled fresh farm eggs are harder to peel unless boiled much longer than usual, which drains away the nutrients and weakens the flavour; but making a small hole in the wider bottom end with an egg piercer makes peeling much easier while maintaining quality and flavour.