Egg production has suddenly dropped over the last few weeks. Out of our half dozen laying hens we usually collect just under a half a dozen eggs a day. For the last few weeks we have had our source dry up to a mere one or two eggs daily. The lovely Sharon mentioned that she saw a hoodie inside the pen earlier in the week. Not the threatening teenage kind; the corvid kind. The hooded crows are sharp witted and crafty, and I began to blame them for the thieving.

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On Thursday evening I put up thick card over the windows in the hen house in an attempt to deter nervous crows from entering. As I worked I noticed one of the hens was very interested in my activity. She made it her duty to check out the house and the nesting boxes every time I left or came back into the hen house. So, I decided that she deserved a little test. I took one of our precious eggs from the kitchen and put it on the floor of the hen house. Within seconds the curious hen was over and pecking frantically at the egg. I shooed her away before putting the egg right at my feet. A slightly more hesitant hen was soon pecking away trying to feed her egg addiction. I was wrong to have that knee-jerk reaction of blaming the hoodies, the culprit was here all along.

The next morning, without the egg eater, we collected three eggs before midday. This would be great if one of them had not been paper thin and collapsed when I went to lift it. Two of our hens have been with us for years and I suspect they are laying irregular eggs. Sometimes they are thin shelled and sometimes the shell if thick and lumpy. I am sure that stumbling on one of these thin shelled eggs was what got the egg eater hooked on her habit. It is for this reason that we try and refresh our stock a little every year. Tonight I decided to introduce this stock. The job should have taken a fraction of the hour it took in reality.

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The easy bit was to lift the two old hens and put them in a box ready to take up residence in the spare hen-house. Then I had to empty the spare hen house of the four new hens and put them in the main hen-house. Except, they were not in the house but in the run and had no intention of going to bed. I made a bold, and stupid move, I let them out in the garden with the intention of catching them with my fishing chicken net. Usually I find the chickens easy to catch. Usually. I guess its a case of a different breed having different habits and different levels of wit.

The first chicken was easy to catch. The second chicken was faster and slightly more agile. The other two chickens vanished. I knew they would not go far from the coop and there seemed to be nowhere for them to go. A time spent hunting found one in the hedge. I got it out, but it had liked its new trick, and I spent the next ten minutes chasing, finding, then chasing, finding and chasing. The last of the hens was the most hidden and silent. By the time I eventually found her I had learned a trick of my own. I steered her into a hedge-less corner and her and her friends were soon locked away in the main hen house. I imagine there will be fighting tomorrow. Lots of noise and scuffles as they all get to know each other. Maybe they can find some common ground, maybe their shared hatred of the crazy man who runs round the garden with a fishing net.

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it was a hive of activity here today

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