disappearing chicken

Jacquej57

Chirping
Jun 12, 2021
33
167
69
So, this started two days ago. When it was time to close the girls in for the night, we were missing one pullet (6 month old Rhode Island Red). She was nowhere to be found. My husband and I walked the property, calling and searching for her. I went to bed heartbroken, sure that a predator had gotten another one of my girls. We have lost a handful this summer to a feral cat before we figured out the problem and took steps to keep the girls safe.

Every morning I go out and open their door to a small run, change their water and feed them breakfast. They have access to that small space until about 11:00 when I let them out to free range. In the morning I was still short a pullet. My red "Flopsy" was missing. When I went back out at 11:00, there she was, with all her sisters, ready to get out for some bugs and grass. Scratched my head and tried to figure out where she appeared from but was happy she was home.

At 5 I take out fermented feed for the girls dinner. Everyone comes running because they know they are getting the good stuff for dinner. And I do mean running. They could be scattered over 2 acres but when they hear me call, they hightail it for the dinner pan. Except, once again, I was missing Flopsy. Walked the property, called for her, searched the tree belt. No Flopsy.

Sunset came and I went to lock the girls in for the night. No Flopsy. Went out to feed this morning, no Flopsy. I work from home, and when I was heading downstairs at breaktime, I looked out the window and was sure I saw her in the pen. Ran outside and sure enough...she's back in the pen with her sisters. Took a picture to show my husband, since he was sure I just imagined seeing her yesterday morning. Went out at 11:00 to let the girls out .....No Flopsy.

The ONLY place she can be, which would allow her to access the outdoor pen, is under the chicken coop. The coop itself is very old (probably 50 years or so) but is extremely well-built and secure. There is hardware cloth under the floor to keep predators from burrowing in. But the girls have dug dust bath pits around the foundation which allows them to have access under the coop. A couple of girls started laying eggs in the largest divot last week.

I'm thinking Flopsy commandeered some eggs and is sitting on them under there. No way they are fertile, so she's wasting her time. And I'm afraid she would be a sitting duck (or pullet) for any skunk, mink or raccoon who decided to go after her under there. I am thinking of blocking off all access with cinder blocks tomorrow morning when she shows up for breakfast. But my husband is worried she will freak out at not being able to get back to "her" eggs. My daughter's hen eggs are all fertile, so I am considering moving her into a separate enclosure in the coop and setting her up with some new eggs. Would that even be possible?

Also, if I block off that access, I'm worried the 2-3 girls who lay there will just lay somewhere less accessible. They don't lay until afternoon which means I would have a daily easter egg hunt to figure out which bush they selected to lay under. Having them lay beside the door of the coop is at least convenient.

I guess I'm asking a couple of questions: If I brick off the under-coop access, what is the possibility I can convince Flopsy to accept a different nesting situation? And if I set up a nest box by where the girls are currently laying, do you think they would accept that as an acceptable alternative to laying them in the dust bath hollow? Help!
 
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DobieLover

Easily distracted by chickens
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Jul 23, 2018
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If I brick off the under-coop access, what is the possibility I can convince Flopsy to accept a different nesting situation?
You can graft her to a new site. She sounds dug in so she should take to it in about a week. Use the guidelines in the article to help get that done.
And if I set up a nest box by where the girls are currently laying, do you think they would accept that as an acceptable alternative to laying them in the dust bath hollow?
The flock should be laying in the coop. Do they have boxes in the coop they aren't using? Can you post pictures?
You may need to lock them in the coop for a couple of days at least until all have laid before letting them out to establish better laying habits.
No one likes to have an Easter egg hunt daily.
 

Jacquej57

Chirping
Jun 12, 2021
33
167
69
You can graft her to a new site. She sounds dug in so she should take to it in about a week. Use the guidelines in the article to help get that done.

The flock should be laying in the coop. Do they have boxes in the coop they aren't using? Can you post pictures?
You may need to lock them in the coop for a couple of days at least until all have laid before letting them out to establish better laying habits.
No one likes to have an Easter egg hunt daily.
It's just the two youngest. I will keep them locked in until they figure out the nest box situation. Most of my girls I raised from chicks and they are rockstars about using the nesting boxes I provided. I have commercial boxes as well as a couple of cat litter boxes for the girls who prefer more room. I had a co-worker beg me to take her daughter's impulse buy chicks on. They are about 3 weeks younger than my girls and I got them when they were about 10 weeks old. They have never been quite right in the head. Took them forever to learn how to perch. They are just not normal chickens. Turns out they raised them on layer feed. Not sure if that had anything to do with it but they are just strange. I really appreciate the suggestion. I would much prefer not to have anyone laying outside the coop. Which is one of the reasons I don't allow them to free range until after 11:00 every morning.
 

Jacquej57

Chirping
Jun 12, 2021
33
167
69
update: Was able to nab Flopsy when she came out for her morning break and popped her in a dog crate set up a quiet corner of the coop. I have a nesting box with fake eggs, food and water set up for her. Will let her out in the morning for a break when the other girls go out to free range. Blocked off all access to the space beneath the coop with cinderblocks. If she is ready to sit after a day or so, I have 5 fresh fertile eggs I picked up from my daughter last night. The eggs were all laid yesterday, so I have a couple days to make sure she is interested in being broody. Thank you for the advice and the link to the really excellent article. I love being part of this community.
 
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Jacquej57

Chirping
Jun 12, 2021
33
167
69
Update #2. Flopsy settled on to the nest and fake eggs immediately. After checking her a few times it was apparent she is happy to be out from under the coop in a nice secure private place. Gave her the real eggs this morning and she is sitting them as tightly as if she has done this forever. Thank you DobieLover for your help. Headed out to the coop now to give her a break from the crate for a chance to stretch her wings a little.

I let her out of the crate and coop. She took 20 minutes to eat/drink/dust bathe and then headed back to the coop. She tried to break to go under it to her original nest, but I blocked her and herded her towards her crate. She went in and settled on the eggs immediately. I did lock her in, just for another day or two to keep her from trying to get to her nest under the building.
 
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PopoMyers

Songster
Aug 19, 2020
343
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206
Kitsap, WA
Great to hear problems solved. You'll have new chicks in a few weeks. I don't let my trying to be broody hens carry on, because they stop laying, and I have no rooster. They go into broody jail for 3 days ( I use an old rabbit hutch raised up on 2 4x4s, with food, water, and a 2x4 laid inside for roosting on). I have one chicken that's a frequent jailbird. :rant
 

Jacquej57

Chirping
Jun 12, 2021
33
167
69
Great to hear problems solved. You'll have new chicks in a few weeks. I don't let my trying to be broody hens carry on, because they stop laying, and I have no rooster. They go into broody jail for 3 days ( I use an old rabbit hutch raised up on 2 4x4s, with food, water, and a 2x4 laid inside for roosting on). I have one chicken that's a frequent jailbird. :rant
I would have done the same if I didn't have access to fertile eggs. And she is determined to sit them. Having lost a handful to a predator I was looking at getting a half dozen chicks next week any way.....having her do all the work is a much better deal for me!
 

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