They say that one nest box is all you need for three or four hens. But when one of your hens is Lil'White, that's another story.
Lil'White hogs the nest box. Always has.
Sometimes she pretends to be broody, like this:
...I swear she's faking it.
Last year I made a new coop for my five gals, with TWO nest boxes.
One for Lil'White, and one for everybody else.
For some reason, everybody preferred Lil'White's nest box, so there was still a line of anxious hens waiting their turn.
Then I had a clever idea.
I placed a rubber egg in the unused nest box to make that box appear desirable.
Instantly, that second nest box was deemed eggworthy by the flock, and we never had a problem with a long queue again.
But another problem did creep up:
Her name is Fern.
Right about the time of the rubber egg, Fern stopped laying.
Until that time, she was laying beautifully --
Her petite blue eggs were regular treasures... maybe three or four a week.
The shutdown of little Fern's internal egg factory was a mystery.
There are several reasons a hen might take a break from laying during the summer -- hot weather, a molt, broodiness, poor health... I didn't see signs of any issues or problems in Fern.
She was still the little whippersnapper she'd always been. Still getting into trouble.
(Closeup: Fern waits for Lil'White to resume pecking her on the head.)
Fern must have had her reasons for not laying eggs, and I supposed she'd get back to laying pretty soon.
Sure enough, after a few weeks, Fern did start marching into the nest box each morning.
She preferred the box with the rubber egg.
Every day, she settled in and hunkered down.
And when she was done, she stepped out onto the upper perch
to formally announce her accomplishment.
There WAS no accomplishment.
Fern wasn't laying anything.
No blue eggs. No eggs at all.
She still isn't laying, and it's been FOUR MONTHS.
For four months, she has been going through the motions, daily.
...looks like Daisy's been here already.
Does Fern think she's laying a rubber egg every day?
If that's what's going on in her tiny little head, that's okay with me. But I really am dying to know.
If she never lays a cute blue egg ever again, that's okay too. She won't end up in the stewpot because I still appreciate all the redeeming qualities that make her...well... Fern.
I guess Fern is just a bit unusual...
But, then, aren't we all?