I repurposed a broody coop, adding legs and painting a blackboard sign on its front, to make an 'honesty box' for selling eggs at the bottom of our driveway.
The hens are laying with enthusiasm now that the days are getting longer. The don't always cooperate with me by laying them somewhere I can find them before the dogs do. The sheep trailer - currently acting as our hay storage - is their new favorite nest -
Even after the dogs take their cut and I bake a week's worth of cakes, I have a few dozen eggs left to sell. And that's not counting the bantam eggs which I reserve for hatching new stock.
Well, I used to anyway.
The cost of feed has risen significantly, and I can't justify keeping fancy hens for my...well...fancy. Hence, the leftover, un-purposed broody coop. I'll keep my current stock but I won't be raising any more.
I should say that I will attempt to keep my stock. Another deciding factor in giving up the bantams is loose dogs. Not ours, but visitors' dogs. The estate has many walking trails and weekends bring an influx of "townies" (as they're disparagingly known). Most have very well-behaved dogs and, as usual, it's only an handful of miscreants that wreak havoc: killing lambs, chasing deer into fences and mauling them, and of course chickens.
Ours are free-range and sometimes cross the road to scratch in the paddock across the way, or turn over leaf litter on the side of the road. That must be a terrible temptation for even the best behaved dog. But it's the dogs that come tearing into our garden trying to catch the chickens, with no sign of an owner, that are exasperating. In the past few months we've caught 3 separate dogs - all bull terriers, oddly - running around the garden in hot pursuit of their prey, which I've explained to the owners is also our livestock.
I shut the gate to the garden, but short of building more pens and keeping the chickens in permanently I am unable to protect them. One dog attack can decimate the breeding stock for a whole year, by the time you source replacement eggs, hatch them, raise them, and wait for them to reach sexual maturity. Then it's another cycle to produce their offspring for sale.
I'm going to streamline the poultry operation, and keep only meat chickens and hybrid layers. Both are easy to source and replace. Meat chickens are ready to harvest in three months. Generic brown hens start laying earlier and lay for longer, and they seem to be more successful escaping the rogue dogs. Neither succumbs to diseases that readily take down my fancier breeds. Between disease and dogs, it breaks my heart to watch the little bantams die.
I wonder if it's practical reasons like these which cause some of these rare breeds to become rare in the first place.