Lotti, our loopy and lovely Exchequer Leghorn, has been managing to hide her eggs for some time now.
Last year, she was laying all over the garden. Every time we discovered her hidey-hole, she started a new one somewhere else. This year, she's not been escaping every day - which means she has been laying somewhere in the free range area. The key is somewhere.
The season started well, with Lotti and Poppy both laying in the nest box. The older girls weren't laying. Just under 2 weeks ago, we stopped getting eggs from Lotti. Now, it's quite common for her to have a day or so off each week. But after 2 eggless days, we knew she was laying somewhere else.
Over the next week, I searched the free range area for her nesting site. I realised that she was probably laying in the Pampas grass, but I couldn't find any eggs, despite several forays into it.
Today, Lotti was making a racket, sounding very distressed. She's been like this before if she has been denied access to the nestbox. I was pruning elsewhere in the garden, so I came over to have a look. Sure enough, Florence (our Australorp) was in one of the nest boxes and showing no signs of moving. I picked Lotti up and put her in the other nestbox.
The racket started again a little bit later, and it was coming from the direction of the Pampas. I had an idea. I went and fetched the big egg thing I had once used as a spare nest box for her (until I found her sleeping in it at night). I could wedge that in the pampas grass, and she'd have somewhere to lay, we'd know where to look for eggs, and she wouldn't have access to it at night time.
I filled it with fresh Aubiose and found somewhere in the Pampas to wedge it. I could hear Lotti, but I couldn't see her. I got DH to help. He searched one half, I searched the other. She wasn't there,. but I could hear her.
And then a movement caught my eye, and this hen popped out of the Pampas. She was literally in the Pampas, about four feet off the ground. I waited till she vacated, and I found her nest and ten eggs.
It's not ideal, but at least we know where it is.
I've left the huge egg thing at the bottom as well, just in case.