Hidden Eggs

Some time ago I wrote a post entitled, “Dealing with Broody Chickens.” The chicken in question had decided to take to her nest box and stopped laying eggs. That’s only one sort of problem that can occur with hens. In some cases, a hen doesn’t become broody, she takes another course to perceived motherhood. In this case, Daisy decided to hide her eggs from view.

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Of course, we didn’t know that she had decided to hide her eggs until later. Because Daisy lays a particular egg color, a beautiful light blue, we had noticed we weren’t getting any eggs from her. However, we also hadn’t noticed any broody behavior. She was still out with the other chickens and didn’t have any of the other tendencies either.

I had also noticed an odor around some of the plants at our house. Given that we live just a few feet from the woods and that we have livestock, the odor didn’t attract too much attention, but I should have paid more attention to this particular odor.

Things got interesting one evening when we put the chickens up. Daisy was nowhere to be found. We searched and called, but no Daisy. Finally, we closed the coop up thinking that some wild animal had gotten our poor hen. Imagine our surprise the next morning when she turned up outside. That’s when I decided to follow her around a bit. She kept going over to the hostas and I finally saw something interesting. See if you can see it in this picture as well.

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Up near the top of the frame in the center of the picture you see a hole in the hosta covering. Normally the hostas won’t have a hole like that. When you look very closely at the hole in the hostas, you see something. Taking a closer look, you can see what that something was.

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Daisy had built herself a nest in the hostas and laid 18 eggs there. She was busy setting on eggs that would never hatch because we have no roosters. Unfortunately, a good many of them were rotten by this time and cleaning them up was an unpleasant experience. This would lead many people to ask why we risk letting our chickens run free. There are many benefits in having chickens that can run around as they like.

 

  • Happier chickens
  • Fewer health problems
  • More eggs for the most part
  • Better egg quality
  • Lower feed costs
  • Reduced insect and other pest problems


Chickens like to get out and hunt for bugs. They eat more bugs and grass than they eat anything else. The more bugs chickens eat, the less mash you feed them and the lower your feed costs. The resulting eggs have more nutrients. Chickens will also clean up food dropped by other animals, which reduces the food left for pest animals. This means that all of your animals live in a better environment and you have fewer worries about having to deal with pests later.

In short, losing the 18 eggs was bothersome (not to mention expensive), but the benefits of letting Daisy run around are far greater. Let me know your thoughts about chickens running free at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

An Update On Our Pullets

I recently wrote about our chickens first attempts at laying eggs in my Pullet Eggs post. Of course, nothing remains static. Our nine pullets are laying four eggs on average every day now. That number will increase as spring approaches because the number of daylight hours is increasing. Depending on which source you use, chickens require somewhere between 12 and 14 hours of daylight in order to lay eggs with any frequency.

There are some interesting things to consider beside the number of hours of daylight, however. For example, some chickens are winter layers—they are significantly less affected by the number of daylight hours than other breeds. Our Delaware pullets seem to lay eggs nearly every day. The Ameraucanas are less affected by the lack of daylight, but they lay only every other day. The Black Australorp is laying few eggs (about one a week) because she’s not a winter layer. The Buff Orpingtons naturally lay fewer eggs than the Delawares or Ameraucanas, so it’s hard to tell much about their laying capacity in the winter. We’ll learn more as time progresses.

The weather seems to have less to do with egg laying than the number of daylight hours does. Our chickens seem to continue producing eggs at a regular pace no matter what the outside temperature might be. This past week has seen some extreme cold, but the chickens continued laying. The coop is unheated, so we checked for eggs regularly to keep them from freezing. We also kept the chickens in the coop on days where the daytime temperature was below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hen health is important for getting good eggs though, so we make sure our hens have enough of the right sorts of things to eat. Because this is winter and there are no bugs for our hens to eat, we make sure that they get plenty of high protein food sources. The hens also get greens and other kitchen scraps. Sometimes they look quite funny running around with bits of fruit in their beaks. Along with all of their other food, we do provide them with layer mash—a necessity to ensure they get enough calories to survive the cold temperatures.

We also had something interesting happen with our Black Australorp this past week. She laid the largest double yolked egg I’ve ever seen—it wouldn’t even fit in the egg carton. After I saw the egg my wife brought in, I decided to check our hen to make sure she hadn’t been damaged by laying it, but she seemed just fine. Double yolked eggs are somewhat rare, about 1 in 1000. One this size must be rarer still. I wish I had gotten a picture of it, but we ate it before we thought to get a picture. Unfortunately, it will be a long time before we get another.

Our pullets will turn into hens soon. Each day the eggs get a little larger and we’ll soon have jumbo-sized eggs. The eggs are about medium in size now. We plan to get an egg scale so that we can size the eggs correctly. In the meantime, seeing our chickens grow and develop is nothing short of amazing. Let me know about your chicken experiences at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Pullet Eggs

You may have wondered what happened to the laying hens that I talked about in Sunday Surprise! They have grown up and have become pullets. Of course, the question now is what a pullet is and why you should want to know about it. A pullet is a young chicken. Think about it as a teenager—not quite a chick anymore, but also not an adult. A pullet is a chicken that is just starting to experience life and still has more growing to do before becoming a full-fledged chicken.

A female chick becomes a pullet when she lays her first egg. She remains a pullet until she is fully grown, which is usually after her first complete moult after she starts laying eggs. The first egg is a lot smaller than a regular egg. Our chickens will lay large to jumbo eggs. However, the pullet eggs are only about half that size as shown here.

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On the left is a large egg from Violet, our Black Australorp. On the right is a pullet egg from Rose, our Delaware. Rose’s eggs will stay the color you see here—an extremely pleasing dark brown. The actual egg looks a bit polka-dotted, which is a characteristic of Delaware eggs. As Rose matures, her eggs will become larger. In fact, her eggs will eventually become larger than the ones that Violet lays.

Now, here’s why you want to know about pullets. Pullet eggs often sell for considerably less at farmer’s markets. In fact, a local farmer sells them for as little as $0.60 a dozen, which is considerably less than the $1.75 a dozen we pay for a dozen factory-produced jumbo eggs in the store (cage free eggs sell for almost $4.00 a dozen and pasture-fed eggs aren’t even available). You never see pullet eggs sold in stores because people think they’re simply too small to eat or that there is possibly something wrong with them.

You do need to know that a pullet egg may not have a yolk—although, all of our pullet eggs so far have had a yolk in them. There is absolutely no difference in taste. However, because pullet eggs always come from a farmer and are likely not from a factory environment, you may actually find that you receive a higher quality product. The statistics quoted for pasture fed chicken eggs, the kind you’ll most likely encounter at a farmer’s market, do differ, but most experts agree that they are better for you.

Our coop has entered a new phase with the addition of pullet eggs. It won’t be long now and we’ll have full-sized eggs to meet all of our needs. The eggs will be significantly better for us than anything we could buy at the store. Now that many cities let people raise chickens, have you ever considered producing your own eggs? Let me know your thoughts at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.