Wednesday, February 16, 2011

When you got to go you got to go!

                                                             Lay an egg that is!
I found this blue egg last week when cleaning up around my hydrangeas. That is an egg from Patience one of my Easter Eggers (the other Prudence was brooding so it had to be her). Here she is...

The coop is only about 10 yards away but I guess she was too busy pecking and scratching around for bugs that she didn't feel like walking back across the yard to lay it in the nest box. I threw the egg away because I wasn't sure just how long it had been there. I don't let them out of the run everyday so it could have been there a week or more before I discovered it. This does bring up a good question though. If I let my hens free range will they lay in the nest boxes? The answer to that is yes and no. Chickens are creatures of habit for the most part. My hens are in there enclosed run for 90% of the time. They have a large spacious run and have plenty of room to run around without being on top of each other. I feed them scraps and weeds and give them a scoop of scratch (cracked corn and grains) everyday. So for them the coop is right there and when the need to lay comes they hop right into a box and lay. This is there normal routine everyday so when I do let them out and they need to lay an egg they will still go back to the coop and lay there egg. Normaly anyway! However, hens who free range for 90% of the time are not used to being confined to their coop and nest box area. Often what happens is like what happened to Patience she's away from the coop busy looking for bugs and will decide to just scratch out a nest in the ground or leaf litter and lay her eggs in the woods or under a bush or something like that. That then becomes there habit and will often even use the same spot. You still may have some who will go back to the coop to lay her egg but you will also have many hens who choose to lay them in an area like Patience did and you may or may not find them. I have a friend who has a large flock of mixed chickens who she would let free range. Her home is surrounded by woods and that is where the chickens would often go looking for food. She told me she started getting fewer eggs. Well it wasn't that her hens had stopped laying but that most of them were not coming back to the coop to lay them and eggs were being wasted in the woods because she couldn't find them. She eventually stopped letting them free range and started getting eggs again as they had no choice now but to lay them in the nest box.

 There are some tricks you can try to get you free range hens to lay in the nest boxes. Most hens will lay sometime in the morning to early afternoon. You can either try to keep them in the run till then and then let them out to free range hoping that most of them will have laid before you let them out. You can also try keeping your hens in the run for a period of time hoping that it will become a habit to lay in the boxes and then let them start free ranging  and hope that they will come back to the coop to lay. Another thing you could try is to set our nest boxes in an area you know they like to go to, say the edge of the woods or something, and hope they will come to lay them there. Chickens like a quite safe place to lay there eggs so this may attract them. Or you could just hunt for them like an Easter egg hunt everyday and then guess as to whether they are fresh or not! I prefer to keep mine in a run where I know they are safe from predators and where they can lay there eggs where they belong.


  1. Well this helps me to decide just how much free-ranging I'll let my chickens do.. not much!! We are building a large run too, covered as well, because there are many predators around this area.

    Is an easter egger an Ameraucana (sp?) I have two of them coming for their green/blue eggs - they look similar to your hen...

  2. An Easter Egger carry the gene from an Ameraucana or Araucana so they lay blue, green, or pink eggs. Hatcheries sell what they call Ameraucanas (though they often also mention them as easter eggers) however they are not pure bred and are really Easter Eggers like mine. True Ameraucans look very similar to mine above but the biggest difference is the colors. Araucanas are rumpless. If all you really care about is the pretty eggs then you would be just as happy with the Easter Egger as you would the pure bred. I love and adore my two. They are very timid, sweet birds although they are a little flighty. I think this is why my tow are at the bottom of the pecking order in my flock. Always getting picked on but still they hold their own.