As mammals, we carry our unborn offspring inside of the female. This time period where the embryo/fetus develops internally is known as gestation, or more commonly, pregnancy. For humans, this usually takes about 9 months.
Chickens, however, are very different. An adult hen can lay an egg every 25 hrs to 27 hrs – meaning a chicken can lay more eggs in a week than most human mothers will bear children in their entire lives.
It’s important to understand this when establishing perspective. For humans, offspring will never be as common as it is with chickens.
This is not to say that a hen will never display motherly behavior – as in fact, they most certainly do. But there is a notable difference between a hen depositing her daily egg and a broody hen – that is a hen with the intent of hatching a clutch of eggs.
For non-broody hens, there is no emotional attachment to the egg that they have laid. However, for broody hens, you can expect a very angry mother should you attempt to take an egg from her. They are most certainly attached to their clutch of eggs and disturbing her as she sits patiently waiting for her chicks to arrive will absolutely cause her disstress.
So to recap, for normal everyday hens, they probably won’t even notice if you take their egg. For a broody hen, taking an egg is quite traumatic for her.
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There is another difference that may impact a hen’s attachment to her eggs. With the case of human mothers, they are able to feel the unborn child move. (Personally, I found it quite humorous when my wife was unable to sleep as she ate something very sugary just before bed and baby decided to be ‘energetic’.)
But chickens do not carry their young internally. Point of fact, even if the egg is fertilized, unless there is heat from a broody hen sitting on her nest, there will be no development inside the egg – in other words, it’s just an inert thing absent the miracle of life.
Do Chickens Know When You Take Their Eggs?
Chickens are creatures that love to be out and about. You’ve probably heard the saying, ‘all cooped up.’ For anyone who has raised a flock of chickens through the snowy months, you know exactly how this applies to your birds.
It’s no fun not being able to get out and play, and chickens understand this perfectly. Even the laziest of birds will want to spend time scratching and pecking at the ground. And this can be impossible for them with the presence of snow cover. Consequently, your happy flock of chickens will be more apt to stay inside of the coop than venture out into the white winter wonderland. And for the record, chickens get grumpy when they’re in the coop too long.
Now that we’ve established basic chicken behavior, it’s easier to understand how a non-broody hen will feel about her eggs.
A chicken that has no intent of hatching a clutch of eggs will quickly forget their short time on the nest. Once the laying process is complete, a hen will no longer feel the need for a quiet and cozy nesting box and should resume their daily outdoor activities, quickly forgetting the entire endeavor.
Also worth noting is that chickens don’t always use the same nesting box. They like to ‘mix it up’ once in a while, maybe to keep you guessing as you go about collecting eggs. And as they don’t always lay in the same place, it is unlikely that they even remember the previous day’s laying.
Is It Painful For Chickens To Lay Eggs?
The process of actually passing the egg from inside the hen to the nest takes a little time. Your chicken will be completely vested in this endeavor. For this reason, a hen needs to feel safe and secure in a quiet place as once she begins to lay her egg, she is committed to finishing the task.
As to how much pain is involved, I am unable to say as I don’t speak chicken. However, considering the process takes between 20 min to 30 min to pass the egg, it’s reasonable to assume that there is some notable physical discomfort involved.
Often times you will hear flock owners refer to the ‘egg song’. This refers to the crowing song a hen will sometimes sing after she has successfully laid an egg. Personally, I do not think hens would do this if ‘delivering’ an egg wasn’t an involved process.
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The physical act of laying an egg will affect each hen differently. Most notably, an older more experienced hen will usually have less difficulty with the process than a new hen that has recently started. However, this does not necessarily apply to the ‘elderly’ hen in your flock.
Notably, the most affected by this process are the hens that are about to lay their first egg. It is not uncommon for the young birds to be somewhat at a loss of this new aspect of adulthood – not only behaviorally but physically as well.
For those of you looking to raise chickens for the first time, do not be surprised by the deformities you will encounter when collecting eggs. It generally takes a week or more for the chicken’s ‘egg-motor’ to start running correctly. Until then, you will see all sorts of gross stuff, both outside and inside the shell (provided there is a shell to begin with).
Do Chickens Have One Or Two Holes?
As a species of fowl, a chicken’s ‘plumbing’ is different than that of mammals.
Chickens have a universal ‘port’ called the cloaca. This multi-purpose plumbing allows for all necessary bodily functions to be handle in a single location – ie; one hole.
This is especially notable as both the male and female possess a cloaca. The plumbing attached to the cloaca varies from male to female, but the cloaca itself is the same.
For an in-depth look at this unusual and somewhat novel biology, check out ‘How Do Chickens Mate?’