Like most backyard flock owners, it is one of the highlights of my day when I go and collect eggs. Gathering up those delicious, home-grown, soo-not-factory-made treats is gratifying in so many ways. Honestly, it feels like you are single-handedly making the planet a better place. Most visits to our nesting boxes will produce four or five eggs. But sometimes there’s only one. And when that happens, I find myself wondering, ‘where are they laying all the other eggs?’
When it comes to laying eggs, chickens prefer cozy quiet places that make them feel secure. For example, my nesting boxes are roughly 14 inch by 14 inch cubes with just one side being partially open. You would think they’d be claustrophobic in that small of a space, but it seems to work very well for them.
To help understand why chickens need small safe enclosures, you have to think about what they’re doing. They are passing a large object out their tail end and this is not something that happens easily or quickly. Generally, it takes about 20 to 30 minutes for a hen to lay an egg. During which time, she’s pretty much locked into making this happen. Any outside interference would be distressing to say the least.
Do Chickens Lay Their Eggs In The Same Place?
The best answer I can give to this is, ‘Yes…most of the time’.
Chickens are most certainly creatures of habit. So, realistically, you can expect them to lay eggs in the same place. However, chickens are not machines. Your feathered friends are in fact animals with their own unique behavior. And just like any other living creature, behavior can be affected by so many different things.
For example, we had a smaller flock a few years back with only 5 birds. The general rule of thumb for nesting box to hen ratio is 3 to 6 hens per box. There were 3 nesting boxes available for these 5 birds – plenty. Yet despite this fact, it was not uncommon for me to make an unscheduled visit as the ruckus coming out of the coop would be loud and concerning. Inevitably, I would find one hen in a nesting box busy laying an egg, while another hen was standing outside waiting for her turn. Why this girl standing outside felt like she couldn’t use one of the other two boxes available, I couldn’t tell you. But she really had to lay an egg and waiting was difficult for her.
It wasn’t too long after this behavior that I noticed that egg production dropped. It was a small drop at first, but then ultimately dropped to half of what I normally could expect. This was something of a mystery for me, until one afternoon I was moving some boards in the garden and came across a nest …with a whole bunch of eggs in it.
One of my hens had decided this small secure space was perfect and starting laying her eggs there. This did not go unnoticed. Consequently, some of the other hens must have gotten in on the idea as the pile of eggs did not reflect the work of just one chicken.
Eggs out on the open ground are not a good idea. Every predator out there will eventually smell the eggs and come looking. So as you can imagine, I was quick to remove the eggs and their safe place. Unfortunately, this resulted in the girls fighting over the same nest box again!
How Do You Stop Chickens From Laying Eggs On The Ground?
As mentioned above, your best course of action is to remove any unwanted nesting opportunity while simultaneously providing a desirable place to lay eggs. This will go a long ways towards keeping the eggs where you want them – which is not on the ground. That being said, a perfect nesting box does not guarantee cooperative hens.
We let our birds free range and I can tell you that it is not uncommon for a single hen to wander off somewhere and do her business. I’ve found eggs under pine trees (with soft needles for bedding and low hanging branches for security), bushes, boards, ect. What’s interesting to me is that a lot of times I’ll find just one egg; like maybe they didn’t feel like using the coop that day and decided to try someplace new.
If you find yourself in a situation where your hens are just not cooperating, one option would be to limit their freedom for a few days. Instead of letting them wander around and look for a new place to lay eggs, keep them in the coop where the only place they can lay eggs is in a nesting box. Once they’ve established this routine of laying in a nest box, you can let them wander again and they should follow the routine that you’ve helped them establish…at least for a little while.
How Long Does It Take A Chicken To Lay An Egg?
The process of producing and laying chicken eggs is roughly 24 to 26 hours. This being said, chickens generally don’t produce an egg every single day. Some of the better egg laying breeds like Barred Rock and Speckled Sussex will lay between 250 and 300 eggs a year – which is a lot. But this still does not come out to machine-like production of an egg every 24 hours.
Exercise and quality feed also play into the time of producing an egg. If you think about the amount of material that goes into ‘growing’ and egg – especially the shell – then your small hen really is an impressive animal.
At What Age Does A Chicken Start Laying Eggs?
There are a lot of variables that affect when a chicken will start laying, but a good age for you to expect seeing eggs is around is around 6 months. Generally, bigger birds will start laying later than their smaller cousins.
Also, the amount of daylight will affect egg production. If your chicks were born in late summer, then you probably shouldn’t expect eggs in the middle of winter as the shorter days do have an effect on the birds biology.
How Long Will A Hen Lay Eggs?
You can expect egg production to vary from breed to breed, as well as, from hen to hen. But in a generalized sort of average, the first 5 years of a hens life are considered their best egg production. It possible for a hens to lay eggs after this, however, it will be at a notably reduced amount.
In other words, egg production starts off strong and then tapers off, somewhat incrementally, as time goes by.
For example, let’s say you purchased 5 Barred Rock chicks (all girls) and raised them to give you eggs. Counting forward one year, after your hen’s have started laying eggs, you should have gathered around of 1200 to 1400 eggs. (That’s a LOT of eggs!!)
But fast forward to the end of year 5 and those same hens will probably have produced between 600 to 700 eggs for the year.
A good quality ‘layer’ feed for the birds will definitely help with egg production. But, as the hens get older, it may be good to offer them supplemental calcium – generally in the form of crushed oyster shells.