The Chicken Chronicle
The mis-adventures of a backyard chicken wrangler

A Few Things I've Learned About Egg-Laying

I read one time that there are only two shell colors: white and blue. What about brown eggs, you ask? According to what I've learned, some birds deposit a brown pigment on the shells as the egg is being laid. Thus turning white shells varying shades of beige to chocolate, and blue shells to green and khaki. This also explains occasional spots, speckles, and color fades. The brown pigment is laid on darker when the bird begins to lay again after molt, and fades toward the end of their egg-laying cycle (before they are ready to molt again).

These are the eggs I collected yesterday. For the most part, I know which egg came from which chicken. Having a variety of breeds helps to differentiate the eggs. I've been known to quietly stalk my hens, waiting for them to finish their business in the nesting box. I've also had the privilege of watching eggs come out. One time my son and I watched Lupe (our first Barred Rock) lay an egg and we promptly ran to the kitchen to fry and eat it. Talk about fresh!

I am always amazed by the effort it takes to lay an egg -- like delivering a baby every day. Can you imagine? No wonder they proudly crow to announce their accomplishment to all within earshot. Sometimes they feel the egg pushing its way out, but are prevented from using the nesting box due to their lower status in the pecking order. No matter if you have 3 or 23 hens in your backyard, they will all share the same 1 or 2 nesting spots, and the order in which a hen is permitted to use the nest is predetermined by her pecking order. This is done instinctively to facilitate incubation (more on that in a minute). Of course, if the top girls don't have to go or aren't paying attention, someone may sneak in, out of turn. However, it seems to take 10-20 minutes of meditation and pushing to get the egg out, and I've seen some hens violently pushed off the nest once their subterfuge is exposed, under a barrage of head-pecks and the threat of pulled feathers. If they are very close to laying, they may try to bury their head in the corner and weather the attack. It depends on the persistence of the superior hen. This is why backyard chicken wranglers may occasionally find an egg on the ground outside the nest.

In the chicken world, it takes an individual to raise a village. The hens will all deposit their eggs in the same nest and once there is a decent collection of eggs (4+) for a few days, one of the more maternally-minded hens may be triggered into broodiness. This means that she will stop laying her own eggs and be overtaken by an overwhelming desire to sit on the eggs night and day. She usually won't begin to lay eggs again until after the chicks hatch (21 days) and they are about 6 weeks old. Some breeds are more inclined toward broodiness than others. If you have broody breeds, this is one reason it's very important to collect the eggs regularly.

I have one hen, a Dominique named Chica-Mara-Choo-Choo (my kids named her), who is an excellent mother and loves to sit on eggs. She may go off the nest for 10 to 15 minutes only twice a day to eat, drink, poop, and take a quick dust bath and then she rushes back to her eggs. While she's off the nest, the other hens are quick to lay some more eggs in the nest for incubation with the rest. (This is typically the point where there is some breakage, as some hens scratch around roughly trying to get positioned.) Sometimes they will even cozy in next to her while she's sitting and after they deposit their egg, the broody hen will slip in under her warm breast for safekeeping. Once the chicks hatch, it doesn't matter who laid the egg, they all belong to the girl that put the effort into nurturing them.

Post a Comment

Content & Images

The original content and images found on this blog are owned and copyrighted by the author. If you wish to use my work, please kindly reference me. I'd love you to register as a follower and post a link to my blog on yours. Cheers!


La Curucana

La Curucana
Part woman, part chicken, her job is to keep children from playing with the chickens, and picking up bird lice. (Holly Wood at


My pet chicken. The others are just chickens.