Anecdotes / Chickens

Penelope’s Hidden Nest

As you know, the Easter Egger girls began laying two weeks ago.  They began with a bang – three eggs in one day – and we were off to a great start.  Er, sort of.  Since then, we have been getting almost one egg every day.  That is, every few days, we have no egg.

Well, I thought something had to be wrong.  They are new to this, so there will certainly be days with no eggs, but with three girls laying, there should be some days with two eggs.  I asked about this on the Backyard Chickens forum, and people asked me if they freeranged.  They suggested that the girls might be creating their own nest to lay in and that we might search for it.

So, we searched.  We searched the brush and under bushes.  We walked through gardens, looking under maiden hair grass and behind fallen logs.  We searched the mountainside.  No eggs.  Still feeling that they were laying elsewhere, I refilled the fluff in the nest boxes – where Olive does lay an egg nearly every day – and put more wooden eggs in place to encourage them to lay there.  Basically, they will think that a place with eggs already present must be a good place to lay some more.  Luckily, Olive is a good girl.  More about her another day.

Olive laying her daily egg in the nest box like a good girl.

This morning, I heard Penelope singing the egg song (more about that later, too) as I walked up to the coop later this morning, being Sunday, than I would on a weekday.  Well, when I let them out, she made a beeline for the far end of the coop, flew over the 7′ fence, and ran down the hill towards the house.  (They love being around the house.  I think it feels safer there.)

Anyhow, I put two and two together and followed her.  When I saw where she was headed, I was shocked.

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Please do forgive us for the mess.  We take our own trash to the dump, and there is a reason it looks like this at the moment, but there is no reason to go into it here.  Back to the story….

And so – I had found it!  Penelope had seven eggs hidden behind the bush amongst trash.  I wanted to encourage her to lay in the nest box, so I pulled her out, carried her back up the hollow and into the coop, and set her in the nest box beside Olive’s warm egg laid this morning.  I petted her and told her she was a good girl, but the minute I left, she was out of the coop, out of the run, and back down to the trash pile.  We really have to get a lid on that run.

I took her stash of eggs inside.  Many were muddy and stained from sitting on wet leaves, so I washed them with hot water.  Washing eggs removes the “bloom,” which is a protective coating that helps to prevent bacteria from entering the egg.  Cold water actually pushes bacteria into the egg, so if you are going to wash, you need to use water hotter than the egg itself, the hotter the better.  Even though these eggs have been sitting outside for up to a week, they are most likely fine because, while they may be fertilized, Penelope has no interest in sitting on these eggs, so they have not been incubated and the weather has not been hot enough for this to begin.  Still, I will use these eggs first and crack each into a little bowl to make sure they are okay before adding them to my food.

And – look! – nearly a full dozen at the moment!

Now to figure out how to keep those birds in their run…


4 thoughts on “Penelope’s Hidden Nest

  1. We have had the same problem with our girls getting over the fence. Not sure how they can fly that high and far. We have moved everything they could get up on. I think that will change as they get bigger. Our Stars can no longer get out. They are too heavy, but our little girls are still making it over periodically usually late afternoon. Guess they have become bored at that time. Our Stars have always gone to the house to lay, no problem. However, our Australorps (now 24 weeks) old have not shown the first egg. We keep them penned in until late afternoon. I have looked the yard over and no sign of eggs. The girl we got them from (same age as ours) has had eggs for several weeks. Need to do more research.

    I have found that the chicks are a creature of habit. Have the same routine. You might need to consider putting them a box when they prefer to lay unless you can contain them. We have had ours to lay anywhere from 1st thing (7:30 a.m.) in the morning up until 4:30 p.m. This was a one time occurence so far. We usually get at least 2-3 eggs a day from our Stars.

    Good luck in fining a remedy!

    • Thanks! Well, today we put some netting over the whole run, in part to keep the birds in and – hopefully – to discourage predators as well. I am not sure if she lays at the same time everyday since I am at work, but on the day that I observed her, she laid at about ten o’clock in the morning. She has actually been doing better. Perhaps my disturbing her nest and removing all of the eggs helped. She has only laid there one more time since, and I think I have seen her eggs in the nest box. Now, if only the Welsummer and Speckled Sussex would start laying!

  2. I noticed the nesting boxes you have are pretty open. Some hens like a little more privacy. The nest boxes I made have solid sides and some dark fabric strips (curtains) over the opening. Maybe offering them a darker/private spot to lay will help.

    • I think you are completely correct. I have actually been thinking about how I could improve my nest boxes. I was thinking they might need to be a bit taller – give more head room – but I hadn’t thought about adding more privacy. Thanks for the fabric strips idea!

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