Chicken eggs: collecting, production, and hatching guide
Chicken eggs are considered one of the healthiest food sources. Packed with essential nutrients and protein, it’s a staple in most family diets. But even more than a food source, chicken eggs are fun to gather, display, and hatch. Learn how to encourage your hens to lay beautiful eggs all year long, store these labors of love, and even hatch fertilized eggs with the help of an incubator or broody hen.
Creating the perfect environment for chicken egg laying
First and foremost, hens need a safe, quiet space to lay their eggs. Hens will naturally seek out the most suitable place to lay a chicken egg – so if a designated nesting area isn’t supplied to them, hens will venture off in search of the right spot. The ideal nesting area is in a covered space like a chicken coop, away from your flock’s active areas. Enclosed nesting boxes or spaces are preferred, as hens will instinctively want their eggs safe from chicken predators.
Omlet’s hen houses have designated nesting areas inside that are comfortable and secluded. Hens will feel safe inside of their enclosed coop’s nesting area, and with the rest of the flock out for the day, will have the privacy needed to encourage egg laying.
How to encourage egg laying
Good laying hens can produce over 250 eggs per year without much supplemental encouragement. As long as they have adequate space and nutrition, their natural egg-laying cycles should remain intact. Aim to give your flock as much space as possible outside of the coop, whether free-ranging with the help of chicken fencing or in a chicken run.
Laying hens should have a diet consisting of:
- Quality scratch grains and chicken treats offered daily
- Access to fresh, clean water in a chicken waterer
- Free-choice of high-quality layer pellets or crumbles, with protein levels between 16%-18% depending on their breed
- Fresh greens or grass as often as possible
What to do if your hens stop laying eggs
If you notice fewer eggs in the nesting area, it’s time to perform a health check on your chickens. Any hens with noticeable discomfort should be quarantined, and you should contact your veterinarian. If all of your hens appear healthy, there are 6 other ways to boost egg production among your flock:
- Offer chicken supplements
- Increase the protein of your hens’ diet
- Switch to a different feed
- Make sure your hens are visiting the nesting box, as they could be laying eggs elsewhere
- If you have a broody hen among your flock, it may affect your other hens’ cycles
- Make sure your hens are not molting, as egg production will decrease for several weeks during a molt
If these methods don’t help or give you insight into any potential issues, contact your veterinarian.
How and when to collect your hens’ eggs
It’s important to collect your chickens eggs daily. Eggs left in nesting areas are at risk of being cracked or broken by multiple hens using the nest. And, eggs left in the coop may draw in pests or predators like rats or snakes.
How often hens lay eggs
Good laying hens will produce an egg approximately every day and a half. The majority of hens will lay their eggs in the late morning or early afternoon hours, but there may be some stragglers toward the end of the day. It’s very uncommon for hens to lay their eggs overnight. This means that early evening would be the best time to check your coop for chicken eggs.
If you’re concerned about how long your hens’ eggs can stay in the coop, try to collect them at least once a day. But, in general, eggs are still safe to consume even if they are left to sit in the coop for several days. The hot summer months will reduce this timeframe, but eggs are still safe to consume after exposure to the heat. Winter months pose a challenge due to the risk of eggs freezing in the coop. If your area experiences prolonged temperatures below freezing, you may want to check your coop several times a day before eggs have a chance to freeze solid.
Daily egg collections
Daily egg collections will also help deter hens from going broody. If you want to keep hens from becoming broody, remove any eggs from under a hen that has been sitting for longer than usual to lay an egg. Be cautious – even the most docile hens can get aggressive when protecting a clutch of eggs they’ve decided to sit on.
How to tell if a chicken egg is fertilized
Eggs require a rooster in order to be fertilized. Roosters fertilize the eggs before they are laid, so if you have a rooster in your flock, there’s a potential for any of your hens’ eggs to be fertilized.
There are some misconceptions about roosters, eggs, and fertilization. The most common ones are:
- Hens do NOT need a rooster to produce eggs – they will lay eggs regardless
- Not all chicken eggs will be fertilized if you have a rooster in your flock
- The only way to know if a freshly laid egg is fertilized is to crack it open
If you’re interested in hatching your own chicken eggs, the best method is to pay attention to the eggs you’re eating. When you crack them open, look for a “bullseye” pattern in the yolk. This subtle change that appears as a target will be your clue that the egg is fertilized. If you notice most of the eggs you’re cracking are fertilized, start saving a few to place in an incubator. After 1 week in the incubator, you’ll be able to candle the eggs to see if there is embryonic development.
How to hatch eggs
Hatching your own eggs is an exciting experience. If you choose to incubate your eggs instead of having a broody hen sit on them, you’ll be able to document their progress by using an egg candler. This special light will help you see how the chicks are developing, and will help you dispose of any unfertilized eggs before they spoil and burst.
To hatch your own chicken eggs, you’ll need:
- An incubator
- Thermometer (if not included in your incubator)
- Hygrometer to monitor humidity level
- Egg candler (optional)
Chicken eggs take 21 days to hatch from the time of incubation. It’s best to place eggs in the incubator as soon as possible, but if you must store eggs before incubation, they can be kept in temperatures between 55-65℉ for up to 7 days.
On day 18 of incubation, you’ll want to “lockdown” your incubator. This means you’ll add water if needed (humidity levels need to increase to 65-70% in the final 3 days before hatching). Turn off any automatic turners, or stop hand-turning your eggs on day 18, and place a non-slip covering on the hatching floor of your incubator so that newly hatched chicks do not develop splayed legs. A paper towel or non-slip shelf liner that will allow ventilation are both good options.
Taking care of chicks once they’ve hatched
Once your chicks have hatched, be sure to leave them in the incubator until they are dry and fluffy. This will ensure they don’t get chilled when they’re moved to their brooder pen. The nutrients that fed chicks while they were inside of their eggs will sustain them for up to 48 hours after hatching, so it’s safe to allow them to fully dry before moving them.
When raising newly hatched chicks, make sure you have:
- A secure brooder pen with a top to prevent escapes
- A heat source like a brooder plate or lamp
- Chick starter crumbles – medicated or non-medicated depending on your preference
- Chick-specific feeders and waterers
- Absorbent bedding like pine shavings or pellets
- Adequate time to check in on your chicks daily
Chicks can be quite messy as they work on their coordination. Waterers should be checked frequently for debris to make sure they have access to clean water, and feed should be refreshed. Growing up is tough work, and chicks will need to consume a lot of feed.
The benefits of having your own egg-laying chickens
There are many benefits to keeping your own chickens, like:
- Supplying your family with fresh eggs
- Providing exceptionally nutritious chicken eggs
- Having your hens help with pest control and lawn care
- The opportunity to experience owning a unique pet
There’s nothing like gathering freshly laid eggs from your own flock of chickens. Proudly display your hens’ labors of love in an egg skelter on your kitchen counter, or gift friends and family members with small packs of eggs.
Best breeds for egg laying
- Rhode Island Reds
- Hybrids (also referred to as “mixed” or “barnyard mix” breeds)
Chickens that are bred for ornamental purposes will still lay eggs, but at a much lower volume than laying breeds. Bantam (miniature varieties of full-sized breeds) also lay eggs, but they are much smaller and less frequent than their full-sized counterparts.
Cleaning your eggs with care
- Leaving them unwashed and set out at room temperature
- Washing them and storing them in the refrigerator
It’s very important that any eggs left out at room temperature remain unwashed. Introducing eggs to water or cleaning solution removes the bloom (microscopic protective barrier) from the shell. Egg shells are semipermeable – meaning air and moisture can pass in and out. Once the bloom has been washed off, the eggshell loses its natural barrier to keep harmful bacteria out.
Unwashed eggs can also be stored in the refrigerator, but washed eggs must be stored in the refrigerator to remain fresh. That’s why store-bought eggs are refrigerated – they have all been washed.
If you choose to wash your eggs, you can either make a DIY egg cleaning solution from vinegar or purchase ready-made egg cleaning products. Or, if you want to simply use water, soak your eggs in warm water, as this will help keep bacteria from entering through the pores of the shell. After a nice soak, gently rub your eggs with a cloth or soft-bristled brush. Dry with a towel, and promptly place your cleaned eggs in the fridge.
Chicken egg color guide
Did you know your hens’ eggshell colors are the result of genetics? Hens will lay the same colored eggs their entire lives. Some breeds are bred to lay specific colors, while other breeds differ from hen to hen. Sometimes nutrition or health changes can subtly impact the color or appearance of your hens’ eggs, but you should expect consistency from your hens.
Common chicken eggshell colors include white or cream, and browns in various hues. Chicken eggs can also be blue, green, and even pink. Most eggs are a solid color, but some breeds like Marans, Barnevelders, and Welsummers can lay speckled eggs.
Your hens’ eggs tell about their health. Sometimes misshapen, discolored, or eggs laid with shell anomalies point to a nutritional deficit. If you notice your hens laying eggs that aren’t consistent with their previous appearances, it’s best to evaluate their diet.
Frequently asked questions about chicken eggs
How frequently do chickens lay eggs?
Every hen is different, but peak age for most laying hens is around a year and a half through 2 or 3 years of age. During that time, a good laying hen should produce anywhere from 250-350 eggs per year depending on their genetics. Egg production will decrease as hens age, and will also dip or stop altogether during their yearly molting cycle. Some hens may also decrease egg production in the wintertime to reallocate energy to stay warm.
Do chickens stop laying at a certain age?
Depending on their breed, most chickens will stop laying eggs by the time they are 4 or 5 years old. There are some breeds of chickens that will lay well into their later years, while others will drastically decrease production by year 3 or 4.
How do chickens lay eggs?
Chickens ovulate in order to lay an egg. Ovulation takes about 24 hours to complete, and starts in the ovary. The yolk is formed first, then passes through the oviduct where it is surrounded by the white (also called the albumen). Finally, the egg is encased in its shell inside of the hen’s uterus (or “shell gland”). Shell formation takes roughly 20 hours, after which the egg is laid by the hen via the cloaca or “vent”. All excretions from the hen exit through the vent, but during egg laying a hens’ uterine lining stays with the egg until it has been deposited – keeping it nice and clean.
Do chickens eat their own eggs?
Hens may begin to eat their own eggs for the following reasons:
- Nutritional deficiencies – usually low calcium intake
- Feeling unsafe in the nesting area
Keep your hens from eating their eggs by supplementing their diet with calcium. Crushed oyster shells can be purchased from feed stores, or you can save the eggshells from eggs you are using to crush and feed back to your hens for a boost in calcium. Always make sure your hens have plenty of fresh water to ward off dehydration.
Provide boredom-busting activities with chicken toys, and make sure your hens are housed in secure chicken coops and chicken runs. Hens that don’t feel safe may eat their eggs to hide evidence of their presence from chicken predators. Consider installing an automatic chicken coop door to make your hens’ feel more secure in their home.
Get more chicken eggs with Omlet
All of our chicken products are designed to promote safety, comfort, and security for hens, and for ease of use for their caretakers. Healthy, happy hens lay more eggs – so give them plenty to occupy their busy minds. A walk in chicken run gives your flock ample room outside of the coop to forage and play. Add a Chicken Swing to give your hens a unique place to relax in between egg-laying sessions, and to provide versatility in their space.
This entry was posted in Chickens