Yesterday we got 3 eggs. Just 3 from 16 hens! The last 2 weeks we have been getting less and less. A few factors to consider – weather, reintroducing the rooster, a broody chicken (we may have more babies soon!), and I suspected we had an egg eater! Out of the three eggs we did get, 1 was pecked and all were splattered with egg goo. I also found some eggshell pieces. I was on a mission to figure out what was happening.
Today we spent much of the day protecting the broody chicken eggs, making the last 2 curtains for the nesting boxes, watching the 4-5 week old chicks that are fenced off in a separate part of the yard, and running outside to collect eggs anytime a hen made the “egg song” noise. There were many false alarms because hens have favorite boxes and they aren’t always patience waiting for their box. So they, in their own way, sing (yell) their egg song at the hen in the box in an attempt to hurrying things along. They also sing this same song, after they lay.
On one visit out to check for eggs, we noticed the broody hen was out of her box. She spent a longer time than normal stretching her legs, getting a dust bath, eating fresh greens, and getting water while we faithfully protected her nest. We wanted to make sure the eggs weren’t crushed or eaten, or that she didn’t refuse to get back in her nesting box. In the process of protecting the nest, we noticed one hen that was was stalking her nest and others. She relentless, which was a bit odd. Since we had so many hens to keep out of the box, we decided to take a chance and put her in with the babies. She didn’t attack them but was clearly on edge and just wanted back out. She attempted flying out, so we pinned her into the babies’ house, which meant the babies were stuck out in their yard (which is still a bit scary to them and not 100% protected from hawks). I didn’t like throwing them out in the yard, but while she was locked up, 5 hens laid without us hearing them. Four eggs were laid in the favorite box and guess what? Not one was broken! No eggs shells or goo left behind.That was great news for the eggs, but not for the suspect.
At this point I knew I already knew the hen that was locked up was either a poor layer or has never laid. Her pubic bones are not as far apart as the other birds, which indicates she either hasn’t laid or doesn’t lay often. I am a sucker for giving birds a chance, but the fact she may also be an egg eater wasn’t good. So, we took one pecked, but not leaking, egg from yesterday and placed it pecked side down in the babies’ nesting box, with the suspect. I put the hen up near the nesting box so that she could see the egg and she immediately ran and pecked the egg until it broke and she began eating it.
Now I don’t know why she never matured to lay eggs, nor do I know why she started eating them, but from what I have read, you can’t really break them from that habit. She has lived a better and longer life than most chickens with room to run and even fly. She had bugs, grass, and treats to eat. I figured out when she will go but it will be as peaceful as possible, with a prayer said on her behalf. (Doing the deed is never easy emotionally, spiritually or physically). In the meantime she is getting to eat all the grass she wants, without having to fight another hen for it.
On a positive note – we got 12 eggs today including my favorite – a pretty blue one!! Hopefully we will be getting more clean, unbroken eggs to share with others.