If you haven’t noticed, those tiny little nuggets that were living in my spare bedroom just a few months ago are now full grown chickens.
I expected they would start laying eggs around late July or early August. Not because I know anything about chickens, but because I read a lot of chicken message boards when I can’t sleep. Which, uh, maybe I shouldn’t be admitting to the entire internet.
Anyway, back when I built the coop I was trying desperately to just get the chickens out of the house, so I held off on some of the fancier features like, oh, nesting boxes.
Just in the last couple of days I started to get nervous about the lack of nesting spots in the coop. The Nugs spend a lot of time out under the pine trees, and it occurred to me that they could just be laying eggs out there willy-nilly without me ever knowing. On a whim I checked under all the trees and bushes where the flock hangs out… I didn’t find any eggs, but thought I should get my ass in gear on the nesting boxes so that when the time came they wouldn’t start laying eggs all over the yard.
So I started this project at about 10 AM Sunday morning.
First up was a cheap and easy prop for the lid on the nesting boxes.
I just took a piece of scrap wood and drilled an extra large pilot hole in it…
Then fastened it in snugly (but not too tight) with a deck screw…
Simple. It leaves both hands free for cleaning this part of the coop, or collecting eggs, and then folds right back down so the lid will close.
The dividers took a little longer, partly because of that time I “lost” my pen and later realized after an intense search of the surrounding area that I’d shoved it down my shirt for safekeeping (facebook followers know what I’m talking about).
Basically I cut a few nailers for the floor and side.
I nailed them in place with my favorite cordless finish nailer.
They’re really just privacy dividers, not structural, so a couple of nails each did it.
The actual sides of the boxes were cut from scrap luan, which is about 1/8″ thick.
And just like that, ready for eggs.
I used straw in the boxes and regular pine shavings for the rest of the coop.
This took about two hours, and as I was walking between the coop and shop, one of the Nugs was acting strangely. She kept following me around, and even ran in the back door of the house and took off for a closet before I managed to shoo her out. I actually started to get a little nervous about how long it was taking me to get the thing finished, and then realized I was being ridiculous. I mean, it’s not like she was going to lay an egg right this minute.
Even so, when the boxes were done I picked her up and put her in the coop to let her check it out. I also immediately headed in to town for a pack of golf balls.
Did you just blink ten times? Yeah.
Well, make fun of me for reading the chicken message boards if you will, but one thing I learned from them was that you should put fake eggs (or golf balls, in a pinch) in the nesting boxes so the chickens know where to lay.
Who am I to argue with the chicken message boards?
So, one quick stop in town for fake eggs then I head immediately from the car to the coop to put the golf balls in the nests, and I find this…
Are you effing kidding me?
You guys, I was so amazed I was speechless.
I mean… really? Either I literally timed finishing the coop to the exact cycle of the first egg down to the hour, or there are some eggs hidden on this property that I haven’t found yet. I did a pretty thorough search of all the places I’ve ever seen a Nugget and came up with nothing more than a new appreciation for the term “easter egg hunt.”
So. That was pretty incredible.
Once I got over the shock I did a little comparison against the store-bought free-range eggs in my fridge.
The egg from my Nug is on the left. It’s a little smaller, but check this out…
Now that is a yolk.
I feed the girls an antibiotic free, all vegetarian pellet that contains flax seeds so that the eggs contain a healthy dose of Omega-3, but I hear that kind of yolk color comes from letting them free-range and eat all the greens they want. Plus they always get my cucumber skins, salad leftovers, and (their favorite) the pulp left over when I juice (a combination of kale, spinach, green apples, celery, and ginger).
And I’ll admit, even though I eat eggs all the time, thinking about eating something that just came out of the body of one of the chickens I personally know gave me a moments pause.
And then I had eggs for dinner.
Your board you built works similar to a car hood gadget thingy… congratulations for thinking of it!
That’s so cool. I would love to own a couple of chickens. Thinking it’s against the by-laws of my development though.
I heard free range, straight from the bird eggs taste amazing compared to store bought. Do you have to wash them before you crack em?
Yeah, I mean they are in the coop with various amounts of chicken poop, but the eggs I’ve collected so far have been pretty clean. (The washing part is important for salmonella as well though.)
My wife and I are planning on getting some chicks here in the near future and she said she read that chickens only lay eggs for a couple years.
Have you heard anything like this?
Jacob, there’s definitely a limit on how long chickens will lay eggs, but you should see a good 4-5 years out of them.
Just like humans, they get less fertile as they get older. I’m only looking to produce enough eggs for myself, however, so in a few years when I’m only getting a dozen or less a week, that will be perfect. In the meantime, my friends and family are going to get lots of fresh eggs.
Now that is GREAT timing! ha!
You’re the chicken whisperer!
How fantastic your girls are laying eggs! I’m sure that fresh egg tasted delicious! But I can totally understand where you had the moments pause about it.
Congrats on the timing! Now if I ever come up for a visit, I can expect a delicious farm fresh breakfast 😉
Hell yes you can!
Eggs get bigger as the hens get older, within limits, and hens can lay eggs for years.
More than anyone ever wanted to know about eggs from backyard hens:
I seem to remember something about you losing your pen in your hair once, too.
Our CSA used to have some chickens out in the field who nested in retrofitted school buses and got to roam the field all day, and some who were mostly in a barn. I could always tell which hens laid the eggs I got that week. The school bus hens laid eggs like yours!
The pen thing happens A LOT.
freakin fantastically amazing!!
Congratulations! That is a beautiful yolk, and I’m sure a tasty one too.
If the chickens have been laying eggs in the yard they’ve probably been getting scooped up by predators like snakes or raccoons. The eggs will get bigger as the chickens get bigger. Depending on the breed you may get some monsters.
I’m willing to bet that they had been laying, somewhere. Their first few eggs don’t usually look that great. That one looks like the product of a little more practice.
I agree, but would they readily switch from laying in the yard to laying in the nesting boxes with no prompting? (Other than that the nesting boxes exist.)
Well it seems like you just missed out on her laying one in your closet so if they have been in the house recently you might want to check. Also, it seems that the “if you build it, they will…” saying is even true for laying hens.
Farm fresh eggs are definitely the best. When we were living in America we were getting free range store bought egss, until we found someone at work selling their own free range eggs off the farm. The difference was amazing – reminded me of having eggs on the farm growing up 🙂
Farm fresh eggs are definitely the best. When we were living in America we were getting free range store bought eggs, until we found someone at work selling their own free range eggs off the farm. The difference was amazing – reminded me of having eggs on the farm growing up 🙂
I think she was going to lay one in your closet in the house Kit! Speaking of backyard kitchens this video is hysterical: The Hazards of Backyard Hens
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I just watched this! She’s a hoot! Great comic timing. (Or editing…;-)
Horrible. Don’t click on that link unless you want to throw up.
I think she meant to link directly to this: http://www.onegirlsrant.com/2013/06/strawberries-5-ways.html
Woot!! My girls just started singing the egg song yesterday so I’ve been holding my breath for the first egg, but YOU….. dang girl, that is some unbelievable timing. Congrats!!
Congratulations on your first egg! It’s always an exciting discover. Sounds like your chicken mother intuition is exquisitely calibrated to get that nest box built within minutes of its need. Nice work!
Thanks Erika! I’ve been following your chick stories (and Oregano drama… makes me hesitant to ever add another bird into the flock!)
Great timing! The nesting boxes are wonderful! Chickens love privacy when they are laying so I’m sure they would rather lay there than under bushes and trees. That kind of yolk comes from letting them free range and eat all the greens AND bugs they want 🙂