The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Caring for your eggs

muddy eggsIf the weather is wet or you have a chicken roosting in the nesting box, it’s important to collect your eggs every morning and evening. The shells of eggs are porous and the eggs can become tainted very quickly. In wet weather, our hens get muddy no matter how much gravel I spread in the run.

The mud sticks to their claws and legs. With the exception of Mrs Boss, who tends to turn brown in wet weather. Her companion Pekin Bantam remains a glorious sparkling white. We were initially briefly concerned. Was Mrs Boss preparing for The Great Escape? After a few years, we know better. Mrs Boss has an adverse reaction to ablutions.

When chickens venture into the nesting box to lay an egg, the mud is transferred from legs to eggs. Wash muddy eggs in cold water and if they need a rub, use a throwaway towel, such as kitchen roll. If you clean out the nesting box regularly, you can easily tackle most of this problem at source. One of our hens, Garbo, has roosted in the nesting box for years.

Droppings can be a problem. We clean the coop out once a week but when I collect the eggs each morning I remove Garbo’s droppings from the nesting box. An old trowel lives on the roof of the hen house. It’s there for scraping out the main dormitory but comes into its own in this instance. We have a bucket with a lid in the run for collecting this stuff.

If you have everything that you need for the chickens in an accessible place in the run, you will save hours over the course of a year. Chickens are easy if you put a bit of thought into their maintenance,

My next project for the chickens is to fit guttering along the roof of the coop. They seem to prefer rainwater to tap water. They would be thrilled If the rainwater was collected into a shallow trough.

If you plan to collect water from the chicken coop roof beware of open water butts. Chickens belonging to friends have drowned in them.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pete

    No you are doing nothing wrong.

    You will get to know the healthy colour of each of your hen’s combs. Some are just darker/lighter than others. When a hen goes broody the colour gradually fades into from the comb. Mrs Boss id broody at the moment and her comb is pink with white areas on the outside edges.

    Your other hens will come into lay when they are ready. You just need to be patient. It might be an idea to leave a china egg in the nesting box. Then the flock will not think that you are stealing all their eggs. I have found that this works well for me.

    It’s good that they have grown used to you. That’s as it should be. You didn’t mention what breed of chickens they are. Some breeds are more inclined to lay than others. Perhaps the variable weather is affecting them. I suspect that the other hens are not ready to lay just yet. By midsummer they should all be laying.

  2. hi , succesfully bought my hens and theyve settled in nicely they are now 20 weeks and starting to get an egg each morning from 4 hens she lays beetween 8am and 10 am each morning in the same nesting box,1 hens comb is slightly richer in colour and slightly larger does this mean shes slightly older and the others will follow with theyre eggs or am i doing something wrong , there doesnt seem to be ant bullying they all congregate around the drinker and feeder without any fuss they get fed and waterd at the same time each day and recieve treats at the same time in the afternoon every day theyve grown use to me and harrie the collie any ideas

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sonia

    I haven’t had this problem myself but there is an excellent guide to all things egg related on the DEFRA site

    They mention the reasons for soft shelled eggs.

  4. Please can you advise why some of my chickens are laying perfect eggs but one appears to be laying eggs but the shell has not formed, so it is just a sack? Any help would be appreciated

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pete

    I bought our books from the local pet shop (they are in our bookshop in the livestock section).

    Both are a bit dry but have useful tips and I referred to them a lot in my first year of chicken keeping.

  6. thanx fn any suggestions on good books ??

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pete

    Good to hear that you are getting chickens!

    It’s illegal to feed your chickens meat. I’m wary of giving them strong tasting veg such as onions and tend to stick to thinks like cauliflower leaves, lettuce, Swiss Chard and so on. They seem to love greens. Apples are good too. It would be worth looking on the internet to see what other people feed their chickens in terms of scraps.

    Yes, chickens need grit and we also scatter oyster shell in the run. I haven’t heard about roasting egg shells so can’t advise you on this.

    Everyone has different methods. It’s worth investing in a decent chicken book.

  8. hi ,will soon have chickens, sorting there run and housing out now . i am a chef and have plenty of vegetable trimmings etc which i plan to use in conjunction with normal feed any vegetables which i should steer clear from? also have read about grit which im not to sure why they have this …do they store it in there crop like wood pigeon to help digest food and for the egg shell ?? also have read about roasting egg shells grinding them up and scattering in there run is this a suitable method ?? thanks for any info

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Deb,

    I am sorry but I can’t answer your question. It depends on so many variables. Are the chickens free range or in an enclosed run? I am assuming that they are in a run, like ours. The nesting box on our hen house is luckily on the shady side of the house. If eggs are sitting exposed to beating sun they will spoil very quickly. Our eggs are collected daily and marked so that we eat the oldest first.

    Chickens in domestic environments need to be checked on a daily basis. Occasionally you will discover that a chicken is ill and needs care, more often than not being put in a cool, quiet separate box does the trick. But they need your help. A chicken is not the brightest spark in the fire, they do not know to move out of beating sun when they are peeky.

    On hot days all chickens will drink litres of water (however big your water fountain is, the water can disappear in a day) and on cooler days they will be at the feeder far more. Like us, chickens appreciate fresh water every day.

    If we go away or are unavailable we always ask a neighbour to check the chucks every day. If they toss in some grain (we use wild bird/delux parrot mix) they have a few undisturbed minutes to enter the pen (if you have one?!) and top up the food, water and collect the eggs. After a while you will take the ultra fresh eggs for granted. Your neighbour will recognise the value of this bounty.

    With an adequate pen, draught free house, food and water (topped up on a daily basis), chickens can look after themselves 70% of the time. The remaining 30% is down to you. And this 30% counts big time.

    Every living thing needs attention and distraction. The distraction is you and your visits.

  10. We are new at the whole chicken thing. We have egg layers and typically retrieve the eggs daily. From time to time though we dont’ collect on a daily basis. How long can an egg remain in the chicken coop before we have to worry about it being spoiled.

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