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

    Hello Pete

    Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and experience to the blog, much appreciated!

  2. hi nick , im new to keeping hens i found that blue mushroom boxes from the green grocer are a good size easy to keep clen and stable/ sturdy i ve fixed a length of broom handle above them so they can perch above them and lay in them below and it seems to work as you could imagine (in a hens world) that perch space is important as fn said

    debbie i think that the hens peck holes in each others eggs as a protective this is my nest im going to rear my young in it and im going to destroy her eggs, so i think keep an eye on the laying pattern and remove the eggs as soon as possible, if this causes your hens to stop laying as in oh no theres a predator stealing my eggs im not going to lay replace them with china/porcelain eggs, ive already had to do this and it works well

    good luck

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Debbie

    Smashing the eggs is not good news. You need to discourage that although I have no idea how you do it.

  4. debbie

    cheers for that fn have had some more eggs today and they are harder, they just keep smashing them now

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Carman

    Your chicken will sometimes change the place where she lays her eggs. This is normal.

    If a chicken opens her beak and pants in hot weather she is hot. Always make sure that she has fresh water to drink at all times (including in the chicken house if they are shut up at night.

    Hi Nick

    Our nesting box is attacked to the side of the chicken house and is roughly 12″x15″x48″. Unless you are only keeping small breeds such as bantams your dimensions will be too small. The main idea is that the area is dark, quiet and inviting. Hens don™t need separate nesting boxes as they often prefer to lay together and the area is only used for laying rather than sleeping.

    Hens like to sleep on a perch. It’s more important to give them enough perch space.

    Hi Debbie

    Often when a hen starts laying she will lay a soft shelled egg. She should start laying hard shelled eggs soon. Make sure that you are supplementing their diet with oyster shell.

  6. debbie

    Hi just got 8 lovely chickens had them two weeks and this morning they laid an egg i say they cos dont know whick one but it is soft will it go hard, is this normal, if not normal what do i do please help am new to this cheers

  7. Hullo!
    any idea what the ideal size of nest boxes should be? Or if not, what is the minimum size for a large bird like a Rhode Island Red? Most people just say 12 * 12 inches but I’m thinking of making them narrower; they are side by side so I was thinking the birds would be warmer and snugger in the winter, but I don’t want to make them so small that the bird is not totally comfortable. I was thinking of 13 inches by 9-10 inches. Thanks!

  8. Carman

    My chicken has changed where she is laying her eggs. She has started leaving her beak open too. Differnt behavior than in recent months. I give her water thinking she’s thirsty. She drinks but keeps her beck open. I don’t know whats up.

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pete

    Hope that you don’t have to wait too long.

  10. yep 2 a day now definatelty the brown ones martins wood rangers and the other 2 sussex’s yet to lay, thanx again for your help

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