Welcome to part #5 of our Raising Backyard Chickens series. Urban chicken raising is easier than you think! You can raise backyard chickens for eggs in a rural yard, suburb and even the city! Not to mention, it is a fun project for the whole family and a very rewarding one when you can enjoy farm fresh eggs – as fresh as possible! This is part of a series that will walk you through Raising Backyard Chickens step-by-step.
Basics of Egg Laying
Egg laying will start around 6 months of age, a little earlier for small breeds and a little later for large breeds. Don’t expect large, properly formed eggs from your pullets at first. It took our hens almost a full laying season for their eggs to reach full size.
First eggs will be:
• Tiny. Very, very small eggs at first, even for breeds that will eventually lay very large eggs.
• The shell might be deformed. Expect thin, stretched, “torpedo” eggs at first, especially from small breeds. Also, sometimes new hens will lay very wrinkled eggs, this is nothing to worry about.
• Eggs may not have a shell at all. If you find a pile of egg with a thin membrane surrounding it instead of a shell, don’t be too alarmed.
• Sometimes the inside of the egg will be odd looking. Double yolked eggs are common, and tiny eggs with no yolk at all are even more so for very young hens.
• It is okay to find blood spots in or on your eggs OCCASIONALLY. If this happens more than a few times, it can be a concern, but it will happen every once in a while. Yes, you can still eat them, if it doesn’t gross you out too much. We don’t usually eat them, but it’s just personal preference.
And, of course, anyone who has ever had laying hens will know the very recognizable sound of a hen who has just laid an egg. Especially for young hens, expect to hear never ending choruses of “Bok, bok, bok, BAGAWK!” throughout the day.
Emergency: Egg Binding
An egg bound chicken is an emergency. Egg binding is when an egg becomes stuck during the laying process. Sometimes because the egg is too big, the hen is calcium deficient, the hen is weak from other problems such as illness or injury, or finally, dehydration.
An egg bound chicken WILL most likely die without assistance of some sort from you. You will likely notice an egg bound chicken trying to lay for hours and eventually becoming droopy and tired.
If the hen is up and walking around, try giving some electrolytes to try and re-hydrate the hen. If this doesn’t help fairly quickly, you will have to either take your hen to the vet (yes, I know some people might balk at this idea, but chickens are animals just like your dog or cat and you need to be prepared for this), or try and coax the egg out yourself. Apply some lubricant and gently try and feel for the egg, then try to very gently get the egg to move along. Be VERY gentle, if the egg breaks it can kill the hen.
If the egg is physically too large to remove, I would really recommend a vet, but I get that sometimes that isn’t possible for a number of reasons so if you can’t get a vet, gently try and poke a hole in the egg with a needle to collapse it in a controlled manner so the hen can pass it on her own.
We generally don’t bother with “proper” nest boxes. Unless you have a very picky hen, any old box they can get in and out of, filled with straw and placed in the coop will do. Most of the time our hens scratch out a nest in the corner of the coop and ignore the intended nest boxes, no matter how professional looking. 😉 If you’re really set on having your hens lay in a certain place, try placing fake eggs in the nest box to encourage them.
This article was written by Erin, a pro at raising her own chickens and eggs in her family’s backyard! She’s just a teen, but loves animals of all kinds and wants to be a veterinarian and is studying to do so. In addition to raising chickens, she raises ducks, geese and bunnies in her family’s urban backyard!
Be sure to check out the entire Egg Page with lots of tips on eggs (including raising the chickens for your own and the rest of this series!)