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5 Reasons to Collect Eggs Every Day

by Jamelyn

Raising backyard chickens comes with many new chores that most of us did not perform while growing up. While my great-grandparents raised chickens on their farm, the knowledge of raising chickens has slowly disappeared over the past several generations. I’ve learned that collecting eggs is an important part of raising healthy chickens and ensuring that the eggs are fresh.

As a general rule, eggs should be collected every day from the nest boxes. A chicken is capable of laying an egg every 25 hours so it’s important to make it a habit to check the nest boxes at least once a day. Most people find it convenient to check the nest boxes for eggs at the same time every day, typically in the mornings when they first open the chicken coop.

Collecting eggs from the chicken coop is a fun part of raising backyard chickens. Even though it’s a fun activity, it’s an important chore as there are downsides to not regularly collecting eggs every day.

1. Prevents Eggs from Becoming Dirty

Collecting eggs at least once a day helps to prevent eggs from becoming dirty. Throughout the day, chickens are walking in and out of their coop, including the nest boxes. They are walking through mud, dirt, and poop while in their chicken runs or while free ranging. When they go to their nesting boxes to lay eggs, some of that messiness comes in with them.

When you check the nest boxes daily, make sure to clean out anything that could get on eggs and make them dirty. I use nesting pads in my nest boxes and they do a great job of keeping the boxes clean. They are made from thin wood shavings that look like spaghetti but packed tightly together to form what I call a “chicken mattress.” The nesting pads fit perfectly in each of the nest boxes. The eggs are now much cleaner and it’s rare for there to be a broken egg in the nest boxes because there is soft landing spot for the eggs when they are laid. The nesting pads hold up well and last several months before needing to be replaced.

This nesting pad will fit perfectly in the nest boxes

Another reason eggs become dirty when they sit too long in a nest box is due to the chickens’ feathers collecting filth and it transferring to the eggs. Chickens have a cloaca, which is the exit for both eggs and excrement. There is a shell glad that prevents a hen from defecating at the same time as laying an egg. Sometimes chickens will have runny poops that can stick to their downy butt feathers. When they go into the nest box to either lay an egg or sit on the other eggs, this poop can transfer to the eggs. When there are no eggs to sit on, there are no eggs to get dirty.

2. Discourages Broodines in Hens

Broodiness in hens is when a chicken has a hormonal shift that causes her to want to hatch and raise chicks. A rooster is not needed in order for hens to go broody. When there are eggs in the nest boxes, a broody hen will sit on them for hours at a time. She might become agitated if she is interrupted or if you try to move her to get to the eggs. While this is a natural behavior and is more prevalent in certain breeds of chickens, it might not be the best behavior for your backyard chickens.

A chicken sitting on the eggs laid that afternoon

Broody hens will fast, only getting out of the nest boxes a few times a day to eat, drink, and defecate. There is an increased chance of them getting mites or lice since they are contained in their nest boxes for hours at a time and have reduced their grooming and dust baths. In addition, broody hens will reduce their egg laying since their bodies have been signaled that now is not the time to lay eggs. It can take several weeks for a broody hen to get back into an egg laying cycle.

Some hens are more likely to become broody based on their breed or personalities but you can help to prevent this behavior by collecting eggs daily.

3. Maintains Egg Freshness

Eggs can stay fresher longer when they are regularly collected from the nest boxes.

During the summer, temperatures in the chicken coop and nest boxes can get pretty hot. My husband and I noticed that when the eggs get too hot they spoil much faster. We used to keep eggs in a box in our mudroom that had no air conditioning and was roughly the same temperature as the inside of the chicken coop. We found out that the eggs stored in the mudroom were going bad faster than the eggs stored in the kitchen with air conditioning.

When temperatures outside are above 90 degrees F, I like to collect eggs three times a day: in the morning when I first let the chickens out of the coop and into their run, at lunch, and again at night before I close up their coop. My chickens lay eggs throughout the day and this ensures that I got the eggs shortly after they were laid.

When it’s very cold outside, eggs can suffer by cracking or freezing. One winter we had a record breaking storm, with temperatures -5 degrees F for 3 days straight and 18″+ of snow. The chickens handled the cold weather by warming each other, but the eggs that were in the coop during those 3 days did not turn out so well. Many of them were cracked or totally frozen and we were not able to use them.

Chicken coop covered in snow. We added a heat lamp since it was our chicken’s first winter.

Typically, chickens don’t lay eggs during the winter since they need sunlight to activate the hormones required to produce eggs. Younger chickens can continue laying eggs during their first winter, so have a plan in place to collect eggs if you live somewhere where cold weather might affect your eggs.

4. Prevents Egg Eating

Egg eating is a behavior that can be difficult to break if it becomes a habit for chickens. There can be many causes that leads a chicken to eat an egg, including boredom, lack of nutrients in their diet, and even by accident.

I remember the first time I saw my chickens turn from my sweet chickies into baby T-Rexs. An egg had ended up broken, most likely from landing directly on the wooden base of the nest box since the chickens had kicked out all the pine shavings (this was before I discovered the nesting pads). One chicken started eating the egg yolk and the rest joined in with it becoming very violent looking within seconds. It looked like a scene out of Jurassic Park with the tiny dinosaurs eating their kill. This is one of the reasons why I refer to my chickens as Backyard Dinos!

Some chickens will eat eggs because they are suffering from a nutrient deficiency. It’s important to make sure your chickens are getting the appropriate diet to prevent them from craving the nutrients found in eggs. While it’s not unhealthy for chickens to eat their own eggs occasionally, you don’t want it to become a habit. Chickens love the way eggs taste just like we do. By collecting eggs at last once a day, you will help to prevent egg eating from becoming a habit with your chickens.

Another reason why some chickens will eat eggs is out of boredom. Chickens are smart, so when they get bored they want to investigate. Think of it like having a coop of 4 year olds. After their immediate needs are met with food, water, and shelter, they are going to start getting into everything. Chickens explore their surroundings with their beaks and will peck on something to see what happens. When they discover that pecking on eggs leads to a delicious treat, then you have a problem. This can be prevented by placing wooden or ceramic eggs in the nest boxes. We tried this with our birds and they just pushed all the wooden eggs out of the chicken coop and into their run; they were not amused.

A wooden egg is mixed in with real eggs

5. Prompts Status Check of Chickens & Coop

I use my egg collection time every day as another opportunity to do a status check of my chickens and their coops.

Chickens can be good at hiding if they are hurt or sick. If you are physically in their coop or nest box area everyday, you can use that as time to check on your birds. Look for signs of watery poop to indicate a diet issue or clumps of feathers that could have been torn out by a bully hen. You can also use the time to see if a bird is spending too much time in her nest box and has become broody.

Checking the nest boxes daily also allows me time to inspect for evidence of predators trying to break in. I check to make sure there are no holes or scratch marks on the outside of the coop. If you put your chickens up at night at 8:00 PM and let them out at 7:00 AM, that’s 11 hours that a predator could have tried to get your chickens or their eggs! I use my time collecting eggs to make sure the coop is still secure and there are no signs of attempted entry by neighborhood predators.

Collecting eggs every day is a good habit to maintain with your backyard chickens. I find it exciting to see how many eggs I will collect each day and what they will look like. Steven collected an egg last week at lunch and it was still wet from the bloom! It was an exciting moment for us with our chickens. Remember that collecting the eggs every day has many benefits for your chickens and will help to keep your flock happy and healthy.

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