Hide-and-seek eggs July 12, 2013

Mostly, chickens will lay eggs in the nest boxes you provide for them. Instinct usually has them prefer enclosed, shady, out-of-the-way spots for laying, and nest boxes usually provide that. Your nest box can be something built in to your coop… or it can be a modified bucket, an old drawer, a fruit crate and so on. In some ways, hens aren’t picky. But in others, oh my! My chickens sometimes like to play hide-and-seek eggs.

full egg carton

Hide-and-seek eggs are just as tasty as nest eggs. But, durnit! They’re more trouble. This is what my egg cartons should look like.

Mind you, it’s not especially uncommon to find “floor” eggs in our coop. Our nests hang low on the coop walls. Even so, some girls prefer to squeeze between nests to lay their eggs, while others want to squeeze close to the feed bin in the corner. Most particularly, we have a lame hen whom my daughter named “Tiny Tim.” With Tim’s bum leg, we think she may find it difficult to get in and out of the nest boxes. She’s a floor layer. My coop is big, so I don’t mind floor eggs. (With a small coop, little space means a floor egg might be laid in a spot where droppings accumulate, or in a spot where they’re easy to step on.)

But sometimes my girls like to lay their eggs, oh, just elsewhere. Anywhere, really. We call them hide-and-seek eggs. This is probably something that those of you with enclosed runs don’t experience—at least not to the same extent!

For a while, one hen liked to lay her hide-and-seek eggs under the scoop of the tractor. Another time, we had a hen who trudged out to lay her hide-and-seek eggs in the old manger in the barn… until it got so snowy she began laying in the coop again. Then there was the time one of our girls took to laying between hay bales. And–I have no explanation for this–but one of our Reds decided at one point that she wanted to lay eggs on top of a chest freezer. She’d lay the egg, off it would roll and CRACK! Another mess to clean up. (That also brought into question how effective a hen’s instincts are in determining what a “safe” place to lay is!) Hens have laid hide-and-seek eggs underneath shrubs, at the base of a tree, plop in the middle of the yard (while running for treats—they just didn’t want to miss anything!)

Backyard chickens foraging for bugs

“I’ve got things to do, places to see—bugs to catch!”

Generally speaking, you want to encourage your hens to lay in the coop for a few reasons. Firstly, you do want it to be easy to gather eggs. You don’t want your hens laying eggs under the porch where you can’t get to them! Secondly, you don’t want to attract predators to your yard by providing a free food source. If you can’t get to the hide-and-seek eggs, something eventually will: perhaps a raccoon—yikes! And thirdly, you don’t want to risk having your hen gather a whole clutch of eggs and then go broody outside, in an unsafe place. When she’s broody in the coop, you can lock up at night and keep her safe, but that won’t be the case if she’s off in the yard somewhere trying to hatch a dozen hide-and-seek eggs.

Why is this on my mind right now? I suspect we’ve got a few hens laying hide-and-seek eggs right now, because the vast majority of the eggs we’re gathering from the coop are dark chocolate eggs, blue eggs and green eggs.  There are no regular brown eggs, even though I have several breeds that lay that color. Plus, I can hear the occasional “I laid an egg!” celebration cackle from the forest on the east side of our mountain. Sneaky! That means I’ll have to spend this afternoon seeking the hide-and-seek eggs the girls are hiding.

Hide-and-seek eggs

It does make for a pretty egg carton, though… that’s for sure!

Since I already use fake “nest eggs” to encourage my girls to lay in the nests, typically, the next step to discourage laying elsewhere is to keep them enclosed for a week or so in the coop until they get in the habit of laying in the nest boxes again. But keeping them in a closed coop… that’s something I don’t usually like to do in the summer when it’s so hot. That means I’ll have to live with hide-and-seek eggs until we get a cool front.

What’s the weirdest place your hens have ever laid their eggs? We’ve heard lots of good stories on the subject, and would love to preserve some good ones in the comments.

 

 

 

 

24 Comments
Ferme Noire July 12th, 2013

I had to cut down bushels of briars that had climbed up into a dogwood tree. I left the whole bramble of twisting tangled vines under the tree because there was not a high priority reason to clear it away. We started noticing low egg counts. One day I walked by and looked into the briar patch. If you were at just the right angle and spot you could see 12-15 eggs. If not, completely camouflaged.

Chris July 12th, 2013

We had one girl last year that sat in the oldest kids baseball glove that was abandoned on a shelf in the garage. Every day we found a surprise in there for us.

Tammy/Our Neck of the Woods July 12th, 2013

I have an Easter Egger named Isis who always lays in weird spots! We have a brooder under the carport with a metal roof, and for some reason Isis was laying her eggs on top of the metal roof for a while. Luckily they didn’t roll off so I was able to collect them at the end of each day. Recently I’ve found her eggs in a plastic chair in the run. Like she was just sitting there relaxing and didn’t want to move to lay her egg so she just laid it there haha. She does lay in the nest boxes every once and a while, so I guess she just likes to mix it up and keep me searching!

PS – Your eggs are gorgeous!

Lissa July 12th, 2013

Oh, thank you! I wish I could take credit, but the hens “paint” the eggs themselves. 🙂

Heather July 12th, 2013

At one point my Marans found a way into the barn and were laying their eggs on top of a hay bale. There were 3 bales laying on their sides with two on the bottom and one on top, stacked like a pyramid. The hens laid their eggs way up on the top bale. I found this out when a golden buff went broody on the whole pile, and in the process of turning the eggs she rolled them right off of the side and they all smashed at the bottom. We were able to move her and sit her on some duck eggs and she ended up hatching a duckling.

We also had a hen lay some eggs inside a clump of ornamental grass ( think 8 to 10 feet tall and 3 ft in diameter clump) next door at my mom’s house. We found out when one of her dogs was sniffing around and the hen popped out. The dog caught her around the neck but thankfully only injured a few feathers. I can now identify which of my white rocks lays the beautiful speckled eggs by the bite mark of missing feathers around her neck.

Beth July 12th, 2013

Once in a while one of my hens will set on one of our truck tires. And of course, when this happens, smashed egg on the gravel from rolling off! 🙂

Lois July 12th, 2013

I have a spoiled rotten silkie that likes to keep us guessing. For a long while, she laid in an unused tool bag. One day my husband decided to pick it up and put it on the table. The next morning, she stood next to that table in the garage and just screamed & carried on till I figured out that she wanted “her” tool bag back on the floor. As soon as I put it down, she laid within 5 minutes.

Darcy July 12th, 2013

I have 9 hens, and my girls are extremely consistent about laying in the nest boxes despite roaming my backyard freely all day. But once, I had left the door to my detached garage/storage building ajar, and one of the ladies went inside and laid her egg right on the concrete floor. I have to assume the curiosity of exploring the place was just too much for her, so she didn’t want to leave to lay the egg. Silly bird!!

Karmyn R July 12th, 2013

One of my Speckled Sussex lays her egg within the circle of a coiled up garden hose. We’ve purposely left the hose there and not used it this summer to let her lay there. I don’t want to have to search for her new spot!

Stevee Salazar July 12th, 2013

I have a brown leghorn hen, named Rapidita because she is so fast, that refuses to lay with the rest of the girls in the coop. She is a flyer and hops out of the fenced free range pasture with ease ! She has laid eggs on the work bench in the garage as well as the rafters!! She hatched a clutch of 4 underneath the carport on top of a stack of hay that was resting on a card table. Now she has found a nice ivy covered nesting spot on the edge of the creek. I only found her nest because of the nine small white eggs I happened to stumble upon searching for her. She comes out cackling loudly everyday, making sure to leave me a big broody “present” right on my pavement on her way to eat with the other hens… I’m always just happy to see her ok after staying there all day and night.
I also agree – beautiful eggs!!

Margaret July 12th, 2013

This is my first time for my silkie to hatch and she is doing very well; but I am not. She laid and is hatching in the nest that is high off the ground and I don’t know how the little chicks can get down to eat and drink. I guess I will have to move her to another place along with the eggs that have not hatched since they are eggs from other hens laid on different days. I got on here to see if any one could help me out.

Lissa July 13th, 2013

Margaret… Yes, you will need to move the nest so that the babies can get in and out. Some people would choose to move it immediately, while others would say to wait until the babies have hatched, so you don’t risk confusing your broody. (Some will want to go back to the original nesting site rather than set on eggs in a different spot.) Hope she has a good hatch!

Paula July 12th, 2013

Our Dark Cornish, Sweet Pea, will knock on the back door and call out until we open the door for her. She scurries in and waits while we coil up a fleece (a certain colored fleece) on the bed and then settles in to lay while I sit by playing chicken doula. If I leave, she fusses until I get back. Crazy spoiled girl!

Heather July 19th, 2013

Our leghorns appear to enjoy laying in make-shift bed on our back porch we made up for our outdoor cat. It’s a cooler with some blankets. At least it’s convenient cause it right at the kitchen door!

Piper Brennan July 20th, 2013

Our Speckled Sussex has started laying in spots other than the nesting box. Once she gave us a big scare, going missing for about 30 minutes before my mom turned around and saw her drinking water out of our grow-out pen.

Kirsten October 8th, 2013

One of the oddest things my hens did was laying a trail of eggs from the coop down to our doorstep. Our chicken coop is about 20 meters from the house, and can you just imagine all the eggs lined up a like a trail towards our house. My hubby and i was almost delighted at this site, but couldn’t believe chickens can do this. Sometimes one of the hens will lay under the bush. It’s really a hide n seek, easter egg hunting type of game with these mazing chickens. But I guess that adds to the fun and joy of raising chickens.

Elaine J October 26th, 2013

My new girls (4 month old Red Stars) just started laying too. They’ve actually been laying for about 2 weeks now because I just found 14 eggs under the blackberry bushes behind the garage! My other girl is laying in the coop. I’m on an early Easter egg hunt for the rest. I have 4 Easter eggers and am not sure if they started laying yet either so off I go hunting!!

matthew March 11th, 2015

Question,
I got 8 hens recently delivered from MI, my sisters house/farm to my coop/run in SE Georgia. I’ve had a couple green eggs(two Easter Eggers) laid over a week and half period of time. I’ve got Three Barred Rocks, 2 Rhode Island Reds, and one Polish. I’m keeping them contained in the run with access to the coop versus free ranging in hopes to train them to lie in the coop’s boxes. I don’t want to go scavenger hunting even though Easter is right around the corner. How long can hens go without laying?

Lissa March 12th, 2015

Well… they can go a long time, months! But that typically doesn’t happen with a young hen in the springtime. That said, their laying schedule can get thrown off when the girls get upset by something. This can occur even with, say, a bad thunderstorm, and I would imagine that the trip from MI to GA was probably nerve-wracking than a thunderstorm! If this is the problem, I wouldn’t expect the schedule to be off more than a few weeks, though. You might try looking through the “not laying” Help topics on our website. Hiding eggs is not the only reason you may not be finding them! It could be that there is a predator eating the eggs, that the chickens themselves are eating the eggs, or that they’re having issues with parasites. It could also just be the time of year combined with their age. Hopefully, looking through those topics will give you a few ideas to investigate if they don’t resume laying soon.

[…] projects together when my daughter was of an age. Not only were there baby chicks to tame and name, but there were eggs to color for Easter (and recently even projects for Halloween and Day of the […]

Mar August 22nd, 2015

we just found 11 eggs that our Easter Egger layed in the garage…it’s super hot here in Texas (90s-105) – should we eat them???????

Lissa August 24th, 2015

In that heat, I probably wouldn’t eat them myself. If there are eleven laid by one hen, it’s probably taken at least a couple weeks… and in that heat, if any bacteria got into the shell, it would grow rather quickly. Technically, eggs left at room temperature should be okay for a couple weeks–or more! But 90 – 105 is not room temp. Do the safe thing and dump them! Then keep an eye on your wiley Easter Egger and pick up her eggs as soon as she lays them. 🙂

Donna November 1st, 2015

Need advice on raising chicks and chickens.I have a new group of 10pullets that just started laying 1st week of Aug. One of the girls went missing in late Sept. Then suddenly reappeared Oct. 21 with 5 chicks. I have sequestered the mom and babies in an empty horse stall (clean)away from the chickn coop I need advise about separating mom and chicks and also when to expect mom to start laying again.

Lissa November 2nd, 2015

I’m not sure what questions you have about separation; it sounds as if you’ve already chosen a way to do that. As far as when she’ll begin laying again, it will be after she’s done raising her babies… in other words, a lot will depend on her personality and her breed. It will also depend on the time of year. My silkie mamas seem to want to hang around with their babies until they’re three or four months old! But some mama hens don’t take as much time with the babies, just six weeks or so. If they’re done raising the babies in the dead of winter, they may not lay until the days get long again, while if they raise the babies in spring or summer, they could begin one or two weeks after they believe their babies are mature. 🙂

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