A Beginner's Guide to Collecting Backyard Chicken Eggs
If you've been thinking about starting a backyard chicken coop or even if you already have your first batch of chicks warming under the brooder, one thing that only a few first-time chicken owners are prepared for is egg collection. Egg laying chicken breeds tend to make the best backyard pets because they are generally more docile, not to mention the value of the eggs themselves, so it's likely that you already have a laying breed or will choose a laying breed when you're ready. But how ready are you, really?
What You'll Need
- Laying Nests in the Coop
- Large egg trays for the fridge
- Extra room in the fridge for egg trays
- A plan to deal with all those eggs
Hens Lay About One Egg a Day
Here's the first and most important thing you need to know about the friendlier laying breeds of backyard chicken: they lay an egg almost every day. When you're counting in sheer volume of eggs, that's about six eggs per adult female chicken per week. Two chickens alone would be a full dozen a week so unless you're feeding a small army, you'll want at least one plan and several backup plans on what you can do with the number of eggs that pile up. Many people simply give them away to neighbors, sell them at work, or open an egg or omelet stand farmer's market.
Hens Need Warm Light to Lay Eggs
Did you know that hens actually need light to lay? Their hesitance to lay eggs in the winter is triggered more by the short days than the actual cold. This is controlled by a gland in the eye that releases the laying hormone in response to light. Hens, depending on the breed, need somewhere between twelve and sixteen hours a day of strong, warm light in order to keep laying regularly. Fortunately, you can encourage your hens to keep laying at their spring and summer rate with a normal light bulb or two in the coop.
Check for Eggs Early and Often
There are a lot of different ways to arrange your nesting and egg collection system inside your coup but whichever method you use, remember that your primary goal is to collect whole, undamaged eggs and to keep the eggs unsoiled between laying and collection. Your best bet is to use plenty of clean bedding in your nesting and laying area and to collect eggs early in the day. The sooner you collect an egg after laying, the less likely it is to spoil in the warm coop which means you may also want to check for eggs a few times during the day as well so that no eggs get left all day in the coop.
Don't Wash Clean Eggs
For every clean egg, put it into your refrigerator egg trays immediately. We don't advise that you wash the clean ones right away, as eggs come with a light antibacterial coating that is meant to keep chicks safe but also acts as a nice preservative to keep clean eggs fresh. If a few of your eggs have been soiled, scrub them with an abrasive plastic brush and then chill them quickly as well.
Find Outlets for Eggs
Finally, as we mentioned, you're going to need something to do with all those eggs. One of the most popular methods is simply to gift them to neighbors. This is a great way to increase goodwill in your neighborhood and tolerance for the smell and occasional noise from your backyard chickens. You can also host big neighborhood breakfasts, donate your eggs to a local church so they can do the same, or sell them in a local market. If you work somewhere with a break-room fridge, you can sell your eggs to coworkers or simply give them away to try and get a few more eggs out of your fridge before the next batch rolls in.
Eggs are one of the best parts about raising backyard chickens but by the time you've got a comfortably sized flock, you may be producing more eggs than you know what to do with. For the beginning chicken raising egg collector, we part with a few final tips. Keep your coop, chickens, and eggs clean and don't put off refrigeration any longer than necessary. Also, now would be a great time for some experimental quiche. After all, it's not like you can run out of eggs.
- Alicia Edwards