Finding Free Range Eggs
Our chicken flock is now up to 14 (2 roosters, 12 hens). I had been letting the roosters free range, just cause it was cheaper than letting them eat the laying mash/corn mixture that we feed the hens. The hens, however, were kept in their coops. I was afraid that if I let them out I would lose my eggs.
Every day I would go out and fill the hens’ dishes twice a day. And every day I felt bad that they were just stuck in their little cages. I really wanted to let them out!!
Finally one day I went out to feed them and decided, I’m gonna let them all out! I went to each cage and opened the door, freeing each little girl inside. It was a liberating moment! And it made my heart happy to watch them pecking around and taking dirt baths! Finally free… until the deprived Roosters got a hold of them! Oh well. (I would love to have some babies!)
I crossed my fingers that I hadn’t just totally sabotaged our egg production by letting them loose. Later that evening I went out to check on everybody. Imagine my surprise when I found three eggs in the boxes in the coops! Good girls!! They were going back in to lay their eggs!
Since we switched their food and messed up their laying, we were averaging about 3 eggs/day. We put them back on laying mash, so we thought they should begin producing more eggs soon. I hoped that they would continue laying in their boxes, and not off in the woods somewhere as I have read they will do.
For the past week I’ve let all of them free range during the day. In the evenings, I go out and fill their food bowls and put them in the cages, and all of the little hens come running up to me, and jump in their coops to eat. I simply close them in for the night for safe keeping.
Here’s Big Mama laying an egg in her box like a good girl.
I’ve happily continued finding 2-4 eggs per day in the boxes. But I couldn’t help wondering if there were any eggs hiding in the woods somewhere. Jada and I went walking through the trees twice to see if we could find any stray eggs, but we never could find any.
Then yesterday we got a big surprise.
Jerry went outside to get something for me. When he didn’t come back as quickly as he normally would have, I went out to see what was taking so long. When I stepped out onto the back steps I found Jerry walking back to the house… with an armful of little white eggs!
I said, “Oh my goodness! Where did those come from?”
He said, “I saw the chickens over at the waterstove eating an egg. When I got closer I saw another egg in the grass, then another, then another… there are a ton under the waterstove!” I went out and looked and sure enough there was a nice cluster of eggs in the fallen insulation under the stove.
So, that’s where they’ve been hiding them!
Imagine my surprise, and delight! Yay! Jada and I went out and collected the rest of the eggs. Two were already cracked and the chickens had eaten them. One had a broken shell, so I tossed it. But all in all we collected ten more eggs.
I have no idea if these eggs are any good still. I’ll definitely be using the “float or sink” test!
I was afraid I’d now have a problem with them eating all of the eggs. But today I’ve collected 7 eggs so far, all from in their boxes. I haven’t found any more underneath the waterstove… yet.
What have I learned? If you give them a cozy place to lay, chances are they’ll use it. And I’ve found that where one lays, the others will follow.
I’m really glad our production is back up again! Now, what to do with all of these eggs…?!