We got chickens because I really wanted them. I am not really an egg eater but I do eat scrambled eggs. I do however, bake...a lot. I thought it would also be a good marketing point to my baking to have on site fresh ingredients such as eggs. We started out with 6 hens a few years ago. We also got 3 ducks that year....that is for another day... a post sure to have to laughing out loud! Last year we added 8 more hens to the flock. Over the years we have learned a lot about chickens, coops, nurseries, brooder, and eggs. I will save the brooder, nursery, and coop info for another day and go with the eggs today.
First off you do not need a rooster to have eggs from the hens. This for some reason is a mystery to a lot of people. If you do not have a rooster you will still get eggs. If you have a rooster you may get some fertilized eggs. You can still eat the fertilized eggs and you will never know the difference.
Fresh eggs taste so much better than the store bought eggs. This is typically due the diet and living conditions of the small backyard (in my case front yard) chicken owner. My birds get to free range as much as possible. They eat all kinds of grass, weeds, and bugs from the yard. I also feed then a high quality feed pellets and scratch grains. All this combined together makes for a tastier egg.
When a young hen starts to lay eggs at about 6 months old their bodies need time to adjust to the laying process. Sometimes you get colossal eggs like this one:
Usually when they start out the eggs are tiny and grow in size each week as they lay more and more and their bodies adjust. My hens will lay every day. As they get older, the 3 year old hens still lay 3 or 4 days a week. That is not bad for a chicken that old. When you get about a dozen eggs a day they quickly take over your fridge! I have a medium dorm sized fridge just to store the eggs in. Sometimes I have to store them in the regular fridge because I have so many. When that happens, I start scrambling a few dozen eggs up at a time and giving them back to the birds. They love them, and they need the protein. When I boost their protein intake they tend to not pick on each other as much. They will peck each other in boredom of being cooped up too long like many days this winter.
Every now and then a newly laying hen will encounter total process confusion. I have found shell-less eggs in the nest boxes. That is exactly what it sounds like. The egg is laid without have a shell at all, just the insides. makes a mess to clean up. Some eggs are lain that are all wrinkly or have a flat end. This is caused when the egg shell is being formed inside the hen and there is another egg bumping up against the first one. She is basically making eggs too fast. These eggs are edible, the shells just don't look the best.
Occasionally I will go out to get the eggs and find a soft shelled egg. See eggs are complex packages. The edible part of the egg is encapsulated in 2 layers of shell. The soft shell in inside the outer hard shell. The hard outside shell protects the egg from damage and is porous to allow the egg to 'breath'. There is in inside soft shell that protects the edible part of the egg and the growing peep if there is to be one.
I have gotten several soft shell eggs from my girls over the years. When this happens I supplement their food with oyster shell crumbles. Providing them the oyster shell boosts their calcium and allows them to make hard shells again. I usually mix some oyster shell in their feed bucket all the time. I have gotten some eggs that were very tough to crack! My hens are very healthy, but they do run into problems that are out of my control.
Some chicken breeds are just better than others. My first round of chickens were a mixed group of Rhode Island Reds, White Leghorns, Black Sexlinks, and Easter Eggers. All of these birds were/are fantastic layers, hardy, and generally friendly birds. The second group of birds I got were Red Comets. I am not pleased with these at all. They are fragile, mediocre layers, and not friendly birds. This year we are looking to get some more RIRs, Easter Eggers, and maybe some Buffs.
Since we live in a pretty much wide open field, other wild birds have taken to laying eggs in strange places. This bird laid her eggs in her nest that she built on our truck tire! The truck was not used that much and she made the nest up under the wheel well high on the tire.
Speaking of strange places to make a nest and lay eggs can you spot the egg in this picture?
This is a Killdeer nest. These birds like to nest on the ground and in wide open fields. This nest was on the edge of our driveway in the gravel. There were 4 eggs in this nest, 3 hatched and this one was a dud. We find Killdeer nests all over the yard. They are a bit of a pain in the butt, however we do what we can to accommodate them and let them alone until their eggs hatch.