I’ve noticed a two things over the last couple weeks: 1) Eggs are still down, even though the temperature has really dropped (they often quit laying for a spell when it’s hot); and 2) Bridgette has been bolting off every morning when I let them out. When I was really late last week, she practically beat the door down.
I figured they were picking on her. Back when Bridgette was recovering from her dog attack, the other girls would peck her like crazy. Obviously her tail never grew back after the dog chomped it off, so she’s the odd girl out, and I worry that the other chickens are bitchy to her.
But today, I watched her rush off and discovered her making a beeline under the hay tarp. That’s this summer’s hay, still stacked in the driveway and covered with a tarp. It’s there because the snazzy new hay shelter was still under construction when the pasture was hayed. My plan was to turn the tarp into the sides of the shelter (it’s just an open structure with a tin roof), but the best laid plans….
So when she disappeared under the tarp, I followed her and discovered this:
A secret nest with a huge cache of eggs! Luckily, it’s been cool, so there were no exploded rotten eggs. But there were nearly a dozen from Bridgette (the green ones), and another handful from Inara, who has also been laying in the nest box. There’s no way of knowing which are oldest and which are fresher, so the chickens will be getting all of them over the next week or so, mixed in with their kitchen scraps.
Yes, chickens will eat eggs. This often astonishes people, but it’s true. They love them (they’re delicious!). In fact, in some flocks, you get trouble with hens breaking open their own eggs to eat them. We’ve never had that problem, but you’re always warned about it in the chicken books. I think as long as you break them open outside of the nest, there’s no worry. With these eggs, since some are nearly two weeks old, I’ll probably crack them open and nuke them before feeding them to the girls, to be on the safe side. (BTW, fresh eggs don’t spoil immediately at room temperature–you could keep them out on your counter for a few weeks if you wanted with no ill effects–but Bridgette may have been brooding over them, they have probably been at much higher than room temperatures).
I blocked off her entrance to the tarp and moved a couple of the clutch (and her) to the real nest box, but she seemed none too enthused about using it, and ended up laying today’s egg in the middle of the path, scurrying back to the tarp repeatedly (and being repeatedly relocated by me).