For the last week or two, I’d been noticing that my chickens weren’t laying as many eggs. I’d find one a day in their coop as opposed to the two or three they usually laid. They were eating normally, acting normally, and the one afternoon that I actually did find three eggs in their nest, I hadn’t let them out to roam the day before.
I had a growing suspicion that perhaps they were laying elsewhere in the yard, but all their previous rogue nests — on the compost, in the leaf pile, under the oleander — turned up nothing.
Walking down to the coop one afternoon, I noticed a chicken missing: Kimora, my Barred Rock, who’s always the first to run up and greet me. I called out for her and checked a few of her favorite sunbathing spots, but still no Kimora. The other two girls started calling out for her as well (what they usually do when one gets lost) and suddenly I heard a sound come from the trees.
There, tucked in between a cluster of banana trees and hidden from view, was Kimora… and it looked like she was sitting on one, two, three, four?! eggs…
When she spotted me she eagerly hopped off her nest, hoping for a handful of mealworm treats. But as I leaned in closer, I let out a little gasp.
In that little square foot area, the girls had carved out a makeshift nest on a pile of dried and shredded banana leaves, with nearly a dozen eggs stashed away! Turns out, Kimora and Iman had been hiding most of their eggs from me!
I soon realized that I’d inadvertently disturbed Kimora from her egg-laying perch. After a hearty snack, she hopped back in to her cornucopia of a nest and made herself cozy again.
Though this video shows just the 3 minutes before it all happened, the entire egg-laying process takes at least 30 minutes from the time the chicken starts contractions to when the egg finally comes out. (Considering that a chicken’s day only lasts about 12 hours, that’s a lot of time to spend in labor!)
Now, I’d always heard my chickens crow and caw from the house, and I’d always assumed it was the chicken pushing an egg out. But after watching a couple of my girls in action this year, I’ve realized that it usually isn’t coming from the laying hen at all… it’s coming from her girlfriends, who stand beside her giving moral support!
The most fascinating part is that the other two are relatively quiet during the initial contractions, but about a minute before the egg pops out, they start piping up and cheering her on! The only sound coming from Kimora is a constant little moan, but that feisty Iman, especially, is crowing out “Breathe! Breathe! Push! Push!” (I can even hear in my head what her voice would sound like if she were human!)
Watch the video in full-screen mode and you’ll even see a film of mucus on the egg as it slides out; that’s known as the bloom, and it’s a natural protective coating that dries within seconds. It’s nature’s way of shielding the egg from bacteria and preventing loss of moisture. (And it’s the reason backyard eggs don’t need to be refrigerated.)
The next time we look at an egg, let’s not forget what it took to reach our plate and why we should cherish it for being the little miracle it is!