If there was ever a way to turn a person into an anxious neurotic lunatic, waiting for chickens to lay their first egg is now tops on my list. I check the nest boxes, coop and run at least two times a day - sometimes 173 times a day. Each time I search every square inch of their living area and come up empty. It's so frustrating because according to everything I've read, it's time. Honestly it's like the longest labor you've ever experienced. I've boiled the water, fetched clean towels, called the doctor and now I'm just sitting around watching the signs and waiting for "it" to happen. And I've come to realize that much like a watched pot never boils, a watched chicken never lays.
Here are a few signs that means a hen is ready to lay:
1) They're old enough to lay. Around age 5 months is a typical laying time. Mine are over 5 months old. Yes, I know some chickens are late bloomers, but mine feel like early birds to me.
2) They have bright red combs and wattles. Check. Red as raspberries.
3) They start doing the "egg squat." This is a submissive posture chickens do right before they lay. Yup. Egg Squat City.
4) There's a 4th thing that is something to do with their pelvic bones, but I'm not that intimately personal with the hens, so I'm okay with knowing we've got items 1-3 on the list, thank you very much.
Everything I've read online says that most chickens tend to lay about a week after they begin the egg squat. Mine have been old enough, red enough and squatty enough for almost two weeks and we're still buying store-bought eggs. I was seething in the grocery store yesterday as I bought a half-dozen box of $4 organic free-range eggs and was picturing my hens sitting in their coop with tightly-crossed legs holding out until I dropped the money on yet another box of overpriced "hen-friendly" eggs.
I've even sculpted the hay and shavings in their nest boxes into a nest shape with the hopes of enticing them. No luck. They get in there and hold a mini kick-boxing tournament with the nest contents leaving the nest boxes almost empty by evening.
And I put a golf ball into each nest with the idea that they'd see it and think that's a good place to lay an egg. All they do is kick the golf balls out of the nest boxes with great chicken disdain.
Maggie spends a good bit of her day wandering in and out of the nest boxes, which is a good sign. Sookie and Clementine aren't quite as interested, but I have seen them peering at the Titleists I stole from Farmer B's golf bag with curiosity.
But no #*@*$( eggs!
Listen you freeloading hens! It's time to ante up! I have a new quiche recipe, a hankerin' for some eggs on toast and I'm about to have a therapy bill for my newfound first-egg neurosis. It's time for me to lay down the law! Sadly I think that might be the only laying that goes on here this week. But watch and wait I do….again…
(Remind me of this when I have too many eggs and can't possibly eat them all and can't find enough people to give them too).