Sometimes it feels like an Easter egg hunt around the farm. We have been noticing for the past couple weeks that our egg production has been low. We assumed it was either because of the reduced hours of daylight (chickens lay the most eggs when the days are long) or because we recently switched our chicken feed, or a combination thereof.
Elijah happened to mention to me that he saw a Dominique hen coming out from under our front porch. I had blocked the entrance to this space earlier this summer, thinking it would be the perfect spot for our hens to waste a whole bunch of eggs. Apparently, this Dominique had found a hole I had overlooked. Now Elijah suspected the hens had a hidden nest under there so he grabbed a flashlight and peered under the porch. “Yes,” he said, “there are hundreds of eggs under here!” I quickly texted Ryan, who was on his way home from work, that we had a project to complete after dinner this evening.
No, this is not a cute but elaborate Halloween decoration. This is Ryan halfway under our front porch trying to gather all the eggs. He removed the steps so he could get access all the way to the back of the porch. It took a while, but he raked out all the eggs from under the porch.
That’s a combination of duck and chicken eggs. Some are clearly very, very old, while others look quite fresh. We have discovered the mother of all nests.
But, now what? What do we do with all these eggs? The eggs that were obviously old and disgusting went right into the trash, along with any that were cracked. I picked out a few handfuls of eggs that looked clean and fresh. The others I suspected weren’t rotten, but may be old enough that we don’t want to bring them into the kitchen, so I crushed them up for the chickens to eat.
I brought my select few eggs into the kitchen to do the “float test” to confirm their freshness. The float test is based on the fact that eggs are porous. Over time, more air enters the egg, and will cause the egg to float in water if it is old. If the egg is fresh, it will sink to the bottom of a bowl and lay on its side.
An egg that is edible, but not extremely fresh will sink, but it’s broad end will stick up towards the surface.
All the eggs I brought in either sank completely or the broad end raised slightly. The one shown above was the least-fresh of the bunch.
I hated to throw the rest of those eggs in the trash and to the chickens. It is a terrible waste of food and money. Ryan built an amazing nesting box and these birds take every opportunity to lay elsewhere. We’ve found much, much smaller nests around the farm and have to continually search the homestead for hidden nests.
The whole time we were gathered around the porch watching Ryan pull handful after handful of eggs from its depths, a Buckeye hen kept coming around the corner to watch us. Reminds me of a criminal returning to the scene of the crime! Sorry, little red hen, consider yourself busted!
As the sun sank and the sky darkened, Ryan repositioned the porch steps and filled every hole with either pumpkins or cement blocks to prevent the hens and ducks from accessing their not-so-secret-anymore hideaway. This is a temporary fix, of course, until we have the time and daylight to install a permanent barrier, such as chicken wire, behind those steps to cover any possible entry point. I sure hope to see an abundance of eggs in our nest boxes once again.