Hidden Eggs

What with molting, shortened days, colder weather, and aging hens, I expected egg production to trail off this month, and it has. On Thursday, I went from collecting two eggs (from 14 hens) to none. Oh well, I thought. On Friday, there were still no eggs, which was really too bad because my son with the broken elbow has been asking for scrambled eggs every morning. In the afternoon I took the compost bucket out to the big barn’s run and found these:

They are very well hidden, nestled in the end-of-garden refuse and dead leaves. They’re also in a corner that I don’t usually look in. Here’s a view from outside the bin:

The eggs are in that front, left corner.

While hiding a cache of eggs isn’t unusual on many farms, it is here. This is the first time in over fifteen years of keeping hens that my girls have hidden their  eggs. I’m not sure what prompted the change. As far as I can tell, there’s nothing different with their nesting boxes. Maybe the way the materials were tossed into the compost made that corner irresistible?

Or, perhaps there’s something going on that I don’t know about. The other day, Lily was acting strangely. She kept asking to go out. Then in. Then out, where she’d station herself in the center of the lawn in an attentive sit. Also, the HenCam barn hens spent a nice, sunny day indoors, which is totally out of the ordinary behavior for them. My hunch is there’s been a predator around, and judging by Lily’s tension, it’s not one she’s familiar with. Maybe the bear that destroyed our bird feeders two years ago is back.

In any case, I want the hens to lay their precious eggs indoors. I put a wooden egg in the nesting box, and the hens went right back to laying where they’re supposed to.

I was pretty sure that the eggs were fresh and in good shape, but I checked to make sure. Old eggs develop an air sac and float in water. Fresh eggs sink. Eggs a few weeks old rotate an end and point out of the water. Here you can see a two-week old egg, upright, and the horizontal egg is the one collected from the compost. Both eggs have since been eaten. They were delicious.

(Look closely at the photo and you’ll see some of my egg cup collection!)


  1. When my hens get out of the fenced in garden they will lay under a blue spuce behind the coop! They used to free range all the time in my yard before we got them to keep and always left us presents there. Now we have their coop and pen hooked up to the garden with a gate so they can “free range” a little bit but not get eaten by the neighborhood dogs! Love fresh eggs!!!

  2. Chickens always keep you entertained. They do many unexpected things.
    I recently started my flock over again. I have 29 new hens and 3 roosters. I bought them on the internet and picked them up at the post office the last week of August. The roosters are very entertaining as they practice crowing. What funny noises they make.
    I love watching my chicks they are always so busy.
    PS Thanks for the reminder of how to tell if eggs are fresh.

  3. When one of my new hens first started laying, she found/made a nest under a yucca plant. Ouch!! I had to trim off the sharp points. So, we kept them in their tractor longer until she found a nest box that suited her as well as her yucca nest. My sister has lots of chickens and they lay all over her property: flower pots, boxes; you name it, they have laid there.

    Hope your son is healing well. Those good eggs will help heal those bones.

  4. Recently my hens started laying in a flower pot right next to my back door, whereas the coop is way across the far side of the yard. Yesterday there were no eggs in the coop but three eggs in the flowerpot. What service! “fresh eggs to your door” lol

  5. We bought our first flock this past April. This fall we kept waiting and waiting for eggs to come and wondered why none of them were laying. One day my husband went out to a woodpile behind the coop and found 22 eggs!! Now they are penned in for the winter and all are laying in the nesting boxes. Come Spring when they are free ranging again, I sure hope that laying in the nesting boxes is such a habit that they will continue it. We’ve had a lot of fun with this first flock. Looking forward to getting more next spring.

  6. That compost corner has got to be nice and warm. Wonder if the hen is broody and thinks she found a good secluded place to “raise her babies.” I had a banty once who would totally disappear during “free range time,” and many weeks later I found a nest inside an old turned-on-its-side bucket, with 17 of her eggs in it! Needless to say, I didn’t even test them before putting them in the garbage!
    Cool mixing bowl, btw.

  7. My friend Charlotte recently thought one of her hens had escaped or been nabbed by the fox; it was only when tidying up the undergrowth in their run that she found her, sitting on a pile of 31 eggs!

  8. I am having the same issue with my chickens spending their time on beautiful days in the coop or grouped up under the honeysuckle bushes. I know what the culprit is that has my chickens afraid to wonder about. 1. a coopers hawk that dive bombs them, although I suspect he is after the sparrows, cardinals and doves that hang around the coop more then the chickens, but they don’t know that. 2. a redtail hawk that sits on the telephone pole or clothesline pole an eyes them up and down. Neigher of these hawks seem to have an ounce of fear of humans in them. The cooper hawk stricks even if I’m in the yard and on a couple of occasions he has caused me to duck he comes so close to me. The redtail can be sitting on the clothesline post and I can get within 10 feet or so before he flies off and then it’s usually just up into a tree.
    They are both lucky in that they are protected species and I can’t pull a Granny Clampitt on them ;-)

    • How about a really high-powered water pistol? One of those ones you pump up. That should give them something to think about!

  9. We named one of our chicken “Tillie” after we encountered your book and we love it so much. A sort of the same thing happened to our chickens. While I was checking the eggs, I saw an egg on the floor in the corner of the chicken coop. I started to wonder who laid the egg. Was it twinkle or was it Bernard? We loved your video about washing a chicken, too. We will check your hencam next time during the daytime. Thanks for the great blog.