Waiting For Eggs

The Gems (so-called because I named them all after pretty rocks) hatched on April 24. They are now 19 weeks old. They are old enough to start laying eggs.

My ten old girls (those in the HenCam coop) provide only one or two eggs a day. Mostly, it’s Betsy and a Polish laying. These are tiny eggs. Not enough to make a custard with. I’m hankering for custard.

Some breeds lay at 18 weeks, some not until 22. If your chicks hatched late spring or summer, they’ll be affected by the shorter daylight hours of fall and winter, and won’t lay until February or March. But my Gems are ready. I’m ready. Right now I’d rather have a dark-brown egg from my Welsummer Jasper than a golden egg.

Steve hung the nesting boxes last week. I waited to install them in the barn because the Gems first needed to learn how to roost. Given a choice, a pullet will chose a nesting box over a roosting bar, but you don’t want her sleeping and pooping in there, dirtying eggs and the bottoms of the hens who do use the boxes for laying. Once your pullets’ bedtime routine is established, but before they begin to lay, is the time to introduce the boxes.

I like metal nesting boxes because wooden ones can harbor mites. These boxes have removable bottoms for ease of cleaning and a bar in the front so the girls can hop up and look in. Incredibly, right when I was about to go on-line and buy nesting boxes, I won these on a giveaway from a blog I’ve been following for quite sometime! Pam is a farm woman in Georgia and her talented husband, called Farm Man crafts all sorts of things, from boats to soap molds. He builds these boxes and sells them on-line. As a general rule, you need one box for every five hens, so the girls could use another. I have too many nesting boxes in the HenCam barn, so I might move one over.

Chickens innately want to lay in a safe, semi-dark place. But their idea of a good place is not necessarily yours! If they’re free-ranging, they’ll find a nook in a stone wall or a hiding place under a bush. So, when your girls begin to lay you might want to keep them from wandering. Keep them near the coop and install inviting nesting boxes. Attach the boxes about a foot off the ground (although they can be higher if they’re near a roost so they’re easy to access.) A chicken might be surprised the first time or two an egg comes out. It’s not unusual to find an egg on the floor. But soon enough, the hen will want to find a nest to lay in. They especially like to lay where there are already eggs. That’s why I’ve put a wooden egg in each of the nesting boxes. Chickens are quite gullible.

Sadly, there is one Gem that won’t be laying eggs. One of the cochins in the chick order was weak from the start. She was half the size of the others and walked with a stiff gait, as if her feet or joints hurt, though an external examination showed nothing wrong. I named her Little Blue Sapphire. Her feathers were a gorgeous slate grey. She ate. She grew. But she never looked comfortable. She’d walk a few steps and sit down. I didn’t become too attached. A hen that’s not vigorous has something very wrong with her. Two days ago her legs were no longer able to hold her up, and yesterday they stopped working. Little Blue couldn’t even bend them under herself to sit up. Steve euthanized her. It was the right thing to do.

I know that I have new readers because of the Country Living Magazine contest. I could have left this news out. Writing about death is not a way to win votes. But, this is not one of those “cute animal of the day” blogs. When you have chickens, you have losses. And yet the experience, the whole of it, is worth it. I’ve heard from many of you who have told me that watching the HenCam and reading about my animals is what you turn to when you need some sanity in your workday. Some of you have been with me for years and have seen real heartbreak, and yet stay with me because the life going on here in my backyard is joyful. Chickens live in the moment, and that moment is always tinged by curiosity and optimism. Visit with them awhile and some of that will rub off on you.

I’m optimistic. I’m looking forward to eggs.


  1. awww sorry for your loss i loved little blue as well. i have two pullets that look like her and their mother was named “Pearl” and she was a splash cochin bantam just as yours is. She was taken by a snake :( and ever since ive been following your little pullets. The rest of them from the pictures look all healthy and wonderful so I am excited for you that you will have more eggs soon! Take care.

  2. Oh so sorry about Little Blue– I was rooting for her from the start! Hoping she’d come around and be small but ok… :(

    Waiting for those first eggs feels like forever! Can’t wait to hear/see when it happens! If we lived closer to one another, I give you some of mine. My three girls, even though they are 4 years old are still laying regularly!

  3. Little Blue was such a charmer. I am so sorry to hear of her loss. You gave her a great life and were kind to the end.

    Love the picture of the girls discussing what to make of the wooden eggs!

  4. Oh No! She was my fav of the Gems. I remember how weak she was and glad when she seemed to come around :( Glad all the rest of the girls are alright. Will be waiting to see when they start laying!

  5. My new hens started laying so much earlier than I expected so I didn’t have to go through that waiting waiting. They love to find new places to lay and I soon discover where to look. My Wellsummer lays hers in the back of the donkey shelter, in the straw. One of my Buffs chooses a favorite bush, while one of the Sex Links seems to prefer another. Although there is plenty of nesting space in the coops, somehow they will all line up at one or two and impatiently wait their turn. Hens are so silly. I am sorry about your Little Blue. It’s fortunate that Steve is able to take care of them because it’s not an easy part of farming.

  6. Oh, I’m so sorry about little Blue. :( She was my favorite and I, like many was cheering her on, and hoping she would gain strength. You gave her the best possible life, and ultimately made the right, albeit difficult, decision. I’m looking forward to pictures of those dark brown Welsummer eggs!

  7. oh so sorry to hear about the little Blue….I too was so hoping she would make it. You certainly gave her the best shot at a life, glad you were there for her through it all and she is no longer struggling.

  8. I am so sorry to hear about Little Blue. But you gave her a chance when others would have put her down from the start. And five months is a short life, but it was a happy life. And when the time came you put her out of her misery. At least she had one friend in Opal and that is more than more most pullets out their have.

  9. I had some Welsummer POL birds one May … they took 40+ weeks to come into lay around Christmas! I hope yours don’t keep you waiting so long x

  10. I love the photo of your Gems discussing the new furniture! It would make a super card or calendar picture.

    Sorry the little Blue Cochin didn’t make it. She seems to have been struggling through, such a shame. But I’m not sure how you would have taken to a full grown Cochin – remember my neighbour’s Blue Cochin?!

    I bet you’ll skip about in those pink wellies when you find the first Gem egg!


  11. So sorry to hear about Little Blue…..I was really pulling for her, she was my favorite chick.
    Keep your head up!!

  12. SO sorry about little blue :( i’m in the same boat with waiting for eggs…my girls are the same age as yours and each day i go out to check and nothing. their combs are bright red and they squat down when a hand is passed over their backs so i know they’re ready but still…nothing. sigh. exciting and frustrating at the same time. keep us posted!

  13. So sad ! Little Blue was the one gem I always searched for in the chick cam. Many times she would be sitting in the barn all alone just looking around. We will miss her, but look forward to many warm fuzzies from Agatha as she begins her acting career.

  14. “…many of you who have told me that watching the HenCam and reading about my animals is what you turn to when you need some sanity in your workday.” I dare say that many of us have not told you this but it is just as true for us ! TY for your beautiful photos, delicious stories, your wonderful recepies, travel tales, family fun, heartfelt compassion, and your smart & lighthearted approaches to endless situations. HenCam always provides an enriching dose of down to earth natural beauty and appreciation for what Nature has to offer up each and every day. In the course of the workday..it is beyond refreshing to refocus…. on what is real. You have much to be proud of!
    Little Blue was a lucky bird to have spend her life at Little Pond Farm. Thanks Terry & Steve !

  15. Terry wait until your Delaware starts laying. The first couple are normal pullet sized eggs then bang!!! They are huge!!

    Sorry about Blue, she was pretty.

  16. I have to agree with every word of Nancys comment above, this is so true for me.
    I came to your site from my Steve (my 25 year old son) He had 3 chickens and also had to euthanise a sick hen.
    He is also owner of the rats that I recently cared for. I gave them healthy treats (fruit, green beans salad items)as he said not to let them get fat. I learned from you that its best to give animals healthy treats. He said I was a good animal carer and I said its partly because I learn so much from blogs like yours. I thank you for sharing.

  17. Hi Terry, My little leghorn has just started laying little button white eggs last week, and is giving an egg every day! One Delaware is checking out the nestboxes, so hoping for one of those jumbo eggs soon. Gathering eggs is a treasure hunt. I have to put on gloves and mask to visit the coop…chemo is harsh….but I must look for those eggs, the discovery is such a treat.

  18. I am heartbroken. I will miss Little Blue terribly. Watching her made me so happy every day even though I worried about her. Of course I’ll keep voting for your blog. The chick cam is my start page. Thank goodness Pearl is healthy as well as beautiful. I also love the quick glimpses of Onyx, the Barnvelder. She is gorgeous! Thank you for the picture of Pip! I needed a laugh about now!

  19. I am sorry about Little Blue. It was good she had a chance.

    Thank you for showing the nest box. We sure hope your family and the hens enjoy it.
    I really like the picture of the chickens checking out the nest box. They are real cutie pies!

    Have a great day.

  20. I have two hens that are about 22 weeks old and I am awaiting eggs as well! I am very excited!

    I am sorry for the loss of Little Blue Sapphire. She was a very pretty hen.


  21. OMG Terry!!! We got our first egg yesterday! Super tiny and nothing to write home about (even though I totally did), but I assume that means your girls should also be laying any second now if they haven’t already. I’m pretty sure your new gem chicks arrived the same day my motley crew did. Hope all’s well!

  22. I’m so sorry to hear of Little Blue…I too was hoping she would gather strength and just be little. You truly are an angel for giving her the best life she could have. Can’t wait for the gems to start laying!

  23. I was thinking of ordering replacement chicks for next Fall 2012 so they would be laying by Spring/Summer of 2013. But I spoke to a farmer and he said that the daylight can make them mature faster and can increase the chances of prolapsed vents and other problems versus a Spring hatched chick. So he kept a light on them to maintain the same # of daylight hours until the spring. I don’t want to keep a light on them, do you know of any increased problems with Fall-hatched chicks?

    • I’m missing his logic. For the first month the chicks are in a brooder, with light all the time. Are you in a cold climate? Those chicks would need to be in the brooder much longer than that, as they can’t stay warm on their own until totally feathered out. So, you’d have to have artificial heat/light through the winter. Also, I’d worry far more about the chicks not having enough space and not being able to scratch the ground – if they’re bored and confined they’ll end up pecking each other severely. Prolapse is something that happens with fat pullets, but proper feeding and exercise reduces that issue. It’s much easier to raise chicks in warm weather, although in the past winter eggs were so valuable that people tried.

      • I’m in MD and they would feather out before the cold set in. I wanted to order them either for August or early September. My goal is to have eggs in the Spring and not have to wait until late Summer.
        I used the heat lamp as needed when my current hens were younger, I just don’t want to keep a light on them all the time for daylight.
        I’ve tried researching this but haven’t found anything. Oiy.

      • I emailed mypetchicken.com to ask them about it. I got my current girls from them last year. They said they were unaware of any increased laying issues from fall-hatched chicks. I’m going to talk to the farmer again, but I think I’ll order my replacements for next year. Thanks for the feedback Terry.