An Egg Is Clean

The chicken’s egg comes out an orifice called the vent. It’s the same exit that manure plops out of. But, in nature it’s essential that the shell is not covered in excrement as that would put the chick developing inside of the egg in danger of bacterial infection. So, there are layers of safeguards in place for the egg to be laid spotlessly clean.

First of all, a hen does not poop in the nesting box. A broody hen always leaves the box to leave her daily, (truly disgusting) poop. If your hens are fouling the boxes, that’s because they’re sleeping in them, which should be discouraged. If there is an occasional mess in the box, clean it up with a kitty litter scoop.

Many hens have manure on their bottoms’ feathers, but chickens lay their eggs standing up and in such a posture that the egg mostly avoids the mess. (Note that I prefer shavings in nesting boxes because it’s easy to keep clean; in these photos, Twinkydink is in Phoebe’s hutch, and it was too good a photo opportunity to pass up!)

stand up


See how she tips and squats when the egg comes out?



The round end comes out first.



But what of the manure inside the vent’s passage? The egg never touches it! As the egg is laid, the oviduct that the egg has traveled through, turns a bit inside-out and fills the vent and protrudes out a tad. So, it’s the same hole, but the egg travels down a different tube than the manure. Amazing! You can see it retracting in this photo.



When laid, the egg is wet, but dries in about ten seconds, Here it is, glistening at Twinkydink’s feet


It doesn’t look very safe there, does it? Our chickens are not exactly dainty-toed. The other hens will come into the box, with their dinosaur feet, stomping around, and finally, after much hullabaloo, will lay their own eggs. Shells are remarkably sturdy, and the first year of lay, the shells will be quite strong and able to withstand the trodding. As a hen ages, her shells thin. A good diet can help keep the eggs from cracking and breaking. In any event, if you haven’t watched your own hens lay their eggs, take a stool out to the coop and watch. It’s worth waiting for.


  1. Such great info and pictures. Fascinating.We definitely have some hens sleeping in the nesting boxes as there is poop in the shavings and on the eggs sometimes. We do change the shavings weekly. Don’t know what could be done about changing this bad habit with so many chickens, though.

    • The trick is to train them to roost before they have access to nesting boxes. Then have the boxes lower than the roosts. If you do have manure in the boxes, clean out daily with a kitty litter scoop. Use shavings – hay is impossible to clean quickly.

      • Thanks, Terry. We did follow that advice from the beginning but possibly because the chickens were only provided one roosting option the bad habit was formed. They didn’t all want to co-sleep. The black stars, mostly, looked for other options. Unfortunately, the coop isn’t big enough for additional roosts. Poor planning for the size of our flock, maybe.
        I learn so much from your blog. Thank you for sharing your vast knowledge.
        BTW- Can’t believe Twinkydink is still doing “close ups” at her age, You go girl!

  2. Tanya perhaps blocking off the nesting boxes at night for a while will help breae habit. thats what i hdt do for my polish an sussex who deciedthat tat would be thier bedroom.. it wokedte roost n the bar now

    • Thanks for the idea, Jonathon :} – (that’s a happy chicken face)

  3. I agree with Bobbie – a truly amazing photo essay. And at 8 years old, to be laying again, that’s also amazing! Twinkydink is a beautiful hen. When we finally get our own small flock next spring, I hope I can find a hen like her.

  4. I watched Ethel the other day . I followed your advice about the roosts also.The eggs are clean and when I picked it up it was still warm!!! Mother nature is amazing ! and so are YOU for all your excellent advice.!! Someone told me that the first eggs will be soft shells so not true w/correct diet as you suggest. Thank you again Terry

  5. How on earth did you do that? My hens are completely camera shy and anyway I would never get the timing right let alone the focus etc. Very impressive. I didn’t know they laid standing up. That would explain why my newest hybrids lay any old where and I never catch them at it – peck, peck, pause, PLOP, pause, peck, peck – blink, and you miss it!

  6. Being a city chick i never knew the egg came out wet, but it certainly makes sense! I enjoy learning new chicken facts here. So glad all your doctoring saved the girls this week too. Yay Terry!

  7. some of my hens were sleeping their nesting boxes due to pecking order issues but I blocked the boxes at night forcing the hens to get tough and fight for a spot on one of the 2 roosts. Finally, they did and they all roost now :) I will occasionally find some poo, but it must be from on of the hens when they are laying the egg like Terry mentioned.

  8. Forget stop and smell the roses, stop and sit AND WATCH YOUR CHICKEN LAY AN EGG! I love it!!! We so enjoy learning from you Terry, you are a blessing to so many – very sincere Thanks

  9. Whoa! Great pics! I love your description of hullabaloo and dinosaur feet tromping around. It’s exactly that. I have EE’s that should begin laying soon, and have found a couple eggs with a little peck break in them. I think the EE’s are figuring things out, as they roost across from the nest boxes and watch what the older ladies do in there. They go in the boxes afterward, look around, and seem to sit and chat awhile. And peck a bit.

  10. Very educational. Thanks so much for this post. Aside from illustrating this post amazingly well, the detail in the photos is great. The sheen on Twinkydink’s feathers, the nice background/foreground stuff; beautiful!

  11. I just discovered your new fast-streaming webcam! Amazing! When I first saw the black screen I thought, “it can’t be bedtime yet!”. Then I figured it out, clicked, and saw a chicken face staring at me! How much clearer and smoother the image is on my iPad2. (Only thing I can’t do now is screen capture an image, but that’s ok.) This is great. It’ll be hard to tear myself away! Thanks!

    • Ditto exactly! Checked the clock, allowing for the time zone (we are 5 hours ahead) thinking you were in the dark, then Doh! realised it was just a click and then wow!
      So good to see you, Terry, camera in hand, taking a photo that I’ll probably see in your next blog in the morning!!! Amazing!

    • If you’re using an iPad or iPhone, you can do a screen capture by simultaneously pushing the round “home” screen button and the on/off button (whatever those buttons are really called–not sure). It will give you a captured photo that way.

      • Thank you for that information! Yes, it works! I’ve just been touching the screen, holding until “save image” comes up.

  12. Fantastic! Terry and Steve! I just saw Phoebe run fast out of the barn and across the run. So much action is displayed in the new fast streaming cam. It’s a lot of fun to now be able to see the chickens move and ‘dance’ as they do in real life. What a wonderful new view you have given us. Thank you all!

  13. Only one question about the new streaming image, you know the double arrow in the lower right corner that enlarges a video (like in YouTube) to full screen? And clicked on, minimizes it? The arrow doesn’t do that. I don’t need it to and don’t really care, just mentioning it. I’m still thrilled! I will share this with friends!

  14. Love how clear the new cam is and it’s great to see all the critters move “normally”! The goats are even more adorable-how is that possible! I view on an iPhone or iPad and I am confused as to whether this new cam is still real-time or if it is a recorded video? When I first bring the site up, it has an arrow like they do on YouTube videos (I’m not very technically savvy, so sorry about the description) and if I have it up on two devices at the same time (yes, I have a Little Pond Farm Addiction problem) the “videos” are not synchronous. Is it still “live action”?

    • I have an overworked iPhone4 and iPad2 and just compared to see. My phone is so overloaded with data that the video wouldn’t even play, but I think they were trying to be the same. Both seem to be about a minute behind my devices’ digital time. Alas, must go to dinner now.

    • The way the system works (which, trust me, I have no idea technically) is that the cams are not synchronized. Depending on what you are watching them on, and which cam you’re watching, there might be a minute or two difference. It’s all live, but with some delay.

  15. TwinkyDink really wanted to be on the blog. She gave you a perfect show. :) It’s such an amazing thing to watch. It’s amazing how strong the eggs are…I’ve dropped many.