Egg Laying Training Week
Chickens don't need to be trained how to lay eggs. By God's perfect design and creation, this happens quite naturally without our intervention. Chickens don't need humans to teach them how to lay eggs. But, God did give humans "dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth.” (Genesis 1:26).
So it's not out of necessity, but for our convenience that we train chickens WHERE to lay their eggs, so that we don't have to have an egg hunt every day, looking among the shrubs and flowers and brush to collect our investment.
As my young chickens approached 22 weeks of age, I knew to start watching for signs that they were ready to begin laying eggs. I knew this, because it's like clock work, this amazing design. It is, indeed, amazing that a hen releases an egg yolk that grows in size as it travels down the oviduct, is wrapped with the egg white, then a membrane, then the shell. Finally a color pigment is deposited on the shell before it reaches the vent and is released. And this re-occurs about every 24 hours in a normal, healthy hen.
Our Buff Orpington was the first one to show signs of being ready to lay. She began checking out the nesting boxes where I had placed golf balls to draw their attention. She began to squat down when I approached her, which is what pullets (young females) and hens do when they are ready to mate. She began clucking frequently, another typical characteristic of a laying hen.
So I wasn't surprised when on exactly 22 weeks from the day she was hatched, Buffy laid an egg. And I really wasn't surprised that it wasn't in the nesting boxes. How was she to know? It was her first egg. Actually, I didn't see the first one until the next day, which is why there were two eggs, not in the nesting box but behind the water feeder. Chickens do seek a hidden spot to lay their eggs, and she found one. But it's not where I want her to lay eggs. So training had to begin.
I placed her eggs in one of the nesting boxes. Chickens will instinctively lay eggs where others have been laid. (That's why plastic eggs or small balls can be used as decoys to lure them to a nest.) But, the next day there was another egg behind the water feeder.
So I decided the training had to be raised a notch. I moved the water feeder into the corner so she couldn't get behind it. When I saw Buffy leave the other chickens in the run and go into the house by herself and start clucking, I peeked in the hen house. She was hollowing out the straw in front of the water feeder. So I went in and lifted her into the nesting box. She wasn't happy about this and tried to get out, but I gently stroked her until she relaxed and settled in. Then I went out and closed the door and let her have the privacy they crave. (But I was still peeking in.)
Buffy began her loud, long clucking. The other chicks didn't know what to make of her noise. They stood on the ramp that leads from the run into the house and hovered nervously, not wanting to go in, and not wanting to go about their business.
Ruby Red's curiosity did get the better of her, and she went in to have a look at what was going on with her yellow friend.
And Buffy finally completed her task, came out of the nest, and happily went on to enjoy the rest of the day free-ranging, scratching for bugs, nibbling at various greens, and bathing in the dust.
This is just one day, and this is just one chicken out of six. Chickens do catch on quickly, though, and they like routine. Also, if one chicken catches on and learns the ropes, the others will usually follow suit. We'll see how the egg-laying training goes the rest of the week.