Got chickens? If they are approaching 4-6 months old -- get ready! They'll be laying eggs pretty soon. We got our first egg a few weeks ago, and now about 5 of our 18 girls lay every day. And chickens laying eggs behave and sound differently. Check this out:
Peralipka, one of our Barred Plymouth Rocks, is getting ready to lay. She developed this very loud, squawking sound that we don't hear at any other time. She'll get into a box, turn around, then leave and go inspect other nesting boxes. She's an active one. And then there's Daisy Belle, one of the Gold Sex Links:
Daisy is calmer and quieter -- she finds her box and then hunkers down til she gets the deed done.
There are a number of chicken behaviors to look out for as your girls get ready to start laying. It's fascinating, really — just as each chicken tends to have her own personality, they often have their own way of signaling when it's "time." Some common behaviors:
Circling inside the nesting box
Tail raised up in the air
Moving from box to box before choosing one to lay in
I sometimes see two chickens in one box at the same time — they won't lay at the exact same time, though. Typically one will get in first and is going about her business when another girl thinks, "Hey, that looks like an awesome place to hang out; think I'll try it myself." The fun really happens when you get a 3rd hen poking her head in to see what all the commotion is about.
Usually my hens will take anywhere from 15 - 30 minutes to lay their egg from the time of entering the box until they leave it. Another girl will hop right in and sit on the other's egg while she gets ready to lay her own.
We've got 6 nesting boxes for 18 chickens -- they tend to favor one box above the others (it's the one on the far end, so the girls have to bypass the other 5 to get to this one -- go figure). I sometimes take an egg out of that box and gently place it in another box so the other chickens will get the idea that all of the boxes are for laying. It seems to be working.
It's a fascinating process to watch — just this morning I was out in the coop quietly observing for about a half hour, and I actually saw an egg being laid! Very, very cool. Right at the moment of egg-laying, they'll often stand up and squat, then you can see the egg popping out.
Many of our girls who are not yet laying are still very curious about the nesting boxes and what goes on up there — my guess is that within a few weeks we'll have over 10 eggs a day.
We are officially Chicken Nerds.