It really didn't matter to me what the books said. Or what I learned by Googling. Even the wisdom of experienced poultry hands couldn't keep me from it.
Every day — multiple times, mind you — I found myself drawn to the chicken coop in the backyard where I had lovingly placed a brand new nesting box in the darkest corner (following directions to a “T”).
I'd hold my breath in anticipation and slowly lift the lid/roof of the coop. Peering in with my trademark eternal optimism, my eyes would first go the nesting box, then, upon finding it empty, quickly scan the rest of the coop, thinking surely one of our hens must have decided to lay that long-anticipated egg. No such luck. Oh, the crushing disappointment.
This went on all summer, even though everyone, and everything I read, assured me it wasn't quite time for them to be laying. I experimented with different bedding (grass clippings, leaves, shavings) and got another nest box (don't ask me why I thought if the one remained empty, another box would entice fair hens to lay).
I even put golf balls in each nest after reading that the balls resembled eggs to a fair enough degree to convince hens to deposit some more.
Bliss evidently considered the golf ball idea a good one, since she now tosses every golf ball she comes across — and there are many of them around our house and garage — into “Chicken Land.”
Alas, all the effort was for naught — and I'm sure to the great amusement of the more experienced poultry people who got word of our endeavors.
That is, until the one afternoon when I wandered into the backyard and saw one, two, three hens ... Since they usually stick close together, I feared the absence of the fourth meant she'd met the same fate as the unlucky Black Bart. Quickly determining that Henrietta was the missing beak, I began my search for her.
It didn't take me long to find her, comfortably ensconced in the base of a lilac bush — and with five beautiful little pullet eggs underneath her! It was like a miracle.
I gently gathered the eggs from beneath her and took them into the house. Bliss was as excited about the discovery as her mother. After some celebration and the requisite admiration of the eggs, I decided since I couldn't be sure how long they'd been outside in the hot summer temps, it would be best to blow them out, thus preserving the memory of the girls' first eggs.
Since that lovely afternoon discovery, my four little hens have been laying quite regularly (or at least three of them have — Ginger, I know, is not quite old enough).
However, it's been quite the undertaking to convince them to lay said eggs in the nesting boxes. It seems they would prefer to stash their eggs in various suitable nest-like places around the perimeter of our yard. For the time being, our formerly free-range fowl are spending much more time locked up until they can be persuaded to lay their eggs in the right place — lay in the box, get some freedom.
Hens, I'm learning, are a little slow on the uptake (consider the morning I found two eggs, smashed, on either side of the coop.) Apparently, a couple of them decided it wouldn't be a bad idea to perch on top of the coop to lay eggs. That whole bird-brain thing? There's justification behind it.
Yep, every day is like Easter morning at our house — with no dresses or church!
Our egg hunt uncovers homegrown treasures: Henrietta's dark, chocolatey-brown eggs; Water-Head's larger eggs, the color of coffee with cream; and Pearl's, the lightest in color, little more than faint beige.
And, if we're particularly blessed on a certain day, we'll actually find one or more of the eggs in the boxes.