Congratulations! Your pullet just laid her first egg. It’s a day worthy of celebration. All these weeks of care and supervision have finally paid off with the ultimate prize.
As much as you’d like to have it bronzed, relax. There will be plenty more where that came from.
Now that your flock has reached point of lay, you undoubtedly have a few questions bouncing around your head. Here are answers to five of the questions those new to the egg business typically ask.
When will she lay next? And what’s with the weird eggs?
A pullet at point of lay may now be a layer, but by no way is she an adult hen just yet. Her reproductive system is still developing and will not reach maturity until she is approximately 12 months old.
During this time, her egg productivity will fluctuate. She may:
- not lay again for another week
- lay more than once a day
- produce overly large eggs
- lay doll-sized, yolkless “wind eggs”
- produce double-yolk eggs
- lay perfectly round eggs or long, torpedo-shaped eggs
Every day and every egg is a surprise with a newly laying chicken. But, as she gets older, her reproductive system will regulate and she’ll soon produce eggs regularly.
Why is she laying on the coop floor instead of in the next box?
Point of lay can be a confusing time for a pullet. All her young life, she’s minded her own business and now, suddenly, she feels an unfamiliar urge come on and out pops this … thing.
Because her reproductive systems is in flux—and will be for at least another few weeks—your pullet will simply drop an egg when she feels that urge. This might occur when she’s in her run or out foraging, while she’s at the feeder or waterer, or even when she’s asleep on her perch.
In a flock with older hens, your pullet would observe what her elder coopmates do and simply follow their example. In a new flock, your pullet will need some guidance.
Make sure your next box is accessible and lined with clean straw, shavings or a premade nest pad. Entice her and your other young layers by placing ceramic or wooden eggs—available at your farm-supply store—in the nest to show them where they should be laying.
A little encouragement may be all your pullet needs.
How do I know if her eggs are fertilized?
The easy answer to this is: if you own only hens, you will never have to worry about fertilized eggs. It takes a rooster to fertilize an egg, so you’re in the clear if you specifically keep a laying flock.
If you do have one or more roosters, it’s a safe bet to simply assume that all of your eggs are fertilized. Unfortunately, the only way to be absolutely sure is to crack open the suspect egg and look for the tiny disk-shaped indentation—the germinal disk, which will develop into an embryo—situated over the yolk.
Fertilized eggs taste exactly the same as unfertilized eggs, so as long as you collect your eggs frequently and store them correctly, you shouldn’t have any worries.
Why did my pullet lay a shell-less egg?
Nothing can quite compare to the first time you reach into a nest box and wrap your fingers around a squishy, gelatinous oval instead of a hard-shelled egg. I remember my first time. I squealed, immediately dropped the egg, and backed away as if I’d just awakened a dragon.
That kind of sensory memory is near impossible to forget.
When you encounter your first shell-less egg—and that’s when, not if—don’t panic too much. Consider a shell-less egg your bird’s body letting you know it needs more calcium, the mineral essential for building strong eggshells and stronger bones.
If your flock is still eating grower rations, switch to a layer ration fortified with calcium. You can also offer your girls crushed oyster shell, which is rich in calcium carbonate, one of the Earth’s building-block minerals.
Why is she sitting on her eggs and growling at me?
It looks like congratulations are in order again: You’ve got a broody! Broodiness can occur at any age in a hen, but it typically begins shortly after a pullet reaches point of lay.
Some breeds, including Silkies, Orpingtons, Cochins, and Sussex, are more susceptible to broodiness than others. They make great mothers for their own eggs and anyone else’s, too.
While it’s adorable to watch a little hen huddle protectively over a nest full of eggs (or rocks, golf balls or anything remotely resembling eggs), being broody means she isn’t laying any herself. She might also inspire her coopmates to go broody as well.
Prolonged broodiness is also taxing on a hen’s body. If you are not planning to raise chicks—and if the eggs your broody is setting are not fertilized—you will want to break her brood gently but swiftly.