Can I have free range eggs... and eat them too? :)

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by lilstar, Sep 9, 2012.

  1. lilstar

    lilstar Chillin' With My Peeps

    122
    1
    101
    Apr 8, 2011
    So I really like the *idea* of letting my flock free range. Reduced feed costs from all their foraging, and they enjoy it more than being penned. Happier birds, more varied nutrition, and they can do really well free ranging around here, with all our blackberries, and we even have some grapes growing that are sour and gross, so I don't even mind that they eat them all :) Our goal is to keep them penned in their run, however, because if they can escape, they have nothing to do with their nest boxes. They've been escaping under certain areas of the fence. Which we're going to be fixing this afternoon! 2x4+staple gun=no more escaping chickens. I know that somewhere on the property is a ginormous cache of eggs. I haven't managed to find it :( earlier in the spring when they free ranged they had several different egg hiding places and I knew where every last one was. They now have NEW spots! I can't find a single one. Probably out in the woods* I don't go in there during spider season ;) So.. any tips on having free range birds who use their nest boxes? One thought is to keep them locked up until AFTER they lay their egg of the day, then let them loose. I have 5 birds who lay 3 colors of eggs so I can guess pretty well who laid. Any tips on how I might find their egg stash? And assuming no one's been sitting (I'm certain no one has been playing broody and sitting on a nest any longer than necessary to lay) is there a "time limit" to how long they can be out-who-knows-where and still be okay to eat, once I find them? If I find a stash, say, 2 months from now once its nice and cold (and the spiders are dead, because I reeeeally hate poking around in the spidery woods) and they pass the float test and don't stink..still okay to eat? I live in the Seattle area and we have mild weather. During their egg-hiding the weather has mostly been in the 70s, with maybe 2-3 days in the 90s, and a handful of other days in the 80s. It gets cool at night, and we can be certain the eggs are in a shaded area.

    I really hate buying chicken food *and* grocery store eggs :( Shameful!



    (*woods is a generous term to describe the "wilderness" in my backyard)
     
  2. J-Sanders

    J-Sanders Chillin' With My Peeps

    357
    12
    98
    Jul 28, 2012
    Quote: Train them to use the nest boxes like this and you won't have to hunt eggs everyday. You will still lose some because chickens are chickens. You have to watch them and see where the hens go to sit and lay. But they will do it on a daily basis. Hens go on a roughly 25 hour cycle so every day will be about an hour later until the lay time gets too close to dark and then they will take a break to restart the cycle in the AM.

    Jim
     
  3. PeachygirlGA

    PeachygirlGA Chillin' With My Peeps

    209
    1
    81
    May 25, 2012
    Fort Valley, GA
    I keep my chickens in the coop until they lay their eggs. On some days I will let them out early, like a Saturday when I will be home all day. When the hens are ready to lay they go back inside the coop because that is where they are used to laying. I have had one occasionally lay outside somewhere, but most of the time they will go back inside the coop.
     
  4. TurtlePowerTrav

    TurtlePowerTrav T.K.'s Farm

    3,382
    118
    208
    Jul 29, 2012
    Oregon City, OR
    My Coop
    I have pullets, still waiting on that first egg. I keep them cooped until late morning/early afternoon, so when they do start laying they will be around the nestboxes to hopefully lay in. Until I get all eggs regularly in boxes I won't be letting them out to free range until afternoons, but once laying regularly in the boxes I will start letting them out in early morning when I get home from work.
     
  5. Bogtown Chick

    Bogtown Chick Overrun With Chickens

    5,624
    1,521
    361
    Mar 31, 2012
    Northern Minnesota
    My Coop
    [​IMG]

    I've introduced my Free rangers to this nesting box I cobbled together. They seem to like it quite a bit and have all laid in here at one point or another. As soon as I see a girl kind of wondering on her own a bit more than usual I get her and show her the inside and the nesting materials and she usually starts doing her thing. My flock are all young pullets hatched this spring so they're just learning...but so far so good with using nesting boxes like this one or the ones in their coop.
     
  6. Angie8eggs

    Angie8eggs Chillin' With My Peeps

    389
    17
    113
    Apr 17, 2012

    I love that!! Such a pretty picture, and a cool place for the chickens! :) Your Sage and sunflowers look nice to! ;)
     
  7. Bogtown Chick

    Bogtown Chick Overrun With Chickens

    5,624
    1,521
    361
    Mar 31, 2012
    Northern Minnesota
    My Coop
    Thank you Angie. We had a pullet in distress trying to find a good spot all afternoon, our first egg, so I wasn't sure what her problem was. I think it was kind of hard on her. We took her back to the coop and she laid there but I thought if I can take some of the scrap I've squirrelled around here and put it to good use... And they LOVE it. They just kind of break away from the action when they need to and lay the egg and then rejoin the group. I can move this around pretty easily in case another place gets popular with them. But so far I just put it among the pretty flowers and they've found it private enough and okay at this point. It looks like a mailbox I think sometimes...and sometimes I get special deliveries! ha!
     
  8. Angie8eggs

    Angie8eggs Chillin' With My Peeps

    389
    17
    113
    Apr 17, 2012
    Special deliveries!!! Too funny! That is a post card worthy picture!
     
  9. Daisy8s

    Daisy8s Chillin' With My Peeps

    467
    105
    138
    Sep 12, 2011
    Central Michigan
    My free range flock comes back to the coop to lay in the nesting boxes. You may need to go through a long re-training period to teach them to lay there if they haven't been.

    Are the nesting boxes lower than the roosts and somewhat private so the birds feel comfortable there? Also, check for mites and lice as they can make a nesting box inhospitable.
     
  10. coffeenutdesign

    coffeenutdesign Chillin' With My Peeps

    242
    15
    93
    Jul 24, 2012
    Texas
    Mine usually go back to their nesting boxes to lay. When they first started laying, I just kept them in the coop until their laying in the boxes had been established. Now I am keeping them more protected in the back yard after losing several so they can't get back to the coop on their own, so I keep them in the coop until they are finished laying. If they are cycling to a point where they are laying later in the day, I let them out early and put them back up at lunch time. If they talk me into letting them out without having laid yet, I listen for them. If a hen is upset because she can't get to her box, she lets me know she is upset and I go carry her back to the coop. My husband says they are spoiled and have me trained well.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by