If you have backyard chickens, you know they can do some funny things regarding their eggs. Some will sit on golf balls. Others will bury their eggs. Maybe you’ve just discovered your free-range chickens laying dozens of eggs in leaves. This behavior will make you wonder, “do chickens hide their eggs?”
Do Chickens Hide Their Eggs?
If you’re noticing your chicken’s nesting boxes are empty in the mornings, it could be because of your hen’s age, the temperature, no nesting boxes, type of chickens, or they’re broody. That said, your hens are likely still laying eggs but could be hiding them in a nesting area outside of the coop.
Of course, it’s not funny if you rely on their eggs for breakfast every morning. Nothing is worse than going out to the nesting boxes, only to find no eggs, so your family will have to eat oatmeal that day.
Well, you’re not alone. Many chicken owners say their playing hide and seek with their chickens’ eggs.
But it’s important to note that your chickens are not actually trying to hide their eggs from you unless they’re brooding.
This behavior is happening for several reasons, and below are some of the most common reasons your chickens are laying their eggs outside of the coop.
#1 Shortage of Nesting Boxes
The first apparent reason is your hens do not have enough access to nesting boxes. It’s true that chickens will sleep huddled close together to keep warm.
When it comes to laying eggs, they need some personal space. According to the Hens Loft, you need one nesting box for every 3 to 4 chickens.
Of course, this number will differ depending on your chickens’ breed, size, climate, and age.
If there are not enough nesting boxes, your chickens will look for other places to lay their eggs. They will probably look for more nesting areas if the boxes are too small, they don’t feel safe or set up correctly.
That said, if your chickens have been hiding their eggs, and you finally got some nesting boxes, it will take time to train them to lay their eggs in the nesting boxes.
#2 Laying Hens Age
As hens age, they will naturally start laying fewer eggs. If you’ve had the same chickens for 6-7 years of age, they are likely not hiding their eggs.
Your old hen’s fertile egg laying days are behind her. She can still continue being a valued member of your flock, but she’s just retired from laying eggs.
If you and your family have come to rely on those eggs, you’ll need to invest in some new laying hens. Before buying, do your diligence, as different breeds lay better than others.
#3 Outside Temperature
If the temperature suddenly drops inside the chicken coop, your chickens will look for a warmer place to lay their eggs. The lower production of eggs won’t be noticeable initially, especially since it’s normal for chickens to lay fewer eggs in the winter.
Depending on where you live, the temperature can get freezing at night and warm up during the day. If your chicken coop is not insulated, it will be hard for your chickens to stay warm.
It will cause your laying hens to look for warmer spots to lay their eggs. Look for your eggs to nest in warm areas outside of the coop. Many chickens will lay their eggs in piles of leaves, tool shed, hay or straw bales, under shelters, or any other warm spot they can find.
Another thing that can cause your chickens to hide their eggs is the change in daylight. There are about 14 hours of daylight in the summer. Then it drops to about 11 hours in the winter, depending on where you live.
Daylight savings time can affect where your chickens lay their eggs, especially, if they are evening layers. Chickens will lay eggs in the daylight hours, so if they don’t have enough time to make it back to their nesting box, they’ll look for the most comfortable and safest place in your yard.
That said, it’s important to state that chickens will lay fewer eggs in the winter.
#4 Your Hens Are Broody
If your hen always lays eggs in the nesting boxes like clockwork and then stops, they are likely broody. It means your chicken is hiding the eggs from you because she wants to sit on them so they’ll hatch and have babies.
We all know that chickens don’t get sad if you take their eggs. However, some breeds brood more than others, such as Sussex, Cochins, Silkies, etc.
A broody hen will hide her eggs anywhere she can, such as in the garden. This Backyard Community member said she found her 30 hidden eggs from her Wyandotte Bantam in her garden.
If your chicken is broody, she will do everything she can to hide her eggs. Her only concern will be to protect her nest and hatching eggs.
#5 The Type of Chickens You Have
Most people who experience their chickens hiding their eggs are the owners of free-range chickens. Unlike chickens kept in a coop, free-range chickens will often hide their eggs out of natural habit.
Free-range chickens are more vulnerable to predators. Therefore they take the precautions of hiding their eggs.
As mentioned, chickens kept in a coop can also hide their eggs, especially if they have access to a door that allows them to come and go freely.
That said, it’s much easier to control chickens that are cooped as you can always lock them up at night and let them out in the morning.
With free-range chickens, you can’t watch them all the time, so you don’t always know what they’re doing or where they’re laying their eggs.
Chickens will hide their eggs, and while it can be frustrating. It’s likely due to any of the reasons above. You’ll have to find out what’s causing your chickens to hide their eggs before you can get them to lay them in the coop.
If you’re not finding eggs in the nesting boxes, you’ll want to search on all the obvious places, such as a pile of leaves, shady-out-of-the-way spots, under the house, or anywhere else that would make a suitable nesting area for your chickens.
Chickens lay eggs every day, so if they’re not in the coop, the eggs are somewhere in your yard. So it’s up to you to find them, and here’s where to look!