Chickens, no doubt, are marvelous creatures with feelings. They can recognize up to 100 faces! But, do hens get sad when you take their eggs?
The short answer is no, hens do not get sad when you take their eggs out of the nesting boxes. For chickens, egg-laying is an instinctive animal behavior. However, if the egg is laid by the hen (or the female chicken) for the sole purpose of the egg eventually becoming a baby chick, things can get tricky.
The Instinctive Ritual
Collecting eggs is an egg-citing time! Arguably, one of the best parts of owning chickens is the farm-fresh meal every morning. Scrambled eggs, eggs benedict, poached eggs, oh my! Omelet and quiche taste fresher than ever when they are made with your hens’ eggs!
Most families want to get chickens because it helps them save money at the grocery store. Maybe you’re wondering how many chickens your family needs to produce the right amount of eggs?
Chickens are animals of instinct. At dawn, the rooster crows and leads the flock out of the coop or hen house to start the day. At dusk, the rooster leads everyone back into the shelter for the night. A hen’s instinct? Eggs.
Most breeds of chickens lay eggs daily, and other birds will only lay once or twice a year. For chickens, it’s instinct. Their laying, however, depends upon how many hours of daylight they are getting. They need about 14 hours to lay regularly.
What About the “Egg Song”?
Each time a hen lays an egg, she sings a very distinctive “egg song”. Some breeds do it more often and louder than others.
The very familiar, “bawk bawk bawk ba kaw” is a call that is highly recognizable among chicken owners and flock members. There are many theories as to why the hen sings this song after laying an egg.
Some hypotheses point to the hen simply being proud of herself for pushing out the egg, others say the hen is protecting the egg, and some think that the hen is calling out to her flock to find them since she is all done laying. It is also possible that the hen is letting the rooster know she has finished.
However, does this egg song mean the hen is happy that she has laid an egg and will be sad if you take it away? No! Usually, after a hen has laid, she is tired and needs to refuel.
Sometimes, it can take an hour or more to lay that egg! She will venture down from the nesting box to eat some food and get some water. Don’t let the joyous song mislead you! Your farm fresh breakfast is safe, guilt-free!
As discussed, after a hen lays, she will typically leave the nest to rejoin the flock in some worm-digging and dust-bathing activities after refueling. When the hen leaves her egg, it is perfectly safe to take the egg away without concern that it will make her sad. In fact, it is believed that the hen forgets all about the egg after she walks away from it.
Typically, female chickens in the wild will lay anywhere from 12 to 14 eggs in the same area before she even sits on them about two weeks later. While she is collecting, she loses count and will not realize that they are gone. Smaller breeds of chickens, called bantams, will usually sit on fewer eggs, called a clutch. Their entire body needs to be able to cover the clutch to properly incubate each egg for hatching.
It should be noted that with tame hens, even while they are still sitting on the egg after it was been just laid, you should be able to reach your hand right under her fluffy breast to take the egg without being pecked at.
As mentioned, hens will usually lay with the intent to collect a clutch of about 12 eggs. Once they reach this goal, the plan is to sit on them for about 21 days to incubate them until they hatch.
When a hen decides to sit on her clutch, this is called going broody. A broody hen stays in the nesting box pretty much all day, only leaving a few times a day to get some water, food, and to stretch her legs. She hurries back to the nest to tend to her incubating.
Broody hens are typically very protective of their clutch and can be mean to other flock members, chasing them around. A broody hen will fluff her feathers to make herself appear larger and will sometimes even pluck out her chest feathers to better incubate her eggs by promoting skin on egg body heat.
You’ll know that your hen is broody if she is sitting in the nesting box for most of the day, and when you remove her, she is back in there within 5 minutes. This is instinctual.
Broody hens are known to growl at you if you disturb her and may even peck at you if she becomes upset. While she is on the nest and you approach, she will puff up, flatten her back, and her tail will fan out to try to protect the eggs.
With a broody hen, she may become sad if you take away her eggs. Once a hen becomes broody, she has her mind set on hatching eggs. She has already stopped laying eggs to prepare to incubate eggs and then care for the chicks once they hatch. Interfering with this process could upset and sadden your hen.
If you do not want to allow your hen to hatch out chicks and you want to avoid having a sad hen, the best thing to do is to prevent her from becoming broody. Collect the eggs daily, before your hen before your hen has the opportunity to begin collecting a clutch.
It should be noted that sometimes, some hens will go broody while they are not sitting on any eggs because you have collected them prior. This will run its course.
Will My Hens Be Upset With Me For Taking Their Eggs?
Your hen will not be upset with you if you take her eggs. In fact, like previously stated, she may not even notice that they are gone, especially if she has no intention of hatching out chicks any time soon. This is all chicken biology and instinct.
Broody vs. Not Broody
However, you may come across an angry hen if you attempt to take away her eggs while she is broody. She may not just be sad if you take away her eggs, but she may become angry with you.
It has been found that chickens are capable of feelings and emotions and even illicit emotional, physiological, and behavioral responses to certain stimuli. For a short time, a broody hen may express anger by pecking at you if you go near her eggs.
Some hens will instinctually lay her eggs in a secret spot in the chicken coop, or, if you free range your chickens, in the yard.
It is not uncommon for a hen to randomly go missing for a few weeks, and then return one day with a bunch of baby chicks following behind her. Be sure to check areas in the coop or yard where a hen may think to hide eggs to collect them as well.
A Final Word
Under normal circumstances, you will not make your hen sad if you take away her eggs. Chickens lay eggs out of routine and instincts and, unless that hen is laying on a clutch of eggs in an attempt to hatch them into baby chicks, she will not be heartbroken if you take them for a delicious breakfast.
Pro Tip: Be sure to always avoid taking eggs out from under a hen to avoid having her even notice that the egg is gone and to ensure that you do not have a broody hen on your hands!