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How Often Should You Collect Eggs from your Chicken Coop?

In addition to feeding your chickens and giving them fresh water daily, you'll also need to collect their eggs. But is once a day enough?

You've successfully raised your flock from baby chicks to laying hens. You have experienced the immense joy and sense of satisfaction from collecting your first egg. 

And now you're probably wondering, how often should you collect eggs from your chicken coop?

Collecting eggs from my chicken coop is the highlight of most days! 

I always leave that until last - until after I've let my girls out, said good morning to them all, given everyone a quick once-over to be sure they all look okay, filled their feed trays and given them fresh, cool water - only then do I peek into each nesting box to look for eggs. 

More than 12 years since I started raising chickens again as an adult it is still so exciting and such a joy to reach into a box to pull out a warm, freshly laid egg.

When Do Chickens Lay Their Eggs?

Understanding when hens generally lay their eggs, and how often they lay is important in determining the timing of checking for eggs. 

Since most of the time chickens will lay their eggs either in the early morning or mid morning, usually within 6 hours of sunrise, sometimes there are already eggs when I open up the coop, but other times the boxes are empty. 

But generally by late morning-ish, nearing noon time, most of my hens are done laying for the day, so I always make sure to go check for eggs around lunch time.

But is collecting eggs from your chicken coop once a day enough? Maybe not.

How Often Should You Collect Eggs from Your Chicken Coop?

Although unwashed, fresh eggs will stay perfectly good to eat for a week or two out at "room temperature" on your kitcen counter, since the environment (and temperature) in your coop likely isn't quite as constant, eggs shouldn't be left outside overnight if you can help it. 

The fluctuating temperatures between daytime and nightime outside in a chicken coop will cause the egg to age faster and not stay fresh as long, as well as deteriorate the quality. 

If condensation forms on the outside of an egg, that destroys the integrity of the "bloom" which is the invisible coating on the shell that protects the inside of the egg from air and bacteria entering.

While theoretically eggs left for a couple of days in the coop, or if you find them laid outside in random places, are likely just fine to eat (pop them into a glass of water and do the "float test" if you're not sure how old they are), realistically it's best to collect them as soon as feasibly possible.

Collecting eggs from your chicken coop should absolutely be a daily chore along with everything else, but there are a couple of reasons why you really want to be collecting eggs twice, or even three times, a day.

As I mentioned earlier, since you're already in the coop letting the chickens out, checking for eggs first thing in the morning makes sense. 

But you'll likely find that most of your hens haven't laid their eggs yet, so checking again around lunch time will likely reap you more eggs in your basket. 

Then when you lock the coop up at night, it's a good idea to check once again - I mean, you're there, so why not do one last check. I generally check for eggs a minimum of three times a day. 

Reasons to collect eggs from your chicken coop more than once a day

Collecting Eggs to Discourage Broody Hens

Leaving eggs in the nesting boxes for a prolonged period of time might encourage one or more of your hens to go broody, meaning they decide to sit on the eggs for 3 weeks in order to hatch them. 

Unless you want to add chicks to your flock, you likely don't want to encourage a broody hen, so collecting eggs frequently is a good idea. 

A hen usually won't start sitting on eggs full time until she has about a dozen eggs under her, but depending on how many hens you have, it won't take them long to amass that many (especially since hens all seem to like to lay their eggs in the same box!) so making sure you don't let the eggs pile up in that one nest can deter broodiness from setting in.

Collecting Eggs to Prevent Broken Eggs

Not collecting eggs regularly can also lead to broken eggs. 

In addition to broody hens jockeying for position in the nest with another hen trying to lay her egg, multiple eggs in a nest are more apt to get jostled and accidentally broken as another hen hops in to lay her egg or knocked out of the nest and breaking on the coop floor

No one wants broken eggs, so checking boxes regularly can help prevent that. 

Collecting Eggs to Discourage Egg Eaters

Often, broken eggs in a nest can lead to unauthorized egg eating by the chickens as well, which is a really bad habit that you want to prevent if at all possible. It can be hard to "cure" the bad behavior once the chickens get a taste of the eggs. So you want to prevent egg eating if at all possible.

The longer you let eggs sit in the nests, the more chance of accidentally broken eggs and the greater chance a hen might get curious and peck at the egg, break and eat it.

Collecting Eggs to Prevent Stolen Eggs

Eggs left in nesting boxes can also attract other animals who like to eat eggs including snakes, rats, crows, bluejays, skunks, possums, raccoon or even your own pet dog!  

It can prove to be just too attractive for them to leave alone, and once they get the taste of an egg, they'll keep coming back for more. So getting the eggs out of the nesting boxes quickly can prevent stolen (and eaten) eggs.

Collecting Eggs to Keep them Clean

Fresh eggs will stay fresher longer, and also don't need to be refrigerated, as long as they haven't been washed. So clean eggs are important - no one wants to leave poop- or mud-covered eggs on their kitchen counter or in the fridge.  

Here in Maine, after winter comes mud season, which means that the chickens feet are covered in mud for several weeks each spring. They track the mud into the coop and nesting boxes and of course any eggs in the boxes when they hop in to lay their egg will also get covered with mud.

As each hen adds her egg to the box, any mud, dirt or poop on her feet is likely being deposited on the other eggs already in the box. So the more frequently you collect eggs, the better.

Collecting Eggs In the Winter

Eggs left in a coop that's below 32 degrees will freeze and eventually crack. Cracked, frozen eggs might prove tempting to your hens and lead to egg eating. 

Cracked eggs also run the risk of being contaminated with any bacteria on the shell or in the bedding, so optimally you will want to check for eggs every few hours in the winter if you live in a very cold climate.

Since we don't light our coop in the winter, egg production slows down to a trickle, which is okay with me, because then I don't need to make the trek to the coop through the snow every couple of hours! 

Collecting Eggs In the Summer

Eggs age and bacteria grows more quickly in extremely warm temperatures. Even here in Maine where summers aren't terribly hot, our coop can get up to 100 degrees very quickly on a warm, sunny day.

Checking for eggs before the warmth of the day sets in is important in the summer. And collecting eggs several times a day in the summer is a good idea to preseve the integrity of the egg and not allow it to spoil. 

Also, if you have a rooster, there's a good chance that your hens' eggs have been fertilized and even without a hen sitting on them, could very well start to develop in sustained temperatures near 100 degrees.

What about If you Miss a Day or Two Collecting Eggs?

Life happens. Maybe you're sick or have to work overtime. Maybe you go away for the weekend. Or just plain forget? So just how bad is it to miss a day or two collecting eggs. Honestly. It's not a big deal.

Likely in a few days eggs won't get broken or eaten, a rat won't sneak in and steal them. They won't hatch into chicks, and your hens won't go broody. As long as it hasn't been super cold, the eggs didn't freeze and crack or become contaminated with salmonella. 

Worst case, a few eggs might be broken or dirty.

So... if you want to err on the side of caution, toss them. They can go right into your compost pile. Or feed them to your dog. 

But personally, I would just check them over carefully for any cracks which can mean bacterial has entered the egg, and then use them first, making sure to cook them completely. 

So to summarize.

You should collect eggs from your chicken coop a minimum of once a day. During periods of extreme heat or cold, chicken three or even four times a day is a good idea. 

And realistically, checking once when you open the coop, once midday and once when you lock up takes minimal effort and will likely result in cleaner - and fewer broken - eggs. 

Ideally, you will wait until the hen is done laying her egg before reaching under her, but be sure to check not only the unoccupied boxes but also under hens sitting in the boxes. 

While the hen might be actively laying her egg, it's also possible that she's sitting on additional eggs that should be collected. 

And here's one last tip. When you hear your girls clucking up a storm, cackling and yodeling, that's their "egg song" and it usually means that someone has just laid an egg. 

So that's their secret code for you to go check for eggs!

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