Oops, I forgot to collect the eggs. It happens to everyone who has chickens. We forget to make the rounds from time to time. We take a weekend trip, go on vacation, or go to Grandma’s house for Christmas.
Depending on the time of year and temperature, this may not be a big deal. Other times it is.
A lot of the answer depends on location, size of the flock, size of the chicken yard, are the chickens confined, do they free range, are the chickens in a rural or urban area?
In summer, eggs can spoil rather quickly. If an egg has been fertilized by a rooster, they will start to develop when temperatures reach around 99-100 degrees Fahrenheit. Or say, July and August daytime temps in some areas.
Want to talk about gross? Crack an egg for morning breakfast and a partially developed embryo comes out, or it is full of blood rather than a yoke.
When eggs start to rot, gases build up inside. Rather than cracking, they explode. One that is very rotten will have a foul order to it. When it explodes, it will sound like a 22 caliber rifle. The stench will linger for hours, regardless of how many times you wash with soap and water.
Hiding the Nest
Some chickens will hide them. Just because laying boxes are in the chicken house does not mean all the hens are going to use them. When it comes to laying, chickens are some strange creatures. Even though they have laying boxes available and a chicken house, they will sneak off and lay a bunch of eggs.
Sometimes a hen will hide her eggs so she can hatch them out.
Sometimes a hen will lay a bunch of eggs and leave them to rot.
One of my hens was walking around two hundred yards from the chicken house to lay a batch. She made this trip almost daily for around 10–14 days. I saw her making the trip and was wondering what she was doing. After looking around, I found her eggs under a tarp. She seemed to have abandoned the nest and has not gone back.
This has not happened to me as it rarely gets below freezing for very long here in Southeast Texas.
Where the temperature stays below freezing for long enough, the egg will freeze and the shell will crack. When it thaws, the yoke seeps through the cracks, which makes a mess.
For some reason, leaving eggs in the chicken house will make some breeds go broody.
Broody is when a hen enters a mothering phase. She will sit on the eggs hoping to hatch them. The hen will stop laying and will focus all of her time and energy to sitting. She will only get up long enough to relieve herself, eat, drink, and then back on the nest she goes
Chicken farmers who want eggs do not like broody hens as they stop laying while sitting. If all someone wants is egg production, a broody hen is frowned upon.
One way to prevent a hen from going broody is to keep the eggs collected.
Leaving eggs in the chicken house has the potential to draw in predators such as raccoons and chicken snakes.
I have found some of my eggs close to 150 yards away from the chicken house broken open and eaten. This is usually done by a raccoon.
Chicken snakes, sometimes called a rat snake, will consume eggs and baby chicks. Full grown chickens are not the menu. Snakes will slither into the chicken house around dusk, swallow whatever they can, then slither back outside to their hiding place.
Not a Simple Answer
When someone asks what happens when the eggs are not collected for a few days, the answer is not as simple as it seems.
If you want to do your part to keep predators out of the chicken house, keep the eggs collected.
If you want hens to go broody, leave some in a certain nest. I like my hens to go broody. That means less chicks I have to buy next year.
Overall, collecting the eggs daily improves the hygiene of the chicken house.