Egg collecting is an important activity for any backyard breeder. At VJP Poultry we collect at least two times a day. I collect in the morning when I am setting out the feed and letting them out of the coop into the run. I also collect in the late afternoon when I am changing out the water. If I am around I might do it midday as well. The more often you collect, the less chance you will have of eggs becoming dirty, broke or frozen. I find a traditional egg basket works well to get them safely in the house without becoming squished in my pocket.
Silkies do not usually use nest boxes. They will pick a corner of the coop and all of the hens will end up laying there. The broody hens will steal the eggs laid by others and keep them warm. This is wonderful when it is cold outside and you don’t want them to freeze. I then just check under all of the sitting broody hens and find the majority of the eggs. Wear gloves to keep from being pecked by them. Some may lay a few in the run, so be sure and check there as well.
It is important to keep the bedding in these nesting corners clean. I daily add clean bedding to those spots I know will have eggs. If you let your hens free range, you may want to wait until later in the day to let them out. Otherwise, they will lay their eggs in hidden spots in your yard and it will be difficult to find them all.
I mark every egg to show what color pen the egg came from. You could also write the date on them if you wanted. I just use a regular marker, but not a permanent one. They are then placed in egg cartons, pointy side down, and left in a cool, dry area. I put mine in my basement which stays a consistent temperature of 50 degrees. I tilt the egg cartons in the opposite direction each day so that they are not always in the same position. If you incubate, then you don’t want anything sticking to the sides of the shell.
I usually set eggs every five to seven days. Eggs that are dirty are not incubated but could be fed back to the chickens for extra protein. Dirty eggs cause bacteria to enter through the pores of the egg shell. You can use fine sand paper to scrape off some of the larger chunks. Do not wash eggs until you are ready to cook them as that will remove the protective bloom from the surface of the egg. If you have a question about whether an egg is too old to eat or not you could give it the float test. Place it in cold water. If it floats, it is old.
The environment can effect the frequency of egg laying. As daylight decreases so does egg production. You could set up a timer with a nightlight in your coop to increase the amount of light but I like to give my hens a break in the winter. They do need a dark period or their bodies get out of whack. Twelve to fourteen hours of light is sufficient.
Hens also take a break from laying when they are molting. Additional protein can help them recover from a molt. All the calories and protein are used to grow new feathers, so laying takes a back seat. Gamebird or meatbird food, lean meats, fish, scrambled eggs, BOSS sunflower seeds and flax seed all offer extra protein.
Silkies tend to go broody. When they do they will stop laying attempt to hatch a clutch. It may take several weeks for their hormones to settle down and get them back to laying.
One problem you may encounter is chickens eating the eggs that have been laid. In this case you need to hide the eggs from the view of the other silkies. A separate nesting box with curtains for privacy can do the trick and keep the other broodies from stealing the eggs.
Once you have eaten farm fresh eggs, it is hard to go back to grocery store quality. Silkies lay a medium sized, cream color egg. They will lay every day depending on the time of year and whether they are broody or molting. Hope you enjoy cooking and baking with your fresh silkie eggs.