I’ve been around chickens and laying hens my whole life (40 plus years) and it’s only been within the last couple of months that I’ve actually seen a hen lay an egg.
Either I have a strange hen, or I have been ignorant my whole life. I thought the hen sat peacefully on her nest, laid her egg and then got up, sang her song and went about her business.
This particular hen does indeed sit on her nest. But as her time approaches, she actually stands up and assumes a squatting position. Immediately a woman in labor came to mind when I first saw her do this. I have seen pictures and read arguments that a woman in labor who stands and squats to give birth actually has an easier time, since she is employing gravity to help her.
Several months ago I witnessed this hen’s egg laying procedure by accident. At the time I wasn’t sure what I’d just seen. She was facing me in the nest, squatting, and as I glanced at her, an egg rolled into the nest from behind. I did a double take. But I was unsure if she had been rearranging the eggs already there or if she’d just laid one. After a minute or two she did her little song and vacated. I was puzzled.
Yesterday, my 11 year old son, Isaiah, and I were in the barn tending to the goats. There are several nests in the barn, and this hen was in one and had risen up into a squat. She was a little funny looking because the nest is in a cabinet, so she was hunched up as well to avoid hitting her head, it seemed.
“Watch,” I told him. “I bet you didn’t know hens stood up to lay eggs.”
“I did not,” he said, peering at the hen. She was in profile to us, and we could just make out the tip of the egg protruding.
“This is kinda gross,” he said absently, not taking his eyes off the hen.
In less than a minute the egg emerged, shiny and wet, dropped and rolled into the nest.
“I just saw a chicken get born,” he said. I did not point out that the chick still needed to be hatched.
“Gah,” he said, with much relief. “At least it wasn’t a woman having a baby. You can’t unsee something like that.”
I suppressed a laugh. He had also made the connection between the hen’s posture and a woman’s labor.
It is his job to gather the eggs. Understandably, with a mixture of disgust and maybe some reverence (who knows with 11 year old boys?) he waited a few minutes to let this one dry off.