A clutch of 20 eggs well hidden on the ground, apparently abandoned. Discovered when cutting back cotoneaster in our garden.
No interactions present.
There is no reason to believe that they had been abandoned at this time of year (although they will be now), the "clutch" is probably incomplete.
20 eggs is most likely to have been the efforts of more than one hen, especially as they seem to be of 2 different colours.
10-15 would be a more normal clutch for one bird.
Is it normal for more than one hen to lay eggs in the same nest? That's not something I'd considered.
It isn't normal, as such, but isn't uncommon. Because the birds and hens in particular, hold no real territory, it is entirely possible that more than one hen could choose the same spot to nest, especially if suitable nest sites are in short supply.
At some stage either the total clutch will put the bird(s) off the idea of using the nest and/or starting incubation, or one hen will start incubation and then there will be an argument over whose nest it is.
Clutches of 15+ from a single hen are not uncommon, but how many they might hatch must be debatable.
There must be evolutionary advantage to producing large clutches, otherwise they just would not do it. BUT, the species is native to areas that have springs and summers generally warmer and drier then the UK and the fact that the huge majority of stock is derived from game farms means that there will be a selection for birds that produce large numbers (if not large clutches) of eggs - they will simply produce more offspring when farmed.
How many chicks a hen could successfully brood and to what age, even if she hatched them, is another question entirely.
Egg colour and pattern are very consistent from any one individual bird in the huge majority (all?) species, so if you see eggs of variable appearance in one clutch/nest, you can bet good money that more than one hen is involved.
Thanks for the info, I'm now better informed!
Lat/Lng: 51.3, -1.0
OS grid ref: SU7564