Chicken or Egg?
The chickens new year starts before ours, on December 22 to be exact. Why, you’re wondering would a chicken be so aware of the date when they do not have a calendar hanging on the coop wall or a smart watch between them? They know the date because that’s the day the days start lengthening.
Chickens egg laying is dependent on the length of day. In the late summer/early fall they molt. Molting is not a pretty sight, they scatter feathers everywhere and wind up looking half plucked by the time they’re done. Frequently there’s one lone tail feather sticking up in a barren landscape of goose pimpled chicken skin.
While they moult they expend all their excess energy on growing new feathers instead of laying eggs, winter is coming and no one wants to be half bare when the winds start to blow and snow piles up outside the coop. Their nutritional needs grow as well, it’s takes more protein to grow feathers so they search out bugs, bugs, bugs all day.
Then while the days shorten they hunker down and just grow feathers so when December 22 comes they’re ready to lay. We went to one egg every other day or so from an early moulter to 4 and 5 a day this week. They’ll keep increasing their output until we get a dozen a day from our 15 hens.
It’s only a dozen from 15 because it takes 25 hours for an egg to be released, a shell formed around it and then laid. So every 24 days the girls take a day off and have extra time to dust bathe or weed eat or find more bugs.
We could bypass the moulting process and keep getting more eggs by circumventing nature. Giving them an extra high protein chicken feed, adding artificial light to the coop would force them to keep laying eggs but if we did that how much would the nutrition of the egg itself suffer? How much quicker would the hens be worn out and useless if they didn’t get an opportunity to have a month or two off to rest and recharge?
Large commercial operations are forced by economics to keep their hens laying as much and as long as possible but we can slide on the profits a bit here. The chickens have other uses around the farm so if for a month or two every year we carry them we think it’s worth it.
An egg recipe for summer when we have abundant eggs.
Vanilla Egg Custard
¾ cup sugar
2 ½ cups milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
Cinnamon or nutmeg
In a 2 quart oven safe casserole dish mix eggs, sugar, milk and vanilla. Sprinkle top with cinnamon or nutmeg.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 60 minutes or until nothing sticks to a knife inserted into the center of the custard.