On egg season

img_7859“Lady, I don’t care WHAT you have in that bowl.  I am not coming out into that snow,” says Pauline. Or maybe she’s just photo shy because she looks so shabby?

Eggs are seasonal commodities in the farmyard.  It is true that we’ve bred chickens in such a way that we encourage a long laying cycle, and my girls are definitely commercial-quality laying hens.  But once we get less than 14 hours of daylight a day and/or the temperature drops to freezing, even the eggiest bird cries Uncle*.

This makes sense.  Egg production takes a lot of energy, and it’s now really cold outside.  (If given the choice of staying warm or laying eggs in the dark and cold, which would you choose?)   Similarly, the majority of the girls have just passed their second season, so all five of these two-year-olds are moulting.  Feather making takes energy too, especially in the winter.   So we have some mighty foolish looking birds strutting around the snowy henyard right now.  The only ones sporting every feather are Beatrice (the oldest) and Patty (the baby).

The pinch-hitting guineas, who are also two years old, are moulting too.  They give Pauline a run for her money in terms of looking mangy.  I was going to relocate these three guineas to the freezer but I really should do it when they’ve got their feathers:  plucking pinfeathers is not what I call a fun time.  Unlike the chickens, egg-laying in guineas is definitely seasonal:  usually from April to September, then fuhgeddabout an egg until next year.  If you can find where they lay them, that is.

So the seasonality of it all is hitting me, right when I get antsy to make some pies and custard.  Darn.  I will just have to wait, cease our usual breakfasts of eggs, and start getting stingy.  I’m getting an egg a day now, which means I can have a cake in 3 days, a custard in 6…

*Of course there are things we can do to increase production.  We can trick them by keeping a light on in their coop at night, as exposure to a single bulb will have them thinking spring is here again.  We can keep them in the coop year-round, with the lights on:  with just one light the coop stays above freezing.  But, well, why push it?  I will just hoard eggs and put a light on in the coop for these extreme cold nights (like last night when it dropped down to 10*).

11 responses to “On egg season

  1. Yes, I’d rather not trick them and just hoard the eggs. We’ve recently lost another so we’re down to three. My husband wanted to lock them in the coop for the rest of the winter because he’s heart broken over another lose but that’s even worse I think.

  2. The fact that eggs are seasonal was a surprise to me when I first lived with chickens. I was a city kid- eggs came from the grocery store year round.
    I think grocery store food should come with disclaimers.

  3. I guess I wouldn’t want to trick them either. But I hope those poor, naked birdies stay warm!! Even if you do have to leave the light on.

  4. Our Easter Egger tends to take her break in the fall and start laying again about this time. The Marans is done til spring, though!

  5. We’ve opted for the same strategy with our hens. Just like us they are born with a set number of eggs. I figure we will eventually get them anyway and it is silly to stress their bodies during the hardest months.We are not looking to replace our chickens every year or two. So – no eggs from them for well over a month now, but we got winter squash!

  6. You can work around the stressing their natural rhythms if you freeze the eggs when there is an abundance. It’s simple and quick, just stir them a bit to break the yolk and then into freezer bags or containers marked with how many.

    They defrost quickly and unless your heart is set on a hard boiled egg or any variation thereof, such as deviled eggs, you are good to go.

  7. We’re in the 2 egg a day phase around here. With 16 hens, 12 of them less than a year I thought we’d be holding better going into deep winter, but I guess not. I’ve been hoarding them in the fridge in anticipation of this week. Mike keeps wanting to give them away and I keep protesting!

    They’re getting their first really cold night tonight so I see eggless days in our near future.

  8. Geez,That chicken coop looks like a Ritz Carlton compared to my uncles outhouse at his old hunting camp in Canisteo,N.Y..

  9. Alecto, that’s horrible. I was pretty shaken up when I lost my 2nd bird and it led me to installing Ft. Knox: a chicken run with wire atop it. Granted the chicken run was 4′ tall and we get 2′ of snow here so I actually would get in there, do the limbo, and shovel the girls a path so they could get away from the coop if they chose. Anyway, what is it that has been getting them, raccoons again? Or is it hawks? My bedevilment is hawks. Last year I strung deer netting over the entire huge chicken run which prompted Tom to call it The Batting Cage. Of course a slow steady wet snow came and collapsed it one day…but not before the hawk had somehow magically gotten in there one morning. The girls were all still in their coop. I came outside, saw the thing, went back in the house and grabbed the nearest thing I could find, which was an expensive sautee pan, and I…took a swing. (Batting cage, you know. In my bathrobe and slippers.) Ain’t nothing going to get my girls if I can help it. Anyway, Ali at Henbogle installs a pretty nifty chicken run of PVC pipe and plastic on top of it so her girls don’t freeze and stay safe.

    Pamela, I think grocery store food DOES: it’s called the unpronounceable ingredients list. Too bad people think that if companies can sell the stuff, it must not be too bad to eat.

    CC: They do pretty well, nekkid and all. They hang out in their condo most of the day and then the coop is pretty swanky too. No dirt baths for them though poor babies.

    Rurality, I am glad to hear you still have your two girls. That’s been a long time for you, considering what luck you have had living in Critterville! (Still envying your Crittercam, too, especially since the deer readily bonk into the turkey/goose pen: I would love to see how those idiots do that.

    Dang, Maya, I am in the same boat! So many squash, so little time. I suppose I thought the same thing when I was flush with eggs. Squash, though, is showing up in all manner of dishes lately, usually disguised…too bad I can’t make a squash souffle!

    K, wise one, I should really give that a try next year. I seem to only want eggs when I don’t really have them, like now. It’s really just an immediate baking hurdle I need to bridge, and if I had just 6 eggs downstairs the cakes would be baked and off my list of things to do before Thursday. Sigh!

    Oh Laura…I am a giver-away of eggs too and I feel kind of sheepish around my usual recipients lately. This truly is the first time I have really hit rock bottom and it makes me think I need to go into next winter with a few more pullets. Then I stop myself and say I am crazy (as I am).

    John, Taj Mahal was more what I was aiming for 🙂 but thanks. The girls really don’t expect something so elaborate but their owner sure does.

  10. I’m with ya on the egg scene. We get one or two a day, from six hens, with only natural light. We have tried a winter of pushing them to produce, keeping the lights on for 14 hours and pumping the grain to them. But it got to be too expensive, for us at least, and the hens were wore out by spring.

    So no puddings or rich egg cakes here, at least for now. I have been using mashed pumpkin or applesauce in cakes and cookies to make up for the lack of eggs. I can get away with one egg in a recipe, and end up with a delicious result. It’s all about being creative in the kitchen when you live seasonally!

    We want to try ducks for winter egg production. Afterall, they have fat under their skin, and down feathers, and they will eat hay (or late and early weeds) along with their grain, which is easier for us to come by.

  11. Freija, I have been trying the pumpkin trick too, how funny! (I usually get into the applesauce later in the season when the pumpkins are all gone, or gone mushy, usually around mid-Jan.) Yeah, I have also found that I have been able to get by using less eggs but I do miss them. I think it really depends on the kind of ducks you get if you aim for winter production. We raised three meat ducks this year and my only complaint about them was they were terrible slobs. If you can keep them separate from your chickens life stays a lot cleaner (they like to get their food wet so there’s mud everywhere). Our geese get things muddy too but somehow three geese are still tidier than 3 ducks, which I found astounding. I’m still going back and forth about the idea of doing egg ducks (most likely Anconas) so we’ll see about next year. Considering how much I miss those eggs…and the fact that the goose is too young to lay…hmm.

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