Wednesday, January 5, 2011

They are celebrating the New Year

Me and my chickens. I'm a bit wacky over them. I dote on my chickens in a way that makes real farmers no doubt shake their heads, roll their eyes and chuckle behind my back.

I obsess over them, too. I tallied and weighed every single egg my hens laid for their first year. After that first year, I merely tallied. If you look at the sidebar on my blog, you will see an annual egg count from the last three years for my girls. But, if you asked me nicely, I could also give you the monthly totals that include the precise number of eggs my lone white-egg-layer, Dottie, laid, as well as any unusual egg characteristics or chicken behaviors noted for each day. So, because I'm very ( to make this positive)(nope, there's just no other word for it) anal, I'm now able to look back over multiple years and see the trend in egg laying for the chickens of my small farm:

(Psst! The above is not my chart. But see?! There are even bigger chicken geeks out there than I am!)

Where was I? Oh yeah.
Now, December 2010 was a very slow month for egg laying here on Critter Farm. I do not provide any supplemental light in my coop, preferring that my chickens live under a more natural egg-laying cycle, so as the days have grown shorter, they do not receive the 14 to 16 hours of light daily that is needed for them to lay regularly. (Did you know that prior to egg farms and supplemental lighting, eggs were considered a seasonal item? Think about this for a second - it's staggering to think of how getting eggs only seasonally would impact our cooking/baking styles today, isn't it?)

Adding to the impact of less daily light, my chickens will also be three years old this March. Everything I've read tells me this is generally the time when a layer hen's prolific egg-laying begins to wane.

You can see that my December egg calendar supports these theories, as there were many more days marked with giant 0's than with an egg number:

My girls only laid twelve eggs for the entire month!

So you can imagine how happy it made me, then, when I realized that since January 1st, I've gotten an egg every single day:

(It's good to appreciate the small things, right?)

Good girls!

Yet while I've been delighting in my one-egg-a-day in 2011, I can't help but note the significant difference between my egg numbers today and where we were at this time in January of 2010 (14 eggs by January 5th) and in January of 2009 (26 eggs by January 5th). With this information, it's clear to see that what the literature states is indeed coming true... my babies have become hens who are no longer in their prime and their egg laying days are numbered.

But if you are a regular reader of my farm blog, you already know that I will continue to celebrate every single egg that comes out of that sweet, little coop at the bottom of our hill:

No matter how few or far between.


  1. I hear that chickens are good for the doldrums, and since I plan on finally getting mine this year, I guess I can look forward to having eggzactly the same kind of obsession.

    Which is what it is, you know.

  2. I love your chicken posts. :D

    I also have some 3 year old hens that are not producing many eggs this year. I was gifted with 10 beautiful young Light Brahma hens last month. They just started laying. Their eggs are a beautiful dark peach color. I find them laying eggs in the goat's hay feeders. I've gotten about 3 dozen eggs from them already this year. I guess I should count the eggs more carefully. :D

  3. Yes, you are chicken-crazy and a bit anal. Makes me feel good that I am not the most anal chicken mama in the world. You crack me up! My hens laid pretty regularly until they were about 5 years old. I did keep a light on a timer in their house during the winter months. It helped the egg production and also added some warmth during the cold nights. I set it to stay on for about 3 hours past sundown and 2 hours before sunrise to extend their daylight hours. I used a yellow bug light or a red heat lamp (on very cold nights) because I was told that a bright white light could make them go a little nutty. Not that chickens aren't already a bit nutty...Loved your post, Danni!

  4. Oh I love it! I have 7 hens who started laying around September of this year and I have weighed and logged every egg produced. I keep the data on a spreadsheet and scold anyone who dares bring in an egg and not write it down ("If you don't have time to log it, you don't have time to bring it in!"). I agree with you--no lights--let nature take its course. I'm glad the days are getting longer now though!

  5. Please let me help celebrate! I had never stuck my hand into a nest (and under a hen) to retrieve an actual, real, still warm, natural egg until I got to experience it one day on Critter Farm. I even had a little egg basket hanging on my arm -just like I had seen it in pastoral farm paintings.
    Well, seriously, I love your chickies almost as much as you do.

  6. So what are your plans . . . will you introduce a new batch in the spring?

  7. Love it! We are crazy about our chickens and their eggs too! It's so exciting. Variations in color, shape and size.

  8. Are you going to let any of them lay Danni! Maybe it's time to get some new blood and let the ladies retire!

  9. Danni, happy to see that the girls have gotten into the New Year spirit. So no more buying eggs at the moment.
    LiBBiE in Oz

  10. Yeah, um, nobody can tell you ever worked in IT project management. Really. *cough*


  11. You just crack me up. And George and Alan are honored to have been part of your 2010 record-keeping.

  12. Yes, number of eggs will fall off significantly, but your love for the chickens will not. :)
    You just won't have so many to share with others.

  13. my girls will be four years old in april and their laying power has dwindled considerably. i'm thinking about getting some chicks this spring but there's the small dilemma of incorporating them into the older flock. talk about hen pecked!

  14. Huh...I didn't know this about chickens. Now, I'll know where to go for egg laying facts when I finally get my bevy of chickens.

  15. Same think is happening on our farm. I actually had to, wait, you guessed it, buy eggs from a neighbor the other day. I refuse to buy from the grocery store when we have perfectly good eggs down the street. My hens are around 3 years old. I figure if they have laid eggs for me, they can live their lives happy from now on. I just cant bring myself to eat the girls. Theyre family! New chicks in the spring and then egggssssss...

  16. your egg posts are always a delight. Looking at your calender and all your eggs lined up and dated...your really into record keeping and data collection arn't you? Good thing you have a smallishh flock of hens. Otherwise you'd not have time to blog about it! You'd be busy all day measuring, weighing, and labeling! But I do find all your data very interesting and entertaining! Thanks for sharing!

  17. After what seemed like a never ending molt that started mid fall last year... we are now as of about a week ago seeing eggs again! We only have three girls all three are laying again pretty much daily. woowhooo...

    I was not happy about having to "studder" buy eggs!!

    Today I cooked them lentils and mung beans again! Boil water add dried lentils and mung beans. boil 5 minutes drain. rinse to cool. They love them and I read it was very good for them :O).

  18. Found your blog through Matt's blog. I'm trying to learn all I can about chickens for when we are finally able to have some of our own, so I would like to follow your blog.

    Hope you are all well!

  19. Oh Danni, what are you going to do? You know, I have some good cockerels to spare. Let's see, there's Muffin Jr, Leggy Jr, Brownie Jr, Blackie, Big Red, Ginger... Any color cockerel you want. I can put one on a plane if you can pick him up at the airport! And then you'll have babies from your ladies! :) There's nothing like your own chickies and then your ladies can take a breather from laying and you won't notice too much...
    Good luck, hope you don't have to actually BUY eggs or anything!!!


  20. you know there are some that think that those that are starting to leave the egg laying days are just start to rev up and reach their best......just sayin'........

    but I love that you appreciate your hens with or without eggs and that you do get joy out of each and every one :)

  21. I learn something from every post, Danni!
    I'm scared to ask what happens when chickens stop laying? Do they make good pets?

    I have just about stopped eating chicken completely bc of the trucks that haul chickens to the processing plant in our area. *shivers*

  22. So funny. I still don't have a scale.
    I bought 4 new pullets for my birthday, black copper marans, well they just started laying the most beautiful dark shelled eggs (some with speckles). Its nice to add a few to the flock and give the older gals a break.

  23. I simply love how you document egg laying at Critter Farm. And I love how you celebrate every single egg. The girls must simply love you. :)

  24. If I kept a calendar it would look like yours. Many more days with zero than not in the last 2 months. Mine are getting old too. I may need to get some chicks this spring.


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