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 (hmmmm....how 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?)
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.