Monday, March 26, 2007

Egg season

'Tis the season for . . . eggs! During January and February, the chickens pretty much shut down egg production. There will be an egg every few days, but most of the girls are on holiday. I try not to mention it around others who have chickens, because many of them will say (as if I have no idea) that I should light my hen house, so they'll keep laying. I, however, figure that if Mother Nature says they need a break, who am I to argue?

So, we are paid back in March and April when we get dozens and dozens of eggs. The girls are laying about 16 dozen a week now, have been for the past two weeks and will probably kick up production a bit more in the next week or two. Then in the summer they'll level off to about half as much. We have plenty of customers (sometime more than we need) during the summer, but during the spring, we have lots more eggs than customers. So, we eat a lot of eggs. Last night we had a creme brulee pie and brownies. Tonight we're having a quiche (also made with our own goat milk and chevre) and more brownies.

We'll be putting some eggs in the incubator soon. Last fall, I decided that we should be hatching our own replacement layers. After all, can you call yourself sustainable if you have to buy more chickens every year? I don't think so. Of course, half the chickens will be roosters, so they'll be dinner. We haven't used the incubator in a few years, but I think it holds about 40 eggs or so. That'll provide us with 20 new hens and 20 chicken dinners.

As for the rest of the birds, one of our buff geese is making a beautiful nest in the front yard. She had seven eggs in there yesterday. We couldn't check this evening because she was sitting on the nest. I doubt she's ready to start officially setting, although it is kind of late in the day to be laying an egg.

The ducks haven't started laying at all. We were just discussing their age -- they're five this year! Maybe ducks don't lay that many years? They did lay a little last year, but not as much as in previous years. One hatched two ducklings, but no one else even sat.

The turkeys haven't started laying either. It just occurred to me that if we follow their schedule, we probably won't have poults until June. I'm not sure that's a good idea for selling Thanksgiving turkeys. The turkeys won't be as big as most people want. Sounds like the family will have to have another discussion about the turkey business. Maybe we'll raise turkeys for Christmas, rather than Thanksgiving. That would give them another month to mature. As much as some people say they want to support a family farm or they want natural meat, they are spoiled by getting what they want, when they want it, even if it could not possibly be produced naturally in this part of the country at that time. Educating customers is a big part of what we do, but some people simply do not want to be educated. They just want what they want -- period.

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