Monday, January 25, 2010

Winter: The egg-free season

Yes, it's just an egg. It's not a big deal to 99.9% of Americans who buy eggs 365 days a year without a second thought. However, almost eight years ago, we made the commitment to only eat our homegrown eggs, so an egg in January is a big deal to us. Chickens don't lay when the days get too short, so we don't usually have any eggs from December until March. The only reason they have eggs in the supermarket is because those chickens live indoors under artificial lights that fool their bodies into thinking that it's spring year round. Yes, we could artificially light our chicken house, but I figure that if Mother Nature says the girls needs a holiday, who am I to argue?

I've grown to love eating seasonally, and I find a lot of wisdom in it. When we're not doing much physically, we probably shouldn't be eating a lot of eggs. We probably should be eating more dried beans, cabbage, squash and root vegetables that store well for winter consumption and are low in fat and calories.

As you might recall, all of our old hens went down south in December and became stew hens. They were three to five years old and each averaging only an egg a week in summer. We have 47 New Hampshire red pullets that were hatched in September and will reach egg-laying age right about the time that the sun comes back in March. We also have two crossbred pullets that were hatched last spring. No doubt that is where this egg came from, as well as the other one that we found the next day. The good thing about being on an egg-restricted diet right now is that in March we will be drowning in eggs. We'll be eating creme brulee pie, French toast, quiche, pound cake, scrambled eggs, omelets, egg salad, and anything else we can imagine that contains eggs. After a month of eating eggs at meal after meal, we will get tired of them.


Heidi said...

"Yes, we could artificially light our chicken house, but I figure that if Mother Nature says the girls needs a holiday, who am I to argue?"

I love that. We do the same, but everything else I have read talks about how you can get your chickens to lay through the winter.

corinne said...

I have always felt the same way about putting lights on my girls, but last month (because we are in a bit of a financial slump and I am feeding 60 chickens with nothing to sell), I decided to try adding just a couple of hours in the morning and a couple hours in the evening I am now getting a couple dozen eggs a day....I hope the girls understand that everyone has to help out this year :(.

hippygirl said...

Mine are laying pretty good with no artificial light, but I think it's simply their age. They were all hatched last spring so they are still pullets. They did slow down and we were only getting about 4 eggs a day for a while, but yesterday we got 9, I think. We have 17 pullets.

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

Heidi, I've always been surprised by how much you see written about HOW to get your chickens to lay over the winter. I don't think I've seen anything written about whether or not you should, which always takes me back to Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park, who said, "You were so busy trying to figure out how to bring dinosaurs back, you never stopped to ask yourself if you should do it."

Corrine, I'm sure the girls understand. :)

I agree, Hippygirl. I think a lot of spring-hatched pullets will lay some over their first winter. I think breed or genetics might also play a role, because we've had some pullets that didn't lay through the winter.

Anonymous said...

Not sure what we are doing differently, but we've been getting at least an egg a day, if not more (sometimes we get three a day) all winter. We usually get one from the two year-old hens, and then another from either the 3 year-old bantem or young bantem. Who knows! It seems we have the strangest chickens here! LOL

erin @ from city to farm said...

I do think it's possible to have the right breed for your climate, and keep them stocked up on warm chicken bowls and protein (ours love venison and other odds 'n ends), and have eggs through the winter without lights.

Age definitely plays a part though!! We wouldn't ever use lights on ours, but I do think we'll cull at the two year mark (except for our favorites, gulp)..since they do slow down. Feed is just too expensive to do otherwise. Right now we have a mix of Red Stars and Buff Brahmas.


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