Thursday 13 December 2012

Reviewing our first year with chickens

I have twelve gorgeous hens, they were born in April 2012, two days later I picked them up and moved them into our spare bedroom for the first few weeks.  Mick constructed our amazing hen house and run.  I had a wonderful time watching them this summer as they explored and scratched, ate up garden leftovers, devoured bugs, worms, grubs, snails, slugs...even a field mouse.  We waited in anticipation for the first eggs to appear, we waited and waited, and then September 7th it happened, our first egg.  Production started slowly, but the girls are hard workers and by the end of October we were getting anywhere from 6-10 eggs daily.

December eggs
Egg production is controlled by many different things, age of the hens, their health, moulting and one of the largest factors is the amount of daylight, you see, chickens are seasonal creatures, we are all seasonal beings in truth.  As the days get shorter nature tells them to slow down laying and take a break over the cold, dark months to direct their energy at keeping themselves warm until next Spring.  The constant stress of producing endless eggs will shorten the lifespan of a hen.  Those eggs you pick up at the grocery stores are from hens that are kept indoors with almost constant artificial light to force the girls into a state of continual laying...until...they...just...wear....themselves...out.  With intensively raised chickens this takes about 18 months when the hens are sent for slaughter and manufactured into all manner of things that don't really resemble a chicken at all.

My ladies have slowed down a bit in December, the daily number of eggs currently is 6-8 I expect that will slow down still more over the next month before picking back up in April.  I have heritage chickens, Barred Plymouth Rocks, Buff Orpingtons and Columbian Wyandotte hens, they are multi-purpose birds developed by small farms for decent egg production and as a nice plump bird for the table.  It does mean my egg production is not as high as the egg laying crosses, but in return they are gorgeous, funny and healthy.
We share our eggs with friends and family, but mostly, we enjoy them, any extras are cracked on the dogs dinner, lucky hounds.  We have eaten our eggs poached, fried, scrambled, baked and made omelette's,  lovely sauces, quiche, Yorkshire pudding, dutch baby, pancakes and yesterday I tried my hand at a sweet custard.
This gorgeous creation is my own Maple Baked Custard, delicious, trust me, I will be making this again

The whole experience with chicken keeping has been incredible, I can't believe I have lived in the country for almost 20 years before adding chickens to our yard.  I find myself gazing over the websites of poultry breeders contemplating adding a couple more breeds in the Spring, or, perhaps a trio of geese?
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