Patiently waiting for the eggs


It takes patience to be a chicken farmer.

Patience for the little fluffballs to grow up to laying age (around 16 weeks old or so). Patience for that first egg (it’s supposed to be around 16 weeks but can go anywhere from 14 to 20 weeks), that is if you’ve gotten a hen from your local chicken supplier and not accidentally a rooster. And patience in waiting every day for that wonderful shelled nugget that is produced by a fluffy bottomed hen.

I remember that first egg clearly that I received from my first group of birds. All of these birds had middle names of my grandmothers and were named Henrietta, Mildred, Eleanor and Gertrude.

It was Henrietta who laid the first egg. She was an ameraucana breed hen (white in feather color) and laid the prettiest blue/green egg. This was the egg that I found on that late summer day in 2015. Granted, this egg was crushed when I found it, but I was still so excited that all of the waiting had paid off.

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It would be weeks for the rest of the group to join Henrietta’s production, and soon, I had four eggs waiting for me to gather at the end of each day. This was wonderful. I could sell surplus eggs and pay for the feed that these birds gobbled up so eagerly.

This was a new enterprise until the days turned shorter and the weather turned colder. Suddenly, I was lucky to find one egg in the nest box let alone the original four. I was completely stunned. What had happened? Why weren’t they laying eggs? Grocery stores always have eggs. Why couldn’t I?

A few clicks to Google and I found out my answer quickly enough. Birds cease laying in the darker months because that’s not the time to raise young (what an egg is ultimately for).

Nature has its way of making sure that everything is given the best chance at survival, and hatching a young chick when the days are short would mean that the temperature would be less than cordial to a tiny peeping egg with feet.

Fast forward to today and I always know the inevitable drop-off in lay is going to happen each summer when the egg boxes are full of all sorts of colors of eggs (and yes, they all taste the same as a regular egg). I’m still always a bit shocked, though, when that trip to the barn suddenly yields four eggs instead of 22-plus.

I’ve tried to supplement with light, given them yogurt, given them cayenne pepper — any number of tricks I’ve read will increase laying, but the girls are persistent to have their winter break, and that’s just fine with me. My only frustration being that because the eggs are so good, I don’t always have them to sell to folks.

It won’t be long, though, before the days become longer and I walk again from the barn with a full egg basket. I eagerly wait for those days so that when someone asks to purchase, I have the right number of eggs just steps away from the house. I just have to have patience until then.

Stephanie Strothmann operates Purple Shamrock Farm in rural Seymour. Send comments to [email protected].

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