The incredible, edible, disappearing egg?

Each year around this time, a strange phenomenon starts happening that involves disappearing eggs.

At least that’s what I thought was happening many years ago when I approached my first winter with backyard chickens.

I had gotten my first flock the end of February 2015 and waited with anticipation for the arrival of the first eggs. When eggs began to be produced by the hens in September of that same year, I relished the fact that each day, I was getting a solid four eggs — one egg for each hen I had.

Friends were enjoying the frequent gifts of fresh eggs, and I started selling any that didn’t get gifted. From September to October 2015, I had a regular egg factory. This chicken venture was going to actually pay for itself.

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Then one day in late November, I looked in the nesting boxes and didn’t see any eggs.

Thinking it was a fluke, I waited for the next day and checked the nest boxes. Still no eggs.

This went on for almost a full week. I would walk up to the coop to anxiously open the nesting box door and peer inside only to be met with the sight of bare straw and the occasional dropping.

I began to start looking at my surrounding neighbors suspiciously. Were they stealing eggs?

Why in the world would someone want to steal eggs from a nest box? Did they know something I didn’t? Were these eggs who people raved about a hot commodity among the neighbors, as well? Was I really becoming the crazy chicken lady who was starting to get crazy paranoid?

I began to take extra precautions around the nest boxes as day after day, I would collect just one egg (sometimes two) or discover no eggs in the nesting boxes. I was convinced there was an egg thief in the neighborhood, and I was going to stop the perpetrator in his or her tracks.

In desperation, I put a small lock on the chain-link gate that led into my backyard, grumbling about the inconvenience at not having quick access to my yard from where I parked my car. I complained, but I was convinced this was going to stop the thievery.

It is no secret I was raised in town with no real access to farm animals unless I was visiting a petting zoo, so it will come as no surprise to those reading who’ve been raised around chickens to know that in the winter, without supplemental light, hens’ laying cycles slow down considerably.

Of course, that is exactly what was happening, but it took an ask to a friend and an additional Google search for me to finally realize the hens in my backyard were doing precisely what they should be doing.

Hens do not lay as frequently, or sometimes at all, in winter because it is not the time to be hatching chicks, and the birds have more important things to use their energy on, like keeping warm.

All this being said, the birds can be “tricked” into laying more eggs by using supplemental light and warmth to make them think it’s still egg laying time, but over the years, I’ve decided to give them a break from the hard work of laying consistently through the warmer months.

After all, the original intention of hens laying eggs is to produce offspring, not to accompany the breakfast bacon, though that is a perk of having fresh eggs.

These days on the farm, I realize it is the passing of seasons to notice the nesting boxes holding fewer eggs as I collect them in the colder, darker, months of winter.

It is still frustrating not to have many eggs readily available, but I also know it won’t be long before the days become longer and the temperatures turn warm again. It is that hope that keeps farming worth doing it.

Until next time…

Stephanie Strothmann owns Purple Shamrock Farm LLC in rural Seymour. Read her blog at Send comments to [email protected].