Our customer base for our eggs is like most businesses – our regulars, our occasionals and our drop-ins. Some of our customers understand the egg production process and others are surprised.
We are often asked how we can get eggs from our hens without a rooster. Really? You are really asking that question? Okay, let’s do sex education 101 here. The hen will lay an egg every 26 hours. The reproductive system starts forming the new egg once an egg has been laid. The entire cycle take 26 hours. The hen’s body does not care if a rooster is present or not. The rooster is only necessary to fertilize the egg if we want to hatch more chicks. Want the eggs to eat? No rooster, no need to worry about scrambling a fertilized egg.
Yeah, the hens went on strike this week. No, but their body may have. After about ten months of laying eggs the hens go into a molt season. They lose a lot of their feathers, their bodies take a break, and then, they go back into the business of laying eggs. Of course, all the hens don’t molt at the same time because the all didn’t start laying eggs on the dame day.
We have Rhode Island Red hens. This breed usually starts laying eggs at around five months old. Ad, although we would like to think the entire group of hens that we purchased were born on the same day, they probably weren’t. And just like other mammals, their body cycle may be faster or slower than the norm. So they might start laying eggs a few days earlier than their feathered sisters and may go into molt sooner or even later than the rest of the hens in the coop.
One thing is for sure, I see a drop in the number of eggs that I collect each day. Once the molt is over, normal production is resumed.
Every 18 months or so we purchase another set of chicks. Even though we are still getting eggs, with each molt the hens produce less eggs. So, we may get 14 eggs a day from a young group of hens, the number of eggs that we collect each day can drop significantly after the first year and each year thereafter.
We could cull the hens by removing the ones that are not producing or have slowed down, or we could just add more hens. Rhode Island Reds do make good eating hens, but, they need to be culled by the time they are three years old. Otherwise the meat may be stringy but still make good soup!
The weather can also affect the ability of the hens to lay. We keep a light on during the winter to simulate longer days. We also keep the temperature in the coop above freezing. This has helped with continued egg production during the winter. We have a fan in the coop for the sticky, hot summer nights as well. But continued storms or high winds also affect the hens and drop egg production.
So, in all, we try to keep our hens happy so they produce almost an egg a day, but weather and their normal body functions will sometimes cause a decrease in production. It’s just the nature of things!
KeiLin Farm, a producer of farm fresh beef and eggs, as well as premium hay, is located in Rose Township, Michigan and is in the process of acquiring the required licenses to become a small wine maker.