Chickens on Vacation

6 Jan

Our black bantam hen lays tiny white eggs.

Our hens have been on vacation for about two months, but they are just starting to get back to work.  I have been checking their nesting boxes about every 3 days and yesterday I found a small pile of eggs, that appear to be from two different hens.  Yea!  Its about time, I actually had to BUY eggs the other day. Now that they are laying again, I’ll be checking the nesting boxes everyday.

If you have never had chickens you might not be aware of some interesting (or maybe, not so interesting) practices chickens stick to.

Hens take vacation from laying when they are malting (shedding and regrowing feathers), when its super hot, if they are overly stressed and during the late fall/winter when days are shortest.  They can sometimes be forced into laying during the winter by using a light in their coop to extend day light hours.  But if left to husband their selves, hens will begin laying again, a few weeks after the first day of winter, after the days have begun to lengthen.

One of the things I hear the most from non chicken people is that they are unaware that hens will lay eggs without a rooster around.  But yep, just like people, hens still ovulate even if there’s no male strutting around to excite them.  In fact, most commercially laid eggs come from chickens that are stuffed into cages that do not allow them to move around very much, and there are no male chickens anywhere in sight.

If a rooster does live with a flock of hens, he will be happy to husband all of the hens.  This includes tasks like protecting the flock and patrolling the grounds (ever heard of a guard chicken), as well as fertilizing the eggs.  These eggs are still good to eat, and will not develop into chicks as long as they are collected and refrigerated daily.

It takes about 22 days for an egg to hatch.

Some eggs we collected

A good layer will produce four or five eggs a week, but only one egg a day.  I once heard a new chicken owner friend comment that one of her hens finally started to lay and had popped out three eggs that day.  More realistically, three of her hens chose that day to start laying eggs, or my friend had not checked closely enough for eggs the two days prior.

Hens lay pretty steadily for two seasons and then their production begins to trickle off.

I have also been asked if white eggs come from white chickens and brown eggs come from brown chickens.  Nope.  Chickens can lay all different colored eggs, regardless of their feather color.  But the color egg one chicken lays does not vary.  That same chicken will always lay the same color egg.  Some chickens lay green, blue or even pinkish colored eggs.  These chickens are commonly referred to as easter eggers and are either Ameraucanas, Araucanas or a mixed breed.

Our hens are a mixed flock that and we do not have a rooster.  I picked out a variety of colors and breeds so I would have a pretty flock to prune my yard and also a variety of egg colors.  We get dark brown, almost brick colored eggs, speckled eggs, green eggs, light brown and one hen even lays classic white eggs.  They have a chicken tractor house inside of a large hen yard that encloses some trees and bushes for them, and also allows them to stretch their legs under the porch during wet or excessively hot weather.  They forage for grass, bugs and worms and love when we give them vegetable scraps.  We also supplement their diet with layer pellets, cracked scratch corn and some oyster shells (which help keep the shells of their eggs tough).  We allow them to roam the yard on occasion and do not attempt to restrict any of the hens that choose to fly over the fence and explore other areas.  The only reason we do keep them fenced in at all, is to prevent them from messing around in our garden and to make finding eggs easier.

Our Wyandotte hen lays very light brown, almost white eggs.

Gryffindor lays green eggs

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One Response to “Chickens on Vacation”

  1. Debbie January 6, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    Thanks for sharing the chicken story.

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