Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chickens and Light....and All Those Eggs..

There were so many questions about chickens I thought I would answer them here.

Yes, chickens do lay eggs according to the amount of light they get.

Commercial egg farms keep light on pretty much all the time.  They want maximum egg production.  But this wears the chicken out. 

Generally chickens lay most eggs the first 2 years of life.  They start laying around 5-7 months old.  Most egg laying breeds lay an egg a day, when they first start laying.  Some breeds are more for meat or even feathers, and they lay slightly less, and taper off laying faster.  Again, this is like picking plants for your area, you need to know what you want.  After about 1 1/2 to 2 years they start slowing down.  For instance, they may slow down to maybe an egg every other day in the beginning, then every 3 or 4 days, then one a week, and so on....  But some breeds not known to be egg producers will slow down even more, and faster.  That is why, in general, farmers change flocks every two years.  (egg producing farms may change flocks every year) A chickens natural life span is 12 or more years.

Chickens lay most of their eggs in the spring.  They taper off as fall comes, and stop laying in the winter.   If you provide light for chickens (usually if a farmer is going to provide light it may be added in the morning side of the dark..) Then they will lay eggs as if it were spring or summer, even though it is the winter.  What this does is stimulate the eye/brain to think it is spring.  But when do they get a rest?  I choose not to add light to them.  Imagine their little bodies working over time to provide eggs and never getting a rest.  I use a flash light at night if I have to go out there, and I talk to them to let them know it is me and not some predator.

That's just me, I like to do things naturally..and with animals I think they live longer.  Which may or may not mean they are "happy".  We have had chickens that were still laying pretty regular at 6 and 7 years old, before they slow down drastically.  We used to sell eggs (if you can call it selling..we used a "donation" system rather then a set price) to local neighbors and exchange them for services to others.  In that way when we had a large number of chickens, they paid for themselves, because we used "egg" money to pay for feed.  And most people we know give us egg boxes when they have them. 

I generally used to try and get around 12 to 20 chickens because I know after the initial onslaught (first year or 2), they are going to slow down. Some will die or be killed etc.  And after all-we weren't really in the egg business.  And once everything is settled that leaves you with a good dozen or more for the family.  Of course a lot of loss can be due to over crowding, so a smaller number is easier to care for.  Our chicken house can hold around 35 birds, (at 4 sq feet each) so we have plenty of room for only 20 or 25. Even better for a dozen.(It makes it like a mansion for only a dozen!) I do not close them up in rain or snow if the chicken house is full of birds.  I want them to have to option of going out...animals, and especially chickens get nervous when they are crowded.  I do now that there is only a half dozen, because they have the room to move around freely.

But what to do with ALL those eggs, if you start with a flock of 25 or more?  (or even 12?) That's an egg day from almost every chicken...(we're talking about 25 or more chickens a day) that's dozens of eggs a week. 

There is a way to save eggs in the heavier producing summer months, so you can have fresh eggs in the colder slower months (and they probably are fresher then store bought anyway, even though preserved.)   It is relatively simple. 

Freeze them. Beat whole eggs and add either a teaspoon of salt or a teaspoon of sugar (as a stabilizer) depending on what you want to use them for.  Don't forget to label them!  Use ice cube trays to freeze them.  Approximately 3 Tablespoons to a compartment equals one egg.

You can also freeze plain yokes the same way, with either sugar or salt, but the result isn't as good.  Egg whites can be frozen as is with nothing added.  In fact when I make something that uses only yokes, I have a container in the freezer and I keep adding whites to it, and mark on the lid how many are in the container, until I have 13-15 and make an Angel Food Cake.

I am way over due for new chickens.  The last 25 I got I split the order with someone, and that was 7 years ago.  I am down to 6 old hens and a rooster, and they are laying pretty few and far between.  I have been putting off getting new ones, because what will I do with them if we move?  We do have a local park that "adopts".  It was an original farm in the area, and it was deeded to the town as long as it stays a "farm" the buildings still stand, and are used as natural museums, the little barn, house, sheds, etc.  There are wilderness paths through the woods for walking and hiking, picnic tables, baseball and soccer fields, play ground, pavillion for rainy days and open air free concerts in the summer months, etc.  In the farm area they have animals.  Many DOZENS of chickens, and even MORE roosters...adopted as people move, or don't know what to do with them after they stop laying, or that rooster the neighbor complains about....goats, pigs, a donkey, rabbits galore.  But outside of regular feeding and water, the barn is for the larger animals, the goats and donkey occasional cow, etc, and they are put in at night and closed up (it is an open air barn though so small animals and birds can come and go) ...but for the birds..chickens, Guineas, ducks geese and cats, whatever they happen to have at the time, is first come first served.  They are technically on their own..and it can be a brutal pecking order. And I KNOW me...I would be wondering always if they were protected, or fed or still alive..I guess I get attached to living things... I might just have to get a half dozen or something this spring, just to have them.  There is nothing like the first eggs of the spring...although if I get them chances are they aren't going to be laying until late fall..sooo...decisions decisions...

Chickens have personalities, you know.  (Like Koi.  Anyone have any Koi?  They know who feeds them, and come to the surface when they see them...will stay below if it is not the feeder.  They will come right up out of the water to greet you and let you pet them.)  And like Koi, chickens are all different.  They recognize who feeds them, and they come when called.  Some are gentle, some are brutal..and they are always funny.  I Love their growth stages..the "infants" and the "teens"..they are just so funny!

I was trying to find some pictures but I really don't have any and after 63 degrees, yesterday, it is 41 with high wind, and a wind chill of 31 today, so I don't feel like standing out there to take any new ones...haha!  So heres's a picture of one of the last storms...remember in the is STILL winter...(I have to keep reminding myself of that)

See ya later,


  1. Great post - I had no idea chickens live so far beyond their egg laying abilities!!! So if they stay healthy I'll have a bunch of pets without eggs for most of their natural life.

    Which will mean new chicks every three years too.. and more pets...

  2. I had a group of chickens a couple of years ago. My first foray into chicken ownership. All went well until a predator got into the coop and there went the flock. Too sad for us!!!

  3. Yep, Karen that about sizes it up..
    Need LOTS of room for all the accumulated pets...hee hee...generally speaking when an animal come here they stay until they reach the ends of their lives...need to move where it's cheaper, because for some strange reason I keep adding them!

  4. Well, this was very interesting info! I use to be the little girl that gathered the eggs every day!

  5. Yes, that does happen. It is disturbing because of all the loss and because you have to start all over, or wait until the next year. That's why as we learned we made the chicken house and run safer and safer (I think)
    We once had neighborhood dogs break right through the run (when we were still using chicken we use heavy duty wire..) but they killed all 32 birds by slamming them against the chicken even got the ones who ran inside for protection. It was awful..
    (if I could do it again, or if I have to make a repair, or if we move, I will consider framing out sections with heavy wore, put the bottom edge 6" in the ground at the bottom at least, and cover the top with framed sections covered in heavy wire. Ours is now tall enough for us to stand up in, makes it easier to clean and to put litter inside.) Fresh eggs are THAT good once you get used to them! There's no going back! (hee hee)

  6. Hi Janie,
    Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. I enjoyed my visit here....thanks for all the great chicken info.
    Will stop back again.
    Have a good weekend

  7. I DO let them run free in the garden in early spring, mid summer after things are up, and fall after harvest, when I am home and know I am not going out. I have chased off many an animal, male pheasants, hawks, foxes, raccoons, and opossums, and dogs, with rakes or brooms...not something I guess you should do, and I certainly wouldn't try chasing anything larger, but instinct takes over...or adrenaline..or stupidity?!
    We moved the chicken house to a more protected area nestled in pines, about 8 years ago. It seems to help with hawks because once they go into the pines it is harder for the hawks to see them. and the edges buried in the ground helps with foxes and raccoons...

  8. Oh that's cool, Brenda...are you allowed to have a few chickens where you are now? Some companies sell as few as 3 or 4 if you have limited space, and more and more towns are relaxing the ordinances about keeping them. They might not allow roosters, but you don't really need them...

  9. Thanks for stopping by my blog. My husband was 55 when he died suddenly of a heart attack 3 weeks after he had surgery for an unrelated illness. My original dream years ago was to have a small piece of land to grow food, flowers and have a few chickens. I would drag my husband around to look at property, but he was afraid to leave his job and move. A few years ago I thought we should travel around the country and start looking for a retirement place, a few acres. We have only one daughter and she lives in CO, and I am in IL. So now I am on this journey alone. I am probably still in a fog, its only been 16 months, but I don't want to stay in this house alone. I will follow your blog and journey.

  10. Teri,
    My husband was 53. He was always careful about his health..he went for regular yearly check ups, and since cholesterol was a problem, and his father had had early heart trouble, he had it check every 6 months. He was always healthy...
    It was cancer...came out of the blue...and was fast...he died here..I took care of him..
    It has been 8 years (Dec 2002) and I am still in a fog...but I think "parts" are clearing.
    You are are doing good...
    GIRLS, hug your husbands!
    When you lose a parent, or a sibling (including cousins) you feel like you lose PART of your past. When you lose a child you lose SOME of your future..(NOT to minimize ANY of those losses). But when you lose a spouse you LOSE your past AND your future...and no matter HOW independent you THOUGHT you were, it rocks your much we depend on them....goes deeper then every day life or financial...