Monday, October 25, 2010

Chicken's Well-Deserved Vacation

September 23, 2010- this day, as close as I can tell contained 12 hours of daylight, 12 hours of night. The Equinox. Chickens require 15 hours of daylight, on average, to produce an egg. Since the Equinox, our egg production has dropped a little and we are having trouble meeting our egg orders because of it. To paraphrase an old saying, "The chicken farmer's kids have no eggs."
We worked our hens really hard this year to meet the demand. With veiled threats every morning - "If any among you shall not work, neither let him eat." to not-so-veiled threats " I need 2 more eggs by noon or you are going in the pot!"; with motivational speeches (I stopped short of hanging motivational posters in the coop) we generally met all of our customer requests.
There is a way to insure consistent egg production throughout the short days of fall and winter. It requires keeping in-bred hens that have been selected to produce an egg everyday, rigging up an electric timer to turn on a light bulb in the coop at 3 AM, keeping them locked up in this light, and selling off any inconsistent layers. We struggle with this every winter.
We raise heritage breeds chickens and want them to experience the "chicken-ness" of the chicken, its life-style, its freedom, in its natural habitat, with natural habits. Regardless of where one falls on the creation/evolution debate, it is obvious that the chicken, in its most natural state, starts to shut down egg production in the short days of the fall and winter. The question we face every year is this. Do we do unnatural things to our chickens in order to fill egg orders from our very valued customers and friends-or do we let natural reign on our farm. Every year we arrive at the same decision. We let natural reign.
All of that being said, Shamrock and Thistle Farm will not be selling eggs this fall and winter to insure Patt has enough of our naturally harvested eggs to include in her baked goods, and I get a couple of eggs for breakfast every morning. It is time for our chickens to enjoy a hard earned vacation. So till next spring eggs will be a little scarce.

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