Monday, December 5, 2011

Don't Count Your Eggs

We raise chickens. Chickens have been part of our daily life since we bought our first country house over twenty five years ago. That is a lot of chickens.



We have chickens that lay eggs.




And we raise chickens for our dinner plate.
These signs posted outside the chicken coop doors keep everyone in mind of the poultry's purpose in life.

Despite the presence of all these chickens, I don't always have fresh eggs in my kitchen. The last year has been an especially slow season in the egg production department. Our flock of ladies was getting old and tired and I didn't have the time to cull out the slackers. Despite the fact that I would add a few new pullets to the hen house every year, the flock just never pulled it together and kept eggs coming. Then, inadvertently, the hen house got an overhaul by marauding racoons. Over the winter, despite our efforts to deter them, one raccoon after another pillaged our poultry, and the girls disappeared- one chicken dinner at a time. Sometimes we managed to greet the masked bandit with our shot gun. A dead raccoon was nothing more than cause for celebration by the rest of his gang in the neighborhood. (More chicken for me!) By spring our flock of twenty layers was down to four survivors.

I've always enjoyed having a large variety of breeds which produced many colors of eggs. Silver Laced and Golden Laced Wyandottes, with their elegant, ink-edged feathers are my favorite. We also had the green egg-laying Aracunas and the faithful  Buff Orpingtons. The problem with having such a big flock of different chickens is that I couldn't keep track of which were the oldest birds that needed to be retired. My neighbor proposed the method of getting one breed of bird at a time but getting a new breed for each new infusion of pullets. Great idea. So last spring I bought eighteen Plymouth Rock (aka Barred Rock) chicks to start a new egg laying flock of hens. The chicken chores continued all summer though eggs were only a distant hope for the future.

We go through a lot of eggs in our household. For my business I buy eggs in boxes of fifteen dozen at a time. For our family use we prefer organic eggs from well-raised chickens so when we don't have our own to eat I buy eggs from friends who raise their own chickens and have eggs to share. My three sources for those eggs have dried up this fall and I'm back to buying eggs at the store. The other day organic eggs were on sale for $2.99 a dozen so I cleaned off the shelf and bought the last seven dozen. I told you we eat a lot of eggs around here.

Wouldn't you guess, because Murphy's Law dictates any sequence of events around here, after I spent over $20 on eggs this is what finally appeared in our own chicken coop:




Our first eggs from our new, young flock!

Now with our new flock we'll have eggs every day through the winter. I'll get another batch of chicks in the spring and they will take over next winter while these ladies take their seasonal rest. 

It's only taken twenty-five years but maybe we'll get this chicken raising thing figured out.

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