Entries in Laura (133)

Monday
Nov282016

How long does an egg last?

Because farm fresh eggs vary in availability, having enough eggs all year long can be a challenge.  Most small farms cannot keep an inventory of egg layers in production year round.  This suggests you stock up when there is surplus and skimp when there is a shortage.  Eat with the seasons when it comes to eggs!  

 

Most chickens will amp up their laying in response to the increased light of the springtime.  Consequently, they will also decrease their laying in the autumn.  That's why quiches are so popular in the spring!  

 

If you know an egg is fresh (ask your farmer when it was likely laid) and it has its natural protective bloom intact, the egg will be fresh for many months.  I once saved some eggs for a whole year, eating one periodically, and you can read about that adventure here.  If ever in doubt about the freshness of an egg, simply crack it into a small bowl and check it visually before consuming it.  

 

I don't recommend you have a giant stockpile of eggs, but it is fine to stock up a bit when there is a surplus and to put away a few dozen for winter use before production tapers off for the year.  

Monday
Nov212016

Do the chickens ever hatch chicks on their own?

So you know a chicken lays an egg several times each week.  If she lays an egg in the same spot each day (and it's not gathered) or if other hens add to a nest, a hen might get the notion to 'go broody.'  This means that she wants to sit on the eggs for 21 days until they hatch.  She will sit and sit and sit, getting up just once a day to go to the bathroom and get a quick drink before settling back in on her nest of eggs.

 

The eggs need to be kept at certain temperatures to allow for development and a mother hen can do this perfectly.  It's much easier to maintain temperature in the spring and summer and a few of our hens will go broody each year in these seasons.  Certain hens like to go broody each year and others do some every few years while most of the chickens do not ever go broody.  Some breeds are known to have more broodiness.  Many hens will sit on eggs during the day, especially when they have just laid their egg, but it's when a hen does not roost at night and instead stays on her nest that you will know she has gone broody.  

 

One year, we thought one of our hens disappeared.  A few weeks later, we discovered she had laid about a dozen eggs (so it probably took a little more than two weeks to collect that many) and was sitting on them constantly.  Sure enough, a bit later she came meandering out with a whole slew of babies!

 

Not all eggs that are brooded will hatch.  Some might not be fertile, some do not develop properly, one might have got broken.  When the eggs do hatch, the mama hen will talk to the chick and teach them how to forage and keep them safe.  Mama hatched babies are some of our favorites as we love to watch the process from egg to proud mama!

Monday
Nov142016

Do hens need roosters to lay eggs?

You often see roosters and hens raised together yet a rooster is not necessary in a flock for eggs to be laid.  A hen will lay eggs regardless of the presence of a rooster.  Her eggs will not be fertile, but she will still lay.  

 

A rooster often provides protection to the flock.  He will be watchful for predators and alert the flock which gets all the hens running for cover.  A rooster will also help establish a pecking order.  Did you know some roosters are chilvarous?  They will find a tasty treat and scratch at the ground while loud clucking to get the attention of any ladies nearby and essentially show them the treat.  

 

A rooster will try to impress hens by strutting his stuff.  He'll puff up his feathers and grandly walk about the pasture, giving a beautiful crow every once in a while.  Sometimes, he'll dip a wing down and turn in a circle, which is defintely meant to impress!  I bet when you visit, you will be entertained, at least!

Tuesday
Nov082016

How many eggs does a hen lay each day?

Did one hen lay all these???As we check for eggs daily, it is a common sight to see a hen in a nestbox with 6 or 8 eggs.  Hens are social creatures and when they see another hen laying an egg in a particular spot, they seem to think that is a good spot.  It's not that one hen hops in the nestbox and lay 8 eggs at once - many hens take turns (or sometimes squeeze in a nest at the same time) and each lay their egg.  After the job is done, some hens will hop right up and leave the nest in search of some tasty pasture.  Other hens will sit on their egg (and any others already laid there) for a while before moving on.  But, several hens will lay in one nest box through the course of the day.  There are definite favorite nest boxes as some will have a dozen eggs while others are not even used.  The whims of a chicken!

Munurva is several years old and probably just lays 2 eggs each week

An industrial chicken will lay an egg about every 26 hours.  Each of our pasture raised chickens probably lay just one egg every two or three days.  We do not select solely for egg production, we also value hardiness, forage ability, and egg color.  Laying an egg also requires ample resources to do so and if a hen is stressed or lacks nutrients, she will not lay as many eggs.  Also, as a hen ages, production slows down.  Seasons affect egg laying as the hen's body is responding to light exposure.  Spring and summer bring more eggs than fall and winter.  As the hours of daylight decrease, so does egg production.  

 

Tuesday
Nov012016

I love the blue eggs!

a.k.a. Why eggs are different colors?

a rainbow of hues are discovered in our nest boxes each day

Each day, we gather up the eggs from our layer flock and we delight in the variety of colors.  We keep a variety of breeds of chickens so that we get a variety of egg colors.  Breeds have been selected over generations to produce a particular egg color.  Our Marans lay a deep brown egg, our Easter Eggers lay blues or greens, our Australorp lay a medium brown, the Golden Laced Wyandottes lay a creamy brown.  And we have a few other breeds mixed in for variety as well.  We enjoy the variety of egg colors and the variety of hens in our flock.

As an egg passes thru the hens oviduct, the hen may release a pigment that colors the basic white shell.  The blue or green pigments are released early in the process and the pigment will permeate the entire shell so from the inside or out, the egg is blue or green.  However, the brown pigments are generally released later and just coat the shell before it is laid, so while the outside is brown, the inside is still white.  Interesting, an olive egg (these are my favorites!), is basically a blue egg that is then coated with brown pigment.  Pretty cool!

Elma, a barred rock, lays light brown eggsDo the different color eggs taste different?  I don't think so - if you consider eggs from the same flock.  However, if you compare blue eggs from our flock to green eggs from another flock, it is quite possible they would taste differently.  Eggs respond to the nutrition of the hen and that varies flock to flock.  

Feather or ear lobe color are sometimes thought to predict egg color, but we have not experienced that.  

One last tidbit, it takes about 20 hours for the shell to be formed and 26 hours total for an egg to go from ovary to nestbox. 

Next time you have an egg, check out the lovely shell!

Synergistic Acres - 21733 Iliff Rd, Parker, KS 66072 - 913-735-4769
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