I love my chookies, which is why I wanted to share my excitement with you. But first a little background for those who don’t know anything about keeping chooks.
Most hens sold for backyard keeping purposes are specially bred species that are robust and strong layers. They are not always “meat birds” so can be quite thin and not suitable for a large Sunday roast (if that’s your thing.) They are bred to give a high volume of eggs.
Most breeds start laying somewhere around the 24-26 week mark – so they’re about 6 months old when they start producing eggs. They will go on to produce close to one egg a day for the next 2 years. I find that my chooks lay around 340 eggs a year – each!
As a hen grows older, this rate of production drops off. By how much and when depends on the breed and on individual animals. Diet and living conditions can help boost production, but once a hen is about three or four, she will probably be laying between 2-5 eggs a week. If she lives in a commercial operation, this is unacceptable and usually these hens are destroyed to make way for newer hens that will produce. Backyard chooks are sometimes kept long beyond their egg-laying years as they are pets. A hen may live up to 10 years old, but she probably won’t lay for the last 3-5 years.
Other things that affect egg production is if a chook is going through a moult (where they lose their feathers and new ones grow – the body’s energy goes to growing feathers instead of eggs), and egg production also drops off during winter. Commercial egg industries have a downturn in production over winter. Some hens lay fewer eggs, while some hens can take a break from laying completely, which will pick back up in the spring.
So now you know all about chooks, I’ll tell you my story.
My chooks happily laid about 16-18 eggs a week for me for a year until one died. As we are a family of four, we decided to purchase some new hens because we weren’t getting enough eggs from two, and in June 2015 we brought 3 new hens who were about 15 weeks old. Since my three new chooks started laying, they’ve basically given me an egg a day each and have been going great. These past four months I’ve noticed the eggs have progressed from a small size, to a now large egg.
Three weeks ago, I had a surprise! FOUR eggs in the nest when I went to collect them. Checking back on the eggs laid in the preceding days, I could pick she had laid at least one other egg (as it is a slightly darker colour and softer shelled). I hadn’t seen it as the kids had collected the eggs. Over the next week she then laid about every 2-3 days.
For the past 8 days I’ve received four eggs daily – making me wonder if she was laying daily, or whether her sister had begun production too. Then today:
So I’m giddy with happiness today that my chookies are all well and content to be laying.
Okay. I'm going to stop gushing about my chooks now and go back to writing.