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Posts from the ‘Egg Stands’ Category

When (and where) will my chickens lay their first eggs?

little blue eggOne day this week while collecting eggs I met with a glorious find—a beautiful blue egg, albeit a surprisingly small one in comparison to the large Delaware & Welsummer eggs I usually collect. At long last, the new birds from our mid-April shipment have begun to produce. The blue egg was from an Ameracauna, but where I found it was unexpected, if not surprising.

We keep our older birds separate from the new batch; in their own smaller hen house (a converted rabbit hutch) in a separate pen from where the new recruits stay. We only have 3 older birds, and 12 new ones. What was unexpected was that the new Ameracuana went all the way in back, into the separate pen compartment and up into the hutch where the 3 older birds stay to lay her first egg.

In retrospect I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise, the older and younger birds are pastured together, but they usually don’t mix much, and I’ve never seen any of the new birds go into the hutch before. How would this one know to go in there to lay her first egg instead of doing it in one of the nest boxes in her own house?

As it stands I’d planned on putting out some wooden eggs in the new birds’ house, just hadn’t expected to need to do it so soon. She’s a little early by my count. Although 21 weeks is in the 20-24 week window, we’ve always found ours to start just a little later, and Eggzy has helped us capture data to track our average days to point-of-lay (POL). I’ve been told pastured birds take longer than conventionally raised birds, and of course it also depends on breed and climate. Our Ameracauna’s are usually among the first, but this is the earliest we’ve seen.

In any case, I’ve since placed the wooden eggs, but thus far she’s ignoring them and continuing to use the older birds’ hutch. Unfortunately it’s looking like this might be a tough habit to break. I only hope the rest of the birds will pay more attention to the wooden eggs so I don’t end up with 15 birds laying in the single nest box in the hutch.

Any reprogramming advice would be greatly appreciated—please let us know by posting a comment.

* This post was originally published on August 31, 2011.

Personal Food Production

Check out the diagram below from a report entitled, Tiers of the Food System: A New Way of Thinking About Local and Regional Food. Some very smart researchers over at the UW Madison Center For Integrated Agricultural Systems generated the report, which outlines the framework of our modern American food system.

The report depicts our food system as concentric circles of food production and consumption, with the vast majority of supply being produced at a distant outer ring, far removed from most Americans’ immediate circle of reference and influence.

Tiers of the Food System UW Madison Center For Integrated Agricultural Systems

From farmers’ markets to supermarkets, there is a spectrum of relationships between consumers and those that grow, process, distribute and market food. The burgeoning local food trend has caused many people to seek food from—and personal contact with—local farmers as a way to connect with the food they eat.

But it’s the bullseye  of the Personal Production of Food, aka (Tier 0), that acknowledges the growing number of people who grow, hunt or process at least some of their own food that I want to point out. This tier includes backyard and community gardens, home food preservation, and subsistence farming, hunting, gathering, fishing and backyard chickens!

Tier 0, the bullseye,  is the tier we’re trying to facilitate and empower here at Eggzy.

 

Featured Flock Owner: Lord & Lady Hens

 

Member Name: Laura Cavendish
Join Date: March 27, 2012
Egg Stand: Lord & Lady Hens of Northport, Michigan 49670
Website: LordandLadyConstruction.com

Lord and Lady Cavendish are a royal pair of Michiganders … I’m not kidding! They raise birds for eggs and meat, brew their own beer, prepare amazing meals, and they do all this with style, wit and great respect for the planet and mother nature. They are role models of the modern homestead movement and we’re thrilled to have them as members of Eggzy!

Eggzy: Why do you use Eggzy?
L&L Hens: We initially set up our Eggzy stand to have our eggs available online and to let all our friends who like to buy them know if we have any available or not.  It has turned out to be a great resource for us to know just how many eggs our girls are laying, who lays the most and how much their eggs are really costing us overall.  Knowing that we’re spending even less than buying organic eggs from the market or local coop makes it even more satisfying to be raising our own eggs.

Eggzy: Tell us something about yourself.
L&L Hens: Lord & Lady Farm is a part of Lord & Lady Construction LLC (an eco-construction company), which is run by the husband and wife team, Thomas & Laura Cavendish.  The birds are watched over by Thomas (who is from England, hence our name), Laura, daughter, Arya, Laura’s younger brother, Robby and our good friend, Ryan.  We live in the quiet small Northern Michigan farming community of Northport.  We live as organically, healthy and planet friendly as possible, and because we’re not perfect we strive for more every day.

Fancy Girls

Eggzy: How long have you been keeping chickens?
L&L Hens: Thomas had raised chickens before he met Laura a few years ago.  Since we have lived in Northport, Laura has wanted to get chickens, but Thomas kept holding back, mostly due to the smell they create and you therefore have to deal with!  Finally, last year in 2011, Laura succeeded in her wish and got some chickens for her birthday around March.  Since then we’ve never looked back and Thomas has gotten all excited about chickens again!

Eggzy: Why do you keep chickens
L&L Hens: We keep a large variety of birds for a number of purposes.  We started with chickens for eggs.  Because we eat nearly all organic foods, this lead quickly into raising chickens for meat as well, to save money on the cost of organic chicken meat and have a higher quality.  This then lead to turkeys for meat.  This year we have hens, chickens for meat, turkeys for meat, ducks for meat and quail for meat and eggs (males for meat and females for eggs).

Eggzy: How many birds to you have?
L&L Hens: Since we raise birds for meat as well, our numbers fluctuate often, right now we have: 17 laying hens of multiple breeds, 12 rainbow ranger chickens for meat (or as we call them, the fat fats), 10 new hens that are not yet laying, 8 baby chicks that we were sent by accident and do not yet know the sex of, 13 turkeys of multiple varieties, 38 bobwhite quail and 10 ducks of multiple varieties.

Eggzy: What do you feed your birds? Organic? Conventional? Table scraps?
L&L Hens: We feed our birds a mix of all organic ingredients.  Organic feed, organic scratch, organic cracked corn and a WHOLE LOT of organic food scraps from our kitchen.  Laura (our Lady) is an obsessive home cook and is always making a multitude of dishes or preserving flats and flats of in-season fruits and veggies, leaving the girls with loads of tasty treats on a daily basis.

Understanding Chicken Math

It may not be logical but it does make sense, chicken math is the back-of-the-envelope calculating that takes place when managing a flock of chickens. Now the trick to chicken math, from what I can tell, is foresight. In performing chicken math, consideration and adjustments need to be made for gender, predators, illness and age — have I forgotten anything?

So for instance, let’s say you’ve decided that you want to keep chickens for eggs and your coop/yard can comfortably support 8 chickens. Assuming you get a chicken breed known for egg production, you can estimate 5 eggs per week per hen, or roughly 40 eggs a week from the flock. This number is important because it becomes your target goal, your inventory, what you plan for and maybe even sell against.

If you decide to raise your birds from (ordered) chicks, a straight run gives you a 50/50 chance that your birds will be female. Knowing this, you should order 16 birds to start with assuming half of them will be males and good for the pot. In other words, if you want 8 laying hens, it actually makes sense to start with 16 birds – that’s chicken math.

Now if instead of starting with baby chicks you go the route of started pullets where gender can be guaranteed, it would probably still behoove you to add a couple of extra birds to the mix in order to guarantee against predators, weather and/or illness. In this scenario, ordering 10 pullets will get you to a stable flock of 8 laying hens in a couple of months; again, chicken math.

And as that flock ages and time, weather and the elements impact egg production – younger birds need to be introduced into the formula to offset decreased productivity – foresight will require you plan to add even before you actually need to add to give those younger birds time to reach egg-laying maturity. In this case, 6 older birds and 4 younger birds may get you the target egg count you’re aiming for. That’s right, 6 old and 4 young roughly equals the productivity of 8 peak laying hens – chicken math.

To read more about chicken math, there are some interesting threads and posts online, check out some of these articles listed below, it’s fascinating to see how others’ do chicken math:

 

 Photo credit: http://www.sherylkirby.com