All Things In Time . . . But Where Are My Eggs?
(From the Friday, January 25th broadcast of Garden Guys Green Revolution Radio)
My mom used to constantly ask us about my son’s milestones. She’s a teacher, so she can’t help it. “Is he sitting up?” “Is he talking?” “Is he potty trained?” “Is he potty trained?” “Is he potty trained?” Potty training was the big one, and once that was out of the way, she seemed to turn her attention to the chickens.
“Any eggs yet?” became the question I knew was always coming. Early on I could explain that the chickens needed to reach a certain number of weeks of being alive before they could start laying eggs. This bought me a couple of weeks. Once we crossed that threshold, I had less to deflect with. I suppose I could have gone out and squeezed a chicken to see if an egg came out, but I had a good feeling it didn’t work like that. At the end of the day I’d still be eggless, and would have cranky chickens.
We got the chickens in June, when they were one week old. The general thought is that chickens start laying at around 19 weeks. Based on this, I was expecting eggs in October, but October came and went. No egg o’lanterns. Surely they were coming in November, right? Nope. No Thanksgiving omelettes.
I knew there was a lesson here about letting things come when they were ready. This is nature, and it does things on its own schedule. There was probably also a lesson here to not let my mother’s constant questioning influence my feelings about letting things come when they were ready. But I was very excited for the eggs to come, and any questions about it added to my anxiety. And really, where were they? “They will lay when they are ready,” said the internet. “It’s going to be at least six months before you get an egg,” said my mother in law. Who was right?
With December came six months. I went out one night, and as is my silly ritual, after I shut the coop door, I looked in the window and said, “nighty-night, chickens.” Unlike every other night, there, in the back of the coop, sat a small brown egg. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I audibly gasped, but not so embarrassed to not tell you about it. Composing myself, I brought it inside and showed it to everyone in the house, triumphant. There was plenty of excitement in the room, since my family had also felt the pressure of The Egg Question. While admiring its eggy goodness, my son said, “I think maybe there’s a baby chicken in there.” So then it became time to explain what role roosters play in this whole endeavor. An anxiety door does not close without opening an anxiety window.
Oh, and that egg? I ate it, and it was good. Not just good, but goooooood. I had been hearing a lot about how much different backyard eggs were from the ones in the store, and this egg was everything they said it would be. The yolk had a brightness to its color like I had never seen. The texture when cooked was hearty and robust, and the shell even seemed tougher than store bought eggs. I later read that store bought eggs are generally about a month old, whereas this one was hot off the presses, so to speak. I might eat a store bought egg again, if I had to, but I hope I don’t have to.
Chickens generally lay one egg a day, but in the winter months, they tend to lay less, due to there being less sunlight. We have six chickens, so that’s a half dozen eggs a day at full capacity. That’s a lot of eggs. And the chickens didn’t seem to get the memo that they were supposed to tone it down in the winter. They were firing on all cylinders, and the eggs were piling up. Too many chickens = too many eggs. We knew this was going to happen, but thought we were going to ease into it. No one said we’d go from no eggs to piles of them so quickly. We ate what we could, and I started mentioning to people at work that I might be bringing eggs in. This was met with much more excitement than if I had said I was bringing in extra zucchini. That market is glutted. And you know what, the chickens love zucchini, so I can bring free work zucchini home and feed it to the chickens, who make more eggs, which I then bring into work. Circle of life! Or something.
Another magic quality of backyard eggs is that they supposedly have less cholesterol and more vitamins than store bought eggs, thanks to the varied diet backyard chickens tend to get. Ours get all sorts of vegetable scraps, all the bugs they can catch, and regular chicken food. I’m not sure how I can test the vitamin content, but after my next physical, I’ll let you know about the cholesterol. Even if it’s through the roof, it’s a delicious roof to go through.