Raising chickens has been full of milestones. There’s the excitement of the day I brought them home, the relief of finishing the coop (and the worry of their first night sleeping in it), and the thrill of the first egg. Not all milestones are happy ones, though. There was my first sick chicken, which now looks more like it should be counted as my first chicken to have a stroke. There was my first run in with the horrors of vent gleet, and as a result, my first time standing in the yard blow drying a chicken. I suppose if you think about it enough, anything can be a milestone. I happen to like thinking about it.
When the chickens first started laying eggs, it was December, and you’re probably aware of the fact that December has pretty short days. The amount of light chickens get has a direct influence on how many eggs they lay. Or that’s what I was led to believe. As soon as they all started laying, it was half a dozen eggs a day for a good long time, darkness be damned. We weren’t prepared for such an ovoid onslaught, but it was cool to be finally getting eggs, and nice to see the chickens all pitching in. The fact that they were really sticking it to the darkness tickled me as well. I like the underdog, or perhaps in this case, the underchicken.
As time went on, the six-eggs-a-day rule seemed to be getting more relaxed. If a chicken isn’t feeling well, they won’t lay, and it’s even pretty normal to not lay an egg every day. Sometimes, the eggs would be there, but would be one of those creepy “rubber eggs” I’ve talked about. There are a lot of factors involved in egg production, and it’s unrealistic to think they’d operate at maximum capacity forever, or even for very long.
Summer came around, and some days we’d get three eggs, some days more. Some days they’d lay them in the nesting buckets, sometimes next to them, and in the last few weeks they’d taken to laying them on the far side of the roost, which is very difficult for me to reach. I know when I’m being screwed with, but everyone likes sticking it to the Man, and I suppose I’m the Man in this scenario. I put a plastic easter egg in one of the nesting buckets, and they eventually got the hint. And the number of eggs we got continued to fluctuate. The vent gleet episode took one chicken out of production for a while, so I knew we wouldn’t be hitting six then. The only one I can reliably even keep a tally on is Boss Chicken, since she’s in her own coop (or rabbit hutch, really) due to her handicap. She seems to be easing into an every other day routine, but again, not always. There’s fluctuation, but always eggs somewhere.
So the other day when I went to check the eggs and Boss Chicken didn’t have one, I figured it was one of her days off. Then I opened the coop, and there were none in the buckets. I felt around in the shavings, since they sometimes like to bury them, but still nothing. So then I climbed into the coop to check the far side of the roost. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. It appeared everyone had taken the day off. It was close to Columbus Day weekend, so maybe they felt it was a state chicken holiday or something. The only thing I do know is that the only egg I got that day was a big goose egg.
I was initially a little worried that maybe their egg laying days were behind them, but they’re only a little over a year old, not even a year and half. They’ve got more time. I think the erraticness of their laying schedules was bound to align eventually, and there we were. The next day, we got more eggs. Next summer I may need to start thinking about what’s going to happen to our egg supply, but we should be good through the winter. That’s not to say I’m not going to start obsessively hoarding the eggs, but you might as well hoard them while you know they’re still coming, right? Right?