I come up with a lot of different ideas. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they’re so bad they’re good. And sometimes I think I’ve really hit on something that no one else possibly could have thought of before. I am almost always wrong. When thinking about how egg production is slowing in my older hens, I had a flash of genius. Surely, the thing to call this was henopause, and I absolutely had to the be the first person to think of this. Upon consulting the internet, I might actually be the last person to think of this. I’m going to use the term anyway, since it’s a good way of describing what happens with chickens after a while. They have a finite amount of eggs, and so one day, sometime between ages two and three the eggs are going to stop coming. My chickens are just a little over two. Henopause looms.
At one time it seemed like our chickens would never start laying eggs. I had heard they could start as early as 18 weeks, or as late as eight months (which I suppose is 36 weeks). The average seemed to be about six months. I was eager for it to begin, but knew that all things come in time. However, everyone knew I had chickens, and everyone was asking if they had started laying yet, and that starts to get to you. Every day I would go out and check the nesting buckets, but there’d be nothing in there. I took plastic Easter eggs, filled them with dirt, and put them in the buckets as a hint that hey, this is what goes in here. They may have gotten the hint, but hints don’t magically make eggs fall out of chickens that aren’t ready. I tried to be patient – both with the chickens, and the people who kept asking me about eggs. I had an easier time with the chickens.
Then, at about the six and a half month mark, in mid-December, the egg floodgates opened. It was a trickle at first. I got one egg, then nothing, then a couple more a day or two later, and then suddenly the ladies were firing on all cylinders. We had six chickens, and were getting half a dozen eggs every day. That is a lot of eggs. I went from “where are my eggs?” to “what are we going to do with all these eggs?” Luckily, home-raised eggs are not hard to get rid of. I brought some into work, gave some to my parents, and soon learned that fresh eggs can be used as currency in some situations. This was a great development. What was nuts was that chickens generally don’t lay much in the winter. Egg laying depends on how much sunlight the chickens get, and there’s not a lot of that in the middle of December. But this one magical winter, they laid eggs like there was no tomorrow.
The next winter wasn’t as fertile. They got the memo about the sunlight, and I had my first day of no eggs being produced. In fact, there were no eggs for exactly a week before the winter solstice, and for exactly a week after. Even before this they had stopped all laying at once. Instead of six, I’d average about three eggs a day, which was more than enough. I had plenty for my family to eat, and some surplus to trade or give away.
This summer things started to slow down. We hit the two year birthday of the original flock, and the days of no eggs sometimes started coming for several days in a row. This was when I knew henopause was coming home to roost. I can keep varmints out of the coop, but some things come from within.
I had known this was coming, which is why I got a few new chicks this year. They can start fresh while the old guard gets ready to retire from the egg business. I assume we’re looking at December before we see any eggs from the new jacks, though. That seems like a long way away, and some weeks we don’t get enough eggs to have enough for breakfast on the weekend. Aging and the waning sunshine that comes with Autumn are working together to grind the egg factory to a halt. That’s o.k. Eggs are only part of what’s great about having chickens. They’re still hilarious to be around, and they eat ticks, which is why we got them in the first place. We’ll be keeping them around for a long time after the last egg is laid. We just may be having oatmeal for breakfast instead.
(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Don’t Drink Nothin’ But Corn by Black Twig Pickers)