Back In The Egg Business!
Ok, enough about winter. Spring is coming soon, and I’m not just talking about meteorological Spring. A number on the calendar doesn’t seem to have much effect on the weather, as evidenced by the April 1st snowstorm back in 1997. I don’t think the snow that’s fallen is going anywhere for a while, but things are beginning to look up. It’s staying light later, which tends to cut through a bit of the gloom, even if the evening sun is reflecting off ice dams and monster snowbanks. Longer days, even if they’re not that much longer, also mean that the chickens are getting more light. Whether this improves their mood or not, I can’t really say, but I can say with much authority that it makes them start laying eggs more frequently than when we were in the depths of winter. No light, no eggs. More light, more eggs. Some light, some eggs? Yes. I think that’s where we are right now.
My original flock was pretty in tune with the light situation during their second winter. Exactly one week before the solstice they all stopped laying eggs, and then exactly one week after the solstice, eggs began to trickle back in. This was surprising not only because of how in tune with the amount of light they were, but also because their first winter of laying, it just didn’t matter at all. It was like someone just came by every day and dumped half a dozen eggs in the coop while I was at work. It also made me feel like keeping my egg journal was worth it. I write down how many I get each day, and that’s how I was able to catch the influence of the solstice. I had felt a little nerdy about the journal, but this discovery made it seem worth it. It also helped me figure out that nothing was wrong with the chickens. I looked at the dates, and it made sense. No one’s sick, it’s just really dark all the time.
This year hasn’t had any of the dramatic egg events of those first two years. The new chickens started laying in the dark part of winter, but not nearly at the rate of their predecessors. Some chickens like to take their time, I guess. I was happy to be getting any eggs at all, honestly. The old guard had stopped in late Fall, and I was hungry. The n00bs weren’t dealing them out as fast I could eat them, but as time went on, I started seeing larger eggs popping up in the buckets too. The old guard was back from vacation. However, like an athlete after some time off, they were easing into it. Getting back in shape takes time, so I’m not going to sweat them about their pace.
We usually only eat eggs on the weekends, time being tight on weekday mornings. Even so, in winter, the weekend would roll around and we still wouldn’t have enough. In the past week or so, we finally got to where we had a dozen eggs on the counter, just waiting for us. I even had enough to give away my first bunch of the season. When you have chickens, it’s not just you waiting for eggs, it’s also your network of people who get eggs from you. Like a flower, the sharing of eggs blooms anew.
My son is now helping me out with the chickens at night. Since it’s sunset when we get home, we usually check the chickens first thing. It’s still freezing, so the coop door should be shut as soon as possible. Lately it’s been light enough that we don’t need flashlights when we go out there, but dark enough that the chickens have gone to bed. “Why do we always have to do this right when we get home?” he asked the other night. “Because then we’re done with it, and then we can stay inside,” I said. “Soon it will be light so late that it may be your bedtime before it’s time to put the chickens to bed.” And then it hit me. Soon it will be the time of year where I want to go to sleep shamefully early, but the chickens are still awake, and I have to wait for them to go back into the coop before I can sleep. Did I really want that time to come? I looked at the size of the snowbanks in front of our house, and an arctic breeze hit me in the face. Yes. I want light, and I want warmth. That is certainly worth staying up for.