Most days we get 3 eggs from the 4 hens, and two or three times a week, 4 eggs. I’ve had people ask why they don’t get an egg every day per hen but the fact is they’re not machines. All sorts of things effect hens egg production; the breed, the bird’s age, amount of daylight, health, feed and probably other things I’ve missed.
I think our breeding for egg production has gone too far. The high-production breeds beloved by the commercial producers can only produce their egg a day due to controlled conditions and feed that maximises nutrition. As hens can only eat a limited amount, to produce well they have to get the most from what they eat. A bit like those Arctic explorers who walk to the poles but need to eat 7,000 calories a day just to keep their strength up.
Now it’s easy enough for the home keeper to feed hens the ideal diet, just layers pellets or mash. That will provide all they need to keep healthy and laying a lot of eggs. But is it right?
Imagine if there was a perfect ration bar for people. Each morning you’d eat a bar, then one for lunch and another for dinner. Day after day after day. You’d probably be climbing the walls. Hens, just like us, enjoy variety in their diet.
Just watch them with a cabbage or some tomatoes. Out in the garden they’ll be eating the tasty top shoots of grass, devouring the insects they catch and showing every sign of enjoying life. I’m coming to the conclusion that a perfect diet of the same nutritionally balanced food day after day is almost verging on cruel.
Now my hens have access to a large run when we’re around to protect them from the foxes but in the winter the grass isn’t growing and they’ve exhausted that. I had some lettuces and cabbage that were spare but they’ve nearly run out now. So how to give them something to brighten up their diet?
I can buy in cabbages and lettuce etc. for them but I really hate having to buy in veggies. It’s a sort of defeat for a home grower trying to be self-sufficient in fruit and veg. But growing lettuce from scratch is going to take a couple of months at best to be ready and I need something faster than that.