The girls have reached the winter go-slow for eggs now. Star has completely stopped laying and Bolshy is down to one every few days. This is very normal for the back garden flock, and come Spring they will be back laying again – and possibly going broody!
Egg Laying Year Round
Commercial egg production differs wildly from the back garden keeper. In order to keep up the egg laying they implement a number of systems, including artificial lighting and culling at 18 months. I find this very sad as the artificial lighting forces them to lay even when they wouldn’t, so far from their biological norm, and then the culling is due to production dropping – mainly because they have over-produced from the artificial lighting! This is the same in all commercial systems, whether caged or organic free range, and although the living conditions improve as you move from cage-barn-free range-organic, the life expectancy does not.
Back garden keepers and small holders have to work with the seasons more as well as breeds, to keep production year round. A mix of ages and breeds helps, you tend to find most birds will lay all year, or only have a short winter break, in their first year. Hybrids are more likely to lay year round than pure breeds, although pure breeds will lay for more years than hybrids. By mixing breeds and adding a new girl or two each year you can work towards fresh eggs all year round. However, this only works if you have enough space!
Where to Buy?
We are lucky that there are a few smallholders near by that keep truly free range hens so when our girls go on Winter Strike, we can still pick up eggs and know how they were raised. It is worth asking around, on Poultry Forums or locals groups, to see if there is someone local selling their eggs if your hens stop for the season. If buying from a supermarket go for free range or free range organic, although these are not kept in any where near as good conditions as the back garden hen, they are a world away from barn and caged which I would always avoid.
We also try to store a lot of eggs when there is a glut in the Summer months. I freeze in ice cube trays, separating the yolk and white, then have these for baking or scrambled eggs and omelettes in the Winter months.
Dippy Eggs & Cake
Our favourite eggs at the moment are dippy eggs! Gabe is loving them, which is fantastic as he had spent the last 6 months declaring all eggs to be “yucky”. We like them runny, so 3.5 minutes, and lots of buttery toast for both Gary and Gabe.
This afternoon we are baking a cake with some of the eggs I froze up this summer. On such a wet and miserable day I need to find home based activities to keep Gabe entertained, and he loves helping to cook. Although with cake baking I think he just loves licking the chocolate covered spoon at the end ;