The First Few Weeks Living With Our Hens. Why Didn't I Do This Sooner?
You may already know that I've recently completed one of my personal challenges, which was to have some laying hens to add to our family as expressed here.
Well we've now had them for a few weeks and during this time they were not laying any eggs. We weren't too worried as our thoughts were that they would have to go through a transitioning time from their previous residence to our place. However recently when they still hadn't produced any eggs we were starting to worry.
We questioned a friend who had chickens and knew a bit more and we discovered that during winter, laying hens will often reduce or even stop completely laying during the colder months. They'll also shed feathers which we've been observing. Much to life is cyclic and this is no exception.
Then... on one of our normal morning routines that involves feedin all animals and letting the chickens out to graze, we came across our first egg. Exciting!
Did you know that natural eggs have a biofilm over them which protects them from bacteria and as such, they can be left out un-refrigerated for weeks without spoiling? The washing process used in commercial egg handling removes that layer and hence eggs purchased from the store require refrigeration.
When you do not wash the egg you can apparently keep it on your bench up to 3 months and then still without washing it you can store it in the fridge upside down up to 6 months.. How fascinating, nature really knows what to do. I did a little research on this when first announcing that we were going to get into chickens here.
On the left you can see the fresh egg from our chickens, it's a bit smaller than the shop one on the right and it also doesn't have such a round shape as the shop one.
To the taste, it is nearly exactly the same but we found that there is a subtle difference in flavor but we couldn't put our finger on it. We've only eaten them raw so far.
Now since the first egg we have had 2 more and we are so excited each time we look into their bedding hoping for a little extra delight. Something for Easter perhaps.
In other feathered news, we weren't expecting how positive the girls would be for the upkeep around the house pad. It's very rare that you can walk out of your house and remark about how you've got less work to do than you did yesterday! They do a great job of keeping the long grass stalks down (the stuff that the horses eat around) and their rummaging cleans up the weeds that grow in corners or along the edge of cement slabs and the like. The ground ends up looking more manicured. Thank you girls!
They take next to no effort to keep and we were surprised to learn that we don't even need to keep the house pad gates closed. They naturally don't wander far from their base and don't need to be contained in the way that a cat might. I can't believe we didn't pick up some point of lay birds sooner; it's been a remarkably positive experience and I can certainly imagine us getting more in the future.
Maybe something you could try?