Sunday, May 18, 2014

Hot Flash HenHouse

Today I had the privilege of going to the chicken coop and finding an egg.  This used to be something that was a given for me, in fact just last summer I was giving away many more eggs than I used. But I now have three hens over the age of two and two more hens not yet 22 weeks of age (typical age when laying starts), so eggs are like liquid gold here right now.

You can tell this because I no longer crack open an egg without good reason.  I have three in the fridge right now, and will use two of those to make some ice cream tonight, which will accompany my first berry pies made from our berries down in the south acreage. But here's how desperate the situation is:  I wanted to do an egg wash for my pie crust, but just couldn't bring myself to use a whole egg for that purpose. I did a milk wash instead. Can't waste those eggs.

Of course a sensible person would just head to the farmer's market and buy some eggs, but I'm not sensible about raising my own food.  I don't want those eggs. I want my eggs, warm and big and sitting in the nest box each morning. Substitutions are not wanted.

Red, my Rhode Island Red, is my biggest producer at this point., but will be re-homed soon due to her aggression with the younger hens.  My two gentle and lovely Buff Orpingtons lay only rarely at this point. For a long time I rationalized the decreased egg count by first thinking it was too cold for them to lay a lot...then too rainy...then too windy and hot, etc.  
Golden Girl.

But I have to face facts. My girls are looking more like Bea Arthur, Betty White and Estelle Getty every day.  They're Golden Girls, in the Golden Years of their lives.
More Golden Girls.

So right now I have three menopausal hens, and it happened faster than I thought.  So many people I know have chickens, but if you intend to keep them and not butcher them when they stop laying regularly, you need to think about how much your population is going to swell as your egg producers age and you bring in reinforcements to bolster your daily egg count.  The other day I was in the feed store and they had Welsummer chicks -- the kind that lays chocolate brown eggs. I almost walked out with a couple,  but thankfully I took stock for a moment and realized I would then have four young hens all laying at once, and once again I'd have too many eggs.  And in three years, I'd have four aging hens who weren't laying, yet still took up space and needed feeding and care. And of course then I'd need laying replacements for them.  Very complicated, but if you can do math, you can calculate when you have too many animals -- either more than you can afford, or more than you want to clean up after. 

So I'm going to hold off and get a Welsummer or two -- next spring.

The Hot Flash HenHouse.

We do have a new chicken coop and are building a larger run, which means we actually could have 15 or 20 hens without any problem, but I'd like to keep the number to less than 10, retirees and layers included.  I want them to have more than enough space, and I actually don't want a huge surplus of eggs. Plus 10 hens is a lot easier to clean up after than 20 would be.

And so, temporarily, common sense has won out over desire, and I will hold my hen count at five for now. (Actually four once Red is gone).  

It's only rational if I want to plan ahead for hot flashing hens in retirement, living the good life and being Golden Girls...while still getting enough eggs to hopefully be able to egg-wash a pie crust or two.


  1. My intentions of having chickens eventually. Not to many.

    1. That's the best way to go. I have many friends who started with at least a half dozen, and I wonder what they're going to do when they have a half-dozen non-layers. Build a bigger coop or start eating them, probably!

  2. I like the Golden Girls' Henhouse! Maybe I'll name my retirement coop "Shady Pines". I actually prefer pie crust without an egg wash. But I'll bet a real egg from a real chicken gives the crust a gorgeous color. I go through approximately 10 eggs a day, most of those for Barbie. I might need you to manage my flock so I don't end up with 300 hens :) hoping that I'll have chickens by this time next year!

    1. 10 eggs a day is a lot of eggs, so start with at least 10 hens. Do you make all Barbie's food yourself? I've often thought of doing that for Sputnik, but thought it would be too much of a challenge. Sounds like you are making it work though, so I'm intriguied!

    2. I do! It's really easy. I think it would be for you too, since you're in the kitchen all the time like I am. I shred a bunch of veggies in the food processor and mix meat and brown rice, cover with water in big Pyrex dishes, and bake for about two hours. I can give you the exact recipe if you would like! For me, it's way easier than going to the vet or pet store for dog food.

    3. I would definitely like the recipe! I've looked up recipes online, but kept seeing supplements included that I wasn't too sure of. Your recipe sounds easy and very healthy! I'd love to ditch the commercial dog food, it makes me a bit nervous after the melamine incidents a few years ago.