Monday, July 23, 2012

Egg Shortage

So, chickens are interesting creatures. We don't artificially attempt to make them lay. We don't put artificial lights on them, which sometimes means we are subject to changes in laying schedule due to the length of the natural day. There are other things that impact laying, really hot weather, really cold weather, incidents with predators that may scare them, as well as illness.

When something changes, there is an obvious step change in egg production. There is a magic daylight length in spring that changes their production up a notch. It gets us into full production, sometimes faster than our customers come to buy them. And months before the farmer's market begins. We typically end up donating eggs to the food bank, because they start to stack up.

OF course, the step change goes in both directions, and one just happened. Our egg production dropped by about 30 eggs per day. That's big. I try to mitigate the winter slow down by bringing in spring birds that start to lay in the fall. They are driven by daylight length, as well as other factors. But I checked our data from last year, and the step change happened at the exact same time - end of July. Days are getting shorter, but not that short, but it's HOT. They won't recover from this, unless my spring birds that start laying in September kick in.

Their production will continue to slow, sometimes due to loss to predators, and age. And they will hit another step change in November - this one is big. They almost shut down. Our highest production this spring was 170 eggs a day. By November, it will be 20 or less.

I can try to time it better next year to have birds laying in July, which means baby chicks in February. I try not to have baby chicks in winter, since it is so hard to keep the brooder warm enough for them at night. But I might need to time my new layers by their natural production shut offs. We're feeding a lot of birds out there for the number of eggs we are now getting. It's likely, after we sell to our restaurant, that we won't have anything left for the market.

I forgot that their first big production drop was right in the heart and heat of the summertime. Live and learn and we'll try to mitigate next year. The only problem being - I can't control when a chicken wants to lay!