Return of the Egg

Erik found 4 eggs in the hen house today. The ladies are back on the job after their winter break. Thank goodness!

I showed them to Phoebe, who delicately sampled the Eau d’ Hen Butt.

(Phoebe is doing very well, by the way.)

Two of the hens lay with speckled eggs, two lay solid. Their eggs are this unusual, olive drab sort of color, which is difficult to capture with the camera. Our hens are hybrids: a Barnavelder/Americauna cross. We call them WinnetekaVelders. The olive eggs must have something to do with the blending of green egg and brown egg genes.

Happy as I am about the eggs, their re-appearance means our too-short winter is closing fast, and that our fruit trees need to be pruned, asap.

When do hens start laying in your part of the world?

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  1. I got one egg on Jan 2nd and then nothing again until I got another (same hen) the day before yesterday. I’m eagerly waiting the other two ladies to get back in the groove!

  2. some of our young girls started to lay this winter which was a great surprise. All the older girls laid occasionally so with 20 chickens we have about 1-2 dozen a week. Scared to see what they lay in summer!

  3. We’ve been letting the hens out to destroy our yard and garden in the last week or two–it makes them so happy, and nothing’s growing in the PNW now anyway–and we’ve started getting a few eggs.

  4. It’s so strange, I live in far NW MN, and our chickens lay all winter long. Always have. We haven’t had a day above 0F in 3 days, and we won’t climb above the 0 mark for 3 more…but I got 10 eggs yesterday. They’re in an insulated chicken coop that my grandpa built by hand about 60 years ago. It’s OLD and it shows it, but the ladies keep it fairly warm.

    • What breed of chicken do you have, Hannah? We are in SE MN – I have been getting only about 4 daily eggs all winter (no lights, in a 1914 uninsulated coop) and was surprised to find 9 eggs today – especially since it was 14 below 0 this morning with a stiff wind. Of course 3 were already frozen solid and cracked!

    • I’m in Montana and have been getting 1-2 eggs a day from my five hens all winter. They do have a red light for heat in the coop, and I let them out for a few hours if the weather isn’t actively awful. Also, they’ll only just be 2 years old in March …

    • We have lights, but don’t use them. I think the key is finding the right amount of hens for the space. They keep it warm enough in there to keep the water thawed (slushy, but thawed) down to about 10F or even 0F if the wind isn’t too brutal. We have about 20-25 hens. So 10 a day isn’t that great…but when it’s -30F, I don’t think that’s too shabby. Last year we had 35 and got about 18 through the winter (and the water hardly ever froze!). We have another small insulated coop that fits 10-15 hens comfortably.

      As for breeds, we have a lot of mutts right now as we’ve been setting our own hens (and incubating) for a few years. We do throw a few pure ones in every year, though. We’ve been happy with how orpingtons, australorps, delawares, and cochins perform. Orpingtons and cochins especially seem to shrug off the cold weather like it’s nothing. You must have a good breed if they’re laying when it’s -14F and no insulation!

      We always eat the frozen eggs…I can’t tell the difference.

  5. I’m so jealous of your eggs — the color and the fact your birds have started laying.

    Our 4 year old Barred Rocks are still on their lazy winter break. 🙂 They usually start laying again at the last week of January here in the Bay Area in sunny California, but I think this might be the year they really start slowing down.

  6. I don’t have hens but I have about 5 friends who have been giving me eggs. Here in southern Illinois, near St. Louis, they have all been getting lots of eggs with no winter break. and this winter has been much colder than last. I am so grateful for my friends and their hens!

  7. I’m in Los Angeles also, and mine started about a month ago…I do give them some lighting, since otherwise in the deep gloom of the avocado trees, they only lay about half the year.

  8. Our four barred rocks hatched in August and laid their first eggs in early January last year; this year they molted in December (bad timing!) but again resumed laying the first week in January. Our winter take seems to be one egg or so a day, with no supplementary lighting.

  9. I am in LA also (near the coast), and other than 2 hens who are molting, mine (4 others) haven’t stopped.

    Also, our peach tree opened a flower yesterday. My husband pruned last Saturday–which was probably too late.

    Next project–blocking peach tree off from chickens.

    • Wow! Peach blossoms already? Our most advanced fruit trees just have small buds. Funny what a difference microclimates make.

  10. A general purpose FYI on winter laying (which I should have included in my post): hens slow down their laying in winter because there are fewer daylight hours, not because it’s cold. They start up again as the days lengthen in the spring.

    (Thus, the focus on eggs at Easter! My theory is that eggs are not only a springtime fertility symbol, but egg coloring and egg hunts are a straightforward celebration that the eggs are back.)

    Anyhoo, because of this, both commercial hen operations and some individuals will light their coops for part of the day to discourage the ladies from taking the winter off.

    But some hens are troopers and lay year-round. I’d like to put together a list of those breeds — and find out if they stop laying sooner, because they’ve been more consistent, or not.

    • My hens have been laying all winter, with no appreciable difference from summer…no lights in the coop either. We have two Buff Orpingtons and one Rhode Island Red (so, when you make your list of winter layers, you can add these two breeds to it!). They are only a year old, though, so they’re quite young, but I really was expecting them to slow down a bit during winter’s short days. Actually, I was hoping they would all be laying a little less in general, so I’d have a valid excuse to buy more chicks this spring. Sigh. No such luck.

  11. Phoebe!! I’ve been wondering about her lately and was meaning to inquire. Glad to see she and her little heart are doing well. I’m sure Trout and Buck are causing mayhem. Cats sure make good kids. 🙂

    Our 5 hens lay all winter but we keep a 60-watt bulb on in their little coop-room for a few hours every night, and it rarely gets into the 20s here in South Texas, so that’s probably no surprise. We can get a couple dozen a week off them. We have a Barred Rock (our best layer; she even laid an egg a day during her molt!), a Prod Red, a Black Australorp, and 2 Ameraucanas (one lays green, the other lays blue) so we have LOTS of colorful eggs!

  12. Here in the upper-left-hand-corner, our americanas stopped laying towards the end of november, and will probably hold out until march. Our silver laced wyandottes however, are still producing. With a flock of 18, we get about 5 eggs a day. Logic tells me that because of this, the americanas will lay later into life than the wyandottes, but time will tell. We also get the drag-olive eggs periodically from one of the americaunas, and also have not been able to capture it’s mysterious beauty on film.

  13. My chickens hatched in March 2009. They laid all winter every year until this year. They live in Rubbermail boxes in a dog pen with a tarp over it. They have never had light or heat and laid through 9 degree F weather an anomaly in the deep South. They never have a full molt, just look raggedy once in a while. These are RIR, but some are lighter colored, sort of blonde feathers. There is only one that is dark red. Winter laying per hen dropped from 6 or 7 eggs to week to 5 eggs per hen.

    Right now,I have only two chickens. I am getting an egg once in a while (5 in two weeks), either from the one original hens or from the new, very young chicken that I hope is a hen.

    Eggs from my RIR are larger than the largest eggs on grocery store shelves. They will not fit into the extra-large carton and allow the lid to close.

    • Aw, thanks! She does look typically sphynx-like in this photo, but misleadingly large. She actually has the tiniest little face–she’s a tiny cat. But for all her tiny-ness, and illness, she has formidable Cat Attitude. Catitude?

  14. Here in the Southeast we didn’t see much of a slow-down in our egg production. If anything it went up! We did realize our dogs were sneaking the eggs much to their enjoyment! Our ladies will be 1yo in a week or so, and lay 5-7eggs/week each. We have a Plymouth Rock, a Rhode Island red, and a beige one and a white one, for which I can’t recall their breeds. I must say how great it is to have fresh eggs!! PS. I really really love your book. I’ve had it about 2yrs but it’s such a great “go-to” guide. Thank you for taking the time to write it!

  15. Here in NC my hens lay all year. I have 6 hens and regularly get 4-6 eggs every day. We have more eggs than we ever need and keep my daughter well supplied.

  16. My Potchestroom Koekoeks lay all year long. The winters in Cape Town are harsh in the wet and stormy sense, the temperature hardly ever falls below about 7C 🙂

    Their eggs are also that light tan colour. That’s the colour of all the eggs we get in South Africa, actually, probably due to the type of chicken egg farmers use here. It was on a visit to the US in 2011 that I first saw white eggs and dark brown eggs.

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