I was not happy. For about 3 weeks, we had only been getting one egg a day out of our flock of 8 layers. This was poor production, even for the winter months. My taste was slowly moving from my wife’s delicious spinach quiche to roasted chicken and I had been caught threatening the chickens with their life on more than one occasion if they did not start producing more eggs. We had resorted to buying eggs from the store, for Pete’s sake.
Our chicken flock started a couple of years ago, when I bought my sons 4 chicks for Easter in lieu of the dog they really wanted. I brought the tiny birds home from the local feed store and we raised them in the garage until they were ready to move outside into the portable chicken coop I had built. At the time we were living in a subdivision. It was not a strict subdivision, no one took offense when I waited too long to mow the grass and five of my immediate neighbors had large vegetable gardens. I had read the subdivision restrictions and there was no poultry allowed. In my attempt to sidestep these restrictions, I built the prettiest chicken coop I could. I even gave it a two-toned paint scheme to match our storage shed. My neighbors were great, but chicken coops don’t exactly increase the resale value of a house and I didn’t want to upset them.
I wanted the coop to be portable because I had read that if chickens are allowed fresh grass and bugs each day, they will stay healthy and produce more nutritious eggs. Plus, if they were moved daily they could spread their manure around the yard instead of concentrating it in one spot. This should keep them from becoming an olfactory nuisance.
The plan worked great. The neighbors were curious about the coop, but nobody had any problems with it. The chicks began laying eggs around 20 weeks of age and we have had home grown eggs ever since. Fresh eggs from chickens that have had access to grass and bugs are the best eggs you’ll ever eat.
That’s why I was getting upset. I missed my home-grown eggs. The ones from the store had pale yellow yolks that wouldn’t stand up in the frying pan. They would break every time I tried to flip them. Not like my chicken’s eggs. My ladies would lay eggs with big orange colored yolks that tasted…… well, like eggs. I didn’t know what to do. I knew they had been going through their molt, where they replace their feathers. This happens once a year and I thought it only lasted a month. It had been almost 8 weeks since the chickens started molting and I thought they should be finished (turns out it can take up to 12 weeks). Besides, we had raised an additional 4 chicks this year and they would not molt until next year. Where were the eggs from these “spring” chickens?
In the summertime, each chicken was producing about 6 eggs a week or a little under one egg a day. Egg production decreases with the amount of sunlight during the day, so I expected a decrease in production over the winter, but I was expecting maybe 3-4 eggs a week from each chicken, not the 1 I was getting.
As is often the case, my wife had the solution. She had been trying to convince me for some time that the chickens were not comfortable. “They are cold”, she said, “Last year you put blankets over the coop when it was cold. Plus, the nest boxes are not built very well, because they are drafty and the chickens don’t have enough privacy when they lay their eggs.” I responded how I often do when someone criticizes my craftsmanship – sarcasm. “These are birds,” I said, “Would you have me go put a blanket on every bird in every tree?” The coop was plenty to keep them happy.
….but one day I found something oval lying on the ground after moving the chicken coop to a fresh patch of grass. It was an egg. A chicken had laid an egg on the ground. I thought it must be a fluke and went about my business. The next day I peeked inside the coop and sure enough, there was another egg on the ground. What the heck, maybe my wife was right. Were these chickens laying eggs on the ground in protest to my shoddy nest boxes? I spent about an hour tightening up the nest boxes so they could have privacy and be comfortable while producing my breakfast. I also laid straw down on the floor of the coop and added a blanket above the roosting pole as added insulation against the cold.
The next day, I had three eggs. The day after that, three eggs. I’ve been getting three eggs a day ever since I fixed the coop. It turns out, I was being a poor landlord and the tenants decided not to pay rent until I spruced up the place.
Now the chickens are happy.
My wife is happy, too. She’s making me a spinach quiche tomorrow.
Now, I’m happy.