For someone like me who has a home chicken flock, being caught at the Amagansett I.G.A. placing a dozen eggs on the checkout conveyor by a fellow poultry-keeper was highly embarrassing.
The truth is that our hens, like many at this time of the year, take a break from producing. Egg-laying is somehow tied to the length of the day, and without artificial illumination of some sort or other, you either have to go to the store or go without for a few months.
The age of my brood seems to have something to do with it as well. When they were in their first year of egg-laying, each one offered up close to an egg a day. Now, as they have aged, they have throttled back their efforts. And can you blame them? Eating enough to make all those eggs and then having to lay them, well, it seems like a lot of work.
Right now, from 10 hens, I am getting about a single egg a day. This is a marked increase from the period from about Halloween to the winter solstice, when no eggs showed up at all. The most I’ve seen in the last few weeks was three one morning, but that was an aberration.
So it was no accident that around Christmas, when baking was on my mind — and the kids’ — that I had to knuckle under and buy some. Note I didn’t say pay for some; have you checked the price of organic chicken feed lately? Oh, I pay all right.
But I felt a flush of red come to my cheeks when Michelle gazed at the carton as I placed it on the belt. She then looked up with an expression of surprise and said, “You’re buying eggs?”
Her hens have been laying all along, she said, which she attributed to a single lightbulb her husband, John, had placed in the coop to keep the birds warm. This, she suspected, was enough to keep the eggs flowing.
I have thought about doing the same, installing a light and timer to extend our cluckers’ sense of day length, but it seems a little unfair. Everybody needs some time off now and then — even chickens.