Farm Fowl: Welcome Winter Eggs

After a painful period of absence, eggs are back on the menu – and in the incubator. It’s a pleasure to collect eggs in a range of colors, and gratifying that the fowl are, once again, “earning their keep”!

Domestic fowl like chickens and ducks typically take a break from laying when the hours of daylight shorten, generally starting in late fall and into winter. Other species, like geese and Muscovy (which are technically unrelated to Mallard-derived duck breeds like Indian Runners), cease laying in fall and won’t begin again until spring.

Hmm…which are the “freeloaders”?

While it’s possible to “trick” chickens and ducks into laying by extending daylight hours via artificial lighting, we don’t do that, choosing instead to honor their natural cycles. Sure, it may feel a bit like the birds are freeloaders at this time of year, but since they’re living creatures, rather than egglaying machines, the need for a break is completely understandable. When they’re ready – often after molting, another process that interrupts laying due to its resource intensiveness – they resume laying beautiful, delicious eggs.

Silverudd’s Blue eggs

Early cycle eggs are some of the most richly-colored, too. The chickens’ ink supplies are recharged and ready to go; as they approach the end of their laying cycle in the fall, some eggs will become a bit lighter in color, as though the “ink” has faded. This phenomenon is particularly noticeable in breeds like Black Copper Marans, which can lay a very dark brown egg: the depth of color may even fluctuate from time to time even in early or mid-cycle. Such are the vagaries of egg color!

Who likes dark chocolate? I do!

While it’s fun to find eggs in winter, it can also be a race to collect eggs before they freeze, especially if they’re laid where they shouldn’t be (outside of the warmth and safety of a nest box)…and the Runners can be vexing when it comes to eggs just laid willy-nilly. Like in a puddle. Just a couple of mornings ago, I found a frozen, cracked duck egg in the coop – a slushy, goopy mess – that had been buried and stomped on by the waterfowl rushing out the door. Sigh…

Two (intact) duck eggs this morning!

Though the polar vortex is nearly upon us, we’ve been collecting more eggs each day. Only a few girls are still working through their molts (and they must be chilly with their skimpy coverage), so it feels like we’ve turned the corner and are slowly moving away from austerity toward the abundance of spring. More snow’s in the forecast, but I’ll be daydreaming of overflowing egg baskets, chicks, ducklings, and goslings. We’ll get there yet.

7 thoughts on “Farm Fowl: Welcome Winter Eggs

  1. Bravo for acknowledging these creatures. Its wonderful to read that you honour their natural cycles. I dont eat eggs at all from the supermarket or at a restaurant unless they assure me the eggs come from a natural environment. I usually only buy eggs from stallholders now where I can see the girls running around freely

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    1. Thanks so much! It’s great that you care about the welfare of the layers that provide your eggs, and buying from local small farmers is wonderful. 😊 I know how awkward it can be to ask about how a restaurant sources their eggs – l remember asking at a cafe in a small town near where I used to live and having the server look at me like I’d grown a second head. Factory farms just aren’t justifiable – they’re not good for the animals or the environment. Happy, healthy hens lay the best eggs!

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      1. Hello. Oh gosh yes, factory are appalling places and wicked. I know just what you mean about the looks you get, but nowadays people are becoming more aware of how terribly cruel the animals are treated. I always ask and if I don’t get a satisfactory answer, I choose something else. I love eggs, so it’s not easy, but when I do buy eggs from an ethical place I enjoy them all the more. I worked on a farm once and they had a few hens. I loved going to fetch the eggs in the morning and eating them straight away…absolutely delicious and yes, the hens were happy. Not so much me when I had to get them back in their hatch at night πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ who knew hens could be so bloody-minded…😁😁

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      2. LOL!! Hens can be quite fierce when protecting those eggs, too…I’ve received a few good pinches during egg collection. May you enjoy the goodness of those ethically-raised eggs, knowing you’re not contributing to the misery of battery-cage hens. πŸ™‚

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      3. 🀣🀣🀣 yeah, no surprise there…I used to call in the troops to come and help me. I remember one night one of the hens got on the roof of the hutch, and nothing I could do would persuade her otherwise. The lady I was working for suggested I just pick her up and tuck her under my arm 😳😳 Uhmm no, you come and do that!! I had a very healthy respect for the accuracy of those beaks πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ”πŸ”πŸ”

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