January 5, 2011

Laying Again

Tail Sighting: hen in the hay rack nest

Lady Barred Holland
Lays smallish white eggs
I have been fortunate this winter in that I've had three pullets continue to lay eggs right on through the shortest day of the year: my lone Barred Holland (pictured on left), and my two Ameraucanas. The others (3 Welsummers and a Delaware), stopped laying awhile back when they began to moult. Then about a week ago, my green egg layer stopped laying, so I was down to zero to two eggs per day. Not many, but not bad considering that I don't give them supplemental light. I was actually expecting to be eggless this time of year.

You can imagine my delight, when Monday afternoon, I went out to see if I could find an egg or two and discovered three!

So why are there four eggs in the bowl? I'm glad you asked.

This Ameraucana lays tint eggs
My Barred Holland laid the small white one, and one of the Ameraucanas lays large tint eggs. The brown egg could only mean that Lady Delaware had started laying again. All three had laid that day, so I was very pleased. Then later, when doing my barn chores, I saw the tint-laying Ameraucana on the hay rack nest. That's her pictured on the right. Wellsir, she left me a nice large egg, so the twin I found earlier was a mystery. I've never heard of a chicken laying two eggs in one day, and the Welsummers' eggs are darker than that or speckled. They have laid some oddly colored eggs (photos at this previous post), but never one a large pinkish tine one like that. I didn't think I left any ungathered eggs the day before, but obviously I did!

You may recall that I froze 13 dozen eggs in preparation for when my hens stopped laying this winter. So far, I haven't used a single one. Since frozen foods have the shortest "shelf life" of any preservation technique, I may as well start using them anyway.

Winter layers has been a common topic on a number of blogs lately, so I decided to do a little research to see what I could learn. There are several other breeds I'd like to try, so winter laying is a good quality to consider.

Henderson's Handy Dandy Chicken Chart lists the following as good winter layers:
  • Chantecler
  • Delaware (though this wasn't my experience)
  • Dominique
  • Faverolles
  • Jersey Giant
  • New Hampshire (& New Hampshire Red)
  • Orpington
  • Plymouth Rock
  • Rhode Island (Red & White)
  • Sussex
  • Wyandotte

This list doesn't seem to be written in stone however. My Delaware for example. Nor are Hollands and Ameraucanas listed as winter layers, yet these are the breeds that have given me my winter eggs.  The BackYardChicken Forum had several threads on the subject of winter layers, and it was interesting how some breeds did well for some folks but not others. Some people supplement with an additional light source, but others, like me, don't.

How about you? Do you have experience with chickens and have you had a breed lay during the winter? With supplemental light? Without? I think a lot of folks would be interested to know.

Laying Again © January 2011 


Toni aka irishlas said...

I have Plymouth Rock's and last year as pullets, they continued to lay through the winter. This year, not a single egg since the days have shortened. I do not add artificial light to the coop.

Horror of all horrors, I'm going to have to go buy eggs! (didn't know you could freeze them)

Love the blog!

The Apple Pie Gal said...

Very interesting post. We are getting closer to our first chickens and I have finally narrowed down the breeds. Happy to say 2 of the 3 are on your list! That's exciting!

And I can't wait to here how your frozen eggs work out for you!

Teresa said...

I have 14 hens and are getting 4-5 eggs a day with artificial light. I am sure it isn't economical but I don't care. Store bought eggs are nasty and my kids rebel when I have to use them;)

Renee Nefe said...

I'm glad you're still getting some eggs.

Nina said...

I've got New Hampshire crosses and of 9 chooks, we're getting 3-5 eggs a day, although yesterday we got 7. I had a string of LED Xmas lights up for extra light, but it wasn't doing much except making them grumpy so I turned it off and they've been without extra light but still laying. Before the days got really short we were getting 7-9 eggs a day!
My worry has been less about egg production I guess and more about health and vigour. I see winter eggs as a bonus. Living where it's cold and frosty, I was worried more about frostbitten combs and toes. The deep litter method is really helping with that I think as our waters don't freeze until it gets below -5 C for an extended time.

Leigh said...

Toni, everything is I've read about the barred breeds all points to winter laying. Yes, I've frozen eggs, but I have no idea how well they work out. I'll have to find out soon!

APG, we got a variety of breeds and I'm so glad we did. Some of the breeds that people loved, we haven't been quite so keen on. You will really enjoy having chickens.

Teresa, I agree that not every decision should be based on cost effectiveness. Feed alone is one thing, but the quality of those eggs, plus manure is priceless!

Renee, me too!

Nina, yes, frostbite would be a concern in your part of the world. I feel fortunate that's less of a concern here, though I have found the water in their coop frozen on some mornings. It's great you're still getting so many eggs!

Michelle said...

The only two hens I have that have laid through the winter are the Red Sex-link; not a "breed" and therefore probably not of interest to you. I would have gotten some Black or Buff Sex-link for variety when I got my new Sussex and Easter Eggers, but none were available. Next winter I'll see how the Sussex do. My mature Rhodie and Easter Egger haven't laid for months. I do use supplemental light, but I live far north of you where it is cloudy much of the winter, so I feel they need it for good health. Otherwise they would probably just perch at least 18 hours a day!

Teresa said...

BTW I can't bring up your current post (eighth of an Inch) not sure why, anyone else having probs?

Leigh said...

Michelle, I'll be interested in how your Sussex do next winter, although I may have my own by then. :) I think location has something to do with it, judging by what I've been reading.

Teresa, it isn't you. The "Oh For An Eighth Of An Inch" post isn't finished yet. I've been working on the draft, and must have hit "publish" instead of "save." I pulled it as soon as I discovered this, but it wasn't before several feed services picked it up! I hope to have that post published in about a week or so. Sorry for the confusion!

Michelle said...

Leigh, to follow up on my other comment, I thought I'd mention that a "chicken expert" (breeder, exhibitor and judge) told me that unless you are buying from a show breeder, all chicks marketed as "Ameraucana" are actually hybrids (like the Sex-links) between Ameraucanas and many other breeds; hence the various feather and egg colors and probably the reason for the varied results in egg laying. Thanks to her authoritative correction, I religiously call my colored-egg layers "Easter Eggers."

Unknown said...

I may have another problem when my Orp's lay and that is neighbors dusk to dawn light that lightens up the coop. Will they over lay? LOL!! They were born late October and boy are they hardy! Haven't lost ah one in our cold weather. Knock on wood. One is already as tall as the top of my knee! Wow! I will come back to read comments. Have ah good day!!

Teresa said...

k no problem, I look forward to reading it.

Marie said...

Our hens have actually been laying through the winter with an occasional break here and there, it has been a great blessing!!! I did not know you could freeze eggs, how does that work?

Sheryl at Providence North said...

We had Shaver-red-sex-links for a few years. We had 19 hens and we usually got at least 12 eggs every day throughout the winter months without supplementary lighting. The eggs were smaller in the winter, but still lots there.

Geodyne said...

I'm just happily envying you your chickens! Although I did manage to buy a dozen araucana eggs from a woman at the markets the other day.

Leigh said...

Michelle, I call mine Ameraucanas because that's what the breeder sold them to me as. I later did read about the use and misuse of the name, and so did a little research out of curiosity. I don't know about mine, but they have characteristics defined by the APA: muffs, beards, pea combs, slate colored legs, so that I felt okay continuing to call the Ameraucanas. Now, if I were planning to breed to sell or show, I wouldn't use these, but I've called them Ameraucanas for so long, that's just what they are to us. :)

Toodie, oh my. I wonder if all that that will be a problem! My husband really likes the look of the Buff Orps, so we may try a few , though I'm still not sure how to introduce new chickens to an established flock. Not easy I've read. That will be another adventure.

Teresa, I confess to feeling a bit embarrassed about it!

Maries Cottage, good to hear from you! To freeze my eggs I beat 2 cups worth raw and added a bit of salt. I read that the thawed texture is better if salt, sugar, or corn syrup is added before freezing. I really need to defrost some and see how they do.

Sheryl, wow. I've heard that those sex links lay really well. Interesting about the egg size in winter. My Delaware's first eggs of this year are smaller too.

Geodyne, that's pretty neat that you can buy breed specific eggs. How are the preparations for your move coming along?

Mr. H. said...

Thanks for the chicken breed list and I'm glad to hear that your girls are laying so well for you...good job girls.:) We have only had Rhode Island reds but our old birds have laid through every winter and it looks as though they will do so again this year...a wonderful breed of chicken. I have heard that Australorps are also good winter layers.

bspinner said...

When I worked at the nursing home all we used were frozen eggs. Either frozen in quart containers or large plastic bags. Of course we only used them to make scrambled eggs. The omlets and pattys came in those shapes.

I've never tried it at home but sure do admire you for doing it.

Leigh said...

Mr. H your experience confirms it about the RIRs. Funny, but originally I almost got got both those and some Australorps, but later changed my mind. I do feel fortunate for the few eggs we've gotten this winter. And, it wasn't as hard to adapt my egg usage as I might have thought.

Barb, I'm going to have to give some a try today. The school my son works for uses them for scrambled too. I'm sure they'd work for omlets. And baking too!

Tarheelbilly said...

We have Buffs, Black Austrolops, Silver Laced Wyandottes, and Barred Rocks. All of them laid until late October or so (all except the Wyandottes, who weren't mature enough to lay yet). The girls are either a year or two old, and last year they laid during the winter, too. Strangely enough, none of my local flock having friends are getting eggs right now, either. I dunno what's up this year, but I'm seriously missing my backyard eggs!

Leigh said...

Tarheelbilly, you're confirming what I've read about age and laying. Mine will be a year old next month, so I reckon I will get a fair supply of eggs next year, but will need some new recruits after that!

What Pigs Don't Know said...

Our Brown Leghorn stopped laying at the end of September! Very disappointed by that. The Barred Rock stopped at the end of October. Not a single egg from either of them since, and only the BR is molting. Our Black Sex Link, on the other hand, has laid 2 eggs every 3 days the entire time. We JUST brought home 13(!) more chickens the night of 1/05 (only 2 of which are laying age) and on the afternoon of 1/07 we got 2 eggs! I was amazed b/c they've been tormented by the Brown Leghorn since they arrived. Now the new 13 are all 1/2 bantam random mixes but I'll take consistent smaller eggs over nonexistent bigger eggs any day! -Carrie