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Monday, November 26, 2012

A Chicken Vacation

Unlike a lot of people who raise chickens, I like to let my birds rest.

The average chicken lays an egg every other day. As the day shortens, it's their cue to store their energy and quit laying for the year. It's not a hardship for me because I usually have enough stored eggs to sustain me through the winter. The only people who suffer are those who have come to depend on my eggs.

Some of my super producers are still giving me an egg every so often, but most of them have quit. I suppose if my livelihood depended on selling eggs I might consider leaving the light on longer in their coop, but I feel they've done their part. 

I don't get rid of my birds yearly like commercial producers, so I like to give them a break and let them recuperate from their hard work.

If necessary, I might start leaving the light on for an extra hour in February to get them re-motivated. It all depends on when my super producers decide to get back into action. I always allow them to go into molt (where they get all scruffy-looking) and let them get their new coat of feathers before I ask anything more from them.

By the way, is it a coincidence that the alleged Mayan end of days on December 21st is also the shortest day of the year? Maybe they were on chicken time too. Or maybe it's a chicken-inspired apocalypse. Just sayin'. 

I feel I should do something to celebrate the end of the Mayan calendar, seeing as how they're kind of related to me--on my father's side. My mother's family came from Spain and France.

Do you plan on celebrating the apocalypse this year? I'm going to be alone again that week, so I'm available for warrior dancing and strong drink.

Update: A more complete explanation for storing eggs is up at Back to Basics. Thanks to Marlene Dotterer and Mike Keyton for their questions.

31 comments:

R. Mac Wheeler said...

I'm preparing for the zombie apocalypse by hoarding Kit Kats.

We all have our own priorities.

;O)

Maria Zannini said...

Mac: Damn! I knew I forgot something.

Hope your dogs have enough bandanas too.

Angela Brown said...

Okay, I about died laughing at that chicken pic. I mean, that is priceless right there!

Very cool that you let your chickens get in some rest and relaxation after all their hard work.

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: That chick called for a headdress.

I think chickens should get some vacation even if it's just a month. The body can't run full tilt boogie all the time.

Jennifer Shirk said...

YOu're so good to your little chickies. :-)

Hmm...maybe now is the time to let myself go and eat whatever I want...

Maria Zannini said...

Jennifer: Ref: ...maybe now is the time to let myself go and eat ...

I give myself permission to do that every year. :)

Cate Masters said...

That chicken picture is hilarious! Dec. 21 is also my sister's birthday, so we'll be celebrating regardless. But any day's a good day to have a doomsday party.

Shelley Munro said...

I think giving the birds a rest sounds like a good idea. After all, we humans expect time off!

I'm gonna have to think about this chocolate hoarding thing. That's a great idea.

Mike Keyton said...

'so I'm available for warrior dancing and strong drink.'You'd fit right into a Newport 'hen night' Maria.

Mind, I'm intrigued by your storing eggs for 3-4 months - don't they go off?

marlenedotterer said...

This is wonderful. I strongly believe we should let our food animals live a natural life. Which brings me to a question.

You say you have enough eggs to get through the winter. Can you give us tips on how to do this? I've always thought that eggs spoiled after a few weeks, so I only buy what I think I'll use in a week or two. Can I buy 20 dozen and keep them in my fridge for three months or more? Assume I'm buying eggs from free-range, pastured chickens, like yours.

I'd like to avoid buying eggs during the time when chickens naturally stop laying. I'm willing to figure out how to "go without" eggs for a few months, but husband would freak.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

SO far I have survived every impending apocalypse (knock on wood).

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I know lots of people are planning some parties. Haven't decided myself yet.

Darke Conteur said...

Husband keeps talking about getting some chickens and having fresh eggs, and I keep reminding him that I'm not looking after that too, no matter how good fresh eggs are. :D

Dec. 21 is also on a Friday.

Maria Zannini said...

Cate: Your sister is so lucky to share a birthday with the apocalypse! Go sis! Wish her an extra happy birthday from me.

Sarah Ahiers said...

we were going to host an apocalypse party, where people would be encourage to dress up like their favorite pocy, but we had to put that aside.

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: Commercial egg producers sell off their layers after the first year because they literally wear out. That's not counting all the hormones they put into them too.

Ref: chocolate
I'm so ashamed I didn't think of this sooner. LOL.

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: Heck with the hens. If I'm dancing there better be some roosters too. :)

***

Marlene/Mike: You both asked about egg freshness.

This is an excellent topic for Back to Basics which I'll post tomorrow more in depth.

But to answer your question on how long they last--a farm fresh egg should last upwards of 8-12 weeks if they're refrigerated.

During the winter, I regularly use eggs that are two months old. I read the US government says 10 weeks. But some of the farmers I've talked to said they will easily last 3 months.

So, Marlene, you should be safe to store them.

That said, some ducks and chickens will lay almost all year long without being forced. We used to raise Khaki Campbell ducks and those little guys would lay an egg almost every day. They were phenomenal layers.

I'll write more about storing eggs on Back to Basics tomorrow.

Maria Zannini said...

Optimistic Existentialist: I am going to be one VERY surprised person if one of these doomsday prophecies ever come true.

***

Susan: You're talking to someone who used to throw hurricane parties. No reason not to do a doomsday party too. At least we'll have lights--I hope.

Maria Zannini said...

Darke: Methinks you'll be emailing me soon should hubby win that argument. Once you're set up, it's really no trouble.

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: But...you've got the CABIN! There is no more perfect place for an apocalypse party. Yvie could dress as a zombie dog. :)

Barbara Ann Wright said...

An apocalypse party would be fun! Maybe a cyber party on your blog?

Jenny Schwartz said...

It is way too early too be laughing this hard! an apocalypse run on chicken time? love it! :)

Maria Zannini said...

Barbara: Damn it, woman. Now you've got me thinking. ;-)


****

Jenny: :sigh: No one ever takes the chicken conspiracies seriously.

Angelina Rain said...

Cute story about the chickens. I really don't know much about those birds except that they lay eggs and taste really good when deep-fried and drenched in buffalo sauce.

I don't buy into this whole apocalypse stuff. I bought into the 2000 story but I was like 14 or so at the time. Now it's like whatever, I've lived through the "apocalypse" (meaning 2000) already.

I did recently saw a show about how the Mayans weren't so much as predicting the end as they were marking the end of a certain time cycle. I thought that was pretty cool.

Darke Conteur said...

GAH,don't tell me that. My biggest worry would be with coyotes and fishers. I don't think I could handle getting up and seeing dead animals. :(

Maria Zannini said...

Angelina: The doomsday prophecies are all hoopla. I've lived through several of them, though I think the one where all the computers were supposed to crash in the 21st century was the most fun. A few companies lost function of their computers but none more earth-shattering than Godiva Chocolates.

Fortunately, they fixed the problem. Whew! Losing Godiva is nothing less than cataclysmic. :)

I'm not sure how the end of the Mayan calendar became a doomsday legend, but from my understanding, the Mayans called it a shift--not the end.

Maria Zannini said...

Darke: We've had our share of dead animals due to coyotes and raccoons. The raccoons (fishers) are the worst. They tear the poor chickens apart.

Rula Sinara said...

LOL at the chicken pic! Your chickens must adore you ;)

Maria Zannini said...

Rula: Well...they do up until they see the ax. The only ones who really worry are the roosters.

Giacomo Giammatteo said...

Great post, Maria. I didn't know you could keep eggs that long either. And I know what you mean about the raccoons; they're tough little critters. Four of my dogs had a run in with one a few weeks ago, and before they dispatched it, all of them suffered a lot of cuts and wounds. One almost lost an eye.

Maria Zannini said...

Jim: I've always worried that the dogs would tangle with raccoons or coyotes. I think most coyotes would run when faced with a formidable foe, but raccoons and possums are almost fearless.

I'm glad your guys came out of it okay. At least they have experience on their side now.