Production at an all time low: Part 1

Around my house, if one talks about production being down, it’s usually in relation to the recent output from The Layers and Crew.  (It seemed appropriate since the flock is now a combination of my girls and his girls and our girls, that I needed an updated title for the group.  What do you think?)   In layman’s terms, how many eggs did we get today? Production has been down.  Last year at this time the girls were giving me about 8 eggs a day form 13 hens.  My guy was getting oodles from his girls.  He didn’t gather daily (eeks…I know!!! I gather a few times a day most days) and so there would be a couple dozen when he would go gather.  He was giving them to all the neighbors and they loved him for it.

The decrease did not come overnight.  It has been like this for months.  When we (The Layers and I) were still out at the farm and they were free-ranging, they were giving me nearly 6 dozen a week.  That was out of the dozen girls that were old enough to lay.   The first change for them came when I changed their food.  They had been having Rogue Quality Feeds Layer Pellets when I got them in October and I kept them on that until late spring.  I changed it to the Rogue Nature’s Harmony Organic Layer Pellets.  They are both 16% protein.  The only difference is that one is made with grains that had been certified Organic by the Oregon State Dept. of Agriculture, per the packaging.   I noticed a slight drop in my daily egg counts. Then, in May, when things began blooming and I came back from a trip, my landlord asked me to pen them.  They were getting into her pretty flower beds.  I understood.  So a pen was built around their coop by none other than my most favorite hardworking boyfriend.  He even made the gate cute for me.  🙂  Right away, there was a significant drop.  In  April I had been getting about 9 or 10 a day and then it was down to about 6.  I felt they were crowded.  The enclosed area was plenty large enough by the standards you see when you look to find out how much space a chicken takes.  I had 17 chickens and they had a 16×8 foot coop and their run was at least twice that big.  So maybe around 350-400 square feet of ground space for them.   That’s plenty for certain.  But I felt they had given up too much space.  They had been roaming 3 acres for the last 8 months.  So I decided to re-home 5 of the original Layers.  And the eggs skidded down to a mere 4 or 5 a day. But wait a minute.  4 or 5 a day out a of dozen chickens?  Oh…wait a minute, let’s evaluate.  I had 13 Layers, one died.  That left a dozen.  Then I got 5 baby chicks.  So 13-1+5=17 chickens in the flock.  Am I right?  Please check my math.  Then I sent 5 of the “original” flock to a home where they could free range once again.  Out of the babies, which none of them were old enough to lay eggs yet, was a rooster!  So, I was down to only 7 Layers.  Having 5 eggs a day was pretty good production. Then the heat came in early June.  It was in the 90’s daily by mid June.  Egg production down to about 3, but I did start getting itsy bitsy cutie patootie little eggs in July!  The Littles were laying.

In July I moved, and in August, the girls were transplanted into the city.  Boy oh boy, did production drop then.  They were in a very small coop/run with a whole new flock of chickens.  For a bit, we were getting about a dozen eggs a day from The Layers and Crew.  A dozen isn’t bad, until you do the math.  Damn chicken math!!!  I had my dozen, of which 4 of them were The Littles and not laying regularly yet.  There was the flock my guy had with 12 that we think were laying, but he didn’t know for absolute certain.  He used to have 17, but we re-homed 5 of his before we brought mine.  So let’s look at the math.  17(his original Crew) + 12 (My group) – 5 (The Littles)=24 Layers – 5 (the ones he re-homed before mine came) = 19 Layers.  I’m getting lost in this chicken math.  I know we re-homed a few of his and a few of mine to get to where we had 1/2 dozen of each and by putting them all together we had a flock of a dozen.  Then we got the two Red-Laced Blue Wyandottes.  We are on our way back up.  Or so we thought.  We are up on chickens but DOWN on the number of eggs.  We only had 8 that were Laying and we’re getting about 4 eggs a day.  Hmmm….that sounds similarly close to how it was last winter.

Did I tell you I noticed in late August or early September that my Polish hen had different colored feathers in her bonnet.  Some new white ones.  She was never a white head before. Before we got the newest Littles (we will always be having Littles I think) my guy again took out his tools and gathered up a bunch of stuff from around this piece of property and he made us a new coop/run that was more airy and larger and more secure and so much nicer.  So again, they became upset.   They were moved.  Production went down again.  There were a few days that we’ve had only 1 or 2 eggs.

I know that in September I started noticing a lot of feather laying in the chicken run.  They were molting.  I believe that is why my Polish hen, Miss Donna, had a change in her bonnet.  A few of them became pretty rough looking over the next few weeks.  Even my gorgeous Austrolop, Sweetie, was not her usual full feathered self.  Fortunately that only lasted a month or so and they are looking much better now.

Here we are now, with mid November upon us and still production is down.  We put up a light for heat and well…for light after daylight savings time ended.  Even with 24 hours of light we still only are getting 3 or 4 eggs a day.  I am starting to think that a few of my guys Crew are much older than 2 or 3 years old.  If that is the case, we may be rehoming a few, or making chicken stock.  We decided to give them 2 weeks to ante up, or off they go to a new home or the stew pot.  That is part of chicken math too!  When you have the bulk of a flock that isn’t laying for months on end and you are spending money on feed and not having anything tangible in return, then something has got to change.  At least at our house it does.

On the up side, the Blue Red Laced Wyandottes should be laying anytime now.  I haven’t noticed any tiny little eggs yet, but they are just about the right age for those cute first little round eggs.  I’ll be sure to share it with you all when it occurs.

The Littles give little eggs.

The Littles give little eggs.