As the days are now once again getting shorter, the egg train has parked for the season. Dave and I have decided to not use the light and the timer again. “Why?” you might ask, “Don’t you still want eggs?” Well, yes, we do. I actually had to buy eggs for the first time in over a year a few weeks ago, and I was really irritated about it. “Then why not use the light again?” Well, while hens may live as long as 5-10 years, their egg laying capacity diminishes exponentially after the first year. Many are culled at this point. This is why you see different kinds of chickens available at the store: roasters / fryers and stewing hens. After a certain age, the meat gets tougher (think about the difference between lamb and mutton), and a chicken that is over a year old is really only suitable for stewing or soup making. Our girls’ laying was getting spotty through September, so Dave and I decided that we weren’t going to push them through the shorter days… we were just going to get them processed instead, and then get some new chicks for a family Christmas present. That should work out so that the egg production will be starting just as the weather stabilizes and the days are long enough.
I have been letting them out of the run more often, now that the garden is pretty much finished for the year. The girls have been in chicken heaven being able to scritch around in what was left over. They’ve truly enjoyed the cornucopia of tasty bugs, worms and slugs, not to mention the tomatoes that had fallen from the plants and the cast-off leaves from the cabbages and collard greens. The chickens even assisted me when I was digging the potatoes and planting the garlic. My birds have led a happy and healthy life, and I feel no misgivings whatsoever about ushering them into their next starring role, as some soul-warming chicken noodle soup.
I am seriously considering giving the next batch a little ‘get to know you’ speech upon arrival, just to clear up any potential misunderstandings: “So that everyone is on the same page, know that some day, I will kill you. And, you will be delicious.”