I forgot to add this in the updates last night: the chickens are laying! and not just a few eggs, either. We're not getting about 13 eggs a day from our hens. It is sooooo lovely to have fresh eggs again.
Most of the eggs are the small pullet eggs, but one hen started laying by laying double-yolkers. Grandson Clayton got to have one of those for breakfast and he was amazed because he'd never seen one before.
Some random things about chickens, if you've never had any or are just starting out with a flock:
- you can tell when they've laid an egg because they will cluck-cluck-cluck-cluck-CLUCK-cluck-cluck-CLUCK--well you get the idea. Very contented, happy sound.
- they like to lay where other hens have already laid. So it's a good idea to keep on egg in the nest to encourage them to lay, if you can spare one. some people use marble eggs, others use those white china doorknobs. I leave an egg, since we've got plenty.
- Leghorns lay year-round, with minor breaks. Other breeds mostly take some time off to moult (that is, grow new feathers). They look pretty pathetic during the moulting process, bedraggling around minus feathers here and there.
- Leghorns are nervous and flighty, and noisier than other chickens. The old-time heavy breeds are quieter and calmer--but they eat a lot more than Leghorns and don't lay as many eggs during the year.
- Leghorns aren't worth dressing out for meat, the heavy breeds are, so it's a trade-off. any chicken over about 6 months old will be too tough for frying. I liked to can chicken because it was very tender and easy to use. But it's been a long while since we've dressed any out.
- Chickens lay fairly well for about 5 years if they're cared for. After that, what do you do with them? I know what I do: I call Swap and Shop, the local radio show, and give them away. Someone always comes to get them.
- Chickens need 14 hours of light a day to lay. We keep a light in the henhouse year-round.
- Chickens like a lot of water. We have a water warmer for winter months so their water doesn't freeze.
- Chickens also need grit. Ours get some naturally by pecking around in their yard; I also bake and give them crushed eggshell. You can give them small creek gravel or buy crushed oyster shell at the feed store for grit too.
- Eggs keep better if they're not washed because there is a natural protective coating on them. But these days people worry about stuff like Salmonella so it's probably safer to wash them and keep them in the fridge.
- Fresh eggs are good! But you already knew that.