Have you ever taken the time to think about the humble egg? It is a naturally packaged bundle of deliciousness that gets laid by a chicken nearly every day of its short life.
From the time that a chicken hatches, depending on the breed, it takes anywhere from 18 weeks to 32 weeks to lay its first egg. So on average, your humble chicken starts laying at around 5 – 6 months of age. Once they start laying, they produce eggs nearly every day for around 8 months, then their bodies take a break (wouldn’t you?).
Given the people population (not chicken population!), most eggs that we consume, are laid by girls that are between 5 and 18 months old. After this, they are replaced by most egg farmers with a new batch of birds. The “old” birds are then processed into many of the foods we eat (e.g. nuggets). This is egg production on an industrial scale.
Here on our farm, we let all our girls live a regular long life. They live to around 6 years of age (on average), and their egg production slowly tapers off with age (a bit like humans). Near the end of their life, they stop laying all together and then one day we find them curled up under a tree, in their favourite dust bath or under their favourite perch, dead, having lived a happy chooky life. All our girls that get to this age, have been a “Mum” several times over too. While we incubate most of our eggs, if a hatch coincides with one of our girls turning “clucky”, we place the eggs under her and she gets to be a Mum (and does a much better job than a heat lamp can!)
The chickens we hatched at the end of August are now starting to lay their first eggs. As a chicken starts laying, they usually lay tiny eggs, starting with ones that only have a yolk. In the image below, you can see a pale blue egg which is tiny compared to a “normal” sized egg. This little one was layer today by one of our Araucana girls. The blue colouring will become more prominent in the next few weeks.
As their body gets more accustomed to laying, they get bigger but are still smaller than your “normal” egg. There are two slightly smaller eggs in the image below that were laid by a Plymouth Rock girl that started laying last week.
Finally, after about 4-6 weeks, the eggs are more “normal” in size. The two pictured were laid by different breeds. The light one by our Plymouth Rocks and the Brown ones are laid by our Barnevelders. No blue or green shelled eggs ATM as our hens are sitting on the next clutch of eggs.
So, the next time you use an egg, have a thought about how long it took to get to your table. Also, think about how that chook has been treated. Our eggs will be on sale at the end of January.