As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists. ~Joan Gussow

Patience Through Backyard Chickens

If you’ve talked with me anytime in the past, oh, say, four months, you might have heard me describe my chicken situation. The situation being that my five backyard hens were not laying. In fact, they have not been laying consistently since early summer (consistently meaning 3-4 eggs per day). Unless you are living in a hole, you know how horrible this past summer was with record-setting heat and drought conditions. This definitely took a toll on the ladies–they’re laying capacity dropped dramatically to a trickle. I would get maybe two a week, if I was lucky. Then starting in September (when the high was only 100 degrees), the 2 wyandottes started molting. Chickens generally start molting in the fall. And molting = no eggs–it’s just too much stress on the body for them to produce eggs. Slowly the other three climbed on the molting bandwagon, making it so none of the chickens were laying. As the months wore on…and they had stopped molting….but had not begun laying “normally”, I started looking more seriously at my large stockpot…..What the heck? Why are they not back to laying?? What could be wrong especially given their plush life? I give them organic food! And supplement it with extra proteins (I read they needed extra during molting)! And greens! And cuddle time! And it’s not 115 degrees outside!

The one egg that came in December...why no more??

Two weeks ago while shopping at the SFC Farmers’ Mkt, I talked with one of my favorite farmers about my chicken conundrum.  Becky Ottmers suggested I add a timer and light to their coop. I had already known that less light in the winter coincides with decreased egg production. However, last winter, I saw no decrease in their production, so I didn’t think it would matter this year. But being as desperate as I was for my hens to lay again, I heeded their device and set up a light and timer. The light comes on at 4 am and goes off at 7.30 am.

And so I waited a week with the light and timer. No eggs.

And then yesterday there were two eggs! And today there were three eggs!!! Maybe, just maybe, the extra light is helping! (I already ate the three they laid today–I made two sunny side up with homemade bread and used another one to make mayonnaise).

As frustrating as it can be not having all the answers when it comes to raising urban chickens, I love how it challenges me to figure out the ins and out of nature and learn to have some patience (which I will be the first to admit I need more of). And given that the State of the Union Address was tonight, I thought this was a fitting cartoon!


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