Our poultry situation at the Genuine Faux Farm has been simplified significantly over the past week. Prior to last Wednesday, we had two hen flocks, a turkey flock and two broiler flocks. As of today, we have one hen flock and a turkey flock.
For those who are really paying attention, you might wonder if this seems a bit early this year - and you would be correct. We normally do not take the older hens to the park until late October and the last batch of broilers are usually processed in late September to early October. But, we did follow through on some of our Foresight 2020 plans to adjust how we were doing things to adjust to our new realities on the farm.
I am happy to report that it seems our choices were good ones for this year and the way it has gone.
Status of the New Laying Flock
The new layers were hatched this Spring and started laying in mid-August. When I say, 'they started laying' I do not mean that every bird started laying full-sized eggs on August 15. I am frequently amazed that many people seem to think that chickens have an on-off switch that pumps out full-sized eggs every day when the switch is on... starting on day one.
As of this moment, roughly half of our 90+ hen laying flock have started to lay eggs. Most of the birds currently laying are the brown egg layers. Very few of the white-egg layers have started and none of the green egg layers have given us any sort of offering at this point. Saturday marked the first day we approached the 4-dozen a day mark that we like to get at a minimum.
Very productive laying hen breeds, at their peak, will tend to lay an average of 4 to 5 eggs a week. The brown and white egg layers are pretty reliable while the green egg layers fail to lay in cold or hot weather. But, it takes time for young hens to build up to that peak. Usually, the first several eggs are much smaller, gradually getting bigger as the hen moves to peak maturity.
What Does This Mean for You?
First - this means our egg production is actually going up. Our older hen flock was not one of our better flocks (for various reasons) and had very low egg laying numbers. Even with their removal, the young hens are beginning to exceed the production levels we have had for several months. That means we will be able to fill more orders than we have for some time. This is good news for all of you (those of us who do the egg washing are a little less sure about it).
Second - egg sizes are going to be all over the place for a while now. Yes, there will be many smaller eggs mixed in with bigger eggs as each hen goes through the process of beginning to lay. Then, there will likely be a period of time where many eggs will have double yolks. Eventually, things will settle down and we'll have consistent sizing. Regardless of size, they always have the fine quality our hens have provided for years!
Third - most of the eggs will be brown for a while. Our balance of brown, white and green eggs will be a bit off for a while until the California Whites and Americaunas start laying. The ratio of birds for each breed should result in our normal mix once they all mature.
Fourth - there are stewing hens available to purchase! Hens that have reached the end of their laying career on our farm are typically taken to "the Park" and processed as stewing (some call them baking) hens. These birds are great for creating chicken stock and have very good taste. Because they are older birds, they are a bit 'tougher' than the broilers so require slower cooking techniques or perhaps pressure cooking. We usually sell these birds at the cost of processing and travel, so they are a very inexpensive alternative for a little protein.