Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Baby Egg Layers, a difficult find

Who knew a pandemic would turn the whole chicken hatchery system on its head. A couple months ago it was almost impossible to order baby chickens. Hatchery's just didn't have the capacity to keep up with demand. Thankfully we already had our broilers and turkeys scheduled for the year. Our laying hens, however, were getting older. Once they reach a certain age, egg production falls significantly. For us that age is around two years old, many commercial facilities only keep layers for 12-14 months. Egg production eventually falls so much that they are no longer profitably producing eggs. Effectively, they are still eating the same amount of feed but providing way fewer eggs. We provide two years of a really nice life spend out on pasture, eating non-GMO feed, grass, and bugs. But eventually, these older hens get processed into delicious stewing hens. The years they spent exercising on the pasture and eating a diversified diet full of grass and bugs creates a fabulous chicken broth. Of course, then those hens need to be replaced with younger hens and the process starts all over. Problem is, this year, getting the younger hens has been a challenge. I'm proud to announce that we finally have success. These babies (in the photo) are less than a week old. It'll take a little over 4 months before they lay their first egg. We do still have our older hens that are laying some eggs still, and we have another group (pre-pandemic babies) that are just starting to lay. Hopefully, they can help get our egg production back to respectable levels. The babies in the picture should start laying eggs just in time for all your holiday baking needs.