So I haven't blogged in a donkey's age and yet what is the topic that compels me to blog today? Why, it's no less than the first day of 2012 on which the girls have laid (lain?) two good eggs! Here are the beauts:
Today's eggs are from Stephanie and Sandy. Michelle lays a bigger egg, but hers have had thin/no shells lately. I found it surprising that Michelle lays the big egg and Stephanie and Sandy lay similarly sized eggs. Michelle and Sandy ("the twins") are the same breed. Stephanie is a different, slightly larger breed. I thought Michelle and Sandy's eggs would look similar, but no. Sandy and Stephanie's eggs are the same size, but Sandy's is slightly darker.
Who was laying the big egg was a topic of speculation for some time until it was determined with finality. Although curious, we weren't going to sit around and watch to see who lays what egg over the course of a few hours. Each hen was suspected, in her turn, to be the author of the big egg based on very casual observations. Finally, one morning Kevin went to let them out and, as usual, checked for any eggs already laid that morning. None. Then, while he was still there, one chicken went in and settled in to lay an egg. He waited until she was done, went in to collect the egg - which happened to be the big egg - proving once and for all that Michelle is laying the big egg. As he put it, he outwitted the chickens. We take our successes from whence we can.
Since I last blogged, Sandy molted and went on holiday from laying for the last few months. She's recently started up. From the article, Light in the Chicken Coop (about adding artificial light to chicken coops):
Hens naturally lay eggs when the days are long, and slow down as the days grow short in winter. This is because daylight stimulates the pituitary gland, which stimulates the hens' ovaries to produce eggs. Hens lay when they have daylight for at least 12-14 hours per day, and egg production drops off significantly and may even stop once days are shorter than this.
So her molt, combined with the shorter days, led Sandy to drop off laying eggs. She appears to be starting back in again. I barely notice that the days are longer, but I guess it's enough for Sandy.
Sandy's molted both winters we've had the chickens. I don't believe Michelle molted, unless it was a very light molt. Stephanie hasn't molted at all yet. Curious. I thought Michelle was looking a little scraggly in certain spots, so maybe she's getting ready to molt, but I don't know for sure.
Molting is when chickens lose some/all of her feathers and grow new ones. They can look a bit ratty during molting although I think my girls are always gorgeous, but I'm hardly objective. It takes a lot of energy to grow new feathers, energy that's diverted from egg production, hence the decline in laying. But soon enough, a hen will have herself a fine new down coat and start laying again.
It may not seem like much, but I shall take today's egg output as a sure sign of spring to come!