The first one was magical. I’d been waiting for five months and suddenly there it was. A little brown, nature-packaged meal of protein, riboflavin, selenium, phosphorus, and Vitamin B12 left in a tenderly prepared nest. Finally, we’d gotten an egg. I’m pretty sure that the chickens did not understand my excitement; my husband and son did though. We scrambled it and divided it three ways and had a taste test comparing it to a store-bought egg. I’d never had as fresh an egg, and I found its texture creamy, its color a golden yellow, and its flavor exquisite – I can’t quite come up with an egg-equivalent terminology such as is used in oenology, but it had a very satisfying finish.
Our first egg arrived on January 20, 2013. As of this writing, we’ve received 23 eggs, gifts really, from our girls. I am trying to imagine what it must be like to produce such a masterpiece – a magnum opus as Charlotte called her egg mass in Charlotte’s Web – and then to have it snatched. Is this akin to a human having a baby snatched after the hard work of labor? Or is it more akin to “merely” the removal of an egg, one of many, through a process that causes varying degrees of pain or discomfort for each individual human female? These thoughts make me also wonder if it is painful for a chicken to lay an egg. We can’t ever really know of course, but my girls do not squawk when laying or seem overly stressed. In fact, the only time they seem stressed is when I bring them a treat, but do not let them out to roam.
So how impressive is a catch of 23 eggs in 19 days? I was told that production would be erratic at first. This makes sense; their young bodies are adjusting to producing the correct balance of hormones and nutrients required to create an egg. Normal production means an egg every 24 to 36 hours. If I assume that all three girls started laying around the same two-day period – because of their age, not because of any (now disputed) theories of pheromone synchronizing – then each hen laid more than 7 eggs in that 19 day period, or an egg every 2.5 days. This is not a bad start at all to what is supposed to equilibrate to 5-7 eggs/bird/week. Egg production looks even more promising if I look more carefully at the trend in the data from the first week through this last week. It is then that I notice we’ve had an eggstraordinary week!
Here is the data I collected:
- During the first seven days, we received five eggs.
- During the first 11 days, we received nine eggs total.
- On 1/31/13 we had the first day with three eggs!
- In the last eight-day period (1/31/13 to 2/7/13) we received 14 eggs.
Based on Australorps’ laying history, each bird should produce 5 to 7 eggs/week during her prime. Having three birds means we should receive 15-21 eggs/week. So here is how my girls are trending:
- Looking at the whole period all together: 23 eggs in 19 days = 8.5 eggs/week. But . . .
- Looking at the first eleven days: 9 eggs in 11 days = only 5.7 eggs/week.
- Looking at the last 8 days since the first day we received three eggs in a day: 14 eggs in 8 days = 12.3 eggs/week!
I did not think the girls would produce so regularly so quickly. The data shows a trend toward the 15-21 eggs expected for their breed, and I expect to be netting 15-21 eggs/week very soon. How eggstravagent!