Rachel Hurd Anger
January 2, 2015

The Pullets are Laying - Photo by Rachel Hurd Anger (UrbanFarmOnline.com)

I’ve been buying eggs for 2 months. My family doesn’t eat very much meat, so we technically fall under the flexitarian, or semi-vegetarian category, making eggs very important to my family. When the girls aren’t laying, our choice is to eat more meat or buy eggs.

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It’s embarrassing to buy eggs and chicken feed, but when the hens get old and it’s winter, ’tis the season. The biggest caveat to raising urban chickens is that our flock sizes are so limited and our layers are also pets. Culling to make room for younger layers just isn’t what we do.

The weather hasn’t been as cold as it should be this time of year, so the chickens have been out ranging, they’ve been active, and when it’s warm, they don’t have to convert as much of their food energy to stay warm. The days are slowly getting longer now, but the days aren’t long enough to see eggs from the elderly hens until the end of February.

My husband went out to button up the coop for me after sunset on Christmas Eve while I was busy in the kitchen baking bread for our French toast the next morning—the French toast for which I had to buy eggs—and he delivered me an egg!

I didn’t expect an egg for a couple more weeks yet, but once all the pullets get started, I shouldn’t have to buy any more eggs through the winter. That’ll be a relief!

We didn’t get another until Dec. 26, and it’s a slightly different shade than the first, so it appears half the pullets are laying. The third egg was laid Dec. 28. It’s the exact same shade as the first, so I expect the same layer, but it’s larger. It could very well be a double yolk, as double yolks are quite common in young layers.

Without isolating the chickens individually, I won’t likely know which pullet the eggs belong to, but the different shades give me clues.

When an entire flock is laying, it’s easy to match eggs by color and shape. The shades and shapes become so familiar that when one type is suddenly missing, it’s obvious that someone has stopped laying.The easiest for me is when my only white layer stops laying. It’s always exciting when she resumes laying to find a blazing white egg in the nest. Likewise, if my Easter Egger lays blue or green I’ll know her eggs on sight, but if she ends up laying a shade of brown, her eggs will blend with the others. However, I’ll still be able to line up eggs and identify four different types, one type for each pullet.

For now, it looks like I can expect an egg every 48 hours, but that schedule won’t last long. Soon I’ll be stockpiling dozens of eggs in all the egg cartons I’ve collected in the last eight weeks.

I have enough store-bought eggs to get us through the rest of this week, so I haven’t cracked open the freshest eggs. They feel too special. Twenty weeks of feed investment makes those first eggs mighty valuable!

What are you expecting from your flock in the new year? Do you have questions about winter laying habits? Let me know in the comments below.

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