|off to the zoo|
As the season continued its unstoppable march toward completion, we found ourselves at a point where we could finally take steps to resolve the “issues of the henhouse”.
|catching hens before daylight|
We headed out before first light and began the task of sorting the hens into two groups. Once the sorting was done, the oldest ones headed out on a one-way trip to the Zoo. Now, this is probably some sort of “ageist discrimination”, and someone will probably find fault with it... it really does seem the best solution to the situation we found ourselves facing with the hens.
But, first, a little HEN 101 might be in order.
Laying hens generally start laying eggs between 18 and 22 weeks of age. (that’s about 5 months) Egg production will stay steady for the next year or so.
A hen produces ONE egg approximately every 26 hours. That cartoon vision of a hen on a pile of eggs that just keep coming is strictly a figment of imagination.
Egg production is greatly affected by the hen’s age, the hours of daylight, the weather and amount of protein in the ration. However, in our operation, we have found age to be the deciding factor. Once the hens reach two years, egg production drops dramatically. In some cases, it stops altogether. And, if you are in the business of selling eggs...this can’t be good.
In addition to decreased egg production, the shells of the eggs become thinner and more fragile. This leads to damaged, broken eggs which cannot be sold.
And, while most customers find this truly incredible...the hens EAT those broken eggs! (some old hens develop such a taste for eggs that they just stay in the nestboxes looking for tasty treats as the productive hens lay their eggs)
Once “old age” is reached and production drops off, nothing can reverse it. No changes in light or diet or thinking positive thoughts...it’s just the end.
While it may make me sound heartless, there is no place on the farm for animals that can no longer do their job. However, this leaves us with a dilemma. Since we raise broilers, we don’t need the meat. (and honestly, processing old hens is a nasty job) Selling them is not without its own issues. What to do with a bunch of old biddies?
The local zoo is happy to get the free protein for the big cats and the large reptiles. They even allow us a free pass to visit and photograph the animals. So, we get a little fieldtrip and the zoo animals get a few meals. Seems like a win-win deal to me!
We have decided we should make a “chicken dinner delivery” to the zoo on an annual basis. Theoretically, this will keep the “issues of the henhouse” under control. I’m hoping it will work out to take the grand-minions along next time. I am certain the little guys would have a blast!
And, while egg numbers are still low (those days are still getting shorter) we no longer have 50-some non-productive hens to feed, reducing the feed bill considerably. How to keep all our winter egg customers happy during the winter may be a challenge, but the little girls should start laying sometime after the first of the year.
And, just like that...it was time for the last Market day of 2016...
|final 2016 Market|
I’ll be perfectly honest here, I have never been so glad to see the end of the season. Ordinarily, the last day is a little bittersweet. That vendor luncheon at the Depot Grille is just a little poignant. Not so, this year. I’m pretty sure I was not the only one heaving a great big sigh of relief.
But, we’re done. We completed another year. Season #19 (for us) is history. We can put 2016 behind us and look forward to Opening Day 2017...April 1st. (no foolin’!) It’s time to re-group, re-charge and maybe even RELAX.
|You can't even tell the Market was here...|
Except, Thanksgiving is fast approaching.
...that means I need to start cleaning and cooking and collectively we need to pick up the lamb chops and finish up that “interesting project” ...
|the "interesting" project continues...|
got any guesses?
Thanks for stopping by!
|change in the weather|
Hope you’re having a
Come back and visit again real soon.
Check out the Boss' photos of the Market! https://www.facebook.com/stauntonfarmersmkt/photos/pcb.10154459761981141/10154459727656141/?type=3&theater