Friday, January 9, 2009

Menopause for Chickens? I think not!

Surprise Egg!

Just when I was saying it was kind of boring and ho-hum around here this past week, I go out to close up my hen house tonight in the cold and quiet, nothing unusual except that I notice how beautiful everything seems when illuminated by the almost full moon shining overhead.

I peek inside the hen house to check on my two old girls, Red & Lucy, they look fine. They have food and water and stare up at me from the straw covered floor contentedly, and then just as I was starting to close the door, I spied it! Sitting pretty as can be in the top nest box, was this beautiful, if a little enlongated, light brown egg! I haven't had an egg from my hens for over a year now. I've even stopped looking for them in the nests. That's why I almost missed this one.

I carefully lifted it out of the nest knowing that sometimes a first-laid egg can be soft or malformed. It was perfect. Hard shell. Looked normal. Slightly elongated as they usually are when a hen starts laying again after a long vacation. I guess the egg ducts need some time to adjust to the size of the eggs traveling through them, and the first egg gets a little squished on its way out.

I carried it carefully inside, cleaned it up and took its picture to share with you here in my blog. It weighs exactly 2 ounces for those of you who care about such things. I weighed it just for you.

I think it is beautiful.

And all I can really say is....Wow! One of my hens is almost 9 years old and the other almost 8, as of this coming Spring. I am not sure which hen laid this egg, but either way, it's a pretty big deal for hens that I thought were menopausal. I guess they are not. You go, girls!

They must have heard (from a passing deer?) that things were financially tight around here lately so they decided that they needed to start contributing to the household food supply. We will see if they keep it up or not. They may be just teasing me a bit.

A middle of winter egg from an 8 year old hen! Wow!

Not so ho-hum around Mountain Harvest Basket anymore.

© Copyright 2009 Mountain Harvest Basket


CaliforniaGrammy said...

That's a beautiful egg. I'm totally amazed she laid one after a year of dormancy. But she is a smart bird, knowing the economic situation we are all experiencing. What's the life expectancy of a hen. How old is she in human years? Hmmmmm . . . something to Google!

FYI: I got answers from 12 to 17 years when I Googled the question of life expectancy of a laying hen.

Farmgirl_dk: said...

I love this post - what a lovely surprise...and if you had to guess, do you think it was Lucy or Red who gave you the gift? What a lesson, though, that just when we believe we know what to expect next, the animal world will almost always surprise us. I love that.

Oh, and I am in egg nerd heaven with the knowledge that this excellent egg weighed precisely 2 ounces. (I noticed that you didn't include any goofy fractions in that figure because that would have been just plain silly, aside from imprecise.) :-) :-) :-)

Farmgirl_dk: said...

p.s. Hey Jen, you told me once that you got your produce scale from HW Bob's store (If I recall correctly, you found it in his catalog?...) I would love to get one similar to the one you have ...can you recommend yours or tell me the models Bob lists and I can look them up?

Farmer Jen said...

Hi CA Grammy,
Thank you for the egg praise! I will pass it along to the hens. Thanks also for the life expectancy info. I had always heard 10 years was pretty much the max for a hen. Maybe that was how long she would lay eggs, not her lifespan. Good to know.

Hi Danni,
I think it was Red (Wyondotte)due to the placement of the egg in Red's favorite nest box, and also because Red used to lay pretty skinny eggs in general, but Red is older than Lucy (Buff Orpington), so I may be wrong. Then again, the egg is a full 2 ounces, and Lucy used to lay larger eggs than Red so it may be Lucy. The best way to tell is if I can catch one of them sitting in the nest box in the middle of the day. They sometimes sleep in them at night, but never sit there in the daytime unless they are laying.

I like my produce scale and I will look up the brand and model for you tomorrow and email you the info, but this scale really wasn't my first choice. I purchased this one because it was affordable and met my functional weighing needs, and I believe it was the only one I could get through Bob's hardware store catalog at the time. (The one I really wanted was much prettier and cool looking, but was way more expensive.) Bob's hardware suppliers have changed a few times since I bought this scale (several years ago), so I doubt that this one is even listed anymore. I did quite a bit of research before buying this scale. If I can find any of it, I will send it to you.

I am flattered that you like my scale! Makes me smile.

By the way, if you like "nerdy" check out Marcee's blog post today about her 3 dozen eggs she weighed...

Farmgirl_dk: said...

Thanks, Jen - please don't go to any great effort on the scale if the info isn't immediately handy. If that's the case, if you could tell me the make/model of yours, that'd be super cool.

Oh, and I saw Marcee's post...that's why I made the comment I did about ridiculous use of fractions. (tee hee) :-)

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Whooohoo! When I saw the photo of the egg in my blogroll under your blogname, I knew I had to hurry right over here. I couldn't believe it! Way to go Red and Lucy. Maybe it was a joint effort? hehe

I'm so happy for you, Jen. This news is truly exciting and interesting.
My hubby was just asking me the other day how long chickens live and how long they lay eggs, wondering when/if we should supplement our flock with new birds.

And to see here that chickens can, and do still lay eggs into their later years is so heartwarming.

I, do believe it has much to do with how well cared for, content and happy your hens are, though.
You're a wonderful chicken mama, Jen.

Enjoy that special egg :)


(my word verification: 'sausness'
Maybe put some sausnesa on your egg) tee hee

Hardware Bob said...

Hilarious posting title, made me chuckle out loud this morning.

That precious, beautiful, egg created by Red or Lucy will make a fine breakfast or ingredient for some of your fabulous baking. Good for one of them in contributing to the food bill.

I do often wonder if a rooster's voice might encourage the girls to be just a little more prolific in their twilight years......

Err err err er er. Go girls.☺

frugalmom said...

Farmer Jen, I am so happy for you that one of your girls laid you that gorgeous egg. Had I been in the same situation, I mean, I wouldnt be laying an egg, thats just silly. I meant, had I gone out there to check on my hens and found an egg after all that time, I can pretty well guarantee you that I would have had tears in my eyes.

Heck, just readin your post almost had me in tears....sigh. Especially that part where you weighed the egg....I almost had to get a tissue.

And to Danni...whatEVER...youre just jealous that I can weigh in fractions and convert to decimals. I can understand tho. I mean, I am pretty cool like that.

Farmer Jen said...

Hi Lisa,
My hens laid eggs pretty well for the first 5 or 6 years. After that, production fell off sharply. It also varies with the weather and the amount of light available. Thank you so much for the Mother Hen praise. That means a lot to me.

Hi Bob,
I haven't had the heart to crack open that special egg yet, but I will at some point. It's too rare to eat right away. I think that the rooster's presence is actually annoying and stressful sometimes for the hens, especially older hens. They do look to him for guidance and protection if he is around though. My hens can actually hear my neighbor's roosters crowing. I can hear them, so they must too.

Hi Frugalmom,
I did not have tears in my eyes when I spied this egg, but I did have a moment of shock closely followed by a big smile on my face. The first year I had laying hens, I did weigh the eggs at first. The eggs from my mature birds weigh around 2 ounces, which interestingly enough, is what these same hens each weighed when they were just day old chicks.

Farmgirl_dk: said...

OMG - I can't believe I never thought to keep a chart of my chicks' weights as they grew. Sigh.

Anita said...

I grew up on an egg ranch, so I think it is so interesting that you have chickens. You've inspired me. I guess you're right no menopause for hens:)

Farmer Jen said...

Hi Anita,
Thank you for reading and commenting on my blog.