Sunday, September 6, 2009

USDA Grade "Tiny"

Gingersnap, our 22 week old golden Campine pullet, laid her first egg today. She is our smallest pullet and we think she is the cutest too.

Here is her little egg next to a large one that one of the Orpingtons laid. She's our only white egg layer. Derek said he's going to have it for breakfast tomorrow morning. He better fry up a couple extra ones or he'll be hungry within an hour!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Future Twelve Acres Trees

This is my bounty of locally collected acorns and nuts so far this fall. I am a big squirrel right now, going from location to location collecting nuts from trees as I go. In the basket are Bur Oaks and Black Walnuts. The tray is holding Shagbark Hickories on the left and Ohio buckeyes on the right. The buckeyes are a first for me. I have searched for these and had a hard time finding this particular species. Yellow buckeyes are easy to find, but Ohio buckeyes are not quite as common around here.

Don't those Buckeye seeds look prickly? I was surprised at how sharp they are as I gathered them. I am planting them far from the house so that I won't step on any of these prickly landmines. I think they would make a wonderful burglar deterrent, although most burglars don't go running around barefoot in the middle of the night.

As soon as the protective husks are off they are ready to plant. I will check the nuts for signs of mold, rot or borer holes and discard any that are affected. The rest will be planted immediately so that they can go through the necessary winter stratification that will crack the seed hulls and allow germination to take place. It's especially important to get the buckeyes in the ground as soon as possible because if they dry and shrivel up the embryo inside probably won't germinate. I always plant two seeds in each hole just in case one is bad. The trick is to space them a few inches apart so that if both germinate I can remove one without risking the other's root structure.

I am lucky in that I will be young enough to watch any trees that result from these seeds grow into adolescence. My grandchildren will get to see them in their full glory. Growing trees from seed, while easy, requires patience and a vision for the future. I've always equated growing trees with a deep sense of hope.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Year In Eggs

It's official, the year of counting eggs from my 14 layers is finally over! I have completed the chart, at right, so that you can see how things turned out. If you're thinking about getting chickens or are just curious about how many eggs a hen can potentially lay, it will give you an idea of what to expect.

My girls averaged 18 eggs per hen, per month which is a 58% lay rate per month.
I have 5 Buff Orpingtons, 6 Black Australorps, 2 Plymouth Barred Rocks, and 1 Buff Plymouth Rock. Four of my hens went broody in May and June which reduced their production dramatically. I went from about a dozen eggs a day down to about 7 on average! When August rolled around, some of my hens began to molt which also slowed production. Hens normally molt for the first time when they reach 18 months of age.

Recently a young woman asked me how many chickens she should get to start her own backyard flock. I told her to buy almost twice as many chicks as she wanted to produce the number of eggs she wanted each day. In other words, if she wants 3 eggs a day, she should buy about 5 chicks. If she wants a dozen eggs a day, some for herself and some to sell, she should buy about 20 to 22 chicks.

Of course, there are a number of other factors that influence production, such as age, breed, number of daylight hours, but I shant go into that here. All that information can be found online, but until now I had never seen any data about rate of lay during a one-year period.
So there you have it. I hope it is as interesting to you as it was to me. I'm just glad I don't have to count eggs every day anymore!