Egg Famine

I just did the monthly egg tally, and the girls are certainly not earning their keep.

They laid a grand total of 17 eggs for the entire month of May.  There is a good reason however, and that is that they are moulting.  There are feathers everywhere, and it looks like I have killed, and plucked a few of them and scattered the feathers around the chook run!

Now if I did not keep a tally, I may have been very concerned, so I checked back in my egg book (yes I have a book to record eggs laid each day), and remarked to Kim that the hens only laid 41 eggs in May last year, which was the yearly minimum.  Around the winter solstice, the girls started to pick up the pace again.

We can only hope that this happens, because I am not running a retirement home for old battle axes.    The two oldest girls, Bunty and Edwina, are now 4 and three quarter years old, which is quite long in the tooth for ISA Browns.  In a commercial intensive farm, they are killed at about the 18 month mark, which is just before their first moult.  Sad, but true.

That being said the rest are still quite young, and the bantams and leghorns are laying, albeit every few days.  The four ISA browns have not popped out a bum nut for about three weeks.

I may just have to see what eventuates over the next few months, and make the difficult decision at that time.

For those of you with chickens, are you having a famine at the moment?


  1. says

    I’ve got 9 female ducks and 6 female chickens, and we’re getting 1 duck egg per day and a chicken egg every second day. Very expensive eggs!

    That said, we do eat the old ones and most of the young boys that hatch, so this time of year I prefer to think of the feed cost as producing meat rather than eggs :-).

  2. says

    I am in SA and its getting colder here, but mine are yet to moult and we are still get five out of five most days, at the minimum 4…my girls are about 18 months old. Three white leghorn cross and 2 Isa Browns.

  3. says

    This is totally off the subject, but when you make Romano cheese, at what age would you wax it? Just at the one month mark when oiling would be? Seems soon compared to the parm. cheese.

    • says

      Hi Kenzie.

      Yes, one month would be a good time to wax a small Romano. It needs to dry out enough so that the finished product is firm and dryer than, say, a cheddar.


  4. Michael from Canberra says

    Hi Gavin,

    We went through a refresh recently. It took us 6 months of buying eggs and feed before we decided to dispatch them. It wasn’t an easy decision, and it was a very sad day for us, but now that the new flock have taken up their positions on the perch and we got our first egg from them on Saturday, we now feel more comfortable about our action. Everyone will be different though, but I did need to remind myself that every time I enjoyed a roast chook, I was essentially making the same decision to put down a bird.

    Over our last 3 years of urban chicken farming we have owned Hy-line Browns, ISA browns and Rhode Island Reds. After reflecting on each of their qualities we got 7 Hy-line browns. We found them to be more quiet than the ISA’s, they were more consistent than the Rhode Island, and never went broody.

    I accept that moulting, going off the lay and going broody are all natural behaviours that are are usually part of the package, but in our current situation, at this point in our lives, we are looking for hardy egg layers. They do live a good life though, and that is what is important to us.

  5. says

    I agree about giving them more protein – they really need it while they generate new feathers. The light thing is true, but probably better to do when they’re back in lay. I’ve been using hybrids for my laying flock for about a decade, usually ISA Browns, though this year I’m trying Red Rocks. ISA’s are bred for the commercial industry, and their bodies do tend to give out very young. You have done well with Bunty and Edwina, because usually these birds just plain wear out if they don’t get eggbound first. The other thing is that chickens lay significantly fewer eggs after their first molt – 1 every 3 or 4 days is about average, even less after the second molt. You probably can’t count on getting back to previous production levels with these birds. Feeding birds that don’t give you eggs is an expensive proposition, even considering the fertilizer and entertainment value they provide.

  6. says

    Yep that happens this time of year here too. It’s just natural.There are some European breeds that lay over winter for longer but the isa browns are very much a commercial chicken. I would say they will start up again as it warms up …but when it is time to ‘change chickens’ , try some of the heritage breeds like Langhams and Wesummers which lay through the winter.

  7. Anonymous says

    Chickens need light. If you increase the amount of light with a light bulb in the chook house to 13 hours per day they will think it is spring and start laying like crazy. I think 13 hours/day is the required number but a google search will no doubt confirm or deny it. I had mine on a timer for a few hours before dawn and a few hours after sunset which worked very well. The sudden lights out as opposed to a slow sunset confused them at first but there is some way of deminishing the light gradually so they will go to their perches. Perhaps an LED? I suppose the question is, does the artificial light go against the purist principals and does the cost of the electricity exceed the value of the additional eggs?

    • says

      Why don’t you try solar garden lights. They come on automatically at dusk and just run until the batteries get low. In winter this is usually about 4-5 hours. You will get all the light in the evenings but it will still add up to about 13 hours.

  8. Sarah says

    I found upping the protein in the chickens diet really helps. I use composting worms as a supplement but others swear by cat food (yuck). They need lots of protein to grow new feathers and it seems to help them get back up to speed on egg laying.

  9. says

    Yep, I only got 5 in May from four chooks. Then I bought 2 more and one of the older ones prompty turn her claws up. Still no eggs so I bought another 2. I now have 7 (all Ise Browns at the moment) but the new ones were just starting to lay before I went away for a few weeks. It will be interesting to see how they’re going when I get back.

    The trick is to keep a rotation going. Buy point-of-lay chooks in Autumn and they will lay through the first winter and often through the second winter (although much fewer eggs). As they get older they slow down but the eggs get bigger. By the time they get to four they will really slow down but you will still get eggs in summer. Of course, a rotation only works if you can bring yourself to cull the older girls or find them a retirement home. That’s not an option for everyone.

    Hmmm, I might steal your idea Gav and post on this topic as well as it seems quite timely.

  10. says

    Yes, there’s an egg famine here too, although I have some younger hens coming on who may be laying soon. I haven’t had to buy any eggs so far, I’m just scraping through! Unfortunately I had a fox attack and have lost some of my best layers. :(

  11. Alli @ ducks on the dam says

    My comment above wasn’t meant to be anonymous! Grrr. I struggle with your spam bot

  12. says

    Yesterday I met a lady that has been farming for the last 50 yrs and we where talking about chickens (we have 4 Isa browns left now) the rest are bantam wyandottes and we got 5 silkies from her..anywys she said because the Isa’s are hybrid breed for popping out eggs its kinda rough on their bodies and so you need to get new ones yearly to keep your egg supplies up… Isa’s were our first chickens ever when we moved here and knowing what i know now about them I will not get them again our bantams may not lay as fullon but they stand the test of time better IMO

  13. says

    our 5 girls have only started laying again this week after a 5 week break and a lot of moulting. We are now getting 2 eggs every 2 days, hopefully that will pick up soon.

  14. Anonymous says

    Our chooks are doing a brilliant job……. we are getting 4 a day, every day from our 4 isa browns. So that’s 124 for May. Apparently this is very unusual locally (or so they tell us at the produce store where we buy feed). We’ll see if the cold slows them down. Love your egg book idea. Going to start one of those!

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