Yesterday was the first day since last January that I didn’t collect a single egg. There’s a number of reasons for this lack of production – the primary one being that the hens are molting (or moulting as it is spelled in Great Britain). Once a year, usually in the Autumn (though there’s always one hen to prove this rule wrong) hens lose their feathers, look terribly scraggly and bare, and then grow a new coat. These new feathers, are appropriately called pins or quills, because that’s just what they look like! Never fear, they will unfurl into a lovely insulated feather coat just in time for winter.
The molt lasts up to 6 weeks. Between that and the lack of daylight hours, my hens take a break from laying eggs until February. Before factory farming, this was true for all of the northern states. Eggs used to be a seasonal product and were quite expensive in the winter.
This year, I’m experimenting with leaving a bulb on in the big barn so that the hens get 14 hours of light a day.This should get them laying right after their feathers grow in. Already, a few are almost done molting. I’m hoping to not have to buy eggs at the market. Somehow, it just doesn’t feel right.