It has been a challenging year for our chicken operation. In the spring, we experienced significant losses due topoor feed, in August, our local processing facility closed down, we are engaged in an ongoing cold war with the vandals, and now our egg production is taking a hit. I wish I could say that these we extraordinary events, but it seems there is always something just lurking beyond my awareness, ready to offer us a new challenge. As we finish up the year by taking the final batch of 300 broilers to the processor on Christmas Eve, we are looking forward to a fresh start in 2023 by starting a new batch of laying hens.
As expected, our egg production has significantly decreased. This is due to the limited daylight, which has reduced production by 75%. Chickens are sensitive to light and tend to lay more eggs when they have access to daylight for more than 14 hours a day. This typically occurs from May to September in central Texas. During the rest of the year, we still get some eggs, but as the daylight hours decrease, so does egg production.
Compounding the issue is the seasonal molt. During Fall, when there is a change in temperature or daylight hours, chickens naturally lose their feathers and grow in a fresh new set that will keep them warm during the approaching colder months. When the feathers become ragged, they do not fit together as well and lose their ability to provide insulation and keep the chicken warm, which is especially important in cold climates. Growing new feathers requires a lot of energy, and chickens cannot lay eggs and grow feathers simultaneously.
So, whether it’s by design or serendipitous, winter months means fewer eggs. Factory farms get around this by using artificial lighting in their hen houses - they fool the chickens into thinking it’s summer by having the lights come on at 4 AM. As we raise our chickens out on pasture, we do not use artificial lighting. We probably could run some power out to the egg mobile, or use a solar powered system, but we prefer to operate in harmony with nature. This gives the chickens a much-needed rest and affords them the energy to replenish their feathers without over taxing them.
Unfortunately, our customers desire for eggs does not diminish in the winter months, it may even increase as we’re all doing a lot more baking around the holidays and hosting family gatherings. This has become apparent as demand for our eggs has steadily increased over the last few weeks. It’s been a real struggle to meet everyone’s needs, and we appreciate your patience as we’ve attempted to fill your orders.
To remedy this, back in October we added another 100 layers to the flock, and just yesterday added 125 more! However, it will take these new chickens around 5-6 months before they begin to lay eggs, so we will not see an increase in production until late spring. We are hopeful that having over 300 laying hens next winter will help us meet the demand for our free-range, farm-fresh eggs. We apologize for any shortages in the meantime and appreciate your patience as our chickens take a break during the shorter days of winter. We look forward to being able to offer an abundance of eggs come May.
Meanwhile, continue to submit your orders and we'll do our best to keep you supplied with eggs from our hard-working hens.
The Pflugerville Pfarmers Market is closed until spring 2023. We will continue to bring pre-orders to the market location each week and we encourage you to visit our other market locations until the Pflugerville Pfarmers Market reopens.
Heritage Square Farmers Market will be closed Dec. 24th, Dec. 31st. The market will reopen for the 2021 season on Jan. 7th.
The Hutto Silos Farmers Market will be closed Dec. 25th and Jan.1st. The market will reopen for the 2021 season on Jan. 8th.