When you embark on the journey of producing your own food, you learn a LOT of things. If you live in a climate that has a clearly defined winter like I do, you learn that garden fresh tomatoes aren't an option in the middle of winter. And you learn to appreciate the sauce that you have canned or frozen because supermarket tomatoes are no match for the juicy goodness of a warm tomato out of the garden. You also learn if you keep chickens that eggs are a scarcity in the winter. Sure, you can put artificial light into your coop to keep your hens' production up. But, I fall into the camp of allowing my girls some rest during the shortest days of the year.
One thing I usually have to explain to people that it is not the temperature that keeps hens from laying, but the length of the day. As the solstice approached this year, eggs were few and far between. We didn't get any new pullets this spring, so our hens all went through a molt this fall and many were still not back to laying. Some days I would get one egg, while other days I might not get any. With holiday baking behind me, I just started rationing our egg consumption — because just like store bought tomatoes, I don't care for supermarket eggs. There are a number of reasons why, but taste ranks highly on that list.
As the days have been getting longer, I've been getting more eggs each day. When Jonas hit a few weeks ago and the hens refused to leave their coop, I got six eggs one day! Jackpot for eleven hens in the middle of January. Recently when I went to check the nesting boxes for eggs, I noticed something strange. In the middle nesting box, where no eggs generally are laid, I noticed something that resembled an egg. It was tiny, but was shaped and colored just like the big eggs. I brought it into the house and weighed it. It weighed 12 grams. A quick Google search yielded a figure of 36 grams for an average Bantam egg. I have all heavy breeds and no new layers, so this egg was quite an anomaly.
My husband and I joked, wondering if the hen even felt it when she laid it! When we cracked it, there was no yolk. We didn't think too much of it, but I made a mental note to keep an eye out for more small eggs. Lo and behold, a few days later, I got another small egg. Some internet searching turned up a common term of “fairy egg” for a small egg that a full size hen lays. When something foreign enters the hens oviduct or some other piece of reproductive tissue, an egg is formed.
A few days later, I found another small egg, but one that was about twice as large as the previous fairy eggs. This egg still lacked a yolk, but is at least getting larger! Our hens free range and I'm not sure which egg comes from which hen, so I've been keeping an eye on them for any odd behavior — other than running screaming through the yard when I toss out some kitchen scraps. So far, so good. I'm hoping it is just a product of starting to lay again after a nice break to grow out shiny new feathers. In the meantime, we have coined a new term. Toot egg. It seems as though the hen might have tooted and out popped an egg. We still wonder if she even felt it!
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