Well, here we are on the other side of the winter solstice. The days are just beginning to get longer and the little chicks we got in July have grown up to be laying hens. All this means that egg season is upon us.
Now I know that most people don’t think of eggs as being a seasonal food, but that’s exactly what they are when you’re raising chickens on pasture. A laying hen’s cycle is photo-sensitive; the number of daylight hours impacts how many eggs they lay. As the days get longer in the spring it kicks a hen’s laying into high gear. As the days get shorter in the fall, egg laying drops off and moulting begins.
If you’re a wild bird this photo-sensitive thing is a great idea, you get to raise your chicks in the spring and summer when the weather is warm and there is lots of grass and insects to eat. Then, in the fall, you get to switch away from raising chicks to regrowing your feathers as the weather turns cold.
While there are a few chicken breeds that have had the “seasonality” bred out of them, most of the commercially important breeds still abide by the seasonal-laying thing. One of my favorite breeds, the Faverolles are known for being year-round layers. Unfortunately, they lay a fairly small egg, which takes them out of the running as a commercially viable breed. Commercially viable breeds like the Leghorn, Rhode Island Red, Rock, Australorp, etc. all suffer from some degree of “seasonality.”
While this caused problems (seasonal egg price-spikes) in the early part of the last century, our industrious agricultural fore bearers have devised a solution.
Keep the hens locked up in buildings, then they’ll never know what time of the year it is. It’s genius! If they never see the sun then they’ll think it’s always springtime! And here we are: we can have thin flavorless eggs all year long.
If you still want the good stuff, be prepared to eat seasonally.
Which brings me to the shameless plug portion of today’s little diatribe.
We’ve got some eggs for sale.
Thanks to everyone who suffered through the seasonal egg shortage with us, but that’s in the rear-view mirror. Come on by the farm for all the eggs you can handle. $4 on the farm, $5 at the market and guess what’s going to be in next-month’s bundles?
Now’s a fine time to stock up. According to the MDA’s egg inspector a properly-refrigerated egg should keep for a year.