Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Winter egg break (and a kestrel photo)

Thick ice covers the ponds and lakes this winter, thicker than it’s been for several years. December here was as cold as most Januarys, with only a day and a half near the end of the month that had some unexpected warmth.

Now, in mid-January, the memory of that warm day is long past. The snow cover isn’t deep, just a few inches. Overhead, the sky is a leaden shade, the color of weeks old snow. The sun is missing in action and has been for some time now. I can’t even locate where it should be when I scan the sky.

Even though there isn’t much snow, the weather feels as though snow is imminent nearly every day. Chill hangs in the air, and it’s a rare day when the wind is calm, rarer even than the sun.

Daylight lasts a minute or two longer each day, a fact I appreciate and look forward to, though the extra daylight isn’t yet translating into extra warmth or brighter skies. Some days feel as though the entire day is just one step up from dawn, even at midday.

My chickens are on winter egg break as I don’t have electric lights in their pen, and the natural light isn’t enough to keep them laying right now. Many people keep the lights on in their chicken pens to encourage the hens to keep laying. I still get one or two eggs a day from the girls, which is enough for me if not enough to sell. They've been on break now since early December, so I expect production will pick up soon enough.

I’m told the lights eventually cause other problems for hens. They are more likely to develop tumors, for example. Since my hens don’t lay for commercial production, I’ll just wait for the longer hours of daylight and sunnier weather to return. After 15 straight months of laying, I figure my girls deserve a break.

The lighting is so dull and flat that I didn’t take many photos this weekend. Even with nothing but sky behind this American kestrel, I was forced to brighten the photo just to see any detail at all.


kerrdelune said...

A friend in Lanark who keeps "full liberty" laying hens says that this is holiday time for her chickens. She also refuses to light the chicken coop at this time of year to induce the hens to lay. Ah, but her eggs when available are lovely.

Woodswalker said...

I'm glad to know you are so kind to your hens. And I'm also glad you took that photo of the kestrel. Magnificent!

Elora said...

We, too, Carolyn, refuse to light the coop at night. We're not in the egg-factory business! And our weather here in WV compares (un)favorably with yours! Great shot of the Kestrel! More snow on the way. I read yesterday that the Northeast is slated to have just the kind of snow parade we've had so far this winter....clear into February. So, take this small thaw-window and head for the library! Load up on books and snuggle back in at home for awhile!


Carolyn H said...

Kerrdelune: I like the term "holiday break" for that time when chickens stop laying. I've also heard "winter egg strike," which brings to mind chickens carrying little signs and marching around the pen. My girls starting laying last August (born in April), laid through the entire winter, and continued to lay through the spring, summer and fall, so they are entitled to a break for as long as they want.

Woodswalker: I adore my chickens. They are such sweet and gentle souls (and funny, too!)

Elora: During this egg break, my chickens have taken to pulling all the straw out of their nest boxes (and leaving them bare). Do you have any idea if this is normal or common?

Granny Sue said...

On holiday sounds nice--we say ours are on strike until the sun meets their demand for more light!
Their picking up nicely now, though, up to 7 eggs a day. I sure miss their goodness when the hens don't lay.

Carolyn H said...

Granny Sue: Yesterday I got 3 eggs from my 8 girls, the first time I've had more than 1-2 a day for several weeks. If the sun would ever come out, even with the few hours of daylight, I'd proabably get at least a few more.

Carolyn H.