About six months after we purchased our farm, we decided we needed to start raising chickens. This decision came about when, about a week after Christmas, there were no eggs, milk or butter on the shelves at the local grocery store.
In order to have our own milk and butter, we would have to acquire a bred cow, which would need fencing and a shelter that were of greater dimensions than a chicken would require. As there was a small fenced area close to the house, we built a chicken coop in it.
In the spring, we stocked it with 25 dual-purpose chickens and 15 turkeys. The chickens weren’t sexed, meaning that we didn’t know if they were roosters or hens.
As it turned out, we had 13 roosters and 12 hens. In the fall, the roosters (except one) retired to the freezer. The hens started to produce eggs about the same time.
At first the eggs were quite small, although there were some that had double yolks. It was wonderful to finally have a steady supply of fresh eggs. The problem came when we had too many. That is when we started to sell them to neighbours and co-workers.
We have found that there is a huge demand for fresh eggs in the North. In fact, there always seems to have been, with eggs selling in Dawson City for $1 each during the Gold Rush.
So we doubled our flock to meet the demand. Then we joined the farmer’s market that was held once a week at Takhini Gas, and the demand just increased. So we doubled our flock again.
Now, every time we would make additions to our flock, we were just adding new birds and not replacing the old ones. While this makes for a larger flock, it doesn’t always double the production of eggs.
About every six months, a chicken will moult or produce new feathers. While they are moulting, they slow down on their egg production. And once the moult is finished, they won’t produce as many eggs as they did prior to it.
This spring, we got 100 new chicks to replace the old laying hens. The old hens were not producing very much and some were starting to die of old age. The oldest of these hens would have been about six or seven years old – a good, long life for a chicken as most egg-producing chickens on corporate farms wouldn’t live much past their second year, if that.
So, when a fox (I think) took my favourite hen, I was sad to lose her, but glad I wouldn’t have to butcher her. Which is what we did with the other old laying hens.
The rooster was spared. And one hen that was smart enough to blend into the new flock of laying hens survived as well. But the rest we put into the freezer.
Our new chicks arrived at the beginning of July and I had calculated that they wouldn’t start to lay eggs until December or January. It usually takes a hen about five to six months to be mature enough to lay eggs.
Egg production is also influenced by the amount of light available. So it naturally drops in the winter with our lower light levels. I was hoping to avoid being swamped with more eggs than I knew what to do with.
But something was wrong with my calculations, or the chickens matured faster than expected, because they started to lay eggs at the beginning of November, almost two months earlier than expected.
Now there will be lots of eggs for Christmas baking (both mine and others).