Last week, I was invited to participate in a Zoom call for a summer-school class of 4th Graders at the Cleveland Mound STEM School. I was their "farming expert," which was flattering, for their egg hatching project.
The students had a dozen eggs that they were incubating for chicks. It was "candling" day, and they wanted some help.
Candling is where a light is shown through an egg to see if it is fertile. The egg to the left is. The dark line indicates that it is fertile. At that point, the chicken egg would be incubated for 21 days before it hatches.
I felt like an old-folgie on this call. This was only my second zoom meeting, and the kids were clearly experts. They had fancy screensavers. My favorite was one kid looked like he was chilling with his Lambo in the background. I remember those days. Now, I'm happy to upgrade to a GMC from a Chevy. #LifeAchievements #Adulting
They did have some thoughtful questions I figured I'd share. I had a hard time not giving them the "but, the long answer."
How Long Until The Chickens Start Laying Eggs. The short answer, 20ish weeks. You'll start getting small eggs at about 16 weeks and sellable eggs at 20 weeks, but that also depends.
If you are hatching your own chicks, 50% may be males. The male chick, or rooster, won't lay an egg.
How Long Will They Keep Laying Eggs Short answer, a little over a year. The chicken will start laying eggs around 16 to 18 weeks and it will go into a molt around 80 weeks.
The molt is when it loses its feathers and stops laying eggs for a period.
But, this also varies depending on lighting and diet. Most egg production includes artificial light to stimulate hormones that produce the eggs. 16 hours of daylight per day is ideal, including supplemental light in the morning and evening. This keeps production steady otherwise they may go into molt sooner.
AND, it depends on diet. We work with a nutrition expert to help us dial in our chickens' diet, particularly the protein at different ages. The protein determines if the chicken has enough energy to create an egg and the size of the egg.
Do Chickens Fight? I hesitated to answer. Yes, yes, they do.
I explained a bit about the "pecking order" and how hens will pick on each other to assert boss bird status.
But more importantly, I addressed diet. If a hen gets too much protein, she will be at risk of tearing her vent. The vent is the hole from which the egg is passed. If the egg is too big from too much protein, she can tear and bleed. Once a hen sees blood, they will go after it. That injured hen is a goner.
I think at that point when the dreams of cute chicks turned into the talk of a cruel Mother Nature, I was inadvertently ending the call. The teacher wisely changed the subject to "Let's go check the incubator."
With that being said, we are short on eggs.
We are at a low point in production for the year as one flock is winding down and the new birds are just starting to lay. Because there isn't room for both flocks simultaneously, we are at a low spot in production and eggs are scarce. We encourage pre-ordering your eggs to ensure you get what you want. It is unlikely that there will be any at the back of the truck.