Monday, 17 November 2014


It was my son's birthday on Thursday and college commitments mean we're celebrating this afternoon; a cake is required. I had a frisson of enjoyment at cracking the eggs for his lemon drizzle cake as it's been such a long time since I've used any! I've had to prioritise my customers and even then I've had to reduce the numbers I've been selling so that everyone can have a few. I know some people artificially light their coops so that the hens still lay but as I don't cull my hens at the end of their productive life, I figure I'm just extending their laying capabilities if I let them have a rest in the winter.

The pure breeds seem to be coping with their annual moult much better than the hybrids as they just get on with it and look pretty terrible and moth-eaten for a few weeks but apart from hunkering down more than usual, they've been fine. The 2 year old hybrids though...they've been off their food, squabbling, hunched up, lost all their feathers in patches off their bottoms or necks or shoulders. I suppose selective breeding for constant egg production has compromised their ability somewhat to moult normally.

It is a bit annoying when you've got cakes to make and customers to please but I guess it is yet another thing that we've lost any sense of seasonality over and giving the hens a decent rest during the cold dark months is what nature intended. Although the hybrids are great, I'm leaning more towards the traditional breeds but of course they won't lay much (anything!) from November to February minimum. Maybe I need to breed chicks that will hatch at such a time that they'll be potentially laying over winter in their first year, thereby reducing the need for replacing the egg machines as buying new hens is expensive and I've had some duds in my time.

I did get some prebiotic and probiotic tonics from Flyte So Fancy and this has definitely perked up the birds, especially Maud and Peggy, the Goldline and Amber Star who seemed completely disinterested in everything. Their appetites have improved and they are now scratching about in the woodchips and there's a lot less squawking and arguing.

Cora the RIR bantam looking a bit moulty
around the neck area

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