Rain and warmer weather signal the growth of tender grasses and legumes as well as the appearance of insects. The pasture grows quickly this time of year and the hens consume large amounts of grass which contains xanthophylls, a naturally occurring pigment that causes the yolk color to intensify during late spring. With the increased daylight hours the hens produce more eggs this time of year than at any other. For those who love eating based on the seasons- eat more eggs in the spring! Each spring a new batch of hens come to live at the farm. They are around five months old when they arrive and are just beginning to lay eggs. When a hen first begins to lay, the eggs are very small but within a few weeks the pendulum shifts and she lays extremely large eggs- many of them containing two yolks. During her first year of laying a hen will produce an average of 20 dozen eggs.
Grass growth is slower than in the spring but by rotating the hens to fresh pasture there is always plenty of grass to eat. Grasshoppers and other bugs are abundant and supply the hens with an excellent source of protein. The heat can be stressful for the hens causing them to lay fewer eggs. By midsummer the egg yolk color is not quite as rich as it was even a few months earlier.
During this time of year there are many interesting things for hens to eat- mature seed heads, the last of the bug population, produce remains as well as pumpkins. As the amount of daylight decreases this signals the hens to molt. They renew their plumage over a period of several months. During molt they lay fewer eggs or stop laying all together. After a hen molts she lays larger eggs, but fewer than before molting occurred. A second batch of hens joins our farm in the fall. Staggering these two batches, one in the spring and one in the fall, helps to keep our egg supply consistent for our customers.
As the hens put their energy toward staying warm instead of producing eggs, production drops. The shorter length of daylight also plays a part in the hens producing fewer eggs. We have a light that heats their house in the early morning and also signals the beginning of the day. The hens spend hours scratching through the hay we feed them searching for the best parts, the tender alfalfa leaves. Yolk color is more pale this time of year than any other.
We invite you to enjoy the changing seasons with our flock!