Egg-spectations: are Eggs Seasonal?

Egg-spectations: are Eggs Seasonal?

Today, we expect eggs to be available on grocery store shelves year-round and expect hens to be egg-laying machines who produce almost an egg a day throughout the year. But ... Is that "normal" for hens?  Is that what really happens on local farms? Are our expectations in line with "normal" rhythms for hens and reasonable production?

Spring is "Egg Season"
In the 1930's, more than 1/2 of the annual egg crop was produced between March and June.  Winter eggs were rare delicacies and sold for a premium.  

Heritage hens, like our Chantecler chickens, are old-fashioned gals who lay most of their eggs between March and May when markets are not open, just like the hens in the good ole days.  Because markets are not open during "Egg Season," I started Home Delivery within a 100-mile radius of the farm, including Pittsburgh, to share this seasonal goodness with you. 

30 Eggs from February to MayEgg poster
The early 1900's war poster to the right encourages people to keep laying hens to "Save the 30 Eggs -or more- laid by the average hen from February to May" for the war effort. Yep, 30 eggs in 4 months is certainly NOT an egg a day. 

Harry Lamon in his 1930's book, "The Mating and Breeding of Poultry," that Dr. Pearl from the Maine agricultural station found 30 eggs from November 1 to March 1 to be a "good winter layer" and 200 eggs a year to be a "record":

"Dr. Pearl in his work considered any pullet which laid 30 eggs or more from November 1 to March 1 to be a good winter layer and a profitable bird to keep.  In general, it may be said that a pullet which lays 50-60 eggs from November 1 to March 1 has a good chance to make a record of 200 eggs or better.”

So how do we have eggs all year round today?
Hens are naturally stimulated to produce eggs as daylight lengthens in the spring so chicks are hatched in the best environment for growth - grass, bugs and comfortable temperatures.  

BUT, they can be tricked into laying more eggs by adding lights when the days are shorter.  Also, industrial hens have been genetically selected over decades for extreme production, unlike my old-fashioned Chantecler heritage chickens.  This excessive production takes a heavy toll on the heavy-producing hens and they often have osteoporosis so severe you can bend their legs with one hand.

Mindful Local Food
Local farms that allow hens to follow their natural rhythms are flush with eggs in the early spring and less eggs as the season progresses, even more so if they have heritage breed hens.

I allow our hens to follow their natural reproductive rhythms on Old Time Farm and am thankful that you appreciate the deliciousness of local, mindfully produced eggs laid at the peak of the season!

PS ... did I tell you eggs can last well over 6 months in the refrigerator?  


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