There are simply not enough fresh from the nest Vashon eggs.
According to the USDA Egg Market News Report, Americans eat an average of 268.4 eggs per year.
With 10,624 residents on Vashon Island as of 2010 census, we need 2,684,000 eggs per year.
According to another report from the USDA, and other reliable sources, the average backyard chicken (which MAY include small farmyard chickens) lays approximately 250 eggs per year.
Did you know a chicken is born (hatched) with its entire bounty of unformed eggs in her body?
Statistically speaking, the math looks like this: 2,684,000 divided by 250 laid eggs per year = we need 10,736 laying hens on Vashon Island for everyone to have their full statistical allotment of eggs.
Ahhh, it sounds so simple, there must be more to the story. That 250 egg per year statistic? It’s only good for one year. Yep, a laying hen hits her peak production in year one, after she starts laying at about 5- 6 months old. Yes, some hens will start laying earlier and some later. There are so many other variables that affect egg production: feed (enough protein, not too much junk food) space, clean water, weather, stress and the big one, LIGHT. A hen needs about 14 hours of daylight every day when she is laying eggs. This is the biggest reason we see a drastic reduction in eggs after daylight savings time. Yes, we could put a light in the hen house and sort of force the egg laying issue, but there is also an argument for letting the hens rest. It takes a lot of energy to form and then push out her egg almost every day. Imagine giving birth 4 or 5 days a week…
There is still more to this chicken and egg story. Molting happens about the same time as the days become shorter. It is the time of year when a hen will lose her older, worn out feathers and grow shiny new ones. Molting can take 4-8 weeks and because losing feathers and growing new ones is stressful, they may lay fewer eggs or quit laying altogether.
Combine age, stress, available sunshine and molting, it is no wonder at all why there are so few farm fresh eggs this time of year. They need a winter break! In a commercial setting, laying hens are forced to molt and live with lights on 24/7, even in “organic, cage free” egg farm settings.
All of that said, I do have a friend who has hens who are defiant, young resistors and keep on laying! NO, I will not tell you who she is and where to find her eggs.
So. Not only do hens start laying fewer eggs as they “age”, (eegads, 2 years old is aging!) they may start laying smaller eggs (also true when they first start laying, I call them training eggs).The egg on the left weighs in at 2.5 ounces, qualifying as a Jumbo egg. The egg on the right barely weighs half an ounce and had no yolk, typical of an old girls egg.
Trina, my giant Emden goose laid this giant 11 ounce egg last February. Last year I made a cheesecake with one of Trina’s 11 ouncers, substituting for 5 Large chicken eggs.
A very eggonomical cheesecake and oh so delicious.
Here ends the 2018 Egg-O-Nomic Report for Vashon Island. I could go on and on about chickens and eggs, they are fantastically simple and complex creatures.
Thanks for reading!