So, what’s the difference between a chicken and any other pet? Answer, they pay you back for their breakfast and lodgings! To be honest, if you’re looking for eggs, pekin bantams are not the way to go. Bantam eggs are smaller for a start (see pictures above and below, in comparison to ordinary eggs). Sure, they are tasty, scrumptious even, but these dainty little nibbles are roughly half the size of a normal egg.
Then there is the frequency, or rather the infrequency. When I looked after my colleagues’ full-size hens, the four girls supplied three eggs every day, without fail. (One was slacking, but we’ll forgive her!) 😀
At most my miniature chickens provide one – sometimes two – a day, between the three of them. I suspect Florence is doing most of the hard work but it could just be a ruse. Maybe she takes the credit for someone else when she enters and exits the nest box at the inopportune moment and sings the ‘I’ve Laid an Egg, How Great Am I’ song (surely a number one hit in the future, especially when chortled proudly by Florence).
When the girls first arrived, a white egg appeared on the first day. It did look like one Jemima might lay…. except it was Dottie singing the Egg Song. A week later, a second white egg was laid.
(Different breeds lay different colours. The Araucana from Chile lays a blue egg!)
And then nothing. Weeks passed. I emailed the Poultry farm, they told me they were bantams (roughly 150 eggs a year, maximum), it was nearly winter (they don’t lay so much then), and they were still only pullets, too young to lay regularly.
At least they were healthy. That was the main thing.
They were moulting as well. Losing their feathers means they don’t lay as chickens require the energy otherwise lost when laying an egg.
And then when I had forgotten about the eggs and saw the chickens merely as pets, a surprise. A petite light brown egg nestled amidst straw in the nest box. And Florence proclaiming her good news. And she was on a roll.
Picture: I like this photo but it’s actually from a Picture Library, not from any of my hens. As indeed is the fried egg photo at the end of the article! 😀
And later, someone else joined in with another tan-coloured egg. At this time, Dottie, who had been moulting and looking a little miserable, was back to her feisty, look-at-me, bossy self.
Now in January, the number of eggs have decreased again but it’s winter, it’s cold, the workers are allowed to strike!
Light-sensitive cells in the hen’s brain control the egg laying process. When there is more light – for example, in the summer months – these cells send a message to the ovary and production of eggs starts. Generally, a hen needs 14 to 16 hours of light regularly to lay.
So most breeds will stop laying over winter unless there is artificial lighting (which I don’t have and have no interest in).
Any changes in a hen’s life will also affect the egg laying system as they much prefer routine in their lives.
On two occasions I found this peculiar rubbery object…
I thought it was a smashed egg at first but there was no yolk running out, no fragments of broken shell. Just soft and a horrible rubbery texture.
I researched it and read that it was a soft-shelled egg. It has a membrane but no shell. They may be laid by young hens who have just started laying or it may be the last egg at the end of the laying period.
So maybe it’s because they are still young and new to the art of egg-laying.
If these strange eggs are laid on a regular basis or by a more mature hen, it’s suggested that it could be because of calcium deficiency. Just to be on the safe side, I scooped more grit onto their grit tray (below). Fingers crossed, I’ve only had the two and, touch wood, this will remain a rare occurrence.
And most importantly, how do bantam eggs taste?
Lovely, the yolk seems bigger and brighter than a normal egg and the taste is richer. Give your hens the best life they can possibly have with you, and they’ll reward you (when they do lay!) with delightful eggs. Obviously, to keep hens in battery conditions is wrong on a moral level but the consumer who buys such eggs is really missing out on the real flavours of a free range egg.
Many thanks to Chicken Breeds and Care by Frances Basso and The Complete Encyclopedia of Chickens by Esther Verhof and And Rijs for extra information