Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sleep and production

For some reason, I feel as if I am personally responsible when the cows don't milk well.  To some degree, I suppose I am.  I pulled the girls off the pastures, put them in the winter lot, about three weeks ago.  I feared them eating down the pastures too close, and then it is harder for them to recover in the spring.  Steve told me to keep them on pasture another two weeks, and that helped production.  He pointed out that they were a LONG way from that problem.  So the girls are back out to pasture every day.

I found their mineral feeders completely empty yesterday.  I hadn't checked them in two or three weeks.  They eat a lot more minerals when they are on hay, I am told, so I missed the boat there.  I'm off to the organic mill to pick up minerals and organic laying mash this morning.

But I can't control the weather.  It is normal for production to fall once the girls are pregnant and making babies.  It is normal for it to fall even if they AREN'T making babies.  It is a natural rhythm, and one I have a hard time getting used to.

When I deliver milk, I find myself apologizing if production is down a bit from the previous week.  Apologizing for what?  For nature?  I must remember that.

And now I have this egg production to worry about.  I count the eggs per day.  I got four the first day I locked them in the Moop for the day, a number that has not been repeated since.  I was elated that they laid anything when I started letting them out again, but it was two a day, and then only one a day.

It's a good thing I go back and read comments from my followers.  Mark wrote that I should leave the eggs in the nests.  They are more apt to come back to a nest with eggs than to a bare one.  So I sneaked back out night before last with four eggs from the house and put them into what were their favorite nests.  Voila!  Yesterday there were three new eggs!!  Thank you, Mark.

I left all seven eggs out there.  The girls will stay in the Moop until I am back home with their feed.  Will there be FOUR more today?

How much milk will we get?  Will we get to Delilah before her bull calf does?  It makes a difference of several quarts in our production.

Last question?  Will I sleep well tonight?  LOL

Really, when I lie in bed and think about good egg and milk production, I sleep like a baby.  When production was down, I stew and don't sleep well.

This has really got to stop, don't you think?  If it doesn't, I am going to be in real trouble come February.


  1. The great thing about eggs is how they don't easily go bad. So this time of year especially, you can let them linger in the nests and not have to worry about anything even approaching spoilage. And as cold as it gets where we are (9 this morning), I've yet to have any freeze and bursts in the nests if I haven't gotten them out fast enough (someday soon, I'll get caught on this though I'm sure).

    I was just giving my wife "the speech" yesterday about how I can pretty much predict how many eggs we'll get each day (notice how I avoided saying I was "bragging"?). I'll bet you can relate to this with your cows. It might take 'til next spring though before you can see the rhythms with your chickens. I'll speculate why.

    Day before yesterday we only got 4 eggs (Monday). I came in and told my wife that meant we'd get 8 eggs the next day (Tuesday). When I went down Monday night though (the 4 egg day) to close 'em up, someone had laid late so Monday was actually 5 eggs in all. What did we get yesterday (Tuesday)? Seven in total. So my eight was off because someone just couldn't hold her egg until early Tuesday morning! Darn her for proving me wrong...

    I've noticed this pattern as they've all come-into production these past two months. Generally speaking, the pattern has been: 8, and then two days of 4 to 6 eggs and then 8 again. And the pattern just keeps repeating now that I think they've all begun laying. I think usually, on average, you can count on 2 eggs per day for every 3 active layers you have. They don't quite lay daily that is. So each girl skips the occasional day.

  2. Now, the reason I'm not sure you'll be able to find the cycle with your girls for a few months is this: We're rapidly descending into the shortest daylight days of the year. And colder temps. Those two things are what seem to shut-down production in eggs with most chickens I have experience with. And different chicken breeds are affected differently it seems.

    You have Campines. I've seen them described by my preferred chick source as Golden Campines. If this is the same breed, they write they originated in Belgium. I THINK this is, then, a good sign they might be good winter layers. Belgium being at a farther Northern latitude than where you live. And Belgium can be plenty chilly in Winter I'm sure. Presumably, the breed would have been preferred and encouraged in that area because they produced well even during the short winter days there (who wants fewer eggs when you can have more?). Better than other breeds maybe for that locale. That is how my theory goes at least!

    But, just about every breed I've had ultimately shuts-down for at least some weeks during the December-January. Surrounding the Solstice of course. Some shut-down earlier, some later. And just to keep it interesting, as they get older their egg production slows as well. So if you had the same set of 14 hens next winter as this winter, you could expect them to produce at a slightly lower level same time of year next winter.

    This is why I brought-in some Chanteclers this year. A breed originally from Quebec. To see how they do at our far Northern latitude and cold winters here. I already have on-order for next spring a breed called Dorkings that are supposedly solid winter layers in even extremely cold temps.

    A guy north of us has a huge flock of chickens and does brisk business selling eggs since he is on a major road in the valley. I can see his flock from the road as I drive by. Probably at least 50 or 60 birds--maybe more--but ALL Rhode Island Reds. From personal experience, I know they don't like the cold winters here. About a month ago I drove by and his roadside sign said, "Out of Eggs". It had said "Eggs, $2.50" all summer and fall until then. Then I drove by yesterday and it read, "Meat for sale". During this time, my egg production has only been increasing as my younger birds matured...

    Between the two of us--and a couple more seasons--we should have dialed-in on the best breeds for our individual locations and conditions I think.

    Sorry for my length but your blog is just too good to resist...darn you!

  3. The answer is Buckeyes, Mark. I was supposed to get them as well as the Golden Campines, but they didn't hatch out - some trouble with the brooder. (Yes, mine are Goldens.) My focus was the Buckeye. They are pea combed, very good in winter. They are the only breed developed entirely by a woman, in Ohio where the winters are pretty brutal. They are a good dual purpose bird, pretty big and chunky. They lay brown eggs. The choice for Campines depended in part on finding a breed that laid white eggs. I didn't order any Campine roosters. (Buster is an "oops.") The plan was to order Buckeye roosters only, then all brown eggs would hatch out full blooded Buckeyes. I still plan on getting the Buckeyes next summer, but with Buster around here, it messes up my plan for breeding. There will be a bunch of curs. Or I can put Buster in the pot. Read up on Buckeyes. They might be a good breed for you as well, although developed a bit further south.