Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pullet Eggs

Everything I've read (by people who are supposed to know via experience) said that if hens turn five months old after the longest day of the year, they won't lay eggs until the following spring. Well, guess what? Today is September 28, three months after the longest day – and, this morning, when I went out to feed the chickens there was a pullet egg. I guess it pays to have hens who can't read.

The hens are just five months old now.

I wonder, though. It seems as if the people who write about such things usually live in places like Vermont. I live in southern Arizona. I'm sure it's a lot colder in Vermont right now, than here. We still hit 90*F, sometimes higher, sometimes lower. Perhaps it has more to do with temperature than with length of days.

I'm not complaining, I promise.

This morning, I also saw a coyote. Yellow hair, long tail. It looked just like the one I saw at Clay's house in Cane Beds. At the time, he was living on Liberty Lane, away from any other house. It was the first time I'd seen a coyote that was yellow. Today was the second. Don't think bright yellow, like a daffodil or dandelion. Think muted yellow, like a dog.

Technically, I live out of town. Really, I live in a neighborhood, house after house all the way into the town limits. Okay, there is a cotton field just north of us, then houses, the high school, like that – but if you drive, it looks like town. The lots are way too small for country lots.

The coyote was walking down the street that goes past our backyard. It's actually a driveway that starts at our northeast corner, and goes from the front of our house to the houses behind us. It walked down the drive, then cut off into one of the yards.

Often, as I type or read in my room, I can see the parade of animals in the evening. A rabbit or two. Several quail. They just walk down the road, like a family on an evening stroll – or run. The youngsters run. Lizards. Pigeons. Other birds. (I saw a robin in my front yard a few days ago.)

Apparently we have septic tanks out here, but we buy water from the town on the east (it calls itself a city; actually, I think our town also calls itself a city – no one wants to be just a town anymore). We buy natural gas and electricity from the town after the town on the west.

If I had my druthers, I'd live on at least five acres (twenty or fifty would be better), off the grid. My electricity would come from sun and wind, and maybe something else (don't know what that would be, though – definitely not a generator; I like quiet). I would probably use propane for heating water, and for cooking until I got used to using a sun oven, eating mostly raw, using a wood stove in winter. I would use wood for heat most of the time. If I lived in Cane Beds, I would have propane to keep the house at least 60*F. If I lived here, I'd just have a well-insulated house with windows on the south, and no trees at all on the south. That, and a wood stove, would work fine.

People around here usually avoid putting windows on the south, and they load the south with trees. To keep the heat out. If they paid attention to the sun and the shade, they'd see that all they need is a three foot overhang shading their windows. At least, I think that's what Mom and I measured. It has been a long time.

You don't want the sun in (unless it's unseasonably cold) from about April until September or October. In Cane Beds, I'd say from June first until the first of September.

But, even around here, you want the sun to shine in your south windows in the winter. It cuts down on the heating bill. It gets to about 27*F for the lows in winter. Heat is needed at night, and on cloudy days. If the house is built right, it won't need much heat besides that.

The trees need to be on the east, west, and north. Deciduous trees are best. Around here, some lose their leaves by December, and some keep dead leaves on the tree until new growth pushes them off in February or March.


  1. I've got my degree in poultry science -- but have very little experience, so just in reading what you wrote, I'd say:

    Hens are triggered into lay by photoperiod [length of light] and by their body weight [reserves needed to handle laying].

    They can be pushed into lay earlier than they should by artificially stimulating with light. No one would do this because she'll lay below-average size eggs all her life.

    They can also be delayed from laying beyond the age at which they normally would start by artificially keeping light periods from increasing. This is usually done in industry when the pullets' body weight aren't high enough, and so their eggs would be too small.

    It's not really anything to do with temperature. If the age of sexual maturity is there, the body reserves [weight] are there, and the photoperiod stimulates them -- they will begin lay.

    In your situation, your hen may lay below-average size eggs or may lay for a shorter period of time -- when compared to an older hen who started lay earlier in the year.

  2. Thanks, Justin. That helps me understand it better.