Monday, January 9, 2012

Chooks year 3

 By now you know I like collecting data, but I bet you'll think I am totally obsessive compulsive when you hear that we've been counting our eggs for the last 3 years. But aren't the results fascinating?! My spreadsheet 'Eggsactly' has shown us that: older hens lay less; hens lay less eggs in winter in Perth and; heirloom chooks suck when it comes to egg production! Below is Holly, one of our Golden Laced Wyandottes and our Australorps Snowy, Martha, Splash and Lacey.

In year 1 we averaged 2.7 eggs a day, in year 2 this dropped to 2.1 and last year it dropped to 1.5 eggs a day. Our flock numbers have declined a bit over the years, but age is an obvious factor in the drop in egg production. Most of the hens were around 6 months when we started taking stats, which means they are now around three and a half. This year has been disappointing and we've come to the conclusion that we need new blood in our flock to re-invigorate it and increase our production. As vegetarians we rely on eggs a lot for protein and of course you just can't beat a fresh, free range, home laid egg. We've have had some problems getting our broodies to sit on fertile eggs, but we just put batch number 3 under Lacey and we're hoping it will be third time lucky. The breeds we now have are Australorp (3) and Wyandottes (2), which are heirloom breeds. They are beautiful hens and I'd still like to keep a few for interest, but our new chooks will be hybrid Hi-line crosses which will hopefully lay loads of eggs for us.

Seasonality is another big factor in our egg production. The averages by season for all three years are 2.5 eggs/day for summer (December-February), 1.7 for autumn (March to May), 1.1 for winter (June to August) and 2.7 for spring (September to November). So despite extremely hot summers and relatively mild winters hens struggle in winter and do well in summer. This highlights the need to give your chooks really good insulation (which we haven't done yet) and good solar access. I'd like to add an extra layer of tin above the roof of our hen house and put in aircell insulation and some insulation batts at some stage. Ideally we'd make a solar passive chook yard, but we don't have room for that unfortunately. Check out this cool 'Chookship' Hilton Harvest are building for their chooks. It's made with used tyres rammed with adobe for high thermal mass. This will be rendered and enclosed with North facing windows to catch and store warmth in winter:

We're hoping for some very happy, productive chooks at HH. This might be a bit OTT for the backyard though, unless you happen to have a gang of keen, fit Woofers to give you a hand...


  1. You can borrow my little bantam for a while if you like? She is a great mum and loves to sit on eggs :)

  2. Thanks for the kind offer. We will see how Lacey goes with this lot. The other concern we have is that the big chooks will hurt the young chicks, but if one of ours feels like the mum she will protect them...

  3. The bantam has brooded on 4 eggs end of 2010, big eggs, and mothered the chickens for 3 months, taught them everything they needed to know, it was so cute to see. The two other chickens (one year older than the babies) never bothered with the small ones. One of the four was a rooster and we had to eat him, but the other three are happily living in our garden with the two others. But the little bantam is bullied often by her 'own' babies who are double the size...
    If you borrow the bantam you have to have her for at least the time to raise the chickens, that's true.