How many eggs do the hens lay?
One of the first questions people ask when they hear that we keep hens in our back garden is ‘How many eggs do they lay?’
Our hens produce an egg each most days, so that makes four every day – just over two dozen a week. Occasionally there’ll be just three eggs, but that doesn’t happen very often.
We thought that we should be expecting around 200 eggs per year from each hen – so between three and four a week. Perhaps our hens have been specially bred to be even more productive than the typically high productive hens that are used by battery farms.
We don’t give them any of the chemicals that are in the food that battery farms use, nor do we force them to live under artificial lighting. We therefore expected egg production to fall during the winter months. I’m typing this on December 21st – the shortest day of the year – and I collected four eggs this morning, just as I did yesterday and the day before, and the day before that.
We use Allen & Page’s Organic Layers Pellets as the hens’ main food, so our eggs retain their natural deep yellow yolk. The eggs are also very large, bigger than I remember we ever used to buy in the supermarket.
What are eggs like?
The first thing you’d notice is that the eggs are larger than normal shop-bought eggs. I have bought a big tower of egg cartons (made from recycled board) which will last us at least 2 1/2 years, they are just regular egg cartons with no printing on them… but the eggs often struggle to fit inside. Rather than fit snugly into the space intended for the egg, they’ll sit higher up in the box, ‘perching’ on the top of the space they’re supposed to fit into.
If you are frying the eggs, the next thing you’ll notice is that they hold together very tightly. A supermarket-bought egg will spread out to cover a good area in a frying pan as soon as you crack it open – but a fresh egg doesn’t. If you crack the egg open and put it into the pan on one side, it’ll stay there: the white isn’t so runny, it’s almost like jelly and sits where you put it.
For soft-boiling eggs, we have found that they don’t take quite as long to cook as normal eggs. We have found that cooked straight from the fridge (or, straight from the nest on a cold day!) they’ll take as long to cook as a shop-bought egg from room temperature.
Of course, the most significant differences come when you’re eating them. The taste is much better – everyone who has tried them agrees – they are far more “eggy” than normal eggs. Visually they are very different too – thanks to the hens not being given artificial colouring, the yolks are a deep (and sometimes bright) yellow – not even close to approaching the oranges that shop-bought eggs have.
One of Annette’s work colleagues is very sensitive to antibiotics, so has always had to buy organic free range eggs from the supermarkets because she can notice the taste of antibiotics which makes its way into battery farmed eggs (battery farms are filthy places, so to combat disease, the hens are laced with antibiotics all the time). She said that our eggs were not just the tasiest, but the most antibiotic-free she’d ever had.
Well done hens.