I screwed up.
Our flock of 200 laying hens was starting into a seasonal decline in production due to their age and to the general tendency of chickens to lay fewer eggs as daylight shortens. So I added 50 pullets (young female chickens not yet at laying age) to the flock to smooth out our fall/winter egg production.
Poof! Egg production went from a tolerable 60% to 10% within days. At first I thought that the hens were going into a molt, but it was a little too early and much too abrupt. Talking to other farmers and reading some poultry reference material brings me to the conclusion that I messed up their social order (a.k.a., the pecking order) and that until the hens get it all sorted out they’re on strike. I started dabbling in chickens before we bought the farm, so I thought I pretty much knew what to expect with laying hens. But this one blindsided me because we’ve introduced new hens to flocks before without problems. I think the scale of the disruption to the hens is different this time, so that’s probably the cause of the abrupt egg decline. Alas, another lesson hard-learned and unlikely to be forgotten soon.
Right now I have enough of our own eggs to supply our subscription orders, but for all other eggs I’m going to need to buy some from Oliver’s Eggs. I may need to cap egg orders if I can’t get enough. I’ve updated the description for our eggs on our store to make it clear that some of our eggs may not be our own but that they should be equivalent for all intents. Oliver Aeschlimann’s farm is NOFA-certified organic and he feeds his flock an organic, soy-free ration just like ours. His chickens are legitimately pasture raised, an important distinction when many farms give very little attention to actually maintaining a pasture on which their chickens can roam. While we are always partial to our own products, I am confident that Oliver’s Eggs are the best alternative out of many farms in our region.