the way out here

When luck runs out

By HUNTER HILL
Posted 12/9/20

At the beginning of the summer, my wife and I began an experimental enterprise to produce chickens for meat—not just in a single batch, but as a part of what might become a business that we …

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the way out here

When luck runs out

Posted

At the beginning of the summer, my wife and I began an experimental enterprise to produce chickens for meat—not just in a single batch, but as a part of what might become a business that we could grow, should the numbers we projected match reality.

In our inaugural group of chickens, we purchased extras for the purpose of saving some to replace our aging laying hens. Typically, we wouldn’t even consider doing this with a meat-bird variety, but these were labeled as a multipurpose breed—in other words, genetically suited for both egg production and meat production. So, approximately half a dozen lucky chickens from that first group hit the lottery and gained an extra six months more than their other, not-so-lucky peers. 

On average, when we buy laying chickens, we can expect to see eggs within four to five months. After that, they should lay eggs pretty regularly for about a year before having to worry about their age affecting production. Well, a few months went by and we thought a few of them had begun to lay eggs, but then there was a bit of hiatus—we began getting fewer and fewer eggs. We weren’t quite sure if it was the older hens beginning to quit laying while the younger ones picked up. Then we hit a week where the laying stopped completely. In the cold weather, we have had success in the past with leaving the lights on for the hens into the evening hours. We’ve even provided a heat lamp to help them retain their nutrients rather than spend them on surviving the cold. We added protein and additional oyster shells to their diets and managed to get them to start squeaking out a couple of eggs a day. But considering we should have been seeing half a dozen or more a day, we knew there was a problem.

The solution? Maybe time. We gave the lucky few several more weeks to see if they could get past their reluctance to produce. With good intentions running on fumes, we came to the conclusion that plan B, which had been our original Plan A for them, was now the only plan we had left. Along with our most recent batch of meat chickens, we crated up our egg-layers and prepared them for processing.

It’s never a satisfying thing to have to kill a laying chicken, young or old. However, with no eggs being produced and the price of feed not getting any cheaper, this was our only remaining option to make good on their investment. While we now get the blessing of extra meat, we find ourselves in want of eggs in the interim. Any serious chicken farmer knows to avoid a gap between groups of laying hens. If a mistake like this is made, one could go up to half a year without eggs. Fortunately, in this community of farmers and homesteaders, we know enough others who can fuel our breakfasts in the meantime.

The way out here, you don’t always get back what you put in. Sometimes you pay the hard way and eat the cost of an experiment. Sometimes you have the option to make lemonade with the lemons you are handed. We always try to achieve the goals we set out for, especially when those goals involve providing our family’s sustenance. But every now and again, the setbacks occur; all we can do is learn and work through them. As I think of what kind of chicken-centric dinner we will have tonight, I thank God for the blessings that come even from unforeseen events.

chickens, plans, eggs

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