What came first, the egg or the factory-feed fed chicken?
The magnificent family farm egg void of feed, came first.
Chicken feed wasn’t invented until 1910, and only because the advent of industrial incubators (1900s) created the sudden problem of feeding too many chickens all at once, to produce eggs year round. But prior to incubators, chicken feed didn’t exist and eggs used to be available spring thru autumn, not 24/7/365. Thousands of incubator hatched chicks x 7 days x 52 weeks would now be fed how? And mature to (what) size? Bam. The need for feed, was born! Industrial grains, spent oils, chemicals (and soy today) replaced the pasture. Artificial indoor lighting and synthetic Vit D replaced the sun. And so eggs abound, 24/7/365. But before feed, (ancient) grains were for the family kitchen, not the flock. At best, homesteaders might have chopped clover hay to supplement a flock but bagged feed was nonexistent and neither were year-round eggs because hens lay eggs in tandem to sunlight!
During winter’s shorter daylight, pastured hens innately stop laying or decrease in egg laying because a hen’s eye takes its cue from the sun which stimulates her photoreceptive pineal gland to generate an egg; ergo less sunlight equals less or zero eggs. Pastured hens need 12-16 hours of sunshine, to generate one egg. Without sunlight, hens either don’t lay or give very few eggs. This was a boring but very acceptable fact of life for our ancestors. On the family homestead, flocks were practically self sufficient and roamed the pasture for phytonutrients (grass), scratched cow or horse manure pies for protein (worms, grubs), basked under the sun (Vit D), pecked sandy grit to digest grass properly (along with minerals & calcium) and on their own accord would frequently soil bathe to avoid mites or disease (instead of eating vaccinated, pelleted feed). A flock denied sunlight longterm becomes weak and dis-eased, and pellet feed is a major thumbs down but that’s another post...
Flocks also responded to all four seasons; early spring meant a few broody hens, by summer hatchlings were learning the pasture ropes trailing their mother's tail feathers, autumn meant molt, winter sent all the laying girls into respite. Even roosters curtailed their cockiness come winter. The flock instinctually produced in season, so people consumed eggs seasonally. It was even customary to save eggs come autumn by slathering shells with tallow/lard or to bury eggs in straw boxes under snow covered cellars, to preserve and ration eggs thru winter. And God help you bake a (modest) cake should you announce a Winter Wedding! That’s how limited eggs were come winter, and our nation was fine with eating eggs seasonally. Eggs were fewer, but far more nutritious.
Since our beginning (2006) we’ve been limited on eggs because heritage breeds gift 3-4 eggs e/wk vs prolific commodity breeds which lay an egg e/18-24 hrs. But come winter the flock goes on sabbatical and we have even fewer eggs. The current egg shortage in stores (virus or weird-feed related) is irrelevant to why we have such few dozens this time of year. It’s the most wonderful time of year for pastured hens and the flock is doing what is needed; hens hardly lay eggs, they lounge leisurely all day every day, their chicks are teenager pullets now so no need to be fussy helicopter-hen ’til spring, they’re primping their new full plume feathers and the roosters hardly care to prance for their attention! I mean really, what bliss to be a pastured hen right now clueless to the plethora of emails and phone calls we get this time of year, for eggs. It’s lovely not having eggs, because nothing in nature produces 24/7/365 and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We hope you appreciate this kind of small scale farming, and we hope you will be patient while we limit eggs to one dozen so that more families, can have some eggs.
Spring has come. It is brimming with copious amounts of splendid eggs. Enjoy them in season, like our grandparents did!