For the past few months we have been utterly inundated with eggs. It’s come as a bit of a shock to be honest as since we got our new hens late last summer, it’s taken them a while to get into their stride to say the least…
Sadly, Marmalade, our gorgeous buff Orpington hen went to the great chicken coop in the sky in November 2013 after she became ill (we think she may have eaten part of a firework which caused an obstruction in her tummy). Missy, our Sussex hen, was on her own for several months last year as it was the wrong time of year to get hold of any pure breed point-of-lay hens. She was a bit lonely and anxious to begin with but, I was surprised to find, soon got used to being on her own and would just hang out with us a bit more when we were in the garden.
But eventually, after Doug built a new wooden coop, we got two more Orpington hens from a breeder in Maldon (Orpingtons are big girls so they needed more space than the old egglu run could provide…). It was nice to welcome two new Essex girls to the fold and they didn’t seem to object too much to their move to Hertfordshire. After some careful introductions, all three girls have been getting along nicely and Missy – after her initial outrage – has been enjoying having two new hens to boss around.
We’ve kept hens for nine years now and this is about our fourth little community of them, I think, (you can still read about our first – and famous – hens, Thelma and Louise in the Financial Times here) so this time we were a little lacking in imagination when it came to names. The pretty red hen is… er…called Red, while the flamboyant white hen Doug named Lady Gaga.
But while the new girls were point-of-lay, laying eggs seemed to be the last thing on their minds as we went into autumn and winter and then spring arrived. True, Orpingtons aren’t known for being strong layers, but we worried that we’d made the nice new hen coop, complete with hay bales, ladders and even a tasty Orpington cockerel pin-up pic on the wall, too comfortable. Occasionally I’d whisper into the hen house at night, “You know, ladies, this isn’t a holiday camp…”. But all to no avail. With all the shock of the new girls arriving Missy, of course, had also given up laying so we were having to buy in our eggs.
But things changed around February/March when I was amazed to find an egg in the hen house. We had no idea who the culprit was. Then one day we found two and then…well, they just kept on coming. Missy – despite being four and therefore a little long in the tooth for all this – has also remembered her intensely strong work ethic (she ignores the Sabbath day of rest and scorns bank holidays, despite what it says in her contract) and joined in. So most days we have been picking up three eggs a day. Doug puts it down to the fact that these new girls also have a little bit of hybrid bred into them, making them more hard working than dear old Marmalade, who would lay for a month, go broody for six weeks and then start moulting and give up work altogether for the year…
We are grateful but to be honest we are really struggling to keep up with production. Even if we manage a day of eating four eggs between us, as Doug points out, we’ve only made inroads of minus one for the day. Let’s just say, I’ve been making a lot of Spanish omelettes (4 eggs, yay!) lately.
Fortunately, a friend is coming round later to relieve us of some. All I can say is thank goodness for the food swap, which is coming up in a couple of weeks!
If you have any suggestions for good recipes that use a lot of eggs, please let me know! Someone on Twitter recently suggested pickling them, so I may need to investigate. Believe me, it’s no yoke… ;)