Whenever we talk about collecting eggs from our hens, we talk about whether they have slowed down laying, maybe the eggs are becoming bigger or less-stable shell-wise. But do you keep track of the number of eggs your hens lay? One of our supporters, Alistair, tells us that he actually numbers his eggs and that his hens have just hit the 1000th egg milestone! We chatted with Alistair about one of his hens, Higgledy-Piggledy, who laid the 1000th egg! Here’s what he has to tell us once we got down to the bottom of it all!
“We adopted three hens through the BHWT in November 2018. Our youngest daughter, Becca, had been on at us for many years about getting a pet, but having had a bad experience with a rabbit, when the children were small, we were rather resistant. She suggested just about every kind of animal you could imagine but persisted with chickens when she noticed that we were not quite so adamantly against those.”
Alistair and his wife Karen, enjoy growing vegetables and were rather drawn to the rustic idyll of having their own “egg producers” too. The idea of getting ex-commercial hens also was ideal for the family as it meant they could actually do the animals a kindness at the same time. Alistair tells us “it was probably what won us round in the end”.
“We finally succumbed only a year before our youngest left to go to university. We bought a wooden coop kit from a company in Leicester and then spent a couple of weekends making an enclosure for them. We roofed it over with plastic netting, and we used cable ties to connect the two sets of mesh and the netting. I also made a chicken wire gate on a frame which I hung between two of the posts. It was all quite satisfying, especially when we had finished”.
Once they brought the hens home Alistair says each family member effectively adopted one each. Alistair’s was called Pertelote (the name of the nagging chicken in Chaucer’s “Nun’s Priest’s Tale”), and that proved to be prophetic, since Pertelote proved to be the most dominant, although far from the most sharp-witted of the three.
Pertelote had the disadvantage that her upper and lower beak were not aligned, so it was more difficult for her to pick up food. Sadly, Pertelote died in February 2021 but was happy during her free-range retirement.
Karen’s hen was called Higgledy-Piggledy, even though she is brown, not black. Alistair tells us “We often shorten it to Iggle-Piggle (as in “In the Night Garden”). She generally would manage to get the better of Pertelote through her speed and apparently better eyesight, even though Pertelote was bigger and stronger.”
Their daughter Becca called her hen Oi. “Just because she wanted to be able to say “Oi” to someone or something who wouldn’t answer back which the name also refers to a family joke when Becca’s grandmother said “Oi” to her grandfather”, Alistair chuckles.
So why number your hen’s eggs, we asked? Alistair say “They all laid eggs frequently, but Higgledy-Piggledy has been the most prolific laying 4 or 5 eggs pretty much every week.
Some friends of ours used to have hens and they started numbering their eggs so that they would not end up accidentally eating the newest ones and leaving the oldest ones until they went bad. That was part of my motivation, but I have to confess that I am also rather obsessed with statistics, so I wanted to be able to check things like the average number per week at different times of the year (although I have never actually done this).
Another thing I wanted to do was to calculate the average cost of each egg. Since I have included the purchase cost of the coop and the enclosure materials, as well as their food, bedding, etc, this number is always changing (and always going down). Now that we have reached 1000 eggs, the cost per unit is down to about 35p.”
The family keep an old exercise book and a soft pencil by the back door, so each day when they collect the eggs they write down the date, the number they have collected that day and the running total. They then write the latest numbers onto the eggs we have just collected – such an efficient way of keeping tabs on your hens!
The 1000th egg was posted on the family WhatsApp group chat and the family celebrated by treating Higgledy-Piggledy to some extra mealworms that day. And what happened to the egg you ask? Well, sadly Alistair isn’t too sure. He tells us “We gave some away that week, so I think it was one of those. It certainly didn’t become part of my favourite breakfast – smoked haddock and poached eggs”. What a shame!
If you’ve got some interesting stories like Alistair’s don’t hesitate to email them to us. We love an unusual story and it’s a great chance to see your hens in Fresh Laid News!