We get one 'big' egg a day at the moment, it's off Lofty, our Light Sussex, she's the white one in the video below. Our other girls, our five remaining Hylines are now in retirement, they've laid their last eggs and are now enjoying their days in the sun, well they would if it would come back, at the moment they seem to spend most of their time in the Eglu 'bus shelter' (we've taken the house off the end and left them with the covered run area) or under one of the houses sheltering from this persistent rain.
Our Hylines are rescued free-rangers, hens that lived their lives with an average of 3,000 other birds in an artificially lit shed with access to the outside. The shyer girls tend not to get outside much and live out their days pecking around the shed, with food that tumbles down conveyors regularly and other conveyors that take away their eggs as soon as they are laid. It's a sad little life but not as sad at the battery system or the enriched cage system or even the barn system, they at least get the chance of fresh air everyday and access to the great outdoors if they want it.
The only trouble is after around 16 months, when they go into a big moult and when their little bodies can no longer guarantee an egg every single day they are taken away and slaughtered for pet food usually. Some lucky little hens like mine are re-homed and get to live their lives as real free rangers, giving their lucky new owners the occasional egg, usually for another year or so, and the pleasure of their company.
Well I've had my girls for over a year now which makes them over 3 years old, if they were pure bred birds, not hybrids they would probably have longer lives, but these birds are bred to be in good health for only that first 16 months, their little bodies are designed for minimum food intake and maximum egg output.
If they had been free rangers all their lives with normal lighting levels to allow their little bodies to rest more over Winter, they would most likely still be laying a couple of eggs a week and would not be in retirement until at least next year. I'm glad I helped these little birds have a taste of real free ranging, but this now means that I am experiencing on a regular basis the downside to this. Yesterday I lost another. A simple sad death, she quietened and wound herself down, like a little clockwork chicken over the course of a couple of days and died comfortably in her nest box with the little laying Pekins by her side.
A sad day for me, a little No-Namer gone forever. But I knew her, she knew me, I cuddled her, she knew freedom and sunshine and the close companionship of our little flock.
This little film was taken the other day, on her last day out playing in the sun, she's the one that starts off in front of the log and moves over to the plastic bowl. The little Pekin making all the noise is Little Lucy, she is now Head Girl of the chickens, and calls constantly to the others and especially her daughters Poppy and Daisy, our other Pekin is called Alice.
The happy days in Chicken World far outweigh the sad ones.