Most of the time we are running a flock of about a hundred chickens. Actually that would be two flocks totaling 100, since we have two coops in two different fields. And then I should clarify that it starts out at 100. Usually predation reduces that number, sometimes quite a bit. We've had a good season with the bunch we have now, and have only lost about half a dozen or so. Some years, by this point, we have lost many more. It's an ongoing battle between us and the coyotes, and sometimes the owls, and sometimes 'things' that we never actually figure out.
We are only 'allowed' to have 99 laying hens without having to have a quota. We have one rooster as well. There's some information on that here http://www.permies.com/t/11069/farm-income/Quota-system-stranglehold-Canadian-agriculture
Some days at the farmers markets, we wish we had another 50 hens, because the demand for the eggs are so high, and we've had people say to us that we should get more hens. And then comes the time of the year when the farmers markets are over, or are not as frequent. The hens still lay, maybe not so much, and we may have less hens than we started with, but we could still be getting 40+ dozen eggs a week. For years now I've collected names as our main market (White Rock) ends for the season. Every two weeks in the off-season I take eggs out to White Rock on a Sunday afternoon, and customers meet me to buy them. Generally they are pre-ordered, but I always take extras if I have them. I have 73 names on my list. Sounds great but only a small percentage of them actually come to buy eggs on any given Sunday. I don't have a lot of local customers, because I haven't really encouraged it. That's because I can sell the eggs for more at the farmer's markets than I can at the farm gate. I'm greatly appreciative of the people that come every other Sunday to support me, many of them taking time out of their afternoon just to come and get one dozen. I've had a few of my market customers for years, maybe more than ten years, and they've supported us year round. I really really appreciate them. Some of them read this blog.
This year though, despite adding 25 people to my list, the supply is exceeding the demand. I did take 35 dozen to the food bank a while back, to get caught up. The dogs are eating eggs every day. But I've finally had to bite the bullet and reduce the flock. On Sunday I put an ad on Craigslist to sell 25 of them. I had a response from a young guy that also sold eggs, and didn't have enough eggs for his customers. He came to pick the 25 hens up Monday night. On Monday we got 38 eggs from that coop of 52 hens. Some days there were 40 or 41 eggs. We have 27 hens left in that coop now. I thought we would be down about 20 eggs. Yesterday from the 27 hens we got 25 eggs. Not quite the reduction I was hoping for.
I've got to come up with a name for that effect. We've had it happen before. A friend came to buy hens from me. Hens that are currently laying have a wider space between their pelvic bones. She picked out all the hens herself, taking the ones with the wider spaces. Guess who got by far the most eggs the next day. Us of course. In my head I imagine one of the hens saying to all the others......'Ladies, listen up, we'd all better lay an egg this morning or we may be the next to go tonight. All together now...PUUUUSH!'