2015 – November

It has been a month of ups and down here at Olive Tree Farm. The weather has been lovely and warm one day, and windy and chilly the next, so we have been constantly upgrading housing for the various animals to make sure they are all OK for whatever the weather might hold.

Our egg production to be honest has been quite poor. As you can imagine this can be quite a disappointment when feeding 8 of us. Many people who have chickens often find during certain times of the year, that production has fallen, so we thought it might be a good idea to explain why this might be the case.

There are numerous factors that can contribute to the egg depletion, your first port of call however should always be to check your flock properly for any signs of predators or illness which might include eye discharge, sneezing or lethargy. Here are a few other situations that you can take into account if the health of your birds is good.

Decreased Lighting Conditions – Light triggers a hens pituitary gland to produce eggs. A regular egg layer requires 14 – 16 hours daylight, which they do not get during the Autumn and Winter months. You can however help correct this by introducing extra light into the coop to lengthen their light hours and help increase your number of eggs.

Molting – Molting is the process whereby the hens shed old feathers ready for re-growth. During this process they divert energy and protein away from egg production to focus on the feather growth. You can of course supplement your hens diet with extra protein during the molting period, to help increase egg production.

Broodiness – Is one of your hens getting broody? People are often surprised to find a nest of eggs carefully hidden under nesting material, sometimes they are even presented with a family of baby chicks, and contrary to popular belief, a broody hen, doesn’t always need to sit on them all the time, especially when the weather is warm.

Egg eating – Eggs can occasionally get broken accidentally in the nest box. Once a hen tastes how delicious an egg can be, it can cause a problem and certain hens with then often break into your precious eggs. Keep a close eye out for broken bits of shell in the nest box which is a sure sign of this problem.

Age– After a couple of years your hens production will decline. An ageing flock will naturally produce less eggs after a couple of years. There isn’t anything you can do about this other than replacing or perhaps hatching your own young

Nutritional Deficiency – Are you feeding them correctly, or perhaps giving them too many treats? Make sure they are being fed correctly. As we have said in a previous article, we soak our feed for around 3-4 days in water prior to feeding it to our flock. This process drastically increases the nutritional value of the seed. Just take equal parts of broken corn, wheat and barley and put in a bucket, fill with water, keeping the seed below the water line. When ready drain off the liquid only for the amount needed for that one feed, leave the rest in the water.

On the duck and goose side of things, our 2 beautiful geese Bonnie and Clyde, have now hit maturity, so we are hoping that over the next few weeks, they will start to lay. It is usual for them to lay here in Spain over the Christmas to February period, so we will see. And as for our ducklings, which hatched late Spring, well, they  are now fully grown and almost ready for laying, so we have made a couple more duck houses which we hope will entice them …..

Oh and last but not least – Our winter planting is now well under way and we already have beans, carrots, parsnips and radish showing, plus lots of lettuce, onions, cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts on the grow, so it should be a healthy winter menu for all the family.