We have a wide variety of breeds, selected for egg production, colors of eggs, and general cuteness. We choose to keep our birds in several small flocks (with no more than 1 rooster in each). Each flock has a large indoor area (barn pen or coop/shed) and attached covered run or pen “pen pastured”. In this way, the established pecking order isn’t often upset so that stress is reduced, they do not fall victim to predators, they do not dig up neighbors yards and gardens, and the chance of them coming in contact with avian flu is very, very slim. Even our ducks enjoy the safety of a large covered run with duck huts and all the amenities – much to the frustration of the local eagles and owls. Their duck antics seem to entertain our sheep.
While commercial egg farms change the layers every 2 years or so to keep production up (ie kill them and bring in new), our girls live out their lives here taking dust baths, hunting bugs, playing on swings, grabbing our boot laces, and producing as many eggs as they are able. We bring in new girls to replace those lost by natural deaths. The new/young girls start out laying smaller eggs (and some double yolked huge ones while they get the hang of it), the older girls lay big lovely eggs just not so many of them.
As a natural course of life, chickens and ducks produce an abundance of eggs in the Spring and then fewer as the Summer wears on. While selective breeding has improved on off-season production, they still go into molt (drop feathers and grow new ones) each Fall and stop or reduce production. Winter laying is likewise limited. We try to time the addition of new girls (we get day old chicks that will start to lay at about 6 months) so that they can take up the slack a bit, but you will always find availability limited in Fall and Winter. Only by keeping just young birds and keeping them indoors with controlled lighting can year-round production be improved.
We simply like our girls too much!
Sue & Sue