With all these fabulous cool-weather veggies arriving to complement the last of the warm-season tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, some folks are still giving me the dirty eyeball when I've run out of eggs before I've even gotten to the farmers market. I'm not holding back on you: eggs are as seasonal as tomatoes. By October, the hens are well into their molting phase, where they gradually lose all of their feathers and grow out a new lush set of plumage for the winter. That takes a lot of energy to accomplish, and not much is left for egg-laying. By the time the molting is done, the days have gotten short enough that the girls still don't lay much, and this pattern continues through the winter. Simply put, there are rarely enough eggs to meet demand in the back half of the year. There are ways a farmer can trick a hen into being more productive through her off-season, but a hen is a living creature, not a machine. I prefer to let her follow her natural rhythms, which results in tastier, more nutritious eggs in the long run.
I added 50 new chicks to the flock back in April, hoping the newer hens would help offset the usual late-year egg shortage. It takes roughly 5-6 months before a pullet (farmer-speak for a female chicken before she begins laying eggs) to begin to produce. When the pullets do start, they begin by laying just a few "practice eggs" that can be half the size of a regular egg. These pullet eggs gradually become larger and more frequent until she's in full production, laying large eggs on a regular basis. In addition to my (limited supply) of larger eggs, I also now have (again a limited supply) of small pullet eggs. Pullet eggs are $5 for a box of 18, and by weight are equal to a carton of 12 full-sized eggs. If you mainly use your eggs for baking, you might be challenged to match your recipe's needs with the little pullet eggs. Otherwise, they're just as tasty fried, scrambled, or boiled as a larger egg - just in daintier portions!