Until I had chickens I really had no idea how valuable those eggs at the grocery store really are. It seems so simple, right?? You have a few chickens, they lay eggs, easy! Yeah....it's not quite so simple. Chickens raised in a natural living environment (i.e. little or no artificial light, no temperature control, bread to reproduce, rather than just produce eggs, etc.) go through many different phases throughout the year that all effect their egg laying in different ways.
As I mentioned in the winter, 3 out of the 5 molted (meaning they shed their feathers and grew new ones), which meant they stopped laying for over 6 weeks as their bodies focused on growing feathers. One of our 5 chickens (the Ameracauna) decided that she just really didn't like winter and so she stopped laying, probably to focus her energy on just staying warm. Then this spring our Buff Orpington, Henrietta, became a broody mother hen, who sat in the nesting box for weeks on end trying to hatch eggs that would never hatch and being crabby towards everything and everyone who came near her. After her broodiness began calming down, she starting molting, which meant she didn't lay any eggs for about 3 months. We now think we've had two other chickens (our two Barred Rocks) who have been a bit broody over the past few weeks and seem to be taking an egg laying break as well.
So over the past couple weeks we've been averaging about 2 eggs per day--from 5 chickens! Today, though, we got three brown eggs, which tells me that someone is back in the swing of things and we should start averaging 3-4 per day now! Hooray!!
And then there are the two little ones, who are getting closer to laying, but are still not earning their keep around here. Soon, though! Bernadette (the yellow one) is starting to have a warm, red comb, which is a sign that she's getting closer to laying her first egg! Maybe in a few weeks!
And so, if you buy eggs from a local farmer who gives his/her chickens a pretty natural lifestyle, don't be surprised when the eggs are not cheap like the big styrofoam cartons in the store. Raising heritage breeds in good conditions can be tough and unpredictable, but the eggs you get are completely worth it.