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Posted: July 27, 2009

Entirely Homegrown: One small egg for man …

One undersized brown egg in my coop Sunday erased my doubts about surviving the month of August

Mike Taylor

It’s barely bigger than a ping-pong ball, but the sighting of one undersized brown egg in my coop Sunday erased my doubts about surviving the month of August entirely on what I can produce in my backyard.

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Survive? Heck, I might GAIN weight in this experiment. As Neil Armstrong might have put it if he had landed in my backyard instead of the moon:
“ONE SMALL EGG FOR MAN … ONE GIANT OMELET FOR MANKIND!”

Granted, I’ll need a lot more than one egg – three a day, I figure, for minimum protein requirements. With three other hens in the flock, it’s safe to assume many more eggs are on the way.

From the beginning, eggs were a crucial piece of this month-long, backyard-only diet experiment as they were going to fulfill almost all my protein needs. They became even more crucial when my efforts to diversify my protein sources fizzled. The soybeans I planted never came up, and the pea crop yielded barely enough to half-fill one small freezer bag.

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Garden in May

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Garden as of July 26

Last week I even arranged to buy two more hens from a guy in Arvada I found on Craigslist whose posting said he had hens currently laying for $8 apiece. However, in talking to him on the phone, I found him less sure about getting me hens that were already producing. He knew some of the hens were laying because there were eggs in some nesting boxes. He just didn’t know which hens specifically.

Still, I arranged to pick up a couple of hens and take my chances. Then came the severe storm that hit northwest Denver, including Arvada. The morning I was supposed to pick up the hens I called the chicken guy and was advised to hold off because the traffic was backed up for miles.

That gave me time to reconsider adding more hens to my coop. I really didn’t want six hens crowding the small enclosure. The ones I had seemed about ready to start producing: cackling anxiously, rustling around in the nesting boxes and acting agitated in general. I decided I’d give them until July 31. I could always butcher one of them. Not that I wanted to – or would even know how.

I’d also read that vitamin E helps them start laying quicker, so I bought a bottle of what turned out to be not pills but gel caps, which were hard if not impossible to mix with their feed. I did my best with that, poking holes in the gel caps and squeezing tiny droplets into their regular crumbly food. Later a friend told me wheat germ contains vitamin E. I had some in the cupboard, so I sprinkled that into their feed.

I also started letting them forage around the yard (supervised, of course), figuring the exercise, varied diet and increased sunlight would get them to start laying sooner. Hard to say whether any of that made any difference. As I said in an earlier post, I had wished during those days of doubt that there were a way to instill a sense of urgency in them – let them know they were either going to produce eggs or produce a chicken barbecue.

Good to know it will be the former, not the latter.

This morning I reported the news of the first egg to ColoradoBiz editor Mike Cote. “I’m home free!” I exalted.

He laughed. “No,” he said. “Your chickens are home free.”

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Mike Taylor is the managing editor of ColoradoBiz. He writes about small-business money issues and how startups are launched. Email him at mtaylor@cobizmag.com.

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Readers Respond

Geez, I hadn't thought of that, Pam. Could be! By Mike T. on 2009 08 03
Update: 5 eggs as of July 31. By Mike T. on 2009 07 31

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