Pullets Eggs and Cookies

The chicks have become pullets and are laying what I would term as pullet bullets—smallish eggs that are sort of bullet shaped. I’m talked about pullet eggs before in the Pullet Eggs post. They’re quite tasty as a snack or even as a breakfast, but you don’t want to use them for baking unless you find it acceptable to weigh the eggs carefully.

I recently started experimenting a bit with pullet eggs because they’ll be a part of my life as long as I have laying hens. A large egg usually weighs between 2 and 2¼ ounces. Pullet eggs sometimes don’t even register on my scale, making them smaller than the 1 ounce peewee eggs. By using a really accurate scale, however, you can gather enough pullet eggs to work for baking purposes. For example, one of my cookie recipes calls for 5 (nominally large) eggs. What it really means is that you need between 10 ounces and 11¼ ounces of egg. In this case, that actually added up to eight pullet eggs (a total of 11 ounces). Because of the extra shell involved, you want to err on the high side of the needed weight.

Initially I was concerned that the yolk to white ratio wouldn’t hold up when working with pullet eggs. After weighing the yolks and whites for several recipes separately, I’ve found that pullet eggs provide slightly higher amounts of yolk, which may make a difference for really sensitive recipes, but hasn’t affected any of the cookies I’ve tried so far. To date, I’ve tried pullet eggs in chocolate chip, oatmeal, and peanut butter cookies, and haven’t noticed any difference. However, I’d love to hear from anyone else who has used pullet eggs for baking at [email protected].

As the chicks, now pullets, lay more eggs, the eggs slowly become larger. That’s why it’s important to keep weighing the eggs out if you need a precise amount for a recipe. Always keep the larger amount of egg shell in mind as you perform your calculations and the fact that you get slightly more yolk. The difference is really quite small (it varies) and I don’t know that it actually matters, but it could. For me, the real test will come when I make homemade tapioca pudding, which uses the whites and yolks separately.

The older hens are laying few eggs right now. In fact, three of them look downright horrid because they’re moulting. I’ve noticed that the hens require more time to recover from moulting as they grow older. They most definitely don’t lay eggs during this time. One of my older hens has taken upon herself to sit atop the pullet eggs, so she also isn’t laying eggs right now. Some hens, such as my Buff Orpingtons, are especially prone to being broody. The shorter days are also taking a toll on the egg production of the two remaining older hens that are laying. In short, most of the eggs I’m getting now are from the pullets, which is why I’m inclined to experiment a bit to find the best ways in which to use them.

Now that the pullets are mostly full sized, there is peace once again in the coop. My 13 hens and pullets will spend their first winter together soon. On warmer days they’ll go out in the run, but colder days mean a lot more time in the coop, so I’m pleased to see everyone getting along better.


Dealing with Broody Chickens

Chickens can become broody at times. A broody chicken is one that wants to raise a brood of chicks. Nature tells her that she’s supposed to have a number of babies to raise. If you actually want to raise chicks, you’ll want to ensure that hens have access to a rooster when they become broody, but this isn’t the normal need when working with chickens for the purpose of laying eggs.

There are some broody behaviors that are very obvious, such as the hen raising up her bottom on a nearly constant basis. She’ll also sit in the nest box for hours on end, even if there are no eggs in the nest box. This particular behavior is the same one that you see when chicken has an egg stuck up inside her, but she’ll look quite healthy, rather than sick. Less tame chickens may bite or try to prevent you from getting the eggs in the nest box because she thinks they’re fertile. Broody hens will also make a growling-like noise or shriek at you when you approach. The better the mother, the more fiercely she’ll guard those eggs through various behaviors. Henderson’s Chicken Breed Chart will tell you how often your chickens are likely to become broody.

The point to make here is that broodiness is a natural behavior. The hen isn’t going out of her way to be mean to anyone. There is no hate message involved in this. Broody behavior happens most often in the spring because that’s when chickens naturally start to raise chicks, but it can happen at any time. The broody behavior normally lasts for two weeks, but it can be more or less time depending on the hen. When a hen is broody, she may stop laying eggs because hormones tell her that she’s going to be raising chicks and that the eggs aren’t needed. Because of this change in productivity, most people want to change a broody hen’s behavior.

A number of sites that we looked at recommended that you lock the broody hen in a cage away from the other chickens for a period of several days in order to break the behavior. This is an unnatural and cruel way to break the broody behavior. Chickens are exceptionally social animals and locking one away from the others is a terrible way to break the behavior. We’re finding that picking the chicken up and removing her from the coop to be with her compatriots in the run works better. Give her a special treat (we’ve found that mealworms are especially appreciated) to help give her a reason to stay outside. Petting her and telling her that she’s a good chicken in a soothing voice is also helpful. The point is to work with that social behavior to get her past the broody behavior.

Dealing with broody behavior is something that you really do want to do, but take your time and realize that it’s going to require a day or two of working with the hen to accomplish the task. Let me know your thoughts on broody behavior at [email protected].