I don’t need to tell you, it’s been a mighty cold winter—hence visits to local farms have been curtailed, not to mention the seasonal suspension of farmers’ markets.
In this season, locating eggs directly from farms becomes a problem. I phoned around and discovered that the production of eggs falls off big time in the winter months. Additionally, many farms retire their flock and start anew in the early spring.
I wrongly assumed that the severe cold must be the cause. Not exactly so; with an ample supply of feathers, hens fluff themselves out and will roost and huddle together for warmth. Maybe that’s the source of our expression “She’s a tough old bird.”
Digging further, I have discovered that the lack of daylight is the culprit. If the eggs were being laid to create a brood, chicks would have a better shot at survival if it was above freezing. The ladies require long days of light, around 14–16 hours, for a robust egg yield. Mother Nature has equipped the hen with pituitary glands in the eyes. When this gland has less exposure to daylight, it signals them to slow their laying.
Egg factories “trick” the hens with artificial lights on a timer. Lights are placed in the coop to add additional “daylight” hours, stimulating the pituitary gland to produce the hormone that signals them to begin laying. So as spring is upon us, it’s nice to know, that the egg is one of the first local foods we can again enjoy fresh from our farms. As farmer Ted Dobson of Equinox Farm so simply stated, “Why do you think Easter is in the spring?”
Wishing all a healthy, happy Easter and Passover.
Edible Berkshires is a local, independently owned publication dedicated to covering the unique culinary culture of Western Massachusetts.