Friday, October 21, 2011

Seasonal Oviparity Variation

Last weekend, I experienced first hand the effects of seasonal variation in Anatidae Oviparity.  At the Phoenix Farmer's Market I couldn't get any duck eggs!  Dr Desert Flower and I arrived at 845am - about 30 minutes later than I normally try to get there.  As we were out of eggs at home, I headed to my "go to" supplier, Crooked Sky Farms - no eggs. "We haven't had any for 2 weeks now" the farmer told me.  Hmmm...

So I hustle over to Double Check Ranch's booth.  "Have the coyotes eaten your chickens?" I ask the rancher.
"No, but we haven't had any eggs for 2 weeks now. As soon as the weather starts to change, the hens stop laying eggs."  Oh man! "I'll be back to get some beef later!" I exclaim, as I spy a dozen eggs over at Chili Acres.

I dash over there to talk to the farmer.  The table displayed dozen is his last. "Chickens haven't been laying much lately" he tells me.  Sitting beside him is a friendly rustic wearing over-alls with a "Recall Pearce" button (Russell Pearce is the self declared emperor of the Arizona legislature, and there's an active movement to hold a recall election against him due to his draconian anti-immigration, xenophobic, 'solve problems that don't exist' political mindset, like SB1070).  I said to the rustic "I like your Pearce button" to which he replied "He should be shot!" .. a strong reaction, that took DDF and I aback momentarily.  DDF congenially replied "No, don't shoot him. that's what he'd do. Just get him out of office with the recall."  My wife, the consummate peace-maker.  As I purchased the last dozen eggs Chili Acres had, two other customers eagerly inquired if there were anymore.  Nope - no more.

As I googled about seasonal oviparity I found a great deal of research (links here, here, and here to name a few).  It's a well researched phenomenon, but I was unaware of it.  After my Chili Acres dozen is eaten, I thought I might get more eggs at Costco, who carries a "cage free" & "organic" 18 pack from Hidden Villa Ranch at a reasonable price ( ~ $5 I think).  As I looked up Hidden Villa, I was comforted to find they are the makers of the delicious Horizon organic butter I use too!  Yes, they have some very large, industrial sized hen houses at some of their locations, but they at least seem to "care" and proudly carry lines of organic dairy products.

Hickman's Proudly displaying a new mass production pen
This is in a STARK contrast to Hickman's "Family" Farms.   I will NOT be buying any eggs from Arizona producer Hickman's.  They supply many of the large grocery stores in Arizona.  I was driving down I-10 last week when I had the misfortune of being behind a Hickman's semi truck as I approached 83rd and 91st Avenues.  Hickman's paints a large industrial scene of hundreds of stacked, caged chickens on the back doors of their truck, which I WINCED when I saw them.  A look at the Hickman's website shows the cherry picked, snarky, self-justifying news clips and "studies" that ridicule sustainable, organic, healthy, local poultry farming.  They tout the antiquated and flawed Haugh egg index as "proof" that their massive factory farming produces "better", "safer", more "sustainable" and "healthier" eggs than any free range, organically fed, hand gathered eggs as I get from Crooked Sky, Double Check, or Chili Acres.  They mock and belittle humane methods of egg gathering, and I find their rhetoric and corporate philosophy antithetical to how I am striving to source my food.  Sure, with 10s of thousands (or 100s of thousands?) of hens, and mass production with force-fed hormones and antibiotics, seasonal oviparity variation is probably not as severe for such a formidable factory operation.  Yeah, yum.  =(

I will continue to patronize my local, healthy, sustainable, friendly, human & humane farmers and ranchers whose hens and ducks lay dark yellow nutrient rich yoked eggs, and avoid the factory industrial farms whenever possible.  And, I'll take a note that when the 100F temperatures return next March or April, that seasonal variations lead to irregular egg laying. 


  1. It's sad how distant we have gotten to our food, that we no longer know the cycles. I was having a conversation with my sister the other day about how I miss tomatoes during the winter. And, she couldn't understand why. :)

    As for eggs, my farmer does use lighting as a way to address the seasonal change in the mid-west. The chickens are still free to roam about - but usually choose not to be out in the cold. :)

  2. perhaps Illinois hens are less fickle than Arizona hens? =)

    And much to my dismay... when I went to Costco Saturday afternoon there was a Dearth of Hidden Villa and all they had stocked their refrigerated section with were Hickman's! Ew ew ewwww! I made a bee line to Fresh & Easy where I picked up 2 dozen organic, locally raised Medium sized eggs, "2 for $5, or $2.50 each" - what a bargain!


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