Welcome to my chicken page! Our kids started raising chickens about 20 years ago. We've always loved watching these hilarious birds that prove God has a sense of humor and eating their delicious eggs.
However, until recently, there weren't enough people who appreciated the taste of pasture raised eggs to make it worthwhile to sell them. So, we contented ourselves with providing our own eggs, incubating a few and occassionally harvesting a few of the roosters for another tasty treat.
Now that we're finally in the egg business thanks to a whole lot of very smart people who've discovered the goodness of pasture raised eggs, I'd love to share with you some of the neat stuff I've learned about chickens over the years.
This picture was taken on a cold windy day. They were all in the lot trying to keep warm so I thought it would be a good time to get a picture of the variety we have in our flock. Normally they are scattered all over the pasture and it is hard to get a picture with many of them together.
Normal Day on the Pasture
This is a picture of a normal day in my back yard.
A chicken's genetics determine the color of eggs. We have a wide variety of breeds which produce brown, white, pink, green and blue eggs. A brown egg will taste exactly the same as white egg unless it is fed differently. Our chickens are free to run on pasture. They get exercise, fresh air and a more natural diet. That's the real difference! Pasture raised eggs not only taste better, they are better for you!Recent studies have shown the average pasture raised egg has: 1/3 less cholesterol 1/4 less saturated fat 2/3 more vitamin A 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids 3 times more vitamin E 7 times more beta carotenethan the regular factory raised egg. For more info, check out the Mother Earth news at:http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/2007-10-01/Tests-Reveal-Healthier-Eggs.aspx
Why Do Pasture Raised Eggs Cost So Much?
A factory farm keeps each hen in a little cage. The chicken eats, drinks and lives there 24/7. When they lay an egg it drops on to a conveyer belt where it is taken through all the processes of washing, oiling and storage. Very little labor is involved and the laying rate of each chicken is known. When the rate falls below a certian level, that chicken is culled and replaced. There is also less accidental death loss due to predators.
All this greatly lowers production costs. It also allows factory farm producers the volume to sell each carton with a tiny profit margin. Sometimes as little as 1/2 a cent.
Our labor is the bulk of the difference. It takes about 45 minutes to process 5 dozen eggs.We also don't have the lay rate that the factories do. There is no way we can have the volume of chickens to sell them at the low prices the factory farms do and make money!
But we believe our chickens are healthier and happier due to the way we raise them and the nutritional studies prove it!
How We Feed
When you hear the words "pasture-raised" it conjures up the idea of animals surviving and thriving on grass alone. Unfortunately with chickens this is not the case. They can survive on grass alone, but they they produce very few eggs that way.
We supplement our chickens diet with a high protien layer feed that's based on corn and brewer's mash. We also give them oyster shell for a calcium supplement, DE for a general mineral supplement and hay during the winter months. All this is free choice.
How We Process Eggs
We gather our eggs in plastic coated wire baskets.
Then we wash them with an egg sanitizer and let them sit to dry for a little while.
After that we place them in large egg crates until we are ready to sell them.
The day we take them to market we grade and candle each egg and place them in cartons with a "sell by date" 30 days off. This is almost always within a week of the egg being laid. Some factory farms save eggs up to 6 months this way, but we never have enough eggs to keep them around!
White Egg Layer
Recently I read that white egg layers have white earlobes and brown egg layers have red earlobes. I was wondering about my chicken that had white earlobes! Now I know why. We've always had brown eggs until recently. I thought there was something wrong with it! The chicken in the front is one of my Easter Egg chickens. They lay green and blue eggs. The others lay varying shades of brown eggs.
Green Pullet Egg
The green egg is from a hen that is just starting to lay. This one is acutually rather large. I've seen them as small as a pea.
Ever seen a wrinkled egg? We were getting quite a few of these from some layer hens we bought. At first we thought it was the stress of moving them, but it's also a sign of a sick chicken. We've lost a few hens recently and aren't getting quite so many of these. The egg is good to eat, but the shell cracks to easily to sell them as Grade A. When you buy hens from someone you always risk getting sick ones, but it was worth it to us because we picked up the Hy-Vee store in Macomb as a result.
As a city kid I grew up with a couple of ideas about chickens that are not based in reality.
Roosters crow at dawn, and at midnight, and at 2am, and in the middle of the afternoon and every possible time in between. Crowing can mean there's a threat near, something has recently changed or simply, "I'm here and want you to know it." The idea of the rooster crow alarm clock at dawn is only a Hollywood image. My son, who's been to Iraq 4 times can sleep through bombs dropping, but wakes to our rooster alarms all night long!
Hens are not early risers or even night shift workers. Our hens tend to lay their eggs between 9am and 3pm. We try to gather late in the afternoon when the eggs are at their freshest. If it is cold or very hot we'll check the hen house two or three times a day for the odd layer, but generally it is best to leave them alone until their work day is done.