As of 1/16, we maintain a flock of about 40-60 hens, with some turkey hens and peahens. The eggs these birds lay are divided up for distribution among all our farm members. Our eggs are not for sale to the general public.
A bit about our chickens and eggs…many of you have visited and seen our birds. Over 95% of our laying hens are heritage breeds whose lineages are in danger of disappearing from the American Landscape. Originally, we kept Delaware and Buckeye breeds, which were used in the decades before the advent of commercial egg farming as large birds suitable for both egg laying and meat. As time has marched on, we have added in Australorps, Buff Orpingtons, Jersey Giants, Brahmas, White Plymouth Rock and whatever else became available. We lose birds during the year to illness, predators, and old age, so usually we bring in some new ones each year. Chickens commonly die of reproductive cancers and a few other illnesses. Normally a chicken can live to 6-8 years of age, if they avoid disease or injury.
The hens live in and out of pens. Since they can fly, they pretty much do what they want. Our chickens eat a diet of whatever they can find, supplemented with commercial layer ration. In summer, they receive a steady stream of tree fruit, tomatoes, oversized squash, etc. In winter they graze on abundant grass. And year round, there are bugs, bugs, and more bugs. While not certified organic, much of their of their diet during the year is “real food” of farm or local origin. We increase our flocks by a combination of allowing them to breed naturally, and the purchase of new birds from our friends at the local feed store. All eggs in the cartons are fertile; our hens live with roosters.
On certain occasions, we are able to share duck eggs from local friends who keep them and have a surplus….when it happens this is a lovely treat!
This describes how eggs are prepared for distribution to our members: After being collected, the eggs are soaked briefly and washed of any visible debris at least once in warm, soapy water. This allows us to identify and remove any older or bad eggs, as they will float or rest upright under the water. We rinse them in running warm water, and refill the sink with 200ppm solution of bleach in warm water, let them disinfect for a few minutes, and then we dry the eggs on clean microfiber towels. They are then checked under a special bright light to sort for cracks, embryo development, or other problems. They may be treated with petrolatum, in which case the word “sealed” would appear on the sticker noting the processing date. They are treated by using freshly washed hands and spreading a small amount of medical grade petrolatum onto one hand. The egg is then rolled around in the hand until every bit of the shell is coated, and wiped with a paper towel to remove any excess petrolatum. Then they are placed in cartons which we ask members to return to us in clean condition. The eggs are NOT graded. It is common to find everything from medium to beyond jumbo in a carton. Young hens lay smaller eggs. Older hens lay whoppers. We do our best to have fair mix of sizes. It is normal, and not a problem, if the egg yolk has a fleck of a red spot on it. After washing and packaging we put the process date on the outside of the egg carton with a sticker, and refrigerate. However, in spite of all our efforts, these are farm eggs, and should never be taken for granted. When we use our eggs, we NEVER crack them directly into a recipe, we always crack them into a clean cup or bowl first, just in case something went wrong that we didn’t catch. It is never worth skipping this easy step only to ruin an entire recipe, by finding out too late that an egg was bad.