Our hens are pampered, free-range chickens. When I say free-range, I'm not referring to a square foot of space in a dirt-floored pen. It's the real deal... 10 plus acres (the plus comes from neighboring farmland) of grasses, weeds, worms and bugs for our little gals to munch away. Between foraging and egg laying, they sun-bathe and take dust baths when the ground is dry. If you've never seen a chicken enjoying life in the wide open, you're missing out. They give us laughs with their bug chasing, dirt digging antics. Nature provides the perfect backdrop for those varying colors and styles of feathers, waddles and combs to strut their stuff.
Oh, and did I mention yet, the DELICIOUS eggs?! They do enjoy their morning and evening scratch grain treats, but the rest of their diet from spring through fall comes straight from Mother Nature's bountiful table. Personally, I find their yolks darker in color, and the egg flavor more intense during those warmer months. When hard winter sets in, and their diet solely consists of feed grains, it's a washed-out version... although still a darn site better than commercially processed eggs. Even in the winter time, our chickens will exercise outside and bask in the sun. I've been pondering, for awhile now, raising worms to supplement them in the cold months. Sound yummy?
Our chickens are not treated with hormones, steroids or antibiotics. Therefore, we call our eggs "All Natural". We do not use pesticides on our land. However, the scratch grain we buy at the local farmer's co-op is standard issue. This means that pesticides could have been used during their plants' growing. Organic (pesticide-free) feeds in this part of the country are harder to find and are very expensive. Poor farmers... I'm sure there are many out there who either do or would like to grow things without the chemicals, but it's just not economically viable for most, not yet. Last time I looked into Organic certification fees, etc., it was awfully pricey. Ah well. Baby steps, right? I'm getting off of that soapbox now. Uh-hum.
We have not had our eggs certified or graded, again - big cost for a little hobby farmer such as myself. This means that I cannot label egg size the way you usually see them at the grocery store. I will say however, that we have varying sizes that all seem to fit into cartons made for large, extra large and jumbo graded eggs.
We follow very careful handling procedures. We collect them twice a day in average weather. In extreme cold and heat, we collect them three times a day. If we find any cracked or wet eggs, they are immediately thrown out. Also, if they are found outside of the nesting boxes in the barn, we pitch them since we don't know for sure how long they've sat. From there they go straight into the refrigerator until purchase or delivery. When I deliver eggs, I always transport them in a sealed cooler with ice packs to keep them cold.
Our farm is for enjoyment, and we currently only have 20 laying hens in their prime. This means we average 15 - 20 eggs a day. We do have a few regular customers whose purchases help pay for supplies and feed. Mostly, it provides me with an excuse to keep more than just a few hens around for our own eggs.
EGG-TO-KNOW-BASIS & YOU Should Know:
Y'all come back now, ya hear?!