Letting chickens be chickens…
The industrial food system is so cruel and so horrific in its treatment of animals. It never asks the question: ‘Should a pig be allowed to express its pig-ness?’— Joel Salatin.
Free-range, pasture-raised, organic fed chicken eggs: $5/dozen
Chickens are inquisitive animals with a complex social hierarchy. Chickens need to chase bugs and scratch the earth. Chickens need to be outside… live like they were designed to live. Our chickens eat organic chicken feed to make sure they are getting all the nutrition they need, but they also eat as much fresh grass, insects, and worms as they desire. The feed we use is produced by New Country Organics in Waynesboro, Virginia (please see our other post on broiler chickens for more information about the feed that we use).
Chickens are omnivores. They eat fresh plants and any other bug or crawling thing that may cross their path. When chickens eat a wide variety of food, like they were designed to do, their eggs are significantly more nutrient dense than what you could ever find in a grocery store.
The results of this nutrient density are superior eggs. Our egg whites stand up… not sure how else to describe this. Poorer quality egg whites spread out thin over the frying pan, but our egg whites mostly stay tight next to the yolk. The yolk is a deep, orange-yellow and has a richer flavor, even in the Winter. Not everyone has as refined a palate to say that this egg has a superior taste to a store bought egg, although I think many do, especially with the yolk. This is best appreciated with poached or boiled eggs, as fried eggs’ flavor is blended with the oil or butter used for cooking. But we have had numerous families say that their children will request seconds and thirds of a breakfast of Bauernhof eggs when compared to store bought eggs when the children will barely want to finish their first serving… and the kids don’t know what eggs they are eating!
There is also a seasonality to eggs. Laying hens will decrease egg production in Winter. Also, with less fresh forage and insects, the yolks will be paler, although our eggs still have pretty bright yolks even in the Winter. Spring and Summer brings more eggs and deeper-colored yolks.
Please understand that the eggs you buy in the grocery store that are labelled “free range” or “cage free” are not anywhere close to what we are raising. These are unregulated terms, and so they are used deceptively to make you think you are getting something that you are not.
In the photos above, you can see the incredible difference between the modern chicken industry’s definition of “free range” and our definition. You can barely see the chickens in this photo, but let me explain what is happening here. Our laying chickens live in a mobile chicken coop which we move about once a week to fresh ground. The chickens are the little dots seen to the right of the red coop. Far to the left of this photo are our sheep. We also move our sheep around the farm, but we do so in portable electric fencing. The sheep are in the pasture first, and then the chickens follow. The chickens eat the flies and worms that may spread disease in the sheep manure. This allows us to avoid using de-wormers (harsh medications) in our sheep. The chicken manure heavily fertilizes the pasture plants allowing them to grow larger and healthier for when the sheep are brought back around to this pasture in a few months. This allows us to avoid synthetic fertilizers on our farm. This is an intentionally designed system we implement to promote holistic regeneration on the land.
The incredible eggs are just a by-product!
NOTE: We will occasionally have eggs from our other birds. Ducks, guineas, and even geese. These birds are seasonal layers, so let us know if you are interested in duck eggs, or the occasional goose or guinea eggs, and we will let you know when they are available.