Egg-cellent Eggs

Whether it’s sunny-side-up, scrambled, or poached, you really can’t go wrong with fresh farm eggs. I am lucky enough to reap the benefits of eating the eggs without all the “egg-tra” work involved with actually raising the layers.

This is the chicken coop where my sister-in-law keeps her flock. Notice how even the top has wire over it, so the hawks can’t get her birds.

I am currently blessed with two options for fresh eggs. This hasn’t always been the case, but it’s certainly nice to have an abundance over an absence. You might ask why I don’t raise layers myself. The simple answer is I don’t want to raise layers unless they can free range, and that’s not happening. 

I have written previously about the difficulty in having free-range chickens in our area. The hawks and stray dogs make it nearly impossible. I say “nearly,” because my friend and fellow farmer, Karin, and her husband have succeeded in raising some free-range chickens. More on that in a minute.

A hen sits in a nesting box where she will lay an egg.

The other reason I don’t raise chickens is because my sister-in-law Joni, who lives just down the road from me, has layers. She has a fully-enclosed chicken house to keep her flock safe and nesting boxes to collect the eggs. 

With around 50 chickens, Joni usually has plenty of eggs to share. In the cold months, the chickens will drop production or even stop laying altogether. 

Aside from occasional egg-laying strikes during the cold, the other reason I may not get eggs from Joni is when the chickens croak. She lost the batch of birds she had last winter in a massacre. When the hen house door was left open one day, some dogs took out her entire flock. She had to order chicks last spring, and the hens are now old enough to lay eggs. 

Here’s an example of some farm fresh eggs from Karin’s hens.

The biggest drawback to keeping chickens in a coop is having to pay for feed instead of letting them free range. Obviously, the chickens and, thus, their eggs are healthier if the hens can forage for bugs and vegetation. Joni feeds her poultry kitchen scraps, too, but egg ration pellets make up the majority of her hens’ diets.

So, how does Karin manage to succeed with free ranging her chickens without losing her flock? The secret can be summed up in this way: Survival of the fittest.

Over the years, only the smartest of her chickens have survived being out on their own. They’ve learned how to run and hide when danger is near. She said that if a hawk comes calling, one of the chickens will alert the others, so they can dive for cover. Although she does collect most of her eggs now, she always lets some hens set on their eggs and raise their brood. Thankfully, Karin shares some of her bounty with us when her hens are being productive.

When I’m flush with milk, I share my overflow with Joni and Karin, too. I do wish, however, that raw milk could keep as long as fresh eggs. Whereas fresh eggs can last two to three months in the fridge before going bad, raw milk will only stay good for about 10-14 days.

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