A little blonde girl walked up to our table at the Market, pointed at the eggs and said to the Boss, “Those are EGGS!” I could see him melt a little as she looked up with those big blue eyes and said it again. She couldn't have been more than three years old. (…and she was SO cute!) Something about those eggs fascinated her. When he asked her if she knew where they came from, she thought and then said, “A FARM!” She wasn't quite sure but with a little prompting from her older brother she said they came from chickens. The Boss applauded her knowledge. She went skipping off down the sidewalk, following the rest of her family.
Farm fresh eggs have long been a staple of the Market, but lately there have been a LOT of questions, too. However, some of the questions just prove how un-informed…no, mis-informed folks are. I cannot tell anyone how hens for eggs should be raised, could be raised…nor can I say with certainty that we do it the BEST way. But, we have been doing this a LONG time and are committed to the health and well-being of our animals as well as producing a delicious product in an efficient and economical manner.
Recently, I read an article about eggs. This article chronicled 9 separate labels that eggs may (or may not) have and their possible definitions. Unfortunately, much of the information used to explain the terms is erroneous. This is simply one more example the lack of knowledge of agriculture that seems to be compounded daily. There is actually legislation before Congress that will affect the housing of laying hens in commercial operations. To my mind, that’s more than a little heavy-handed, but I won’t get “all political”.
|hens come and go freely|
laying their eggs in the safety of nestboxes
Small chicks cannot be exposed to the elements; they must have warmth and light during their very early days in order to thrive. We provide the chicks with light and feed 24/7 for the first three weeks of their lives here on the hill.
There is a lot of talk about fertile eggs, too. Many folks feel that this must add to the nutrition. I do not think there is any basis to this oldwives’ tale. Some cultures consider this a delicacy. Other folks think that the possibility of finding an unhatched chick in their morning meal is more disgusting than mere vocabulary can convey. Personally, I am with the latter group.
In order for an egg to be fertile, the hen must have had physical contact with a rooster. Contrary to popular belief, every egg is NOT a chick in the making, nor must you have a rooster in order to get eggs. Nor is the yolk the part of the egg that becomes the chick! The majority of the yolk is actually what provides the nutrition for the chick as it grows inside the shell. …and for the record…most double yolk eggs will NOT produce twins.
Once she reaches maturity, a hen will produce an egg approximately every 26 hours, with or withOUT a rooster. In operations where eggs are offered for sale, a rooster is rarely kept. Roosters are aggressive, both with humans and the hens, and in most cases do nothing productive for the flock. While there are some who keep a rooster to “protect” the hens from aerial predation (hawks, eagles and perhaps owls) but we have found that doesn't work for us. So, there is no need to candle our eggs, or worry about “babies” inside when you buy our eggs.
While we have had predation problems with hawks in the past, we have found that if the hens have a place to get out of sight of the hawk/other raptor (under the house or vegetation) it is not an issue. But, there is nothing that will cause a more visceral reaction of an egg farmer than the sight of a raptor lunching on a hen. (been there…done that) Any large shadow moving over the ground will cause the hens to squawk and run for cover. Their squawking in turn causes the dogs to bark and most birds don’t stay long.
This week, a long-time customer noted, “I GOT A WHITE EGG for the first time EVER! Like, WHAT is going on?” I laughed and said, “yeah, there’s one hen who lays these weird light eggs…” I think she was a little disappointed with my calm reaction. “Oh, I thought you might have gotten new chickens. Or maybe something weird was going on…” she said. Nope, no new chickens, just the odd and random anomalies make up our natural world. Cool, huh?
High in protein, fairly low in calories, eggs provide some essential nutrition from which most everyone can benefit. The whole cholesterol thing is constantly up for study, debate and discussion. My advice is to follow Julia Child’s wisdom: “everything in moderation!”
Eggs…they’re what’s for breakfast…lunch…supper…ANYTIME!