The perfect edible egg
Updated: Oct 22, 2019
If there is one thing I take the most pride in on my farm, it’s my eggs. What started as a backyard ”nice to have” has morphed into a true passion and commitment to quality. It’s my goal to ensure anyone who eats my eggs is able to say with confidence they are superior in every way.
The secret (which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone) is focusing on the Hen and her health and her ability to live a full life as nature intended.
Here are a few ways we make sure we cultivate her environment for success:
Egg-layers require a very specific diet and many backyard flocks and commercial growers alike are not doing enough research to understand that chickens are NOT vegetarians. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I see a dozen eggs for $6.99 or more at the health food store with a label “vegetarian fed” like its a good thing. Chickens are omnivores. They require proper protein for egg development and for passing that nutrition on to us. In nature, you might be surprised to learn chickens eat other small animals.
On our farm, our chickens get a healthy selection of lizards, frogs, mice, and bugs they can catch. This is just instinctual for them to hunt and not something we ever force. On top of what they catch and eat on our pasture, we also provide the highest quality feed we can access and afford.
We believe that two critical requirements for our feed is being certified organic and Non-GMO. We also provide feed that is formulated appropriate for their age. We always have multiple generations of chickens on our farm. Those that are actively laying will receive Layer Feed, our growing pullets receive Grower Feed and our baby chicks get Starter Feed. This keeps them with the correct nutritional ratios for their growth stages. From the first day they arrive till the day they leave us we only use organic Non-GMO feed.
We also provide plenty of grit and shells for them to ensure they have enough calcium and that they are digesting properly in their crop.
Unlike some farms, we do limit what ”treats” they get. On special occasions we give them organic strawberries, greens, left overs from our microgreens operation, and sustainable raised meal worms. For the most part we want them scratching, pecking and working for their food just like nature intends. At no time do we allow processed foods!
Access to Sunshine
We are lucky that our farm is in the “Sunshine State” and we take advantage to allow our chickens to free range on pasture and soak up as much sun as they choose. They are usually already out of the coop 30 minutes before the sun rises and get to soak up that sunshine till dusk. Of course it’s a very warm climate here year round, so in the hottest parts of the afternoon they are in the shade but we don’t keep them in houses or under shelter all day. We want them to have all the Vitamin D they can enjoy.
We go out of our way to keep our laying hens happy. We've done this a couple ways. First we keep their coop and nesting boxes clean and dry as much as possible. It's extra effort on our part, but hey, we get great compost and they give us breakfast so it works out.
Second we do our best to leave them alone while they are laying and not to disturb the flock as much as possible - they know their social order and routine better then we do. We have strategic and pre-planned ways of managing new flock integration or separation and constantly audit to make sure our chickens are happy and acting normal.
We recognize that even with healthy, high production breeds, they will slow down with age, molt, and take a break when they do feel stress and our job is to support them, and set realistic expectations around how many eggs we will have. We don’t ever buy new chickens without understanding the impacts to the current flock. Stress management is key!
Choosing the Right Breed & Breeder
Over the last few years we've worked up to six different breeds on our farm but we did extensive research on each one prior to purchase around the quality of eggs they produce, the breeds overall temperament, heat tolerance, broodiness, integration ease, and potential health issues. We only chose chickens who we believed would be happy, healthy and integrate well into our farming systems.
We also only source from quality hatcheries that we believe treat their animals humanely, have good bio-security protocols and disease prevention practices and a gold standard for egg-layers. Good experiences so far!
Farm to Table Freshness
We believe in a true farm to table experience and the fresher the eggs the better. We do our best to have all eggs laid and consumed within a few DAYS not weeks even if they are still technically fresh a weeks later.
Nothing beats a 24 hour laid egg to table in our opinion. The egg is creamy, the yolk is a beautiful color and the taste is rich and full of flavor. We routinely make homemade mayo in less then a minute with our freshly laid eggs and it also whips beautifully with avocado oil to create something you won’t get in a store!
Passion for Perfection
The final secret to our success is to never stop learning and having a true passion for chicken farming. This allows us to continue to advance our methods, try new things with every generation and adapt as challenges are presented. We listen to our hens by paying attention to their calls, their physical behavior and their body characteristics and do everything we can to make it about them so they are fully equipped to consistently lay amazing food. We never get lazy with their care or investing money to keep them happy and healthy. You are what you eat!
Jessica Kesler, MBA, PMP, CSM, PMC-II is one of the owners of Drunken Cabbage Farm and is passionate about growing organic, non-GMO produce and chicken farming and supporting the regenerative agriculture movement.
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