If you've read my first ever blog, you know how our farm started. But we weren't exactly a "farm" yet. We were just people who didn't want to dip into the kids college fund every time we wanted to buy eggs. And we would BUY eggs. We go through about 4 dozen a week, and that's just between Chris and I, and the dogs. Occasionally the kids will have an egg, and don't even get me started on baking season, Italian Christmas cookies anyone?
We saw laying hens as a money saving opportunity, little did we know that's not exactly true. People in the Facebook groups call that first egg, the Thousand Dollar Egg, and for good reason! We spent a pretty penny just getting the brooder set up, then we (by we, I mean Chris) had to start building
the coop, and the run. It took him, and occasionally myself and the kids, one week to convert the side of a garage to what we now refer to as "the chicken garage". Shortly after he was done building the coop and run, we (me) decided to expand it, because "we need more chickens". After he was done rolling his eyes and grumbling at me about expanding the coop, he decided to expand it again, only this time he built a brooder in the garage. And then of course I wanted to expand the run, which we eventually decided not to do, because the chickens are now free ranging.
Now not everyone can build a chicken coop into the side of their extra garage, and not everyone wants to. So we made sure, with all our farming adventures, to build it sturdy, but
also easily removable if we decided to leave the farming world, and it wouldn't affect the value of our home. Because at the end of the day, we weren't planning on starting a farm, but we did, and we love it. And now back to those beautiful silly ladies…
When we went looking for chickens, we looked for dual purpose, meaning, when they stop laying, they're also a good meat bird. Next we looked for temperament, we wanted to enjoy the experience, and not have a moody bird chase us around. Then winter hardiness, so they would lay through the sub-zero temperatures we are so blessed with here in Michigan. And last, egg color. Though I wish we had known more about the range of egg colors while we shopped for our layers. We have a lot of brown layers, some lay darker brown, some light, and some light with dark brown freckles. I've seen some peachy looking eggs, and we get the occasional blue egg, which is very exciting. But the star of our rainbow carton is the green egg, thank you Eggo. Eggo is an Americauna, she has quite the personality, and while she's not friendly, she's just funny to me. If you just leave her alone, she's a happy girl. Eggo is also the picture on our website that takes you to the chicken section. She is joined with our Olive Egger and Easter Eggers in giving us those beautiful greens.
So we now have the coop and the run all cozy for our ladies, we've added friends for them, and they chase misquotes, eat pests that would otherwise kill our produce, and lay eggs for us. These girls are awesome! Now
we have to find egg cartons to put their eggs in, but wow, those are expensive! We sell our unwashed/washed free-range eggs at $3/dz, which is the going rate in our area, so we can't really sell them for more, instead, we ask for carton donations. This helps us keep the price down, while also reducing waste! Win win!
But unwashed eggs? Yes, we prefer to sell unwashed eggs because when the chicken lays her eggs, she actually lays it with a protective layer, or cuticle, called a "bloom". This bloom protects the shell from being contaminated and allows it to remain un-refrigerated up to 2 weeks on your kitchen counter, or 3 months in the refrigerator. If you decide to wash your eggs, they need to be refrigerated immediately and will last 1 month in the fridge. Interestingly enough, the US is only one of FOUR countries worldwide that washes its eggs, in Europe eggs aren't allowed to be washed. They rely on the eggs natural cuticle to protect the egg from Salmonella, plus, this also ensures good husbandry, so you know your hens environment is clean when the eggs are clean, and unwashed. Other countries like the UK vaccinate the chicken to protect them from salmonella. So, ok, I like that concept, and I looked into it a bit. According to Wikipedia the US averages 140,000 salmonella cases each year, whereas Europe averages 91,000. That's quite the difference in my opinion, and proof positive we're doing the right thing. Sometimes, letting nature take care of us is the best way to take care of us.