Over the last few months we have been slowly tweaking our chicken and egg operations, particularly after two massive windstorms rolled our chicken tractors and traumatized our poor flock. What are we doing? Why are we doing it this way? Is there a better way to think about this process?
A big part of operating a farm is asking a lot of questions - of each other, of our advisors, of our friends and community. What IS the best practice? There is a lot of info out there and everyone seems to have a different "right" answer. How do you sense-make in all the noise!
Some of the questions we were asking ourselves and the wise Internet:
Did it really make sense to have laying hens in a relatively stressful outdoor environment, way on the far side of the farm? Would meat chickens be better suited to the rotational grazing? Do we need to be spending extra time and energy washing all of the eggs? Is the a way to get the eggs to come out clean? If so, could we decrease the cost per dozen?
Once we moved them inside and upgraded some of our nest box infrastructure, they started popping out 3-4 dozen eggs a day. Our record so far was 86 eggs in one day! And they come out beautifully clean, no washing necessary.
Which leads us to another interesting point we've been asking: do we NEED to wash the eggs?
Once an egg is laid, there is an outer film on it called the "bloom". It's a protective anti-bacterial layer that keeps the egg fresh for 2 weeks, no refrigeration needed. But once the bloom is washed off, they need to be stored in a fridge immediately. It's also an added cost for the consumer if our crew is washing eggs.
So, what we realized after all of this hullabaloo, was that:
A) Chicken tractors need to be designed for abnormal weather events. Think turtle shell.
B) Meat birds should be in rotational grazing, layers/breeding hens should be pampered in the coop.
C) We can significantly decrease the cost of farm-fresh local eggs if we have pampered chickens that are producing a vast amount more per day, and with rollaway nest boxes, eggs come out clean every time.
What are your thoughts? We are learning as we go, and all advice and insight helps us build better systems that we would like to share with our community here in Colorado.
Our goal is to deliver farm fresh, local food straight to your door for the same price as you would buy at the grocery store. By continuously asking these kinds of questions, and tweaking our own systems, we have been able to bring the price per dozen down to $3.50 (compared to $8/$6 for washed/unwashed).
Get your dozen here: Yellow Barn Store