What do you Feed your Layers?

A friend said, “Chris, my wife wants to know what you feed those birds.  She doesn’t want to eat any eggs other than yours.”

That’s always nice to hear.

We grind the Fertrell rations on the farm.  In short it’s corn, oats and roasted soybean mixed with aragonite and Fertrell Poultry Nutri-Balancer.   Fertrell Poultry Nutri-balancer is mostly soft-rock phosphate and includes kelp, vitamins and probiotics.  Our layers get the layer ration free-choice along with whole kernel corn and oats.  They also get oyster shell free choice (makes the egg shell harder).  Finally, they get a new patch of pasture every third day so there are always fresh greens and bugs available to them.

This all changes in the winter.  We winter the birds (and rabbits) in our greenhouse on deep bedding offering them the same feed along with several flakes up to a bale of hay daily.  The deep bedding provides most of their protein requirements, prevents odors, generates warmth and makes great fertilizer for our gardens.  The hay gives them a source of greens and seeds in winter and helps build up the bedding further.

That’s the plan anyway.  Who knows what will really happen.  Might be even better once I get the other greenhouse built.

What Makes Your Eggs So Special

I have read a couple of articles recently on the differences between pasture-raised eggs and confinement eggs.  Both point out the advantages of eggs from pasture, one somewhat subjectively, one scientifically.  The Mother Earth News article goes pretty far in depth. The Pantry Paratus article is lighter and has a nice video of a small egg handling machine.

I have an egg handling machine.  Two of them, in fact.   Both are 1976 models.  They work to collect, carry, wash, weigh, candle and pack the eggs.  Every day.  They are a little older.  They show signs of wear, they are a bit scratched up, scarred and thickened…but they are clean.

Actually, they don’t look too bad in that picture.  They will by the end of the week when we finish putting up hay.  Oh, well.  They are multi-purpose machines.  In fact, the greater the variety of work I put them to, the longer they last.  I don’t spend 8 hours every day packing eggs with them.  I don’t spend 8 hours/day every day processing chicken either.  We keep our enterprises small enough that each of them is just a portion of our day, minimizing repetitive stress, minimizing drudgery.  It’s work but it’s pleasant work.

I’m a small, diversified farmer.  I can do that.

Back to eggs.  My chickens get enough pasture to last them 3 days.  They sanitize the pasture and eat any weeds the goats leave behind and devour bugs.  They scratch, dig and poop.  They eat worms and leave behind things for worms to eat.  Then we move everybody again.  The pasture is better where the chickens have been.  The eggs are better because of fresh pasture.  The periodic, intense disturbance cycle makes everything better.

Best of all, it makes an egg that is out of this world and, according to the research in the Mother Earth article, is healthier than most.  Does your farmer move his chickens to fresh pasture regularly?