You Will Know Them by Their Hen Fruit

Over the weekend I noticed our egg yolks are looking a little pale.  A customer also mentioned it to me.  That’s not much of a shock given the time of year but it’s something I need to manage.  The picture also indicates that my whites are a little loose, though those particular eggs came from geriatric hens so it may be a hen issue.


The yolks should be orange.  The kind of orange that screams at you like like William Wallace calling for his favorite crayon…”ORANGE!!!”  My chickens are not getting enough greens in their diet.  Later in the spring when the dandelions are growing well, the color will return on its own.  Right now the chickens need some supplemental greens.  I’ll start tossing in a bucket or two of alfalfa chaff and some winter annuals that are growing among the carrots in the garden (chickweed and henbit) and we’ll see how things go.  Things are starting to green up already but I’m not moving the birds fast enough to keep them in the green.  Work, work, work.

If you want a little bit of homework you can read about what makes a good pastured egg and how they compare to factory eggs on a nutritional level at Mother Earth News.

My lovely bride (who is looking particularly beautiful today) says my joke title is a bit of a reach.  Chime in on comments if you get it at all.

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?