I just realized that I don’t talk much about what goes on around here with our chickens. They are our staple animal. They provide most of the funds that keep me going.
To give a bit of a background story, when we first started on re-establishing the farm we started with one jersey steer that was given to us to raise for our own food. A few weeks later, Mr. Farmer and I were discussing eggs and chickens. He missed farm fresh eggs and I love having chickens around so we decided to order a batch of 12 birds. Six each of Barred Rocks (which I like) and Rhode Island Red (which Mr. Farmer wanted).
The week they came into the local farm supply store (locally owned and operated/not a chain store), we were called in to come pick them up. Mr. Farmer decided to stop on his way home from work, which is just about closing time for the store. When he got there, they had our 12 birds plus another 11 birds that hadn’t been picked up. So…they offered them to Mr. Farmer at a discounted rate. Needless to say, we ended up with nearly twice as many birds as I anticipated.
After about five months, they started laying eggs. At that time, we were eating eggs all the time and had no customers to buy any of the extras. In a months time frame, we would have almost 20 dozen extra eggs!!! We sat and discussed what we could do with the eggs. Donating them to the food bank sounded like I really good idea.
That is until we were told that the eggs had to be USDA certified! I wasn’t going to do that to donate eggs. So, we thought some more on what to do with them. Then as we were thinking about what to do on Saturday, it hit us. During winter time, the local Christian church that the whole family attends does a free will breakfast the first Saturday of every month. We contacted the Pastor and asked if we could donate the eggs to them and they gladly accepted! We provided 1/2 the eggs they needed for the breakfast every month from December to April. It didn’t help pay the bills, but it sure felt good to help out the church and the local community!
Once April arrived, the eggs started to accumulate again! There were seven dozen in the fridge the day we met the new neighbors that had just purchased Mr. Farmer’s parents old house! They were excited to learn that we had animals, including the chickens and started purchasing seven dozen eggs per week! They have a family of five and almost always have eggs for breakfast! As they say, the Lord works in mysterious ways!
We also started selling to another neighbor up the road and then in May, Mr. Farmer’s folks pulled back in with their camper! Now WE were running short on eggs! Not a single one left at the weeks end. We sold the eggs for $2.00/dozen. We have also had people telling us that these are some of the best eggs they have ever had.
No one can seem to understand the importance of good food, clean barns and happy chickens. You can’t have happy chickens without them being able to do what they like to do. My chickens are not penned or fastened in (unless the temperatures outside are extremely cold). They are allowed to run around all over. They dig and scratch. They spread out manure piles from the cows picking out left over grains and any bugs that may come around the pile. They dig up other bugs out of the grass and worms when they can find them. They have free choice food and water. I offer them a custom mixed scratch grain depending on the time of year in the mornings. They now get the whey from cheese making too! And they love that!
Back to the story….
In April, we also had Belle arrive that year along with two calves and we got another calf from the auction barn (for $4.07, seems wrong but that’s what we paid). Belle allowed them all to nurse while we slammed her on the grain, good hay and all the pasture grass she could eat. Those chickens and their eggs provided us with enough money to keep the cows in hay and grain! Those eggs also paid for the chicken feed and the winter hay we ended up buying in that year for five cows and calves.
Our little herd of birds has grown now to 47 laying hens! Right now, we have five dozen eggs in the fridge…but with the holidays upon us, I don’t think we will have an issue getting rid of them!