The stories, travails, mistakes, successes; the journey of a change in lifestyle for two would-be market farmers and permaculturists.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

We have lots of eggs - YAY

I have a small group of people who have gotten eggs from us on a fairly regular basis. One of them suggested a newsletter. That seemed like a good idea, so I sent one out, and this is just a recap of that newsletter. I have decided that a static website will probably work better for us than trying to use a blog as a website, so I'll be working on that as time allows.

Since we have been collecting a dozen and a half to 2 dozen eggs a day, they were really accumulating in the fridge. I actually drove around the neighborhood to give away samples, and hopefully have some new local customers. There is a potential for 3 dozen a day, but I don't think that will happen. At some point some of them will be going broody (wanting to hatch eggs) and will quit laying. That is good for me, because I want to use broody hens for naturally hatching out little chicks. But, it will cut into the egg production. I also plan on dividing up roosters and hens for breeding pens when the weather warms up.

We have basically 3 breeds here. Penedesencas, Chanteclers, and Ameraucanas. We have 2 colors of Chanteclers. White and Partridge. The Partridge birds lay the pinkish brown colored eggs, and tend to go broody very often. The White birds are the original color, and are the official chicken of Canada. They were considered extinct at one time, but pockets of them were discovered on small farms across Canada and are being brought back. We imported a trio of birds from Canada last fall. They lay a pale tinted egg, and you will seldom see one in your egg carton, since we only have 2 hens. We will eventually be either hatching those out or selling those eggs as hatching eggs later in the year.

The Penedsencas are an extremely rare breed as well. They are of Spanish origin, mainly in the area of Catalonia, which is also know for its wine production. They were brought back from extinction by the government, and exist in 4 feather colors. We have mostly black birds, with some being crossed with another color, and exhibiting red feathers as well. They lay the extremely dark red brown eggs. The genetic factors for this type of egg color are not really understood, nor is the process by which the color is laid on the egg. What is known is that the color is laid down sort of like spray painting. This accounts for the fact that the dark eggs often show scratch marks from the hens toe nails, or show uneven color from one part of the egg to the other. They can also be different shades of brown from one day to the next, depending on time of year, time of the day, or feed, to name a few factors. Other breeds of dark egg layers do not lay very well, but the Penedsencas are an exception. They lay very well all year long, are excellent foragers, and are very hearty birds. Some people do not like them because of their nervous nature, but we have had good luck with them here, and expect to specialize in them as a breed.

Ameraucanas are the breed that lay the blue eggs. There is a lot of misinformation about this breed, mainly in terms of the names given to the birds. Most hatcheries sell birds that are cross breds and do not lay the true blue eggs. We have purebred birds from show breeders who lay the true blue eggs, with the color going all the way through the egg shell. They are not the best of layers, however, and do not lay at all during the winter. We had an accidental cross with one of our Chanteclers last year, and are going to pursue that cross some more this year. That bird lays a minty green egg, is very hearty, and lays throughout the winter. We are getting 6 eggs a week from her, which is outstanding for a non-hybrid laying bird.

Other poultry projects for the upcoming year include more heritage turkeys, extremely rare Cotton Patch Geese, and Ancona Ducks. These will be used as part of our permaculture model as well as providing us with their tasty meat and eggs. The Cotton Patch Geese will be a breeding experiment, as they are going to be too rare to eat!!

I hope to be selling at one or two farmers markets this year, although eggs will not be part of that. For right now, I am not licensed to sell at markets, as that takes having a commercial kitchen in which to process them, and it is a bigger expense than we are willing to incur right now. So, as long as we have enough extra eggs, I'll continue the occasional deliveries and home sales.

Someone was interested in information on how to freeze eggs, so here is a link to some good information on that. I haven't tried it yet, so can't vouch for it, but here it is if anyone wants to give it a shot.

Hope winter will break soon. I for one am tired of this dam...... white stuff and cold. So are the birds!

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