In this post, we'll talk about what we feed, how the hens are raised, and we'll answer the most common questions we hear at the farmers market and on farm tours.
Are these eggs organic?
Nope. Many of the ingredients are organic, but not all are. We do ensure that all the ingredients are no GMO and our pasture is not sprayed with pesticides.
Here's how we think about this. In order to provide you certified organic eggs, we'd have to charge something outrageous for every dozen. At a fraction of the cost per pound of feed, we can provide a ration free of corn, soy, and GMOs, which contains many organic ingredients, and (most importantly) has the same high quality ingredients.
We're satisfied with knowing and buying directly from our grain producers and in knowing that the grains used in our layer feed are varieties that are less likely to require pesticide use.
What do the chickens eat?
Chickens forage a significant amount of their diet from the available pasture grasses, worms and bugs.
Their ration feed is free of GMO, corn, and soy. Many of the ingredients are certified organic, but not all are. It is mainly cereal grains, field peas, and minerals.
Our chicken's favorite food is spent brewer's barley. We get this GMO free barley from Wibby brewing. It helps reduce their waste and makes our chickens really, really happy.
Chickens also eat crushed oyster shell which has high calcium content to help them lay eggs with strong shells.
What does "pastured eggs" mean?
"Pastured" isn't an officially regulated term, but we use it since other USDA terms like "cage free" don't really fit.
Many official, regulated terms are for describing large, commercial operations. While these indicate industry improvements, we like to think getting fresh pasture every week is an entirely different thing altogether.
Not only are there no cages, there is no stationary building. No manure build up, just rich fertilizer getting dropped onto healthy soil. And there is plenty of opportunity to forage or take a dirt bath. We think it makes a big difference to the chickens and the flavor of the eggs.
Can't the chickens just eat grasses and bugs? Do you have to give them grain?
While chickens love to forage, their grain ration is an important part of their diet. Chickens are not ruminants like cows or sheep and would not be healthy on grasses alone.
Chickens have a special part of their digestive system called a gizzard that is designed to help them eat grains. The eat small pebbles and put them into the gizzard to help break down the seeds before the seeds continue to be broken down in the rest of the digestive system.
What's the chickens' lifestyle like?
Chickens are pastured year round. This means that not only do they have free range over several acres at all times, they also get moved to a new, fresh piece of pasture every week.
They forage a lot of fresh grass, alfalfa, worms and bugs, especially in the summer. We do our best to mimic their preferred and natural lifestyle and diet. We like to think they're pretty happy.
Are they alright in the Winter?
Yep. They do just fine. We choose breeds that do well in the Colorado climate. To keep warm, they puff up their down to hold heat in. As long as they are dry and out of the wind, they can handle very low temperatures.
We do board up their coops in the Fall to keep the elements out and sometimes when there is snow, we do some light plowing so they can easily get to their food and water and other coops.
Do you have problems with predators?
Not much. The livestock guardians keep the coyotes and foxes at a safe distance. Being located right next to a natural areas means there are plenty of things for the wildlife to eat that aren't our livestock.
We've had the most problems with great horned owls. They aren't deterred by the electric fence or the dogs and they can silently swoop in and grab hens right at dusk.
Racoons are also undeterred by electric fences and dogs. They occasionally get a chicken caught off guard around dusk, but we've never had a coop break in.
We've also had skunk lurking around, but no predation. Just unhappy, stinky dogs.