Tuesday, January 26, 2010
This One's for the Ladies...
Ooooh yeah...put on some Barry White and prepare yourself to get in the mood to talk about--get ready for it--our laying hens, whom we affectionately refer to as "The Ladies."
I spoke briefly about my first encounter with The Ladies when our Humble Farmer and I first began dating. Since then, he and I (along with our Hand in Hand CSA Core Group Members) share in the responsibilities of caring for these special hens, including feeding and watering them regularly, and collecting their delicious eggs. Typically, our Ladies are free range during most months but are currently lounging in our greenhouse for the winter---a MUCH warmer space for their winter "vacation" compared to the great outdoors. Regardless of the season, The Ladies are fed a vegetarian all-grain diet to compliment what they might come across while foraging. Humble Farmer says that, when the ladies are free ranging, 90% of their diet comes from what they find (bugs, snakes and frogs are non-vegetarian, of course...lol).
Please note: I am sincere when I say their eggs are delicious. There is a HUGE difference in taste, quality, and freshness of our free range eggs over any store-bought variety I've tried, including other organic and free range brands. Happy chickens really DO produce better-tasting eggs.
Our Ladies are very special...not just because we love them, but because of their variety. They are Red Sex Links (also known as Red Stars); their genes have been "tweaked" so that the girls are born red and the boys are born yellow, as otherwise no one would be able to tell the girls and boys apart until they were approximately six or seven months old. Red Sex Links are also known to be "eggcellent" egg producers, and have a reputation for being friendly (as evidenced by our Ladies behavior). According to our Humble Farmer, hens typically start laying eggs at around six months in age, and continue to lay eggs for 18-24 months. The average hen produces one egg a day, and at the rate of approximately 24 hens, that means during their peak producing times, our ladies are making roughly 60 dozen eggs per month in total. Humble Farmer also says that it should be noted that Red Sex Link eggs need XXL egg containers as they are VERY big eggs (which make very big omelettes, I might add). When they stop producing, our Ladies "retire" and live a life of leisure on the farm. Our Ladies are NEVER used for food, and are our beloved pets.
As a side note, it's a rather endearing moment when the Humble Farmer and I pull up to the farm in his truck, and he yells a friendly hello out the driver window. One by one, the flock gathers and heads towards the truck, bawking hellos all the way. And inevitably, one hen is selected to be the special recipient of a truck ride down the short hill, and is surely the envy of all of her hen friends. Then there was the day that we sat in the truck while having a short conversation, and were suddenly joined inside the truck cab by several ladies (see slightly above) that seemed hell-bent on driving themselves... which is always a risk with free-range chickens ;-).
So, I hope you've enjoyed hearing about our Ladies. Egg shares are limited for the 2010 season to seven shares, with preference given to our returning CSA customers. For more information about our farm and/or our Ladies, please contact Farmer Brian or myself.