Here’s a sure sign spring is on the way: egg production has stepped up here at the Village Homestead. Our 13 hens are slowly but surely coming back into lay. All of them took a break early this winter, and there were days when we collected no eggs at all. Now we’re getting about four a day, just enough so I can start selling them again.
Our hens are out on the grass whenever possible. Even on winter days, when snow is found most everywhere, they will often find a little patch of frozen grass in our footpath. During the summer they forage in the bushes and eat very little of the pellet feed I put out for them. In the winter they subsist on our table scraps and the store-bought feed. I have gone back and forth on the kind of feed I purchase for them, and have finally settled on a solution that makes the most sense for all of us.
Our hens are on a certified organic, non-GMO diet
I have tried conventional feed (meaning it is composed of genetically modified grains, and is not organic); locally grown and milled feed; non-GMO feed; and organic feed (which is also non-GMO by definition). Truth be told, I don’t see a difference in the eggs, either in quality or rate of production. However, I recently switched to an organic, non-GMO feed that works very well for my hens, and although it costs twice as much as the other feed, I think it’s worth it. I am now purchasing the organic layer feed from Agway. For starters, it’s sold right around the corner from my home, so it’s easy to purchase. It comes in pellet form, so the hens don’t waste much of it compared to the mash. I made the switch because I think the organic and non-GMO feed is important for the hens to ingest, as all of those nutrients (and chemicals that are found in conventional feed) show up in the eggs. Not only that, I am hoping the chickens will be healthier in the long term if they are on an organic, non-GMO diet.
The chicken feed isn’t a large part of their diet during the growing season, as they spend all day outdoors, eating grass, seeds and worms. We don’t apply chemical fertilizers or pesticides to our lawn or garden, so I am comfortable with the knowledge that their diet during the spring, summer and fall is well-balanced. It’s the winter that gets me worried. Their options for foraging are greatly reduced and they rely on me to provide healthy feed through the snowy months.
As a result of the new feed choice, I will be raising the price of eggs from $3/dozen to $4/dozen. It doesn’t even begin to cover my costs, but I’m not in the egg-selling business to make money. At this point, I’m not even in it to break even, but I do like to share the bounty with people I know. During the high point in the season I will be able to sell 3-4 dozen per week, and that will just about cover the feed cost. At this time of year, I am able to sell about 1 dozen per week.
I do think an organic diet is the better route for all of us, including the chickens.
Spring is on the way!