“Your eggs cost six dollars?!”
I get this all the time. The fact is you can get cheaper eggs at the supermarket. So why do mine cost more?
Let’s talk about commercial eggs, the ones you can buy for $1.89 a dozen at any supermarket. These eggs come from hens that are raised in battery cages. Battery cages are extremely efficient. Thousands of hens can be raised in each barn, the feed is run on a conveyor belt that is fed by a computer, they have water pipes to each cage for their waters (that rarely, if ever have to be cleaned), you never have to hunt down eggs, they go through the cage onto a conveyor belt and into the egg washing/sanitizing/candling/packing/refrigerating machine and their poop is removed with another machine daily. One person in this situation can care for thousands upon thousands of chickens with relatively little effort.
Now let me talk you through an average day for me, caring for my chickens in a completely different environment.
The first 2-3 hours are spent feeding and watering hens. This is very physical for me, it involves carrying many five gallon buckets full of food and water to each coop and then filling each feeder or water dispenser and spreading food around for the chickens to peck. I should also mention that the water dispensers get extremely dirty because they are not closed off, they are open water containers that provide fresh water and encourage the chickens natural behaviors, so I have to scrub them with a scrub brush and sanitizer to ensure that they are receiving the best quality water possible.
Throughout the day I have to collect the eggs multiple times, from multiple locations to ensure that they are as fresh as possible. This includes “Easter egg hunts” around the farm as my hens are not contained and sometimes choose more creative places to lay their eggs than the nice boxes I built for them. Since my hens are outside I do not get the laying efficiency I could if they were in cages because I do not find all the hiding spots and sometimes I find nests that I am not sure the age of so those eggs all get composted.
Cleaning is another task that usually takes place mid day randomly throughout the week. The chickens live in coops that I built myself, with roosts that are made from real tree branches. This is a pain to clean around but allows the chickens to exhibit their natural behavior of roosting at night. They like to sleep up high in order to feel extra safe. These roosts and big open coops are great for the birds, but require a lot of work to remove feces, twigs, feathers etc. Another thing to note is that my hens live on a natural sand floor. This makes the coops a giant litter box, but one that I have to clean very often.
There is not a maintenance team that fixes the buildings, I do it myself. Whether the crazy amounts of rain have caused a flood and a ditch needs to be dug, or too many chickens wanted to sleep on one roost and it fell down or the door is broken, all of it is done by me, which is very time and labor intensive.
At night, morning chores are repeated which usually takes 1-2 hours and the chickens are shut in. They don’t like to go in until it is completely dark, which these days is around 9 at night!
After they go in, I check for eggs one last time and then go home and begin the egg cleaning process. By law, I have to wash and sanitize each egg. Then I have to candle to make sure they are graded correctly. I package all the eggs, ensuring each carton follows my rainbow carton rules (to ensure that the colors are all represented) and then each carton is labeled and dated.
I do not have a distributor. I sell all the eggs myself! So there go my weekends. Chicken chores happen first thing in the morning around 5-6 am then it’s off to farmers market where I sell most of my eggs.
Since I am not buying in super bulk quantities of feed, I also pay way more for feed than a commercial laying operation. I get my feed made to my specifications, though it’s not organic, it is still the best quality and very pricy.
That is why my eggs cost more. Tons of time, effort, energy and love are put into making sure I am selling quality eggs and taking care of my hens.