The best thing about having chickens is the eggs. Not only will these wonderful birds provide you will meat, they can also provide you will all the quiches, omelets and casseroles your heart desires. Better still, they can be a great source of income for homesteaders.
Gathering Them Up
Collect them two to three times per day. That way they are less likely to get dirty or cracked. This will also protect your precious food source from getting spoiled or frozen in harsher temperatures. If they are slightly dirty, brush or rub off the dirt with fine grain sandpaper. If they are seriously dirty, rinse them in water that is slightly warmer than the shells. Don't wash them in cooler water, and don't get into the habit of washing them. Cool water could force bacteria in through the shell and into the yolk. Also freshly laid eggs have a light coating - called bloom - that preserves their freshness. Water will rinse off that natural bloom and they will not last as long.
If They Have Thin Shells
The strength of the shell depends on your hen's diet and age. Older hens will lay a larger product with a weaker shell. But if you have young hens producing thin shells, you need to increase the vitamins and minerals in their diet. All of your laying hens should have access to a separate feeder with ground oyster shells to ensure they get sufficient calcium in their diet.
Place them in clean cartons. Do not use cartons that are open on the top. These are great for seeing your precious jewels, but they will not stay fresh as long. Set them in the carton with their pointed ends downward and then refrigerate them as soon as possible. Eggs left at room temperature for one day age the same amount as those placed in the fridge for a week.
On The Range
A great way to have a free range product, while still protecting your chickens from predators is to keep your hens in a chicken tractor. These are chicken coops set on wheels with no flooring. You move the tractor each morning, giving your hens daily access to fresh grass and insects.
This wonderful food is easy to sell on a small scale. Just take them into work with you, or let friends and neighbors know you have them for sale. There are many people who love fresh eggs and will be happy to buy them from you.
Things will be different if you want a bigger share of the market. Just like any full time business, it will take more work, as well as planning and some research. You will need to check with local laws for information on sales permits and claims you can legally make. For example, there are some pretty stringent requirements on what the term organic means. For more information, contact your local county extension agent.
You will also have to do some market research. Where will you find your customers? Are you going to sell your product at the farmer's market, or are you going to target the natural food stores in your area? What do your customers want? Do they want white eggs or brown? And how much are they willing to pay?
When deciding what to charge, take all of your costs into consideration, including feed, packaging, delivery and promotional expenses. There are several online companies that offer cartons for sale. Shop around for the best price.
And enjoy this wonderful food!
Sue Merriam is author of the website, Organic Gardening and Homesteading. http://www.organic-gardening-and-homesteading.com
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