The birds have three coops, only one with a heat lamp for the dead of winter when it is cold and dark too many hours a day. The breeds are chosen for their hardiness in winter, as well as their ability to forage and feed themselves. All sorts of breeds have been tried so far, and a few more are on oder to test this summer. The ones that are the absolute hands down best are the Ameraucanas, plus they lay beautiful blue green eggs, though did not lay through winter. The Partridge Chanteclers laid all winter though, just enough to have fresh eggs at the table when desired. Now that the days are longer, but not any much warmer with minus 22 the past two nights and the day time not seeing a rise over minus 15, the rest of the chickens, ducks, geese and guineas have begun to lay in earnest. In a week the night temperatures are supposed to rise to just below zero with warm days in the teens above, so the geese will be able to keep their eggs and begin to hatch them. The ducks likely will not go broody except the Muscovy girls, so the Khaki Campbell and Rouen eggs will be hatched by the Muscovy mammas. The bantam hens all hatched nests last year and kept their babies, so hopefully, they will again this year, with the possibility of an extra Ameraucana or Chantecler egg slipped in.
So, there is the housing, the purchase of the birds, both as chicks and adults and raising them to the point of lay, plus barren nests all winter for the majority and the the heat lamp cost all to configure in their upkeep. They get no commercial feeds which contain soy, corn and pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. The eggs and the chickens are about as clean as possible. They do eat the meat from the dog bones most day and there is no guarantee how the cows were raised, but that would be the only real source, even secondary, of non organic food. The cost of organic grain is one to two times more than regular feed. They also get greens when they are available and sometimes, their own eggs as a protein source, but the eggs are cooked and well mashed with the shells. Cooking makes the egg protein more readily digestible and smashing the shells to tiny bits hopefully does not encourage egg eating, or it has not so far.
During the summer, the bird coops are moved daily providing fresh clean ground for them. The birds are free ranged and pasture themselves in the barnyard and the surrounding fields. There are many livestock guardian dogs to watch over them and protect them. So far, none have been lost to predators, touch wood. Some have been lost because of disreputable breeders selling inferior or sick birds, which die shortly after they are here. Some have had mites, worms, leg mites or pneumonia and have been put down. A few froze in the bitterly cold winter from roosting on the ground and had to be put down as well. So there are losses to cover there.
The cost of organic eggs in the store here ranges from $6.50 to nearly $7 here, yet people expect farm eggs all to be organic and be sold at $2 to $2.50 per dozen. They will pay more in the store for caged, force fed battery hen eggs than to the farmer direct. For some reason, because it is from the farm, the folks think it should be cheaper. They will not pay $5 dollars for a dozen of clean, and I mean no chemical inputs or gmo feeds, or wheat feeds, eggs. Well, since the Fat Ewe Farm is not an egg farm, the eggs will remain at $5 a dozen for chicken eggs and $10 a dozen for duck eggs and the extras will be given to friends who need them, at our discretion, or fed back to the animals, or frozen for the winter, but they will NOT be sold for the ridiculous price people are unwittingly willing to pay here. In time, hopefully, folks will better understand what clean food is and they will cry out to try to find it. Until then, thank you to my birds for the foraging you do, for the delicious meals you provide and for the bounty of amazing eggs you give to us. Bless your little bodies!