What I’ve Learned About Free-Range Eggs

by Tammy Taylor

RancherMan & I are slowly learning what veteran chicken-raisers have known all along about raising chickens and about fresh free-range eggs. Last year we raised our very first batch of chickens from day-old chicks.  It was lots of fun seeing them turn from fuzzy peepers to a full grown egg-producing chicken.  I learned that it took them 21 weeks to grow enough to produce their first egg and I also learned that chickens don’t just lay eggs in the morning.  In fact their egg-laying time isn’t even a balanced 24-hour time span.  (or maybe they just like to sleep in from time to time – who knows?? LOL)  But I learned even more about the eggs themselves. For instance I didn’t know:

What I've Learned About Free-Range Eggs.  Fascinating!  #TaylorMadeRanch

  • Although there’s no difference in taste or nutrition of a pastured egg whether white shell or colored shell, I was very surprised to learn that the color of the shell was dictated by the color of the chicken’s ear lobe.  I’ll admit I didn’t even know chickens HAD ear lobes!  Chickens with white lobes usually produce white eggs and chickens with red lobes usually produce brown eggs.  Note in the picture above that I have 2 brown eggs and one white.  Sure enough, we had three Ideal 236 chickens, two with red lobes and one with white.  Fascinating!

What I've Learned About Free-Range Eggs.  Fascinating!  #TaylorMadeRanch

  • Free-range eggs are actually much more healthy than their commercial counterparts according to an article in Mother Earth News. The article stated that pastured poultry lay more nutritious eggs which contain 1/3 less cholesterol and 1/4 less saturated fat, but also containing much more of the good stuff like 2/3 more vitamin A, twice as much omega 3 fatty acids, 3x the vitamin E, a whopping 7 times more beta carotene and 4-6 times more vitamin D!  Wow.
  • Free-range eggs look and taste distinctively different than store-bought eggs.  Can you tell which is which in the picture below?  Free-range eggs have a much darker yolk, it’s said that’s due to their healthier natural diet that includes plenty of greens and bugs.  And the taste of a free-range egg vs a store-bought egg is comparable to the taste of a garden tomato vs a store-bought tomato.  ‘Nuff said!

What I've Learned About Free-Range Eggs.  Fascinating!  #TaylorMadeRanch

  • After the chicken lays the egg its shell is protected by a coating of an invisible substance called ‘bloom’.  This magical protection seals the egg from outside bacteria, but any moisture will remove it.  For this reason it’s helpful to keep the nesting box clean of any droppings so the egg will stay clean, but even if there is a spot of mud or droppings on the egg when I retrieve it, I’ll only wipe it with a dry cloth when I bring it into the house.  Any  washing of the egg will have to hold off until I’m actually ready to use it.
  • It’s said that store-bought eggs MUST be kept refrigerated because the commercial eggs have been washed, therefore removing the bloom. But free-range eggs don’t even have to be refrigerated as long as you don’t wash them.  Although I still put my eggs in the refrigerator because I just can’t wrap my head around this idea, there are many that say free-range eggs will stay fresh for weeks without refrigeration because of the bloom.  Supposedly in many countries fresh eggs are never refrigerated.
  • When the chicken lays the egg it goes into a state of suspended animation as she lays a new egg in her nest every day.  After several days the hen goes broody & sits on the eggs and all fertilized eggs will then proceed to grow into baby chicks.  Because we remove the eggs each day there’s no opportunity for an accumulation of eggs but it’s fascinating how nature works!

We enjoyed our chickens so much last year that we decided to raise chickens again this year.  We bought young pullets and are already seeing the first small eggs coming from them.  I’ll keep RancherMan supplied in egg salad for sandwiches and of course we’ll offer to bring the deviled eggs to any luncheon we’re invited to.  I’ll also begin freezing the eggs again to preserve the overage, and if they produce well enough I’d really like to find a market to sell my extra eggs.  I have no idea how to even begin selling eggs – any veterans out there that could offer advice?

~TMR~

 

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39 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned About Free-Range Eggs

  1. Pingback: Do HOA's Hamper Voluntary Simplicity?

  2. JoAnna

    I wish I lived near enough to you to only pay $3 a dozen for free range, local eggs! Around here, it’s $5 per dozen!! I soooooo want chickens of my own. I’m working on it!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      We really love raising our chickens JoAnna. I’m working on preserving them right now – they’re laying more than we can (or should) eat fresh! ~TMR~

      Reply
  3. Judith C

    Thanks for answering my question. Aren’t pullet eggs smaller and how long does it take for them to begin laying large eggs?

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      I think different breeds have different sized eggs Judith. I know our young pullets laid smaller eggs at first (and some with soft shells) but as they matured their eggs were larger and hard shelled – it only took a few short weeks. Some of the hens always laid smaller eggs though – I suppose it was the mixture of their breed. ~TMR~

      Reply
  4. Judith C

    Why don’t you keep your chickens during the colder months? Is it just an upkeep thing? Do you have a hen house or do they just really roam free and fend for themselves? The chickens in Key West are truly free range as in they have no owners, they are feral like the 6 toed cats that also roam the island.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Judith, we don’t have a chicken run, the hens are let out of their secured coop in the morning & locked back in safe & sound at night. But in the winter the predators food source can be slim pickins, making our hens the most likely source of their meals until they wipe out our entire flock. It’s just easier for us to sell them in the fall to other chicken raisers as young layers and buy pullets the next spring & start again. ~TMR~

      Reply
  5. LindaG

    Stick a sign out front and people will stop. Around here, many of the casual sellers sell their eggs for $2.00 a dozen. I’ve bought from four or five different places that sell for that. Anyplace that has gone so far as to pay to be certified organic, and free range, sells them for $6.00 a dozen. Farmers markets sell anywhere in that range of two to six dollars a dozen. Congratulations, good luck and have a blessed weekend!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      I’m pretty excited that our small town is opening up a farmer’s market in a few weeks, it could very well be a great place to sell my extra eggs! ~TMR~

      Reply
  6. Pingback: Fall-Back Friday: What I've Learned About Free-Range Eggs

  7. Joyce @ It's Your Life

    I agree with everything said about selling and refrigerating eggs. While I have been to your blog many times just want to let you know I followed you here from the Homeacre hop.

    Reply
  8. S.L. Payne

    So interesting! I think it would be so fun to raise chickens, but I’m not sure our association would be very fond of it since we live in suburbia. The more I hear about it though, the more I’m impressed with how much healthier they are. We might be trying this soon if our neighborhood rules allow it! Thanks so much for sharing! -Sara, uncommongrace.net

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      More & more homeowners associations are allowing small backyard flocks, S.L. Although they often limit the number of hens allowed and whether or not you can own a rooster (for the noise issue) but if a hen lays an egg each day you don’t really need very many to completely supply your family with all the fresh eggs they need. If your homeowners association allows it I’d highly recommend giving it a go, they’re incredibly fun to raise. ~TMR~

      Reply
  9. Just Plain Marie

    We don’t have a fridge, but even when we did, I didn’t refrigerate eggs. I think North America is the only place where they’re refrigerated. If you have heritage breed chickens, consider getting a rooster and letting your hens raise some chicks. It gives you chicken meat and replacement hens, essentially for free. And it’s great fun. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Perhaps we will try the rooster thing some day, for now we only raise hens from about April to October and then we sell them as young layers, buying again the following year. I’m not sure we keep them long enough to be able to reap the benefits of a rooster at this time. Hopefully some day we’ll be able to raise them year round. ~TMR~

      Reply
  10. Lindsey

    Hi TMR, wanted to let you know that I’ve included a link to this post in one of mine since it is so resourceful and informative. You can check it out here http://www.cultivatenourishing.com/2014/06/pastured-eggs/ Thanks again

    Reply
  11. Pingback: Pastured Eggs | Cultivate Nourishing

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  14. Chrystal @ YUM eating

    When I first met my husband he had chickens that had belonged to his ex father-in-law. My husband had raised these chickens for years. About a year after I moved in, the ex FIL took the chickens away and sold them. I was sad because I felt these wonderful pets we had grown to love and cherish were just being sold for food and no longer going to be used to lay eggs. I know, that is how it goes sometimes. I was also sad to have my unlimited egg supply go bye-bye. I’m looking forward to the day we find a home of our own (sell this one) complete with chickens.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      Chickens have been surprisingly fun to raise Chrystal, and, you know, the unlimited egg supply thing is pretty awesome too! ~TMR~

      Reply
  15. janetpesaturo

    This is really a very nice summary, TMR. I found it via From the Farm blog hop. I will share this one on my FB page, because it is extremely useful info for people considering chickens. Thanks!

    Reply
  16. Lana

    When our daughter and SIL lived in China they picked out their eggs from a huge piled display at the store and put them into plastic bags just like you would produce! They never refrigerated their eggs over there because their fridge was tiny and the space had to be saved for other foods. They just put them in a basket on the counter.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      That’s what I’ve heard Lana – fascinating. Thanks for sharing your experience. ~TMR~

      Reply
  17. daisy

    We get our eggs direct from the farmer and we don’t refrigerate them. They are SO much tastier than any storebought eggs, even more than eggs I’ve gotten from other farmers. We scored big time with this one! Enjoy!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      I agree Daisy, SO much tastier than store-bought eggs. Glad you scored with your current fresh egg provider. ~TMR~

      Reply
  18. ColleenB.~Texas

    Selling eggs is an easy way to make a little extra cash. Once the word gets out that you are selling farm, fresh eggs, there won’t be any problem finding customers and earning your own little bit of “egg money.” If it where me, I would charge $3 a dozen or $4 for an 18-pack. In order to give my customers the best possible eggs, Feed the chickens organic feed and give them access to as much greens and grubs that they can eat. The chickens are healthier, and the eggs will taste better. To produce quality eggs, your hens will need a varied diet of commercial chicken feed, high-calcium oyster shells, grit, greens, bugs and the occasional dairy product, such as milk, which will help strengthen the eggs’ shells. These ingredients help to produce nutrient-dense eggs with strong shells, dark yolks and great taste. Can also feed chickens garden leftovers, like leftover zucchini, etc. Cut feed costs by giving them garden scraps and letting them free-feed on bugs and greens in the pasture yard. To be productive, your hens will need a cozy place to call home. Outfit their coop with the necessary nest box filled with egg-catching nesting material, a roost for snoozing, plenty of fresh water, a moderate temperature of between 45 and 80 degrees F, and the right amount of light to trigger egg production. chickens require at least 14 hours of sunlight to lay—and, when the hours of daylight fall below that magic number in the winter months, your inventory may reduce to near-zero until the spring. A full-spectrum bulb can help keep production numbers strong year-round. You may wish to stamp your name and phone number on the package so customers know who to call when they run out of eggs. Have regular customers bring back their cartons . Tips for selling your eggs: Start out first with a few friends and neighbors and work up from that by………… setting a “farm-fresh eggs” sign in front of your farm •building a set client list and delivering eggs to them regularly (figure in cost if you deliver) •working at a stand at your local farmers’ market •selling through locally owned grocery stores or markets If I lived closer I would be your first customer. Best of luck to you on your ‘egg money’ business :}

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      That is SO AWESOME Colleen, what a great comment you’ve shared with so much helpful information! Man I’m lucky to have so many wonderful commenters. Thank you! Once the hens start laying a little more regularly I’ll start putting the word out to get some potential customers. If I still worked in an office I know I’d have more interest than I could accommodate but living & working at the ranch keeps us from having those contacts anymore. (not that I mind at all – LOL!) ~TMR~

      Reply
  19. Homestead Dad

    I agree with Mary, tell friends and relatives that you have extra eggs available for sale. We don’t even have our chickens back yet and I already know I will be able to sell the extras for friends, family, and my wife’s co-workers. Have fun.

    Reply
  20. Mary P

    To sell your eggs, just let people know you have them available. If anyone doubts the benefits of fresh eggs, maybe give them the first dozen free. Also be sure to ask them to save and return the egg cartons. In my experience, you won’t have any problem is finding buyers.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Ranch Post author

      That’s good to know Mary, thanks for your advice. I’m seeing the going rate is $3/dozen, is that about right? ~TMR~

      Reply

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