You are what you eat

We all heard this phrase a  thousand times before. In the back of my mind, I always thought there are some truth in it, but now I know!

 

In a previous post The Chicken before the egg I mentioned that the feeling was, that a constant supply of layer feed would be a problem in our district, but this wasn’t my main focus as I knew Eugene has got a lot of experience in animal feed and if he doesn’t have the answer, he knows the people that do! So almost immediately I realized that a constant feed supply wasn’t going to be my biggest obstacle, but the cost of feed that you do get in Vilanculos.

As always, Eugene saved the day and within two ticks he had a formula for layer feed and he was mixing away. The hens and I was very happy and pleased!

 

What determine the color of a chicken egg?

Free range eggs

I saw a post on Epol’s Facebook page, stating that the color of the earlobe will determine the color of the egg. It shows you, you can’t believe everything you see on social media. The color of the egg is determined by the genes of the chicken.

When selecting eggs for the incubator, we always select the darkest eggs. I just liked the way they looked in the container.  I still try to get used to the Potch Koekoek and the light Sussex’s white egg shells!

 

What determines the color of the yolk?

I never knew, but there are two types of free range egg production systems. The first and most commonly known is what I do. The hens can roam free in a large area. They can forage freely, and then there is pasture reared eggs. This is where the chickens can roam as free as they want. I am working towards a setup like that. This would be dream come true. Free range hens, like mine produce eggs with orange yolks, because they have a well balanced diet of supplement feed (layer hens need a lot of calcium in their diet but more on that in a future post), natural plants and insects. 

One of my favorite things to do, is treat the horses and chickens with snacks. One of their favorite snacks, is Copra. Copra is the  dried meat or kernel of the coconut, which is the fruit of the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). There is always some Copra on the farm and chickens and horses absolutely love the coconut taste! I am 100% convinced it gives the eggs a better taste and enhances the color.

During 2018, we started experimenting with vegetable farming and as soon as the operation started, I eyed all the extra feed for the hens!  So first the hens got lots of spinach, rocket and cabbage leaves Everyone was so happy with the eggs. The taste, the texture and the color. Then we started harvesting tomatoes and red peppers. Oh I absolutely loved throwing crates of tomatoes and peppers into their camps They had a feast! Soon we had RED yolks!! What a sight! Funny thing, it wasn’t all the eggs. This showed me that even chickens taste differs. We speculated that it must be the red peppers because they have had tomatoes in the past with no effect. We excluded the red peppers from their diet and the yolks went back to the normal deep yellow, almost orange color!  A month or so after the red-incident,  I saw this article on the color of the yolk. It all made sense.

 

Is it worth farming with Free range chickens?

I am sure that big production units will out preform free range production. I am 100% sure it is less work. A free range egg business is hard work. Firstly on  a physical level: Some days, gathering eggs is a mission and cleaning them can be the pits. Secondly, you need to compete with big giants price wise. Most people  don’t mind how the egg was produced, just what it costs in the end.

I didn’t start free range chickens because it was a fashion statement or a health thing, I just like the animals to roam free. I hate, absolutely hate animals, big or small in cages. Normally this argument isn’t strong enough and I had to dig a little deeper.  It became very clear to me that the quote above, held so much truth when it comes to the nutritional value of eggs. Here are a few facts.

 

Free range eggs contain one-third of the cholesterol and one-fourth of the saturated fat as conventional eggs

Free range eggs contained 67 percent and 40 percent more vitamin A, respectively, than conventional eggs.  (Follow this link to see why Vit A is important )

Free range eggs contain more vitamin E than their conventional counterparts. (Follow this link to see why Vit E is important)

Free-range hens in produce eggs with four times the omega-3s as their caged sisters  (Follow this link to see why you need Omega 3’s)

 

My hens are happy and we get quality healthy food every day, yes, I think it is worth farming with free range eggs.