So what is the big deal? Why are pasture raised eggs better?
Our “lay-dies” spend their days doing what chickens know how to do best: foraging outside for anything and everything they can find to eat.
Chickens are omnivores and love eating insects, vegetable scraps, grass and legumes. We do what we can to provide our birds with access to these natural feeds as much as possible. We rent pasture land from Abundant Acres and every 10-14 days the hens get access to a new acre of pasture to graze. Through proper pasture management the hens can receive as much as 20% of their diet from the forages they find.
Chickens don't like to venture too far from their 'home'. To effectively forage, they also need to feel that they can quickly return to safety if needed. This means that we need to move the hen houses wherever we want the gals to go. We used to use old camper trailers for housing, but have since changed to greenhouse structures on skis, which have better ventilation for the hens! These moveable houses encourage them to explore and forage on new pasture, but still to feel the comfort of home wherever they go.
We keep predators out by surrounding the area where our hens are grazing in a portable electric fence, and by keeping a livestock guardian dog with the flock 24 hours a day. To ensure the fence is tight to the ground to keep predators out, we mow our fenceline right before we move the hens.
Although hens do eat grass, they also love fruit and vegetable scraps. All unsaleable vegetable waste from both Abundant Acres farm and the Warehouse Market is given to the hens so they can get their peckings in.
They love eating greens, most especially kale!
The hens are given access to compost piles where they love to dig for treasures: i.e. any and all insects they can find! This compost is then used in our fields to grow crops to complete the natural cycle. They also take advantage of the dry piles in the height of the summer to dust bathe, an important and natural way for hens to stay clean and on top of little critters such as lice and mites.
During the winter our hens live inside a hoop house to stay warm and to free range as they please in the surrounding area. We supplement their diets with as many waste vegetable scraps as we can get our hands on. Abundant Acres generously gives us any sunflower and pea shoot off cuts they have, as well as all of the crops they clean out of their hoop houses and greenhouses. As soon as the grass is growing the girls go right back up to pasture!
Scroll through the photos below to see more pictures of our gals out on our pasture system