I love getting questions from customers. Our Jako Farm members are often so informed about health and food that your questions really make me stop and think. When I hear the same question over and over again, it lets me know I need to do consumer education.
So…let’s talk about it. What does a JakoPure Laying Hen’s life look like?
1. Where does she live?
The first few months of a laying hen’s life are spent in the brooder house. It’s more climate controlled and they have protection from predators. Once they are old enough to defend themselves a bit, we move them out to pasture. They are six months old before they start laying eggs.
We’ve converted old horse trailers into houses for them. Inside the trailer are nest boxes, roosts for sleeping at night, water, and grain.
An automatic door opens each morning to let the chickens out and they are trained to go inside at night before the door closes again.
Each day we gather the eggs and then hitch the trailer up to a chore car to move it to fresh grass. The chickens’ trailer follows behind where the cows and sheep have just grazed to help scratch through manure. This helps control the fly population in the summer plus helps with parasite control for the animals. The chickens do the work instead of using de-wormers for the cows and sheep or needing to spray for flies. Isn’t it amazing how nature works together?
2. Chickens are not 100% grass fed
Chickens are omnivores. Have you ever seen a flock of chickens fight over a field mouse or a cricket or a snake? Our chickens are not vegetarians.
While our cows and sheep thrive on a 100% grass diet, that’s not the case for chickens. Their digestive systems were not designed to only eat grass. Our chickens receive a grain ration that we grind here on the farm. We’re proud to support local organic farmers and source grains locally instead of buying a pre-made grain ration that uses grains from overseas.
While the chickens receive a grain ration, they do a lot of foraging for grasses and bugs. Have you noticed that egg yolk color varies this time of year? The yolk color is determined by how much grass they are eating. During the winter months, they eat every morsel of green they find, but it’s not the same as springtime grasses. Therefore, the yolk color is just not as vibrant. Plus, some hens are simply better foragers than others. Just like humans – some do better eating their veggies than others.
3. How do you protect your chickens?
Our layer hens are not confined by fences. They are truly free to roam as they wish. This does cause us to lose some birds to nature. We deal with hawks, bald eagles, skunks, possums, and owls just to name a few. But you know what? Those animals all need a food source, too!
We’ve added geese to the flock to help with the predator situation. They are great about honking and making a fuss if they see a threat. It warns the chickens and sometimes scares the predator away.
The chickens have also learned to seek cover under the chicken house. They’ve even learned they are safe from aerial predators if they sit directly under the electric fence. We intentionally raise breeds that know how to do well on pasture.
4. Know your egg source
My biggest take-away about eggs is to know your source.
We recently drove by a pasture-raised organic chicken house. The large building houses roughly 5,000 laying hens. This brand touts that every hen has freedom to forage outdoors in fresh air and sunshine. Great! I love that. The barn has long grass paddocks where the chickens are free to roam. Do you know how many chickens I saw outside? Maybe 10. This was not a one-time event.
The breed of chickens they use would prefer to sit inside eating grain all day instead of going outside. We know this because we once tried raising these hens because they lay more eggs and sooner.
But these eggs have nice, consistent orange yolks, so the chickens have to go outside, right? Nope. They are fed a marigold supplement to give them the orange color. Did you know there is an egg yolk fan chart that industrial poultry uses to decide what color your egg yolk should be depending on price?
Now, I am not bashing these farmers. They are part of an industrialized food and agricultural system that is a mess. I’m sharing this because I was horrified when I learned what a store bought “pasture-raised egg” truly meant.
Consumers are Driving the Bus
Where you choose to spend your food dollars matters. You (the consumer) are the biggest driver and change catalyst for regenerative farming. You can’t count on large corporations to supply groceries stores with healthy, regenerative options with “correct” labels. Be active in fighting for your health by buying directly from a farmer.
We are so grateful for our Jako Farm members who are committed to buying local, regenerative food. And if our JakoPure standards are not the right fit for you, we’re happy to connect you to a different farmer. Thanks for being the change and asking great questions!