Monday, January 2, 2012

To Answer A Question . . .

In my blog post on December 30th, I included a picture of a couple of our eggs in a frying pan. I received a comment from one of my readers asking how we got that "nice dark gold yolk" color to our eggs this time of year when our ground is covered with snow and the hens don't have access to green grass and juicy bugs and worms. She also wondered if we fed our birds something special.

We do a few things that might contribute to the appearance and, we feel, nutritional content of our eggs.

In addition to a free choice organic egg layer mash . . .

. . . they are fed whole organically grown grains (scratch feed) twice a day.

The corn is organic open-pollinated corn which is in itself a deep yellow/gold in color in contrast to the pale, light-colored corn available commercially.

We get raw milk from a dairy in our county and we take any "old" milk we may have, mix it with kefir culture and mix that in with some of the laying mash which sits at room temperature until it ferments a bit. The chickens dive into this mixture as if it were candy. They get this year round about every other day. (The pan of fermented laying mash is in the hen house right now, the outside temperature is -1 tonight as I type, and I'm not going out there to get a picture of it!)

I'm sure the kelp meal we mix into the laying mash contributes to the rich color of the yolks.

So does the harvested and dried grass we start feeding right about this time of year. In the summer, we cut our small hay field with a sickle mower and let it dry on the ground for a day or so. Then Papa Pea goes over it with our lawn mower shredding it and collecting the vacuumed up grass in the mower bag. Then we store the grass (which you can see is still green in color) in burlap bags and feed it out to the chickens (and geese) during the dead of winter.

During the spring, summer and fall the poultry has access to a very large fenced in pasture area where they graze on thick green foliage and search for insects and worms all day long. I think the nutrients stored in their bodies during this time may help during the winter months to produce the deep yellow/orange yolked eggs.

I have a stainless steel bucket on the counter in the kitchen where I dump table scraps for the birds. Lots of good stuff (vegetable peelings, wrinkly veggies, apple peelings and cores, old bread, the scrapings of a casserole dish, etc.) goes in there and is taken out to the chickens every day.

The chicken bucket is always on the left, waste for the compost pile goes into the bucket on the right.

We have what we call "the chicken solarium" on the front of the chicken house. It's a square 8' x 8' structure made of wooden framing and covered with strong greenhouse plastic. It has a sloping roof which is 4' high up against the chicken house and tapers down to 2' high at the opposite end. The chickens have access to this area every day during the winter. It really acts like a small greenhouse and if any sun is present it becomes quite pleasantly warm in there. The "floor" of the solarium is dirt with a layer of composted material containing good bacteria. On top of that is a deep, loose layer of straw. The scratch feed is tossed in there morning and afternoon which encourages the chickens to scratch in the bedding and keep it turned so it doesn't become packed and/or wet. Papa Pea periodically spreads fresh hay over this bedding and the chickens scratch around in it eating the hay leaves and any seeds that might be available. You can frequently see chickens "digging" all the way down to the dirt where they probably obtain some good minerals and perhaps even an insect now and then.

I guess it's hard to say exactly what keeps our egg yolks such a vibrant color in the winter time. A combination of what we provide for them in the way of feed and their environment (sunshine Vitamin D?) may do it.

Hope this answers your question, gld!

14 comments:

Jane said...

All I can say is I want to be one of your chickens. Uh wait a minute, just remembered you eat yours. Never mind ;)

Mama Pea said...

Jane - But not until they live a really, really long and happy life . . . :o]

Tombstone Livestock said...

wink, wink, I would have just told her that's what fresh eggs are supposed to look like, lol.

Your chickens are very well cared for and you are making a year round commitment to their care.

dr momi said...

I think an e-book would be in order! You are a wealth of information. I don't think the chickens could be taken care of any better. My take on your deep orange yolks this time of year....it's the green grass/hay you are feeding them. Carotene makes the yolks yellow -- it comes from green things.

I have a question though. Your scratch feed has sunflowers in it. (yes?) Do you have a recipe you follow? What proportion of the mix are they? Maybe I can start feeding more than I am.....

Chai Chai said...

We give our chickens pasta every afternoon, we pick it up very cheap from the sale sections in the local stores - they love it!

Carolyn Renee said...

Wow. I'm really abusing my chickens compared to yours. Hope they don't read your blog or I'm in BIG trouble!!! :)

Mama Pea said...

Tombstone Livestock - Geesh, why didn't I think of that?!

dr momi - A wealth of info? But it takes so long to remember most of it! ;o] I think the kelp acts as a "green thing" also. After all, it's seaweed!

Yes, we do throw sunflower seeds in our scratch mix which is approximately: 1 part whole corn, 1 part whole wheat, 1 part whole oats, 1 part whole barley, 1/2 part millet, 1/4 part sunflower seeds and 1/4 part field peas.

Chai Chai - Welcome and thanks for commenting! With or without meatballs? ;o]

Carolyn Renee - What they don't know, won't hurt them. ;o]

dr momi said...

Yes the kelp is definitely green too :-) Where do you get your kelp?

Mama Pea said...

dr momi - We order it in 50# bags . . . only have to get it every couple/few years . . . from a company called Thorvin Kelp. Hubby did a lot of research and found this source to be one with the purest kelp available. Their website is www.thorvin.com/.

Stephanie said...

Thanks for sharing what you do for your chooks, I am taking notes:)

judy said...

You and Jane need to wright a question -answer book-people would die laughing.I did not realize you did all that just to feed your birds,I'd feel special too,just imagine how you treat "people' and do you ever get the left bucket mixed up with the right bucket,heck,i;m younger and I sometimes have to look down at my hands and go "OK-your lefty,your righty" don't tell anyone I said that tho,I won't admit it happened.

Erin said...

Those yolks are affirmation that all your diligence in their feeding is indeed worth it, lucky chickens!

Teresa said...

When we had livestock several years ago we always said that they eat better than we did. hehe!

How do you keep the grass green for so long??

A great post and very informative.

Mama Pea said...

Stephanie - I'm betting you will have chickens by this summer!

judy - Do I ever get the buckets on my counter mixed up? Oh, only about once a day! I can just imagine the conversation in the chicken house: "Do these look like coffee grounds to you? I think she gave us coffee grounds. Are we supposed to eat coffee grounds?"

Erin - Lucky US to have these great eggs to eat!

Teresa - Welcome and thanks for commenting! We try to cut the grass at the right time and not let it lay in the field longer than it needs to dry. Thanks for your kind words!