Let’s visit our girls! First stop is biosecurity at the shower house and a fresh clean bio-secure coverall uniform, ball cap or head cover, clean rubber boots and a sanitizing footbath. We do not want to carry any potential hazards into the barns with us. Now that we are dressed appropriately let’s go inside to say hello. In our barns, you’ll see lovely ladies all enjoying each other’s company and all the “creature comforts” of their sunlit barns and porches. We love to pamper our girls and watch them enjoy their lives in our care. Whether indoors during the frigid winter months or outdoors on the specially designed porches during warmer weather, the girls have plenty of space to engage in all their natural behaviors. Thick litter fills the scratch areas where the ladies can dust-bathe, sunbathe, scratch and peck to their heart’s content. We even provide them with some simple toys to keep them active and happy. Some of the girls enjoy mobile-like shiny objects suspended from above or lengths of hemp rope naile, others love to kick and peck at brightly colored balls and empty water bottles with a few pebbles contained inside so they rattle when the hens play “football” with them. On a raised level beside the scratch area, you will find the “food court” where our feed is available from sunup to sundown for any and all to enjoy at their leisure. A very innovative track shuttles feed along from the silo down the length of the barn in a little trough that has square dish-like links forming a chain. Everyone can have as much as they can eat whenever they like!
I love the chirring sound of happy hens and you can hear the girls chattering in chorus even before you step inside. Our barn workers (a.k.a. chicken tenders) come to bond with their flocks so well that they can tell from the sounds the hens make whether everything is as it should be or if there might be something wrong. The hens are gentle creatures but they are also very skittish and so we must walk slowly so as not to startle them when we visit with them. Some of our workers keep music playing for the hens while walking the floors and along the benches looking for floor eggs, equipment failure and perhaps any of our feathered friends that may be feeling under the weather.
We care for a few different breeds of hen here at our farm. The breeds are chosen based on how well they are suited to the climate here in Massachusetts. Perhaps you will recall an old advertising slogan “brown eggs are local eggs and local eggs are fresh”. Brown eggs come from brown hens and brown hens have proven to be better suited to the kinds of winters we get in New England. Believe me, winters here are not a peaceful and serene as you might imagine when looking at a Norman Rockwell painting or listening to carols about a White Christmas. We heat our henhouses to keep the hens warm and cozy even through our girls are better suited to this cold climate than their white-egg-laying cousins living in the southern states. The color of the egg does not have any bearing on nutritional quality. A brown egg has exactly the same nutritional value as a white egg as long as the hens that are producing them are eating the same manner of diet. The nutrients the hens eat become concentrated in the eggs those hens produce. Better nutrition going in means better nutrition coming out!