For those who don't know, I organize a local fresh-egg group (for lack of a better way of saying it). It's kind of like an egg CSA (consumer supported agriculture). I'm writing this post for those in the group that would like to know a little more about where their eggs come from. But of course, anyone can read along.
We get our eggs from an Amish man and his wife in Parke County, Indiana. There's a pretty good sized community of Amish up that way. His name is Mr. Peachy. So yes, they are literally Peachy eggs.
Mr. Peachy has approximately 320 Golden Comet hens. That's one in the picture above. Isn't she pretty? Golden Comets are a decent sized bird, known for their cold hardiness, and prolific laying of large, brown eggs. These birds belong to a breed of chickens known as sex-link chickens. Ok, before you get worried, this is totally on the up and up... Sex-link chickens are breeds of birds developed by crossing two different breeds for various reasons. One reason may be simply to obtain the best characteristics of both parent bird breeds in the new breed. Another, more common reason for developing sex-link breeds is that you can tell a pullet (female) from a cockerel (male) just about as soon as their down dries after they hatch. The sex of the bird is linked to their down color - sex-linked. These chicks are born with the males and females having different colored down. This is a great thing if you work in a hatchery and need to fill orders for nothing but pullets. It saves both time and money. Most non sex-linked chicks all look the same, so you have to pay a professional chicken sexer (how would you like that job?) to look at each chick to determine it's sex. And that's not an easy thing to do! So, Golden Comets are a cross between a Rhode Island Red and a White Leghorn - or 'Legern' as some country folks might say.
Mr. Peachy uses very organic, sustainable methods for raising his chickens. During warmer months, the chickens are pastured on grass by means of a chicken tractor, sometimes called a chicken ark. A WHAT? Yes, a chicken tractor. Here's a picture of a dad moving his nice looking tractor....
Chicken tractors come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are quite small and one person could move them easily. Some are very large, have wheels, and require a real tractor to move them. The purpose of these contraptions is to house the birds safely, while being able to provide them with as much natural food as possible. This usually requires that the tractor be moved a couple of times a day for smaller models, to only two or three times a week for larger models with more 'pasture' area. Mr. Peachy has a larger tractor and movable electric poultry netting (solar powered I'm sure). Yes, there is such a thing as electric poultry netting and it works the same as electric fence. The voltage is lower, but then again, the chickens aren't as big as a cow. Mr. P. says he moved the birds a couple of times a week. For more pictures of chicken tractors, click here.
Now that winter is setting in, our farmer says he's moving the birds into a large greenhouse he has. It has a dirt floor that he'll cover with wood shavings or other bedding. This is the first year to try this, but there are several benefits to it. Chickens need sunlight in order to lay eggs. During the winter, they typically slow down their egg production simply because there isn't as much sunlight. But in a greenhouse, what light there is will be completely available to the birds. Further, it will help keep them warm. Yet another benefit is that, though they won't have grass to eat, the warmth will encourage insects to work their way up through the ground and the chickens will eat them. Any other feed the chickens get is organic as well. Mr. Peachy assures me that the birds will each have several square feet per bird to move around. More than in a traditional egg production CAFO.
For anyone who's never had one of these eggs... wow, are they something! Golden yolks that make your food look like you surely must have added food coloring. They're rich and very delicious. Of course, this color might not be as bright during the winter, as the birds will have fewer, if any, greens to eat. Mr. Peachy thinks the chlorophyll in the grass is what gives the egg yolks their deep color.
Mr. Peachy also sells whole chickens, ready for the roasting pan or the freezer. Organic, pastured, healthy, no antibiotics.
So now you know a little bit more about where our Peachy Eggs come from and the methods used to get them. Hope it's been informative and helpful!