As predicted, allowing the chickens to have unfettered access to the fields (and mainly the deep woods) has resulted in a much deeper orange yolk. This is a reflection of what they are eating. They’re hardly touching their supplemental feed and grains and instead are choosing to eat naturally available food consisting of greens and bugs. I’ll gladly beat a dead horse at this point. What would you rather eat: eggs from chickens raised in giant production houses where they never go outside (at the same price we sell them for, if not higher), or eggs from chickens clearly living their life as nature intended? You don’t always need “Organically Raised” or “Slow Food” labels to make your choices. Get to know your local farmer, learn how they raise your food, then draw your own conclusions.
A large section of land behind our property has been sold. It’s far enough away that we won’t see any future houses, so no big deal. But what is a big deal is that hunters and their dogs who once had access to that area will no longer be allowed to hunt there. One of the main reasons we’ve been using portable pasture fencing in the first place is to protect our flock from the hunting dogs that would inevitably wander out of the woods from late summer through early winter, sniffing for and tracking deer. By no means am I against responsible hunting. Dog hunting has been a tradition in this area for over 300 years and even though I don’t engage in the sport I have a deep respect for local traditions. We’ve had a few close calls over the years with dogs trying to eat our hens but the poultry netting saved the day. Without the prospect of roaming hounds I’ve decided to go back to totally free-ranging the birds. It will be less labor-intensive for me, and the chickens will have access to the forest which is teeming with the natural protein sources they prefer. Look for your egg yolks to be that beautiful dark orange color. That means the hens have been eating an all-natural diet, ensuring a delicious, rich flavor with tons of nutrients!
“Do you name your chickens?” It’s a legitimate question we’re often asked. Unless one is raising a dozen or fewer chickens to keep as pets, the answer is usually no. With well over 100 chickens in our flock it would be hard to remember who’s who even if I did decide to call them something. But the main reason I won’t name them is due to the inherent risks pastured and free-range chickens may encounter on any given day. The ability to roam freely and forage for food brings joy to a chicken’s life, there is no doubt. It also brings joy to a passing hawk, owl or eagle to look down from above and see a tasty meal ready for the taking. So if the inevitable does happen (and it has) I’m not quite as shocked to see a bird of prey carry away “Henrietta”, “Molly”, “Gertrude” or whomever. I’ve simply lost a random chicken to mother nature. So I will never give names to my birds. Except for Helen. Helen is a genuine sweetheart, always the first to run to me when she hears my voice, the only hen that will fly onto my shoulder and sit there as I walk around the field, the only hen who will come sit on my lap and allow me to pet her. She seems intelligent and the fact that she is a Wheaten Ameraucana and lays those beautiful blue eggs doesn’t hurt either. I didn’t want to name her but I couldn’t help it, just one day I started calling her “Helen”. But she is the last chicken I will ever name, I swear.