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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Liberate the Layers! Part 3

by Dale Johnson

I write for a monthly column in the American Agriculturalist magazine. The editor of this farmer’s publication, John Vogel is a friend and I admire his balanced viewpoints of agriculture. I was happy to see the two lead articles in the May issue focus on the welfare of laying hens in industrial confinement layer houses. Please read the articles at:

Karl Johnson, co-author of the first article is not a relative of mine although I do have a wonderful brother named Carl.

I still feel the best way to get your eggs is to keep your own hens to augment your garden. They eat table scraps, garden refuse, and annoying insects (You must still supplement with layer pellets.) They produce litter for composting into fertilizer. And fresh eggs are fabulous. But if you can’t grow your own, then buy cage less eggs. The higher price margin per dozen is less than the price of a can of Diet Coke. Isn’t it worth that to Liberate the Layers!



I purchased some of these eggs at the farmers' market this weekend. They were $5/dozen. Can you explain why the price is so high if the chickens are getting the majority of their food on their own? I didn't notice much difference.

However, I am interested in having a few chickies to help in the garden. Can you direct me to a nice source on getting started on a very, very small basis. These birds will be pets.

Dale Johnson said...

Maybelline (I love your name)

When you go to the market again, ask the farmer how he keeps his layers. Farmers are usually happy to explain their systems. He likely keeps them in pasture system, confined by electric netting - mostly to keep the foxes and raccoons out. The layers still only get 30-50% of their food from pasture. The rest comes from a supplement the farmer gives them. The reason they cost so much is because of the farmers labor. Pasture systems are more labor intensive than the confinement systems you read about in these two articles above. Cageless eggs in the supermarket come from systems described in the first article. These are still confinement systems but the hens are not jammed into cages. Cageless eggs in stores are usually ~$0.50 more per dozen than regular eggs.

To get started raising your own layers, click on Chickens 101 at the top of this blog. Then click on Chickens under the topic section at the right. Read all of our articles on chickens. Then order a few layer chicks, 3-6, from a hatchery such as www.mcmurryhatchery.com

If you only order two and one dies, then the other one is pretty lonely. You will receive the chicks in the mail and you're in business. You will need a small coop to keep them in and if you have a small yard you will need some kind of fence. Just read our articles for ideas. It is easy and fun. And the day you get your first egg you will remember the rest of your life.

Good luck.

Dale Johnson