I normally post farm related content on Wednesdays but I just had to hold off so that I could share yesterday with all of you!
One of my friends works at an egg farm & last night I got to help with a chicken delivery or as the farmers called a ‘chicken pull’.
They have 4 barns with 8 isles of triple layered cages (similar to the photo above)… roughly 60,000 laying hens. Every year each of the barns is ‘rotated’, which means all of the chickens that came the previous year to lay eggs are taken to the butcher to become broilers. So every three months a barn is cleared out and a new shipment of birds is brought it to lay eggs for the following year; this keeps the farm operating at its peak efficiency as a hen will typically lay an egg every 1. 5 days but the older she gets the less often she will lay.
So my job last night was to take the new birds and put them in the clean cages. No biggie… until you realize that our first truck load had 8,000 birds and the second had another 6,500. We had about 12 people helping out and it took us about 4 hours of work (excluding an hours’ intermission due to bad roads and a late truck). Include a couple dives between cages & isles to catch loose chickens and you had a pretty busy night that managed to last until 12:30am (This job is most easily done at night when the chickens are accustomed to sleeping and thus, calmer). An hour later I was safely scrubbed clean & tucked in bed none the worse for wear minus a few missed hours of sleep and a couple scratches from the occasional unappreciative chicken.
Overall I have to say I was pretty impressed. The cages were fairly well sized, big enough for the chickens to lay down, easily turn & walk about a bit. There is a conveyer belt under each layer of chickens to collect droppings & move it to the end of the barn for disposal. The feed trough is also automatic with grain coming in pre-mixed directly from the silos and running the length of the cages so they have easy access to food. Eggs roll to the front of the cage onto another conveyer belt that, once activated, will bring them to one end of the barn for collection & cooling. So efficient!
What struck me the most though was how clean it was. Everything was so well maintained, and literally spotless! A term you very rarely hear spoken of for a farm. The floor, the cages, the chickens… everything was in its place & not a smudge of dirt to be seen.
Every time I visit this farm I get so excited with possibilities of eventually starting my own. While ideally I would love to have more of a free-range option it astounds me how efficient & clean the farm is run and a million ideas run through my head on how I would run it. I really feel like everyone deserves the chance to see where their food comes from, to tour these barns and see for themselves what it takes to put food on their table. It’s such a shame that due to the association with a few bad farms, based solely on the fact that they operate in the same industry, and the overwhelmingly negative portrayal of that industry by extremists that farms have had to make these No Photo policies & restrict access for fear that they might become the next target.
Educate yourself, Love your farmer, & Live Right!
*Disclaimer- No photos are allowed in the barn, photos are taken from the web & proper credit given.