Frequently Asked Questions
How is Art is an Egg different from other pastured egg farms?
I wrote a blog post once called What Chickens Really Want. With my flock my first question is "Am I giving these birds the best Life possible?" Sometimes the answers are not the most efficient or profitable solutions - but they are right for the birds. Most egg production farms use "chicken tractors" which every few days move hens from one field to another to provide fresh grass. Changing where a chicken eats and sleeps every day is very disorienting to the bird with no where to roost at night, and no where to hide from the sun or overhead predators like hawks and owls. Chickens are jungle animals of shade and brush. Chickens are creatures of habit and established territories.
At Art is an Egg, I keep the "home base" of the animals stable while I rotate the areas in the field they have access to from their protected pen and coop. I keep a large social flock of 200 hens and 10 or so roosters. This ratio of one rooster for every 20 hens provides for a tranquil and balanced social order where the hens feel protected. Most egg farms don't bother with roosters. When I'm not breeding specific breeds, all of my animals intermingle in one large happy social flock.
My farm was designed and built to provide a wide variety of environments to which the birds have access to all day, every day. They have a coop to get out of the wind and rain, where they can sleep at night and lay eggs every day. Some days they feel like staying in their pajamas and hanging out in the coop all day. They have a shaded 500 square foot dusting pit, which they revel in. Finally, my birds live out their full natural lives of 5-8 years on my farm. Economically, that doesn't make sense, but it's what I do. Art is an Egg is a NO KILL farm. These animals are very good to me. I want to treat them in kind.
WHY ARE THE EGGS DIFFERENT COLORS?
Do you feed them weird stuff? Are they genetically modified? I get these questions all the time. The colors you see in these eggs come from rare breeds that naturally lay these colors. The reason these are not as common is because most farms are only interested in animals that lay the most eggs for the least amount of feed (money). There are over 200 breeds of chickens around the world and only three are commonly used in the US to produce eggs; White Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, and Sex Links. These three common breeds of white and brown egg layers crank out as many as 320 eggs a year and begin laying at four months old. My breeds lay 150 to 180 eggs a year and usually don't start laying until they're around seven months old. This is why you only see white and brown chicken eggs at the grocery store. If colored eggs were easy, everyone would be doing it.
Do the different colored eggs taste different?
The egg shell and bloom colors do not affect the appearance or taste of the yolks and whites. The eggs we sell taste amazing because they come from genuinely happy and stress-free animals. However, the eggs of one of my breeds, the French Black Copper Marans are the preferred egg of gourmet chefs and were the only egg Agent 007 would eat in the original James Bond novels.
What does your logo mean?
The Art is an Egg logo is nine eggs arranged like a flower, a natural symbol of beauty in nature. My mission is to share with people the amazing beauty I see in a simple chicken egg. This is one of my color palettes and, like the natural sealant around every egg I sell, it is called "Bloom".
WHY IS THERE A FEATHER IN THE EGGS?
These eggs are sold exactly as they were laid, and yet it's still easy to forget that something so curated comes directly from a living animal. I include a feather in every one of my palettes to remind people of the living birds this beautiful food comes from. They woke up this morning just like you did, and greeted another day.
Which breeds lay which colors?
Blue egg layers include Araucanas, a breed of tailless chicken from Chile, and Ameraucanas, their tailed American cousin. Marans lay an egg so dark brown, you’d swear it was made from 90% dark chocolate. They originate from France and include the Black Copper and Cuckoo Marans. Breeding Araucanas and Marans together produces hens that lay eggs as green as olives or avocados. Buff Orpingtons and Light Brahmas lay cream, pink, and sometimes golden eggs. The Speckled Sussex from England lays a spherical almond colored egg with a matte finish. "Mutt" chickens which have the blue color gene of the Araucanas are generically known as “Easter Eggers”. This is what most folks call Araucanas, but actually they're not. Easter Eggers can produce several different egg colors of plum, blue, green, and grey. I also keep Wellsummers, a breed from the Netherlands which consistently lay a brown egg covered in a constellation of dark speckles.
These colors do not come from the chicken’s diet or any other external factors. The color variety comes solely from the genetics of each breed of bird and individual variation. So what color are natural chicken eggs? Dark cocoa (almost red), milk chocolate, almond, plum, cream, pink, gold, white, sky blue, blue green, slate, light green, olive, kelly green, mint green, avocado and various speckled eggs in browns, greens, and "eggshell".
And that’s just what I’ve found so far.
what do you feed your chickens?
My birds are free to forage in green pastures all day, every day. I also give them vegetarian (gluten free) chicken feed made from certified non-GMO grains and no animal byproducts of any kind. This feed is milled by a local farm where I pick it up. Here's a link to the feed I give my birds.
Is your farm certified organic?
No. USDA organic egg certification laws are written for large egg production organizations that produce hundreds or thousands of dozens of eggs a week. Certification costs alone are prohibitive to the small egg farmer. I do not used fertilizers or chemicals of any kind on my farm. I practice sustainable farming techniques and use the waste of my birds to fertilize the fields they forage in. My birds are fed vegetarian feed made from certified non-GMO grains. I don't feed my birds with organic feed because so far, all the organic feeds I have found containing a minimum of 16% protein (what laying hens need) also contain fishmeal and the chemicals needed to preserve fishmeal. Some folks are good with feeding their birds animal byproducts. I am not.
What is the best way to store eggs?
In the US, we are used to eating washed, refrigerated eggs. Everywhere else you go in the world including Europe, eggs are sold unwashed and stored at room temperature. And yet, Europe has a lower incidence of egg related food illnesses than the US. So why does the US wash and refrigerate eggs? Forbes magazine wrote a great article here on the topic.
When a chicken lays an egg, it is sealed with a thin liquid coating called the "bloom" of the egg. When the bloom dries on the egg, it seals the 15,000 pores in the egg's shell. This bloom will keep an egg fresh for several weeks with no refrigeration. However, as soon as the egg is washed, those 15,000 pores are open to bacteria and the eggs must be kept at 42 degrees or less in order to be food safe.
Virginia egg law states that farms that produce less than 150 dozen eggs a week (and I produce a third of that) are not required to wash or refrigerate eggs when they are sold at the farm or for home delivery. Because profit margins on eggs are so slim, almost all egg producers at your local farmers' markets will exceed 150 dozen eggs a week, and thus, be required to wash and refrigerate their eggs.
The eggs I sell are always less than a week old and may be stored safely (and legally) at room temperature or refrigerated. If you choose to refrigerate your eggs, once refrigerated they should stay refrigerated. I include a card with every palette that tells you, not when these eggs will expire, but exactly when they were laid. This is a distinct advantage of buying eggs from a very small egg producer.
If the eggs are unwashed, how are they so clean?
I produce clean eggs by keeping a very clean coop and very clean nesting boxes. I clean out all 48 nesting boxes each day and usually collect eggs every 2-3 hours before they can get soiled. Clean, unwashed eggs are labor intensive.