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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Flat Aggie Goes North of the Border to Learn about Eggs

Flat Aggie went North to Canada to visit my friend Dianne and her chicken farm!  I really do learn something every time one of these reports comes back. -A Kansas Farm Mom

Eggs – A good part of a healthy diet 

How do you like to eat your eggs? More people are eating eggs as they are versatile and easy to prepare. Busy families chose eggs because they are affordable and nutritious. 

My name is Dianne McComb and I am an egg farmer. My farm is located near London, Ontario, Canada where we care for 25,000 laying hens and grow crops on our 300 acre farm. I share the responsibilities of caring for the hens with my brother and sister-in-law. One of us is in the henhouse every day to be sure the hens have enough fresh air, food and water. My hens are housed inside a big barn with fans to move the air. Hens are kept inside where they are safe from predators, outside diseases and the cold weather in winter or the hot weather in summer. Inside they have enough room to all stand up, move around and eat or drink. 

In their units we can monitor if there is a health issue with a hen or if she is being picked on by her room mates. Hens can be mean toward one another. Have you heard of “Pecking Order”, that is what occurs with any group of hens where one is stronger and more aggressive than the others. If one hen is more dominant she may pick with her beak on others to the point where they are injured. They must be separated and we have a plan to care for the needs of each by moving them apart to different units. 

Laying hens are like athletes they work hard for us and need good nutrition which they get from a balanced diet of corn, wheat, soybeans, vitamins and minerals. In my area we grow corn, wheat and soybeans which are mixed together with the vitamins and minerals at a feed mill. An important mineral is calcium which is to help the hen form the shell around the one egg she lays every day. That’s right only one egg a day! Think about how many eggs you see where you buy your eggs. Lots and lots of dozens of them and a hen lays only one a day. This is why we need so many hens to produce the eggs your family eats. 

An egg yolk, the yellow part of the egg, is in each hen when she is a chick. When she is mature at 19 weeks she drops the yolk inside her body into the oviduct where the albumen starts to form around the yolk and thin membrane envelopes this yolk/albumen which is then covered by the shell. This process takes approximately 26 hours to complete. A healthy hen can lay up to 330 eggs in a year which is normally how long she is kept in my barn. 

Eggs are gathered daily (you see Flat Aggie helping) they come from the hens in the barn along a belt to a conveyor, over a machine and into plastic trays. The trays are made into piles of 6 trays each and the piles are placed on a pallet which is then moved into a large cooler. 

Twice a week eggs are picked up from my farm and taken to a grading station like the one shown on this Youtube video Eggs are washed, candled over a bright light to see there are no cracks or other imperfections, then they weighed and by weight it is determined if they go into Ex Large, Large, Medium, Small or Pee Wee cartons. Not the size of the egg but the weight is how it works. You see young hens lay small eggs and older hens lay the larger eggs. A hen is a living creature so the egg she lays may not be the same as the last. The time it takes the egg to get from the hen to the store is 4 to 5 days, so eggs in the store are for the most local and fresh. 

Eat lots of healthy eggs to give you the energy needed to do your best every day.

Have a Grade A Day!

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