Eggs - A Great Source of Homesteading Income
By Sue Merriam
The best thing about having chickens is the eggs. Not only will these wonderful birds
provide you will meat, they can also provide you will all the quiches, omelets and
casseroles your heart desires. Better still, they can be a great source of income for
Gathering Them Up
Collect them two to three times per day. That way they are less likely to get dirty or
cracked. This will also protect your precious food source from getting spoiled or frozen
in harsher temperatures. If they are slightly dirty, brush or rub off the dirt with fine
grain sandpaper. If they are seriously dirty, rinse them in water that is slightly warmer
than the shells. Don't wash them in cooler water, and don't get into the habit of washing
them. Cool water could force bacteria in through the shell and into the yolk. Also freshly
laid eggs have a light coating - called bloom - that preserves their freshness. Water will
rinse off that natural bloom and they will not last as long.
If They Have Thin Shells
The strength of the shell depends on your hen's diet and age. Older hens will lay a
larger product with a weaker shell. But if you have young hens producing thin shells, you
need to increase the vitamins and minerals in their diet. All of your laying hens should
have access to a separate feeder with ground oyster shells to ensure they get sufficient
calcium in their diet.
Place them in clean cartons. Do not use cartons that are open on the top. These are
great for seeing your precious jewels, but they will not stay fresh as long. Set them in
the carton with their pointed ends downward and then refrigerate them as soon as possible.
Eggs left at room temperature for one day age the same amount as those placed in the
fridge for a week.
On The Range
A great way to have a free range product, while still protecting your chickens from
predators is to keep your hens in a chicken tractor. These are chicken coops set on wheels
with no flooring. You move the tractor each morning, giving your hens daily access to
fresh grass and insects. To see some examples of chicken tractors, click here.
This wonderful food is easy to sell on a small scale. Just take them into work with
you, or let friends and neighbors know you have them for sale. There are many people who
love fresh eggs and will be happy to buy them from you.
Things will be different if you want a bigger share of the market. Just like any full
time business, it will take more work, as well as planning and some research. You will
need to check with local laws for information on sales permits and claims you can legally
make. For example, there are some pretty stringent requirements on what the term organic
means. For more information, contact your local county extension agent.
You will also have to do some market research. Where will you find your customers? Are
you going to sell your product at the farmer's market, or are you going to target the
natural food stores in your area? What do your customers want? Do they want white eggs or
brown? And how much are they willing to pay?
When deciding what to charge, take all of your costs into consideration, including
feed, packaging, delivery and promotional expenses. There are several online companies
that offer cartons for sale. Shop around for the best price.
Sue Merriam is author of the website, Organic Gardening and Homesteading.
Organic gardening and homesteading