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My Quest for Fresh Eggs

Having moved from GTA to 1 hectare property west of London, I decided I could raise a few back yard chickens. I got nine chicks last summer, lost one to a predator, watched them grow, and started to get eggs late last fall.

They provided (daily) beautiful fresh orange-yolk eggs with good shells. The birds were outside on the grounds every day until a cold snap in January. I was puzzled by the lack of change in the fresh yolks and firm whites from the winter eggs. I called the feed company, and they quickly confirmed that they do not use orange additives such as carotene, but the color and flavor
are due to corn as the major ingredient.

I believe you can find eggs with orange colored egg yolks from the major Ontario producers, Gray and Burnbrae. I know I have purchased them from Highland Farms, and they were not Omega 3, but something labelled 'naturally fed'.
They should be available in many stores. Many of them will come from humane small operations, but this is difficult to say, and we need to keep pressure on Gray and Burnbrae to watch their suppliers.

To get a good batch, they have to be very fresh, perhaps less than 7 days from the nest. You can tell if there are three distinct layers when you break them into a pan.

I'll come back to this this thread in a month or so after my hens go out on grass. They will still get Shur-Gain corn based feed, but the yolks may change a bit.

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  1. Hey jayt90, so wait, are we looking for orange-coloured yolks or not?

    Or we are looking for yolks that change in colour with the seasons?

    1 Reply
    1. re: mnajji

      I am saying that orange-colored yolks are available in many stores now, and will stay that way all year because the main feed ingredient is corn. If you find eggs that are fed corn-based Ontario grains, non caged, and sold within a week of laying (packing and delivering will take two to four days), then you are getting a humane product that tastes good, is healthy, and low cost. If the chickens can get out on grass in the early spring, the yolks may be slightly darker and richer, but this is unrealistic for most buyers and sellers. And, the few that go out on grass still have access to grain based feed, as grass, seeds and bugs will not sustain them.
      Burnbrae's Nestlaid seems to fit the profile, http://www.burnbraefarms.com/consumer...

      The chief competitor, Gray Ridge, is not as forthcoming on their site ( http://www.grayridge.com/products-con... ) with less information about feeding or barn conditions.

    2. Hi jayt90. Could you expand a bit on the 3 distinct layers. I have never heard the term before and would like to know more about it.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Herne

        The eggs should appear very plump in the pan or in water. There is a base layer on the bottom, with a layer of white, and the yolk on top.This photo shows a plumpness, 2 days old, from a free range corn fed bird.

        1. re: jayt90

          Wow, I want to bite into that...

        2. So does anybody know which stores in downtown Toronto carry these Burnbrae Farm eggs?

          1 Reply
          1. re: ER2

            I saw the Burnbrae eggs on Saturday at the Loblaw Great Food at Yonge St and Yonge Blvd (south of York Mills), so I'd guess that the main Loblaws downtown would have them.

          2. Sorry no answer for you but I too would love to find such eggs. Not sure if anyone saw DDD on Friday but GF was @ Hey Meatball and they had the deepest orange yolked eggs I'd ever seen. Even GF was stunned and questioned their origin.

            1. I ask for lettuce and other green trimmings from my local supermarket to feed the gang. They love a bit of green in the dead of winter - which it still is for some stupid reason. Also give them all - and I mean all - kitchen scraps. The only thing I won't feed them is chicken.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Nyleve

                When I was a child, my mother lived on a farm (where I spent a fair bit of time). She had a deal with the fellow in charge of the produce at the Loblaws in town to pick up their discarded stuff. Yeah, there were some rotten bits here and there, but mostly we got huge quantities of lettuce leaves and other veggies to feed to our chickens, plus quite a few past dated Dimpflemeier loaves, which the chickens (and our sheep and pigs) also devoured. Don't think such an arrangement would be allowed today...

                1. re: Full tummy

                  I don't know - I do it. You just have to have a relationship with your produce people. It's no trouble to them to give you a box of old leaves. I've never asked for bread - but I get old bread from the soup kitchen where I volunteer.

              2. Hey JayT - congrats on the move. Good stuff.
                Whereabouts are you located?
                Ironically, Gray Ridge is located in Strathroy, west of London as well lol.

                1. Just a quick note, in case you've missed it. I've been buying those big containers of dried oregano (no frills or wherever) and sprinkling it into my chickens' feed every day. I can't tell you that it for sure works, but it's worth a shot. I often have problems with miscellaneous crud that takes hold in my flock. This winter has been much better. The article talks about oregano oil, but so far I've just been using the dried herb.


                  1. What gave you the impression that Burnbrae Farms eggs come from humanely/sustainably raised hens? A glance at their website indicates that they do not believe in exposing hens to the great outdoors. None of the hens raised by "their farmers" have any access to fresh pasture (some might have limited, irregular access to a "restricted outside area") where they can peck and root around and eat grass and bugs and do what chickens thrive on doing. It's also likely that the hens have had their beaks chopped off when they were baby chicks. "Naturally fed" means absolutely nothing.

                    I surely hope you're buying non-medicated feed for your hens. Most chicken feeds on the market, unbeknownst to many farmers, contain antibiotics.

                    Oh, and there's no way you're getting commercial eggs (such as Burnbrae) as early as 7 days from laying. It can takes weeks for an egg to go through the grading system and storage before it makes it onto supermarket shelves.

                    By the way, exceptional, rich egg flavour and orange yolks are due to a proper diet of fresh grass (supplemented with second-cut alfalfa hay and wheat or other sprouted grass during the winter), not from corn.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Tatai

                      I must disagree about chicken feed. Regular commercial chicken feed DOES NOT contain any antibiotics. It may contain nutritional supplements, which you may or may not want to feed your chickens, but not antibiotics. Of course if you are a large commercial producer, you will be formulating your own feed and yes, it might be made with some antibiotics in it. But by law, it's never to be used in laying hens. If I ever have to feed antibiotics, I give it to them in their water and don't eat the eggs until after the antibiotic treatment has been withdrawn for several days. It says so right on the pouch of powder. There are no hormones, no antibiotics in regular chicken feed.

                      1. re: Nyleve

                        Here's just a little bit more info on chicken feed at least here in Ontario. Yes, it is correct that laying hens are not fed antibiotic feed. However, they may have been during the first few weeks of life when most chick starter is medicated. When I am buying starter feed, I always specify non-medicated, otherwise I would be sold antibiotic feed automatically. Then, there's the difference between broiler feed and laying feed. Most commercial meat bird feed does contain antibiotics for preventative measures. Chances are in a laying system that if one hen gets sick, time is not taken to make it better again, it goes out in the compost pile. It's a very complex system.

                      2. re: Tatai

                        Woke up today to find myself flamed by a normally reasonable source, T!

                        I prepared a farm fresh brunch before responding in kind, and meantime found great support from other posters.

                        Today's breakfast (photo below) is from corn fed hens. This was a regular layer mash from Shur-Gain, containing corn, calcium for shells, nutrients, but no marigold, fillers, carotene, animal or fish meal, or drugs. The grower mash is similar, but more protein and no calcium. Feeding alfalfa and wheatgrass is not commercially viable, especially when a tested grain diet is $0.30/lb, less in quantity.

                        The premium eggs from Burnbrae are rushed through in 4 days barn-to-store, and the organic eggs must come from outdoor access hens. There are no concrete barn yards left in SW Ontario; if you visit a commercial producer, their best hens will get outside all day long, for premium eggs. All this from the Burnbrae site. There is no information on de-beaking, but I would be surprised if the premium hens are raised in small social groups, just as in Europe, with no thought to overcrowding,and old style punitive measures. Prove me wrong.

                        1. re: jayt90

                          Your photos look like they could adorn the cover of a food mag jay...beautiful! Now I'm seriously craving eggs and yours sound absolutely wonderful!

                        2. I've got six hens and a rooster, as I'm big on fertilized eggs. I've been using a mixture of cracked corn, whole oats and wild bird seed and supplement their diet with cheese curds from the local cheese factory and veggie scraps. I used to buy crickets at the pet store for a winter treat, but this year saw a Box Elder bug invasion in the coop which keeps them busy. But the item on their menu they like the most is plain, home-made yoghurt. I make my own and this is a great treat and good for them. My yolks are reddish orange and if they brood for a few days, another treat awaits.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: TorontoTuna

                            Wow - yogurt, cheese curds and crickets! They are a lucky bunch!

                          2. Chicken-keeping friends of mine swear that the 'redness' of the yolk is more directly a result of lots & lots of protein in their diet. A friend once knocked down a wall in her barn, releasing about a hundred mice, all of which ran unwittingly into the chicken yard, where they were promptly dispatched and eaten by her fourteen hens. She swears the yolks were so orange as to be almost red for a week or so. A funny side note, a friend in the neighborhood was overfeeding her chickens, she said they always seemed hungry so she just kept tossing more chicken feed to them...her feed contains calcium to make their shells harder. For about a month there you almost had to throw her eggs at the wall to break 'em, the shells were so hard.

                            1. Gotta give a big round of applause to the egg-marketing folks for doing a really good job of pulling the feathers over consumers' eyes.