After my blog entry last week, you know how exceptional the living conditions are at Pasture Poultry. But I failed to address the ultimate goal of having all these happy chickens- that would be eggs. In theory, each chicken lays one egg per day. Multiply that by 8,000 chickens and you get (wait for it) 8,000 eggs a day that must be collected. Our generous hosts were concerned about me having the full Kiwi farm experience, so they kindly plopped me on the back of a 4-wheeler and sent me off collecting with one of their regular employees.
Although she was a part-time collector, the high-schooler they sent me out with wasn’t one to trust from the beginning. She started my training by trying to gross me out. First I was to go through the waist-high feed house and bang on the walls to ensure all the feed was dropping down and not getting stuck. The feed house was about 20 degrees warmer than outside and had a door about 3 feet high. It was also filled with chickens I tried to delicately toe out of the way. Next, we opened the various doors that held the eggs. This was like opening a box of donuts at a diet camp. I’m not sure how this plays out with natural selection, but these chickens (or Chucks, in Kiwi terms) want the eggs so much that they fly up to the shelves where the eggs are located (approximately face level) in an attempt to keep you, the evil collector, from getting their tasty eggs. That’s right; they want to eat them. At first I tried shooing them out and even let one peck at my shoe for a moment. Five minutes later I did as the high schooler demonstrated and grabbed a hand full of tail feathers while pulling backwards. “Think of them as teaching them to fly in reverse”, I was advised.
We sorted the eggs into three piles: good, dirty, and cracked. The ‘dirty’ part is as gross as it sounds. It either has poop or blood on it. “This really grosses out some of the townies,” commented my farm-hardy instructor. I can’t imagine why. Next, we loaded the eggs onto trays held securely in place on a custom-made box mounted on the rear of the 4-wheeler. Then the fun really began.
As I suspect most working farms are, this was a “waste not want not farm”. Those dirty eggs had to be cleaned, and there was no machine to do it. With a damp rag, we set to wiping off the lesser of the ‘dirty’ eggs and put them on a small conveyor belt with individual cradles for each egg. This machine then sorted the eggs based on weight while another human grabbed various assortments of eggs and packed them in a carton to be picked up and distributed in the surrounding cities.
I’m glad I did it, but I don’t ever want to do it again. I will never, ever, bulk about paying $4+ for a carton of organic, free-range eggs. There are certain things in this world that I just want to pay others to do, and collecting eggs is now one of them.
Liquor-recipe-of-the-day: Welcome summer (wherever it may be…) with Tequila-Soaked Watermelon Wedges. Yum!