Pastured, GMO-free eggs from Jack’s day ranging flock.
When he was 9, Jack took over the egg business. Well actually, he was given the business in an effort to help teach all kinds of useful life skills. 2023 is 7 years later and the egg business is booming. In 2020 Jack and Brent built the new egg cabin, a bottomless house that holds feeders, waterers, nest boxes and roost bars. The house is opened every morning and closed every evening. The laying chickens roam inside the protection of the electric fence and shelter from sun and rain in the egg cabin.
Twice weekly the whole house is moved to fresh pasture. The movement brings the birds to the quickly growing grasses, weeds and accompaniments of grubs and grasshoppers. Where the egg cabin is moved from the chickens leave behind valuable manure, which fertilizes the grasses that will be grazed after a period of rest.
Eggs are hand gathered daily, washed if necessary and packaged for sale.
Pastured Chicken and Chicken Bone Broth
We’ve been raising chickens on pasture for 18 years now. We’ve done a lot of things right and a lot of things wrong too. Here’s how we are raising our pastured broilers now:
Groups of 80 chickens are housed in our A-frame Tri-pen coops. These coops are heavy enough to withstand our mountain wind gusts but light enough to be moved daily with a small RTV. When the broiler chickens come out of the protection of the brooder they come to these Tri-pens. The pens are moved to fresh grass every morning.
Watch a tri-pen move here : Video link
In 2023 we are raising Freedom Ranger chickens and New Hampshire chickens for meat broilers.
The Freedom Ranger combines American and European genetics to create a quick-growing bird that retains some of the dark meat characteristics of a heritage breed chicken. Reaching market weight in 9-10 weeks, this bird has smaller breasts and legs and the dark meat retains a more traditional flavor. Since it retains the natural foraging instinct, this chicken is a good forager of seeds, insects, grubs, clovers, and pasture grasses.
New Hampshire meat bird
We began breeding our first New Hampshire flock in 2017. We were fortunate to start with lines from within the Sustainable Poultry Network and breed a Halbach/ Reese line of chickens. Since then we have been able to focus on what we’d like to see in a dual purpose chicken. We are striving to raise a dark-feathered chicken who is good at foraging, who is predator savvy, and who fits into our mobile system of raising breeders and broilers. We’ve seen a big difference in body composition, most notably in the shape and size of the breasts.
It takes about 16 weeks for heritage chickens to reach a weight of 3.5-4 pounds. The breasts of these chickens are smaller and the legs are longer and more proportioned to the body of the chicken than other breeds. The meat has a rich depth to it and a flavor our generation has never tasted in a chicken.
When a heritage breed laying hen has reached the end of her laying life, she can nourish us once more in the form of a stew hen. Great for bone broth and crock pot, these birds range between 2-4 pounds and range from very fatty to lean.
Heritage Breed Male
When we focus on egg-layer breeding we select for traits that pertain to eggs and the females that lay them. We look at the temperament and rate of lay on the females and the egg size and egg COLOR! If you’ve been the recipient of any Jack’s Eggs then you know the joy of opening a carton and seeing the beautiful blues, greens and sage eggs that are coming from our breeding experiments. While we select for the egg-laying traits we can’t also try to grow big plump males. If we selected for larger table birds we’d give up some of the good rate-of lay and fertility of our egg layers.
When we hatch our chicks, naturally about half of them are females and the other half males. Most of the females are saved for future egg-layers and breeders. Only three or four males each year are saved for next year’s breeding stock. This leaves us with a lot of males that aren’t good for breeding purposes so we raise them as meat birds destined for the table. Since we don’t select for large birds these males are not valued as a plump table bird.
BUT, if you eat eggs, then you should eat some of the heritage breed males that are the byproduct of the egg laying program!
In the commercial egg laying industry sometimes day-old male chicks are euthanized so time and energy won’t go into feeding and growing a small table bird. How horrible and unethical!
To fully enjoy and appreciate a heritage breed chicken take a minute to find a recipe specifically for heritage birds. A ‘low and slow’ cooking method allows more time for the muscle fibers to break down and make the chicken more tender. Moist heat preparations like crock pot and braising will really make the flavor of the birds the star of the show. We’ve included an award-winning recipe from a Mother Earth News heritage chicken cooking contest a few years back to inspire you to enjoy this bird. Here
Beginning summer 2023 we’ll be offering chicken bone broth.
Our pastured chickens
Pastured and Forest-Fed Pork
Our Hereford Hogs are living the good pig life! We give our pigs access to pasture and forest, letting them forage for nuts and tubers and whatever else tasty they root up. Supplemented with GMO-free feed from Sunrise Mill in Stuarts Draft, Virginia, these pigs thrive in the forest and pastures here.
Pork can be reserved by the half or whole or purchased by the package.
Chicks and Hatching Eggs
Marren’s Fairy Bouquets
If there aren’t baby chicks in the brooder, our daughter Marren is probably spending outside time building fairy houses or picking wildflowers. She collects cute vases and small jars and offers her small fairy bouquets to bring color and whimsy inside. Perfect to brighten a windowsill or spruce a small table, her bouquets use both wild foraged flowers and varieties like tulips, zinnias, daisies, and sunflowers that she grows and cares for.