Our farm currently has over 50 chickens ranging from Rhode Island Reds to Barred Rock from bantam breeds to full size breeds. Some of our fluffy butts stayed on the farm when we purchased it, some we purchased as chicks, and some were born here on the farm with momma hen raising them. We are blessed with different shades of browns, blues, and tans for eggs from extra small to extra extra large.
We currently have 6 ducks that we purchased at a few days old. Luckily we got 2 males and 4 females out of the bunch. If you are around the farm you will see them down at the pond most of the time but if you blink they will be up at the house or the green house. Their little feet take them all around pretty fast. It is not unusual to be in the house or the garage and hear quacking loudly outside the door letting us know they are up there and would like some corn. We of course oblige and open the door and toss some corn out for them.
Free Range Eggs are eggs laid by hens that are allowed to be outside naturally foraging for their meal outside of any cage. They may be given supplemental feed to insure they are getting enough to eat, but mostly, the hens are allowed to roam free, forage, scratch, and peck at the ground looking for their food. This is beneficial in a multitude of ways. First of all, chickens are allowed to be chickens. They are meant to scratch and forage the ground and search for insects, worms, and even mice. Chickens know how to peck and scratch with precision because it is built into their natural instincts. Secondly, you don't have a lot of chickens constantly living in filthy conditions. When they free range they are only cooped up at night when they roost. This means that they are not living in the filthy coop for days on end. Because these behaviors are natural for them means that their eggs will be produced as they were naturally intended to be.
Cage Free Eggs are simply eggs provided by a hen that is kept inside chicken houses and are not in a cage. These hens are not able to free range and are usually packed in a large building with concrete floors, automatic waterers & feeders and a bunch of nesting boxes. There is usually a hired individual to insure that the feeders and waterers are constantly working properly and to pull out any chickens that have died due to disease or heat exhaustion. This means that chickens under these conditions are not able to do what comes natural to them and thus making their eggs have different nutritional values than those of free range eggs. This doesn't mean that chicken houses are the devil by any means it just means that the nutrition of the eggs will be different and everyone is just doing what they can to feed their family.
Store bought eggs are eggs in which normally are laid by hens that are kept in cages or cage free houses and fed a specific pelleted food and live in very crowded and very hot conditions and the lights stay on to keep them breeding year round then the hens are usually sold or slaughtered after about a year and a half old since their egg production will start to slow down. These types of eggs suffer the most with it comes to nutritional value because of the lifestyle and health of the hens.
Farm fresh free range eggs have such a better flavor to them as well as you will notice their yolks are a deeper and richer yellow. Eggs that are purchased in a store are usually about a week old before the stores get them and then you never know how long they are in the store before they reach the shelf and finally they can sit on the shelf for about 30 days so you are never quite sure how fresh the eggs truly are. There have been many recalls on eggs due to Salmonella outbreak. Suppliers have to push the limits on health and safety to keep their costs down and their prices down to compete with other suppliers. This is part of what leads to less nutritional eggs than farm fresh and health concerns. Most local farmers that have chickens can tell you when one of their hens is not acting herself. Most local farmers will allow you to see where their birds live and the conditions in which then live in. Here on our farm it is not hard to see since you can find many of our chickens scattered from the driveway to the back 10 acres.
Farm fresh free range eggs tend to have less of the bad stuff and more of the good stuff in them. Farm fresh eggs have less cholesterol and saturated fats while having more Vitamin A, D, & E. Farm fresh eggs also have more Omega-3 fatty acids and more beta carotene.
When hens lay an egg they have a protective bloom on the outside of the egg which keeps bacteria from getting inside the egg. When you wash an egg you remove that bloom and thus lowering the shelf life of that egg. Here on The Sims Family Farm we do not wash our eggs before we store them and then we refrigerate them. If there is an extra dirty egg we will usually wash it and put it in our own stockpile of eggs for our family to consume. Farm fresh eggs that are unwashed are able to sit on a counter at room temperature for several weeks since the protective bloom has not been removed. Since we refrigerate ours we recommend placing them into your refrigerator as well and only wash them when you use them.