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Posts from the ‘Getting Started’ Category

Food Safety Regulations for Small-Scale Egg Producers

Part of our mission at Eggzy is to promote small and backyard flocks as an important part of the local food movement. IMHO, you just can’t beat backyard eggs for freshness, taste and nutrition—especially when they’re raised organically with lots of pasture time in the yard.

Still, there’s a lot of confusion out there about regulations for backyard flock keepers wanting to sell (or give away) their eggs. Unfortunately, I think this confusion has kept a lot of folks from actively and openly participating in the local food movement, and in some cases, caused some to ‘go underground’, possibly ignoring best practices and selling or giving away their eggs in potentially unsafe ways in the process. Neither of these are good for local food, or for us as small-scale egg producers.

I’ve struggled with this issue myself, and, in order to get it sorted out, called Lydia Johnson, Assistant Director at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Food Safety Bureau. If you live in PA and plan on selling or giving away eggs, Lydia’s a fantastic resource. If you live outside PA, I’d highly recommend finding Lydia’s counterpart in your State—your local County Extension Office is a good place to start. Here’s what I found out:

The Good News First

First of all, there are both federal and state regulations regarding food safety inspections and eggs. But here’s the good news; if you’re in PA and keep fewer than 3000 hens and sell your eggs in state and within 100 miles of your hens’ location, you’re exempt from mandatory inspections by both the FDA and the PDA (Pennsylvania draws the line at 3200 hens, the FDA at 3000). Specifics in other states may vary.

Selling Eggs

Even without mandatory inspections, there are a couple of ‘Good Agricultural Practices’ (GAPs) you need to follow. First, only sell eggs that are in good condition (no dirty eggs or eggs with cracks or leaks). Second, only sell your eggs within five days of the date they were laid. If some eggs were laid on different days, use the date of the oldest egg. And third, sale eggs must be kept at 45 degrees until they’re sold.

Packaging & Labeling Requirements

Once you’ve got your eggs collected, refrigerated and ready to go, there are some basic packaging guidelines you should follow:

  • don’t reuse other sources’ cartons – use your own
  • do use fresh egg cartons (you can get these at your local feed store or an online supplier like eggcartons.com)

You should also include the following items on your egg cartons – some may already be there depending on the cartons you buy.

  • name & address of location of hens
  • (earliest) date of lay
  • statement of product (eggs)
  • net contents (12 eggs, 6 eggs, etc)
  • “keep refrigerated”
  • Safe handling statement – more info here
  • unclassified or classified (jumbo, x-large, large, medium, small, peewee)

Conclusion

Backyard flocks are a lot of fun and come with lots of benefits—eggs, fertilizer and bug control to name just a few. And we believe they play an important role in the local food movement and sustainable food systems. By following just a few best practices we can protect ourselves, our friends and customers while helping to build a safer, more inclusive and resilient food system.

 

* This post was originally published on by mdt on February 2, 2011

Reduced Daylight Affects Egg Production

For those of us in northern climates, the cold weather is an indicator of the slowing of egg production, a time for the hens to rest a little more and produce a little less.

Interestingly, temperature seems to have less to do with slowing production than hours of daylight.  It seems that the bird’s reproductive systems are highly affected by the amount of sunlight received per day – “When day length falls below 12 hours per day, egg production decreases and may cease completely. (eHow)

Generally, there are many factors affecting the egg laying rate of a bird; the age of the bird, it’s feed and housing conditions, and whether or not it gets free range to run outdoors; remember a happy hen is a productive hen.

Probably the greatest determinant of a bird’s year round productivity is its breed. The breed of the bird will help to identify strong layers vs. say, show birds or dual-purpose birds. Some breeds are known as ‘cold hardy’, these are birds that have been breed for optimal performance in northern climates.

In addition to relying on hereditary traits for optimal productivity, many people supplement the amount of light their birds get with artificial lights in order to stimulate production.

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, “… When darkness falls artificial lighting can be introduced for two to three hours, which may increase egg production by 20 to 30 percent.”

To create lighting schedule that’s right for you, “… a good rule of thumb is that the total length of light per day, both artificial and natural, should be no shorter than the longest natural day length the hens will experience…” (thepoultrysite.com) In other words, calculate the average day length during your summer hours and replicate for your birds in the winter.

For your convenience, we whipped up the little widget below that calculates your latitude (based on your IP address), and then recommends how many hours of supplemental light you should apply based on the day length at your latitude:

Eggzy’s Supplemental Daylight Calculator

And if that seems like too much work for you, feel free to take the poetic advice of Terry Golson and just let your hens rest up over the winter in preparation for another busy season come Spring. According to Terry’s HenBlog Before there were battery-cage “farms,” eggs were a seasonal food. By New Years an egg was precious.”

Resources:
http://www.ehow.com/
http://www.fao.org/
http://www.albc-usa.org/
http://www.eggzy.net/
http://www.thepoultrysite.com
http://www.hencam.com/

 * Originally published on December 14, 2011

Flock Owners: 5 Good Reasons to Create an Eggzy Egg Stand

Got a backyard flock? Eggzy puts you in control. We’re building easy-to-use-tools to simplify flock management and record keeping. You control how things work – whether you share, barter or sell your eggs, Eggzy gives you the information you need.

  1. If you’re a registered Eggzy flock owner, creating an Eggzy egg stand is fast and easy (http://www.eggzy.net/flockowners)
  2. Keeping an egg stand encourages regular usage of Eggzy tools – which encourage good agricultural practices (GAP)
  3. Egg stand owners can share flock info and egg availability with others easily by way of the subscriber feature (http://www.eggzy.net/help/#posting)
  4. Egg stand owners gain exposure from press and promotions
  5. Launching an Eggzy egg stand is free to create and free to use, so why not start (or update) yours today (http://www.eggzy.net/help/#customizing)?

* This post was originally published on September 24, 2011.

When (and where) will my chickens lay their first eggs?

little blue eggOne day this week while collecting eggs I met with a glorious find—a beautiful blue egg, albeit a surprisingly small one in comparison to the large Delaware & Welsummer eggs I usually collect. At long last, the new birds from our mid-April shipment have begun to produce. The blue egg was from an Ameracauna, but where I found it was unexpected, if not surprising.

We keep our older birds separate from the new batch; in their own smaller hen house (a converted rabbit hutch) in a separate pen from where the new recruits stay. We only have 3 older birds, and 12 new ones. What was unexpected was that the new Ameracuana went all the way in back, into the separate pen compartment and up into the hutch where the 3 older birds stay to lay her first egg.

In retrospect I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise, the older and younger birds are pastured together, but they usually don’t mix much, and I’ve never seen any of the new birds go into the hutch before. How would this one know to go in there to lay her first egg instead of doing it in one of the nest boxes in her own house?

As it stands I’d planned on putting out some wooden eggs in the new birds’ house, just hadn’t expected to need to do it so soon. She’s a little early by my count. Although 21 weeks is in the 20-24 week window, we’ve always found ours to start just a little later, and Eggzy has helped us capture data to track our average days to point-of-lay (POL). I’ve been told pastured birds take longer than conventionally raised birds, and of course it also depends on breed and climate. Our Ameracauna’s are usually among the first, but this is the earliest we’ve seen.

In any case, I’ve since placed the wooden eggs, but thus far she’s ignoring them and continuing to use the older birds’ hutch. Unfortunately it’s looking like this might be a tough habit to break. I only hope the rest of the birds will pay more attention to the wooden eggs so I don’t end up with 15 birds laying in the single nest box in the hutch.

Any reprogramming advice would be greatly appreciated—please let us know by posting a comment.

* This post was originally published on August 31, 2011.