What do I feed my chickens to get the most flavorful, nutritious eggs?
Basically, all you have to do is raise them as free-range or pastured poultry, so they can enjoy a varied diet of insects and green plants, in addition to grains.
When chickens (as well as cattle, pigs and other livestock) are allowed to eat their natural diet, numerous studies have shown that their eggs, milk and meat tends to be richer is several important nutrients (see www.eatwild.com for lots of details). Tests conducted by Mother Earth News found that, compared to the standard values reported by the USDA for commercial eggs, hens raised on pasture produced eggs with two-thirds more vitamin A, twice the omega-3 fatty acids, three times more vitamin E and seven times more beta carotene. The tests also showed that pastured eggs had one-third less cholesterol and a quarter of the saturated fat. In addition, fresh eggs from pastured hens taste better and provide more “lift” in baked goods.
The more you can allow your birds to range freely, the better their eggs will be. (They eat lots of pests — see Poultry Pest Patrol for more information.) To keep them safe from predators, yet still allow them to graze, you can house them in a lightweight portable pen like this easy-to-make portable mini-coop.
Cheryl Long is the editor in chief of MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, and a leading advocate for more sustainable lifestyles. She leads a team of editors which produces high quality content that has resulted in MOTHER EARTH NEWS being rated as one North America’s favorite magazines. Long lives on an 8-acre homestead near Topeka, Kan., powered in part by solar panels, where she manages a large organic garden and a small flock of heritage chickens. Prior to taking the helm at MOTHER EARTH NEWS, she was an editor at Organic Gardening magazine for 10 years. Connect with her on Google+.