Know Your Egg Shed, Part 1

| 11/7/2015 3:03:00 AM

Tags: chickens, compost, eggs, local food, raising livestock, Virginia, Vermont, Pat Foreman,

vermont compost company chickens

Above: More than 1,200 working chickens provide 365 days of turning and cleaning compost for the Vermont Compost Company, located on 5 hilly acres within the city limit of Vermont state capital, Montpelier. The expert composter chickens eat entirely off the composting food residues — no feed is purchased for the birds. They provide an average of 1,000 eggs per month for the local egg shed while merrily clucking and creating compost and top soil.

I first heard of the term “egg shed” while chatting with Karl Hammer, owner of the Vermont Compost Company (VCC). We were standing on a hillside overlooking mountains of compost. These compost piles were made from food residues collected from about 49 institutions including the schools, restaurants, company cafeterias, and any other organization that produced enough food scraps to merit collecting.

Vermont has a zero-waste policy, so instead of calling food leftovers “waste,” they call the biomass “residuals.”

What is unique about the Vermont Compost Company is that they employ about 1,200 free-range chickens to help create their organic compost and potting soils. The chickens turn and aerate the fermenting piles, while keeping the insect and rodent populations down. The chickens glean food scraps off the road and other places to keep the operations tidy. They also grace the piles with their manure and feathers adding valuable nitrogen.

The fermenting compost piles had no smells putrid of garbage — like landfills do. They smelled mostly of dark-chocolate-colored musky humus in the making.

11/10/2015 9:13:23 PM

Why only a 1000 eggs a month? Shouldn't be more like a 1000 eggs a day?

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