Eggciting News!!!

| 10/15/2008 3:37:53 PM

Tags: free-range eggs, egg tests, pastured poultry, grazing livestock, egg nutrition, vitamin D,

The results from Mother Earth News’ latest round of pastured egg nutrient tests are beginning to come in. So far, pastured egg producers are kicking the commercial industry’s butt — woo hoo, go free range! We’ve invested a lot of time and energy over the last few years in researching the differences between the meat and eggs coming out of the commercial industry and those produced by conscientious farmers who let their animals graze on fresh pastures. In the past, we’ve found that eggs from hens raised on pasture, as compared to those commercially raised factory farm eggs, contain:

• 1⁄3 less cholesterol
• 1⁄4 less saturated fat
• 2⁄3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene

Now we’re looking at vitamin D, which many of us do not get enough of because we don’t spend any time outdoors, and even when we do we use sunscreen that blocks vitamin D production. (More about that here.) Eggs are one of the few food sources of naturally occurring vitamin D, and we wondered if true free-range eggs might be higher in this important vitamin, too. Our latest tests show that pastured eggs have anywhere between 4 to 6 times as much vitamin D as typical supermarket eggs.

So … (1) Get out there and eat some fresh farm eggs! and (2) Check out our ongoing pastured egg research here.

Do you raise chickens for eggs or meat? If you want to participate in one of our studies, please e-mail


1/12/2013 5:35:25 PM

Considering how many eggs I use to make tarts, omelets etc each week, I don't know if. I can actually afford to buy those free range or pastured chicken eggs you all recommend. A local chicken farmer sells her pastured eggs at about $8-9/dozen...oh my freak in god...I don't think she is out of line or anything in her pricing, but choosing healthy food produce, be it meat, fish, dairy or whatever is only for the resolute or the 1%, it seems.

2/19/2009 9:17:41 AM

In Ghana they dye all their chickens shocking pink which stops the birds of prey as they dont go for anything shocking pink... I dont know how they dye the birds though... so not sure if this is humane or not, but its very funny seeing shocking pink chickens all over the rural villages... I guess one could try a scare crow with a few flapping plastic bags tied to them to give additional noise and flutter... good luck!

1/29/2009 10:14:57 AM

"Free-range" is a loosely defined term, and usually means the birds are allowed to range throughout a large area daily. A modified system that keeps the birds protected in movable pens is usually referred to as "pastured" production. Either way, your birds will be happier and your eggs will be more nutritious than if the hens are kept confined in a small run. The tradeoff is that the free-range or pastured hens are not as safe from predators. Whatever system you use, you will need to feed your birds some grain if you want them to lay a good supply of eggs for as long as possible. Humans have bred chickens to lay far more eggs than they would do in "natural" conditions. Free-range birds do gets lots of food from weed seeds, insects, worms, etc., but most people choose to also feed them some grain.

1/27/2009 6:48:42 PM

Alexis, I have a similar question. We have 4 hens right now. B/C we live in Fox territory, we only let them roam the backyard while we are home. Their run is about 8x4. I supplement with table scraps and chicken feed. Free Range???? I don't know! We are expanding our flock to 12-15 this spring and will be building both a permanent run that is about 20x12, and a portable pen that I can move about our urban yard for a little variety. Anyone with thoughts on if the new run will be big enough for these chicks? I'd love to not have to supplement with anything but scraps, but I don't know if it is possible in an urban setting. MaryBeth

martin weiss
1/23/2009 1:07:12 AM

In the Cascade Mts. of Oregon, on the McKenzie River, we bought five chickens @ 50 cents ea. Since our house sat on a steep bank, we built an enclosure for them and confined them under the house. Result: a few eggs, no chicks. Then we let 'em roam. Once or twice a week one would get run over, or get eaten by unseen predators, but they rapidly grew in number anyway, as we fed them commercial chicken feed. Ranging freely, they laid many more eggs and then we had 45 chickens. And we got rid of the ants. They loved the wild plants' tender shoots but never bothered the brambles of blackberry. At night they all roosted in the branches of a tree overhanging our deck. Poor chickens. They slept in a row and we could pick up one as the rest slept on. No wonder the dinosaurs disappeared. When we finally sold all of them, we came out even on the feed cost @ 50 cents each.

1/21/2009 10:43:05 PM

I live in a very suburban suburb of Portland OR, but not on acreage. I have 3 barred rock hens and I let them run loose in the backyard almost every day, but I also supplement what they find in the yard with regular chicken feed and oyster shell. Does this mean they technically are not free range? (They've done a beautiful job of cultivating my poppy bed; I'm just afraid the poppies won't come up in the spring because they might have eaten all the seeds. Guess those girls won't pass their drug test. ;-) Alexis

walter j smith
1/21/2009 9:08:14 AM

I raised and kept laying hens, most aracaunas but some barred rocks and Rhode Island Reds, in central, coastal California, for 25 years. Hawks ate my young chicks there until I saw them actually doing it, because I stuck to the idea it wasn't happening. When I controlled the time the chickens were exposed, and also covered an area so they could be outside without exposure, the hawks left. Up here in northeast Oregon we have many more hawks, eagles, and other predatory birds,as well as more feral house cats and dogs. Free range feeding is still possible but requires closer supervision. Given the very important role predatory wild birds and wild (not feral) animals play in recovering healthy ecological cultures, the pursuit of unrestrained free range chicken feeding may, if we succeed ecologicaly, prove illusory. We should welcome the illusion's fizzle.

1/21/2009 8:50:16 AM

We currently have 35 chickens out and about during the day with our border collie/pyrenees cross on patrol and we shut their door at night. When the garden plants are young and too delicious to the chickens, we put them in a hoop house made from two cattle panels over a steel frame base that has wheels that rotate down to lift the hoop house up when we want to move it. We covered the lower three feet with chicken wire and keep the top covered with a tarp. If needed for winter use, we put a large tarp all the way to the ground--it's not at all perfect trying to get the tarp tight with the rounded hoop to cover, but it's protection from the wind and blowing rain or snow. In summertime use, they get plenty of sunshine with the bottom area open, but can find some shade when needed. It is great to not have a chicken house to clean out and when moved once or twice daily, the chickens have fresh pickings and the pasture gets fertilizer. We're on our second "design" trial and still have problems to fix--mostly with the wheel mechanism--we're not engineers. We've had to hang the waterer as it's our land isn't very flat and the waterer needs to be level to work properly. The rain also gets the chicken feed wet, so though the feeder will hold enough for several days, I only put in enough for a day. We don't have any rhyme or reason to our winters anymore. This year we haven't had much snow or ice and so we've been able to move the hoop house most days. Last year, it got so mired down in snow and ice that it was unmoveable for months--what a mess. Actually, right now the hoop house is home to 26 guineas that wouldn't stay out of the road. I do have an electric chord run to my old chicken house to heat the water in frigid weather and I confess that I prefer to have the chickens in the "real" house and running out during the day--but when needed, these hoop houses have worked well for us. There is quite a d

1/3/2009 10:33:46 PM

You can pasture your chickens in small movable pens. Mine are 12' x 12' x 6'6" high, open top. Although I have seen hawks around, to my knowledge I have not lost any to hawks. Just neighborhood dogs. My understanding is that in a pen that size, hawks can't get enough rise to fly out should they get in. The pens are rotated through the pasture behind my goats and calf which are also in movable pens. That way they don't devastate the vegetation. Ron

ernst - diversity farms
12/17/2008 5:29:22 PM

Hawks and other predators: Since we have a Border Collie, our losses are very small and our dog has a real job. He watches the sky and the land all the time. Of course the chickens are in the safe barn after dark.

ernst - diversity farms
12/17/2008 5:23:38 PM

You'll never get real free range eggs in the stores! The reason is simple: Chickens are quite destructive. They scratch and destroy the vegetation in a very short time. To be sustainable you can only have a few chickens at a time. We now have 100 and it reaches the limit. The pressure on the environment is too high. We are not allowed to sell on Farmer's Markets or to other retailers, since we did not buy expensive Egg Marketing Quota. We are allowed only to sell at the farm gate. If we had more chickens we'd lose the vegetation, or we would fake "free range" in a dirt run. You can get real free range only from the small guys on the farm gate. Ours is at 2572 Vandorf Road, Gormley, ON, Canada. 905-751-1323 - come and pick up the real eggs, if you are close by.

11/6/2008 3:09:07 PM

Hawks are a tough problem. We lose a few chickens a year to them. Do your birds have cover of any kind? Bushes? Picnic tables? If they have nearby cover to run under sometimes that seems to help. Also, we find that some chickens are much more attuned to flying predators and so we seem to lose fewer chickens as the season goes on, but if you start with only 12...

karen n.
11/6/2008 12:31:01 PM

We are new to the free-range chicken world, and had 12 chickens that were very happily ranging about the yard. The eggs were delicious! I say "had" 12 chickens, because a hawk has recently killed two of our chickens (one was one of my best layers) over two consecutive days. Now the 10 remaining are not-so-happily fenced in. Does anyone have any helpful hints about flying predators? Or do we just have to expect either to pen our chickens in or have some lost to predators once in a while? Any comments are appreciated!

marie devine_2
10/24/2008 12:43:31 PM

Dr. D.C.Jarvis wrote Arthritis and Folk Medicie in 1960. There is much similarity in man and animals and he found that the way we are commercially feeding our animals changes the ph of our blood making us victim of many diseases. It prevents the absorbing of calcium into our bones and deposits instead into our organs and veins. He uses the apple cider vinegar and honey drink (2teaspoons each mixed first then add one cup of water at 3 meals or during the day)to change that and pull the calcium out of the organs and veins and deposits it into the bones to make them strong. Check out the paper-back book; I'm sure it will back up your findings and show how to avoid bird flu (with vinegar for the birds.)(It works on cattle too.)

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