Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
The first products we will have for sale this Spring/summer is eggs. We will have around 100 laying hens -- 20 Have some where in the realm of 50 dozen eggs per week.
For people who have dealt with similar amounts of eggs, what tips do you have as far as collection / cleaning / storage?
Some things we've learned:
Get a strong basket! Like a milk crate with a handle.
Collect eggs twice a day when temps are over 85, otherwise once a day is fine.
Close the nest boxes EVERY night. Otherwise the chickens will sleep in there and make a mess of the boxes.
If rain can get in the boxes, then wet straw will stain the eggs and wet shavings are a pain to wash up, but these pads were a good investment and easy to pressure wash clean: http://www.randallBurkey.com/Plastic-Nest-Pad-For-Standard-Nest-Box...
I found that if we did this, then there were only about 5 eggs a day that were really dirty. Most we just pack up, but then we spot clean dirty ones with a warm wash cloth. Use a new cloth each day at least. Oh, and we make sure to clean them as soon as we collect them because if they go in the fridge and then you take them out to clean then they sweat and this isn't good. We purchase discounted egg cartons that were misprinted and order address labels with our farm info to put on the carton. Then just date stamp each one.
Daisy, so how do you market and sell your eggs? Do you put a sign out in front of your farm or do you sell to local restaurants, etc? Thanks.
We do pretty much what Daisy said as far as collecting and washing go. We don't really market our eggs, our customers are friends and neighbors and we have no problem selling what we have. We've never had to buy egg cartons, most customers return them and we reuse them as long as they are clean. You should check and see if your state has regulations for egg sales. Are you planning to use supplemental light? We don't, and our 55 hens are giving us only 6 eggs per day right now.
We sell through farmer's markets, to restaurants, and also directly to customers who have bought meat from us in the past. Most of the marketing is seeking out restaurants directly and starting a relationship.
Be sure you are complying with your state egg regs.
We've got about 450 hens (a couple photos here on the backyard chickens group).
I got these trays this year, and have found them very useful. We collect on the trays, and then run a sink of water with a natural detergent and just set the trays in. Depending on the time of year and the weather conditions, its just a mild rinse at that point, but in winter now we do have a bit more scrubbing. Certainly the best policy is to keep the eggs clean from the get-go. We certainly don't always succeed in that, and I'm always looking for better ways to keep them from getting dirty. I'm considering buying or building 'roll-out' style boxes--specifically a type where the eggs roll out the back and can't be stepped on. I'd love to hear from anyone that has had success with this type of box.
I've been getting cartons from The Egg Carton Store, they have the cheapest price that I have come across (short of buying cartons by the thousands).
We sell the largest quantities at our local farmer's market--which is also where we can get the best price ($3.50 reg, $4.00 lrg, $4.50 X-lrg). Our market only runs from May-Oct, so we have printed on the label the times people can come to the farm to pick them up. So we have people come to the farm year around, but we make sure to remind everyone that buys from us at the market that they can keep getting our eggs at our farm when the market closes.
While we don't have enough eggs that we have been interested in selling them in a grocery store, we do sell them at a specialty cooking store. They like that it brings more people in their store, and some of our customers like being able to pick them up in town instead of at the farm. They take about a 20% commission...I'd like to lower that in the future, but so far it has been worth it for the amount of eggs they move.
Having a website and facebook page is a great way for customers to find you, and a great way to show lots of good pictures of your operation. It is of course important to set yourself apart from what customers can find at the grocery store. So for our operation we focus our advertising on the fact that our hens are pastured and free range, have a great happy life, and produce more nutritional eggs (citing actual studies).
We add light through the winter to keep production up. Some farms argue that this is one of the unnatural things that the commercial egg producers do as it is more natural for hens to get a break through the winter. I just argue that I'm trying to replicate the very happy conditions of hens that live near the equator. ;) The biggest thing is just that looking at my numbers, we don't make enough through the summer to cover loosing money during the winter. And customers are more than happy to buy year around.