Winter is a time to slow down and reflect. For our partner farmers, Winter also means taking care of their animals and managing the short days and cold, snowy months of the year. Farmers who raise egg laying hens experience a slow down in egg production during the cold. However, Walden partner farmers’ hens still lay eggs with strong shells, thick whites, and rich yolks - all through the winter! No easy feat.
Cold weather certainly is a factor — especially in the Northeast — but it’s the decreasing amount of daylight hours that has the biggest impact on egg production. A chicken will start laying eggs when there are about 14 hours of daylight and will continue until the days begin to shorten again.
Chickens getting their share of the freshly fallen snow at Hugo and Amanda’s farm in North Hero, Vermont.
Pasture-based farmers brighten the shortened days of the winter months by increasing the amount of sunlight in the chicken coops — taking advantage of what’s provided naturally. “On sunny days in late February and March I’ll leave the large barn doors open so they can go out and peck at the snow and stretch out in the sun,” said partner farmer Hugo Gervais of North Hero, Vermont. “I’m looking to build two covered areas with a translucent cover for natural light that the hens could access in the winter.”
When there aren’t enough hours of sunlight to stimulate production, many farmers will add a soft white light to the hen houses, setting to a timer to replicate sunrise and sunset. The extended periods of light stimulates the impulse to lay eggs. This is done carefully, as our partner farmers know that, just as it is important to replicate sunlight hours, it’s equally essential for chickens to get ample rest.
As a result, the eggs maintain thick whites that don’t spread when cracked into a pan. They also have the same rich, nutrition-packed yolks (though you may notice paler yokes in winter pasture-raised eggs due to less fresh vegetation and sunlight). Pasture-raised eggs have as much as twice the vitamin E and long-chain omega 3 fats, and 38 percent more vitamin A, according to a study comparing pastured and commercial egg nutritional content conducted by Penn State University in 2010. You can enjoy our partner farmer’s eggs by adding them as a recurring add-on to your monthly share. We think you’ll see and taste the difference.
Under the watchful care of our partner farmers, our laying hens live happier, healthier lives year round, free from physical alterations and other inhumane conditions such as overcrowded coops. Happy, healthy animals that are treated with respect produce better tasting food with more nutrients - and that’s what Walden Local is all about.
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