Since “free range” is so often a misused term (like many others in the egg business) we describe our chickens and ducks as free-foraging, to help our customers better understand how they live. Our approximately 200 birds go where they like all over a large pasture-woodland area that we fence in with flexible electric netting that we can move regularly. At night the chickens live in a “chicken tractor”, where they also lay their eggs; the ducks sleep underneath. But from dawn to dusk the birds are out and roaming their turf! Our birds enjoy what they can forage from the pasture, which includes not only grass and greens, but grasshoppers, slugs, worms, flies and other small insects. They also find seasonal treats, such as fallen apples and blackberries, and grass-seed heads, not to mention the weeds or overgrown produce we give them from our garden. The birds’ foraged food supplemented as they need with a legume mix to give them enough protein, and we often give them leftover milk from the dairy. For their safety, the birds are guarded by several roosters and our three flock-guardian Maremma dogs. We also own nearly a dozen Pilgrim geese who serve as guardians as well – more attuned to the predators from the sky (such as a bald eagle family that nests in our woods) than the dogs. With all that forage and protection, these are some of the happiest, healthiest creatures you will ever meet, and happy birds lay delicious eggs!
If you want to see for yourself how our chickens and ducks live, you can often view them in their habitat by hiking through our farm between miles 4 and 4.75 on the Banks-Vernonia State trail, just north of the Manning trailhead parking lot. You will see that we have many different breeds of chickens (about 10-12 at last count), although Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks (Plymouth Rocks) dominate. Although the ducks look just as varied, they are largely Muscovy ducks (who naturally have lots of color variations, from white to grey or brown-spotted, to black with iridescent green wings). We do own a few other kinds of ducks, like Rouens.
We sell our eggs at the farm directly and at the Orenco Station Hillsboro Farmers’ Market on Sundays during the market season. Currently our chicken eggs are priced at $9/dozen and our duck eggs at $11/dozen. If that price seems much higher than you are used to paying for eggs, realize that we are selling a quite different product: these birds are ethically raised, very healthy, always on an expansive pasture, and eating fresh greens. Check what natural food stores want for their bare equivalent, and recognize that in this case you even can meet the producers, and know that their eggs are always less than one week old (because we sell out every week). And please read more about the nutritional benefits of quality eggs – you get what you pay for! Our chef and baking friends also rave about the culinary advantages of fresh, farm eggs – from richer-colored quiches and crepes to higher volume in their egg-white meringues and Angel-food cakes.