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 150 birds go where they like all over a 15-acre pasture and woodland (which means we have a 10 bird/acre average!). At night the chickens live in a “chicken tractor”, where they also lay their eggs, and the ducks either sleep in the barn or on its roof. But from dawn to dusk they 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 snag a bit of rolled barley or wheat when we feed our pigs (with whom they share the field) but foraged food is the bulk of their diet. For their safety, the birds are guarded by several roosters and by our two flock-guardian Maremma dogs, Romulus and Remus. 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 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 13 at last count), although Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons and Barred Rocks (Plymouth Rocks) dominate. Although the ducks look just as varied, there are only actually two types on our farm – drab-brown Khaki Campbell runner ducks and Muscovy ducks (who provide all the other color variations, from white to grey or brown spotted, to black with iridescent green wings). You can see the chicken tractor in the field and might be able to glimpse the duck houses up by the orchard.
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 $8/dozen and our duck eggs at $10/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.