The Delaware chicken was the favorite meat bird for the east coast poultry industry until the 1950’s, when the Cornish Cross began to dominate the meat chicken industry. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy now considers the Delaware breed “Threatened”.
We like the Delaware for its calm disposition, the huge brown eggs it lays, it’s thriftiness, and the excellent manure it creates! We are taking the unusual step of maintaining a breeding flock and growing our own replacement birds, in order to help keep this wonderful breed in existence.
Our chickens eat all-organic egg-mash and corn, and scratch around on certified organic land and our eggs are certified Animal Welfare Approved (AWA). The Human Society of the United States states the following: Animal Welfare Approved: The highest animal welfare standards of any third-party auditing program. The birds are cage-free and continuous outdoor perching access is required. They must be able to perform natural behaviors such as nesting, perching and dust bathing. There are requirements for stocking density, perching, space and nesting boxes. Birds must be allowed to molt naturally. Beak cutting is prohibited. Animal Welfare Approved is a program of the Animal Welfare Institute. They also mention that organic certification ALLOWS beak trimming as well as force molting through starvation. These does not mean all organic egg farms do this but that there is no guarantee that they do not. At Seven Songs Organic Farm we follow the AWA standards which can be found here: http://animalwelfareapproved.org/standards/layinghens-2015/
Since Delawares are so rare we have a few other chickens to fill in on egg duty while we build our flock. We write on each egg the date it was laid so you know how fresh each egg is!
Our initial goal is to have a flock of 60 hens (and a few roosters) but it will most likely take a number of years to build up to that goal. This is fine because as we scale up slowly we learn how to adjust our systems to the larger amount of birds, and the care they need.
Here are a few fun facts about our delicious eggs:
- Most of the eggs are brown because they come from a breed of chicken that lays brown eggs. The main breed we have is called the Delaware. We have a few bantam hens (that lay tan-colored eggs) which add up to a variety of egg colors.
- The eggs are different sizes! Yup, currently we do not grade our eggs. So you get the “starter” eggs laid by young hens, along with the larger eggs laid by our mature hens. The bantams are smaller hens and they lay smaller eggs.
- Each egg is dated with the day the egg was laid. We think you ought to know exactly how fresh your eggs are and in a small operation like ours we don’t have dozens and dozens that are laid each day, so we don’t mark the whole dozen as laid on one day – because often they aren’t! All eggs are good for a few weeks unrefrigerated. If you choose to refrigerate your eggs they should last from 6-8 weeks. Most eggs you buy at the store are at least 1 week old already (often they are older).
- Our eggs have dark orange yolks and a good true egg flavor. We recommend that you cook them the way you like to cook eggs. They are AMAZINGLY GOOD! The yolks are a result of the dark leafy greens the chickens eat in summer, and the vegetable scraps and pumpkins they eat all winter. Chickens who just eat grains and minerals and seldom are allowed to venture outside lay eggs with very light yellow yolks.
- The chickens who lay the eggs at Seven Songs Farm are a Heritage breed called The Delaware. They were very common in the early 20th century and were a breed that was raised primarily for meat….but they also happen to lay a large number of large brown eggs. They are currently on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy “threatened” list which means there are “fewer than 1,000 breeding birds in the United States, with seven or fewer primary breeding flocks, and estimated global population less than 5,000.” (American Livestock Breeds Conservancy website). Our aim is to cultivate a strong breeding flock and to help save this breed! We like them because they are VERY hardy, and they adore foraging in the pasture and eating organic gardening scraps. We currently have 15 hens and three roosters.
They look like this:
- The Delaware’s eat an all organic “egg-laying mash” made from certified organic grains, and certified organic-approved minerals, balanced specifically for chickens from a company called Fertrell. The chickens are free to roam in a large fenced-in pasture area, and they do! They spend most of every spring, summer and fall day outside and they spend most winter days venturing out at least a few times, unless the weather is very cold and windy (like -20F, 25mph winds), then they are kept in.
- We keep roosters because we are breeding and hatching our own replacement flock. Most small egg operations order new chicks each year from a hatchery, and therefor they do not need roosters, or fertilized eggs. There is no way to know the sex of a chicken egg, so when hatcheries incubate and hatch eggs, about 50% of the chicks will be male. Since most people like to order sexed chicks, and they specifically request either all female chickens or mostly female with one or two male birds – most male chicks are killed as day-olds (one method is to pile them in a garbage bag and seal the top causing suffocation). At Seven Songs Farm we do it differently. When we order day-old chicks we order what is called a “straight-run”. So all the chicks are sent to us “unsexed”. We raise all of the chicks with plenty of warmth early (when they need it), good clean water, and organic food. They are encouraged to go outside from a few weeks of age and they ADORE it, scratching and searching for insects and seeds instinctually. When they all grow up we pick out the best roosters to breed, and then we butcher the rest at a small, local on-farm slaughtering plant. This way the roosters get a good life and we benefit from their meat.
- As mentioned earlier, the main goal of keeping some roosters is to breed our own replacement flock by hatching them under willing (we call them “broody”) hens. We have started that this spring (2013) and have three hens that have hatched a total of 10 chicks. This method is the most natural: the hens provide warmth, and teach the chicks everything they need to know about the world – how to stay safe, find food, find water, and the laws of the “pecking order”. We provide the hen a safe place to hatch and brood her chicks, and the food and water she and the chicks need, but she does the hard work – that comes naturally to her!
- You might notice that once in a while there is a blood spot inside an egg. This is the result of a small vessel breaking inside the oviduct of the hen as she forms the egg. Contrary to popular belief, these little blood spots do not indicate that an egg is fertilized. Fertilized eggs look just like unfertilized eggs inside and out. Eggs with blood spots are perfectly fine to eat but if you do not want to eat the egg and would like a replacement egg, or a refund for that egg credited to your next dozen, please contact Melissa (chicken wrangler) at 507-789-8868, and she will credit your account.
- Sometimes people ask us how a chicken can lay an egg without a rooster. Well, it is analogous to people, except a bit speedier. Human females produce one egg each month. Sometimes it is fertilized and sometimes it isn’t, but it is still produced. Same with chickens - EXCEPT for them it is about once a day (or every other day- depending on breed, time of year, feed, etc.). So roosters are NOT NEEDED for hens to lay eggs and many commercial egg “factories”, as well as small flock owners avoid the hassle and expense of a rooster. We don’t really know what chickens think, but it does appear that our flocks of hens like having a few roosters around. Roosters are very good at looking out for and warning the flock of danger, and they will call hens to choice pieces of food they have found with a distinctive call and a behavior that involves repeatedly picking the food up and dropping it. This and all other chicken behavior is fun to watch. They are entertaining!
Thanks for buying our eggs! If there is anything we can do to improve your egg enjoyment, please tell us.
(We do sell Delaware hatching eggs as well as those yummy eggs to eat)
Seven Songs Farm
46544 70th Ave.
Kenyon, MN 55946