What’s better than farm fresh eggs, with bright orange yolks, on toast with homemade butter? Pretty much nothing.
These days, I can’t even compare my hens’ eggs to grocery store eggs. My hens produce wonderful, better tasting eggs with golden/orange yolks that have an incomparable taste (at least compared to grocery eggs).
When I look at one of my eggs, I see the chickens foraging in the sunshine, engaging in their own chicken politics, and gobbling up the treats I leave for them. There’s a lot of satisfaction in those eggs.
Since my last post, I’ve received questions about whether different colored eggs taste different and my secrets to feeding for those coveted golden yolks. Well, we’ve run LOTS of tests on our farm with our chickens – and we figured out what helped our chickens lay better eggs!
Step 1: A high protein diet
The foundation of that diet is the wheat grass fodder I grow. Wheat grass is very high in protein, and protein is key to healthy chickens and better tasting eggs. You can also use barley, but I use wheat because barley isn’t available in the quantities I need in my area, and I try to support local businesses.
I explain how to grow fodder in my How to Grow Fodder and Why You Should guide. They love eating the grass, and scratching through the remaining seeds to get at the roots! I use these Non-GMO seeds here to grow fodder. It’s easy!
I also add alfalfa and grass hay, especially in winter. Who doesn’t love reminders of summer when you’re trapped inside? The alfalfa and hay add protein and they get to scratch through it to get to other tasty bits of their dinner. I’ve also found that kelp and nori add protein, and my hens love it.
Step 2: Fiber and Herbs
Along with the wheat grass, I add oatmeal, alfalfa, garlic (fresh or powdered), and dried oregano to my chicken’s feed. You can find those herbs in this non-GMO product I love.
The oatmeal provides fiber in an easy to break down form. Recent studies have shown that garlic and oregano have antibiotic properties, and help keep hens healthy and disease-free.
In fact, some large egg operations have been able to eliminate antibiotics completely from their hens’ diets after adding oregano and garlic to their feed. They claim their hens have never been healthier. Chicken farmers in Italy have long touted that for better tasting eggs, a forage-based diet is the secret to golden yolks (calendula helps also!). I’ll take it.
Step 3: Fresh foods
I don’t use a set recipe. I just sprinkle and mix. I also add kitchen scraps, as well as fresh veggies like cabbage, tomatoes (which they can pick through), etc. Since it’s winter and their water keeps freezing, the fresh veggies help them stay hydrated in addition to giving me better tasting eggs.
In warmer weather, I add weeds I pull from the garden, grass clippings, fallen fruit, etc to their diet. And they give me great tasting, golden yolked eggs. And a bonus? The garlic keeps the coop smelling nice!
This spring, I’m also going to add a mealworm farm to the homestead, specifically for the hens. I think they will love the added protein and “hunting” their own bugs (especially since, thanks to neighbor dogs, I can’t let them free range anymore). Black soldier fly larvae are also a good option. They have a lot of calcium in them. You can learn to more about them here or buy some dried ones for your hens at a good price here. For yolks that look like lovely balls of sunshine, I think the most important thing is happy hens that have a diet high in protein.
Want to read more? Check out this article by the University of Colorado!
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.