Spring is moving along nicely, our crops are all in and with that task done comes… more work! Like most egg farms in Ontario, we keep each flock of chickens for only one year at a time. The reason for this is mainly because as a hen ages, the shell quality of the eggs that she lays decreases. By the time the year period is over, the egg shells are very fragile which means the eggs are not strong enough to put into cartons and ship to the grocery store, so they are typically sent to a breaking plant to go into commercial use. The fragile shells also mean quite a bit more cracks and more mess for farmers to clean up every day at the end of gathering.
The transition between our flocks is a week long process. Once the chickens go out with the help of a catching crew, we must clean the barn very thoroughly. On the first day we pressure wash the whole barn in order to remove any dirt. This means I get to spend the day in a rain suit which, as they only come in large men’s sizes in our small town Canadian Tire store, means that I am actually wearing a rain dress and trying not to trip over my too long of rain pants while I wash everything. We wash the cages, the walls, the ceilings, the belts, the escalators, the fans, and everything else you can imagine.
The next day, once everything has dried, I get into a clean rain dress, this time to disinfect the barn. This ensures that everything is clean and bio-secure for the incoming flock. The rest of the week the barn is left alone to let the disinfectant work and to let everything fully dry before turning on equipment again and receiving the new flock. This week is a mandatory time period set up by the Egg Board (a provincial and national group that helps regulate egg farmers) in order to ensure bio-security remains tight. This 5 day period with no eggs to gather is my family’s “vacation”. We were able to spend these few days finishing up other work on the farm that had been put on hold during cropping. This year it included splitting wood, planting our garden, outdoor clean-up and various other jobs.
Then early one morning in comes the new flock who, at 19 weeks of age, are ready to start laying and I get to go back to being an egg farmer for another year.