At Travaasa Experiential Resorts we are feeling very proud this month. The new farm is filling out everyday, and our once baby chicks have grown into pullet hens. In December, we became the caretakers of about one hundred newly hatched chicks of five different varieties. We have watched them grow each week, and they have become quite accustomed to the spacious chicken coop and chicken run down on the Travaasa Farm.
At 22 weeks old our chickens have begun to lay what are considered “pullet eggs”. A chicken is technically a pullet until she is a year old, then she is considered a hen. These pullet eggs are beautiful and the different varieties of hens are laying different colored eggs from white to pale blue and green to cream to rich browns with hints of pinks, yellows and the occasional speckled egg. Compared to grocery store standards early pullet eggs are miniature looking. Occasionally, the eggs are funny shapes because it takes a little bit of time for the maturing hen’s bodies to adjust to laying eggs. As the hens continue to mature, the eggs will become more consistent and larger. In a few weeks we expect to be gathering between six to eight dozen a day. This should be more than enough eggs to supply our chef, Ben Baker with eggs he needs to craft delicate dishes for our restaurant.
If you are culinary inclined then you may understand why fresh pasture raised eggs are in such high demand. Chickens love to eat bugs and occasionally small animals like lizards. This source of protein and fat is important to a chickens diet, and you can tell a lot about the quality of the hen’s diet and life based on the characteristics of her eggs’ yolk.
A deep orange/yellow yolk indicates the chickens have been able to eat bugs, which provide the egg with a higher ratio of omega 3 fats in proportion to omega 6 fats. This means the eggs are better for you. A fresh egg’s white will be very close to the yolk when you crack it open and the yolk will appear to stand up on top of the white as opposed to flattening out. Fresh eggs with deep orange yolks are prized for baking and good chefs seek them out.
All of our eggs are “fertile” because we have several roosters in with the hens. The roosters help protect the flock from predators and see to it that the hens go to roost at the end of the day. Many people prefer the taste of fertilized eggs to unfertilized eggs. These eggs will look the same when you crack one open. You could hatch these eggs if you got one of the hens to sit on the eggs to brood them. However, by collecting our eggs daily none of the eggs will have the opportunity to hatch any chicks. We are planning to let our pullet hens turn to year old hens, and then we will reassess if Travaasa would like to hatch some new baby chicks to add to our flock.
The egg quality of life and health of our hens is a top priority at Travaasa. We are raising our hens with ample space in their coop and run, plenty of bugs to forage for, fresh greens from our kitchen, and access to our horse pasture. Additionally, we provide certified organic and soy free feed for our chickens made by Coyote Creek feed mill just outside of Austin. If you are planning to visit Travaasa anytime soon check out our chicken keeper class to learn more about how to raise and care for chickens.