CSU, Chico News

Good Egg News from the University Farm

Date: 09-09-2010

Kathleen McPartland
Breanna Roque
Student Manager,
Pastured Poultry Project

With lots of attention on eggs because of the unprecedented recall of large scale, commercially produced eggs nationwide, the Pastured Poultry Project at the University Farm, California State University, Chico offers consumers interested in free-range hens and their eggs some good news.

The Pastured Poultry Project began in March with Australorp baby chicks (also known as the Black Star Chicken). The project will gather information about raising free-range chickens and their impact on reducing fly larvae and to provide experience for agricultural students in the practical and business aspects of a laying hen project.

Students Breanna Roque and Kelsey Maben manage the project, which includes watering and feeding chickens, washing eggs and keeping track of the business side of the project. Other agriculture majors can receive units for helping with the project.

“The Australorp chickens that we have are not only good for laying, but they are also well known in the Hmong community as meat birds,” said Roque. “They have black feathers, which naturally means they lay brown eggs. The color of an egg depends on the color of the chicken.”

The chickens currently reside with the beef cattle and rotate pastures with the beef cows to keep the chickens safe from predators. Roque said that they saw a coyote nearby during the summer.

“We chose to conduct a free range poultry unit for multiple reasons,” said Roque. “Chickens provide natural pest control, especially for fly larvae. Also, being kept on pastured land means they eat more grass and intake more nutrients such as Omega-3 that are healthy for their digestive system as well as their eggs.”

The project managers recently petitioned to purchase an egg washer to cut costs and increase efficiency and sustainability within the project.

“Our farm-fresh eggs will bring in customers as well as increase public interest in the Chico State farm,” said Roque. “Many people like buying locally grown and harvested products. In addition to eggs, the farm offers different foods such as meats and fresh produce.”

The 100 hens have begun to lay between three and four dozen eggs a day, and the number will increase with the maturity of the hens. The eggs are sold at the University Farm office and the Meats Lab. The students plan to take the eggs to the campus farmer’s market held every Wednesday.

For more information about the eggs or the project, call the University Farm office at (530) 898-6343.