We have been selling eggs as a business add-on to the dairy, for about 4 years. I've been raising them for fun and myself for decades. Our hens are from various breeds. Mostly heritage breeds, though I do have a few leghorns remaining from my very first hens. Dominiques, Langshan, Black Astralorp, Jersey Giant, Auracauna's, Americana's, Rhode Island Red, Copper Black Marans, Buff Orphington's. They're all so different that it makes caring for them so cool. I love the variety in their personalities, what they lay, and the breed standards.
There are 40 laying hens. 10 more on their way to start laying. 10 of the 40 are over 3 years old, they don't lay every day. They only lay consistently in their youth. The window of them laying everyday is about 2 years. They start laying at 5 months. Some of the rare breeds 7 or 8 months. I've still not seen an egg from my 6 month old Buff's or Copper Maran's. Oh well.
All hens are truly free range. We don't lock them up at night. Thatcher, my GR. Pyrenees keeps them all safe. He's out there right now barking at something. He sleeps with the goats, the hens roost in the barn eaves above, or in their coop, door open. Because they aren't locked up they truly are free range. I do feed them in the mornings- an egg layer mash. Its high in calcium. Other then that its what they find thru the day. Winter months there is less forage, therefore less eggs. Summer months they're fed less and forage more. Sometimes i give them their shells back to them. They get treats periodically. They are little dinosaurs. They will eat anything!
Eggs are gathered in the mornings at 8 am and then again 8 pm. I try to pick them up before the crows come and steal them. If I get to the eggs before the crows, an easy 2 dozen a day... If the egg is too big for the crow to carry off they eat it right there. They are brazen. 40 hens does not equal 40 eggs. I've never collected in one day more then 30 eggs. And that is a rarity. It's just one of those things about the heritage breeds.
Once collected they're brought into the house and put straight into the cartons. Eggs are not washed. There is a natural coating the hen puts on the egg called the 'bloom' or its also called the 'cuticle'. It will keep out the moisture and any bacteria. This is why I will not wash eggs. They stay fresh longer if you don't. Once washed they must be put in the fridge. And the countdown begins. An egg not washed can last a month on the counter. A washed egg in the fridge starts going bad within a week or two. Don't wash the eggs till you are ready to use. And there is no need to refrigerate. It's your option. But this is how they leave here. Once in the fridge they can sweat when taken out. Wash immediately.
Hens lay all types of colors, and sized eggs. They can range from giant grade A sized to small brown. I've found that the yolk is always the same size. Sometimes the color of the yolk changes from hen to hen, and breed to breed. I'm not convinced that what you feed is why they're so orange in color. I think its within the breed, health, age, and then what they eat. I don't feed any yellow foods, like corn, cornmeal, or anything that would create this increase in color. Its all the hen. The Americana hen I have here lays beautiful blue/green eggs, her yolks are consistently less orange then for example my buff colored hens who lay buff colored shells. They all forage the same. Eat the same. I think its genetic.
You might also notice the egg yolk will sit tight in the 'egg white' when first cracked. Another sign its a fresh newly laid egg.
The shell of the egg comes in all kinds of colors. Brown, white, yellow, buff, brown, speckled, blue, green, pink, olive, army green. It really is amazing what each breed can do. There is no difference in quality based on the outside color of the egg. The shell is thicker then store bought. In the beginning I had a bit of a learning curve to crack them a bit harder, and not end up having to scramble them all the time.
It is always, recommended to crack each egg in a bowl before putting all together. There are hens that are new and learning to lay, older that don't lay much. There are roosters on the property. All eggs are collected daily but reality is mistakes can happen. Oddities do happen. And there just might be one day, you'll crack an odd one....This is real. Its life. Because they are so fresh sometimes people think the chalazae is an embryo. Its the rope that holds the yolk. It will disappear at day 2. If you find this fuzzy opaque string coming from the yolk, it means that egg was that mornings or yesterdays lay. The embryo will not start to form in any fertilized egg for at least 2 days under consistent 90˚ temperatures. But oddities have and do happen. Crack eggs in a separate bowl.
Egg cartons can get expensive. Always save and return cartons. Paper only. The styrofoam type cartons are undesirable for the environment. They don't break down easy. For markets they can't be used. If they have writing on it, can't be used.
The best thing about all this is raising them. I love each one though don't name them all any longer. Only the ones that sneak in the house and decide they would rather be house pets. Like these three below.
A good article to read more about not refrigerating eggs:
Good site that shows the egg parts: