Eggciting facts!

Before I worked on a farm, eggs were not something that registered on my happiness radar. At all. But as this blog is all about finding happiness hiding places, I am eggstatic that I have found a new one! Collecting and processing eggs is a big part of our job on the farm and I have been as porous as an egg shell soaking up eggy facts so I thought I would share my learning with you all (aren’t you lucky!).

chickens

Different breeds of chicken do different jobs – our egg layers are Rhode Island Reds which you can see on the left of the picture. Our table chickens (think about it…) are White Leghorns which you can see on the right of the picture. We give them different food to help them do their job and as I am sure you can imagine we keep one a lot longer than the other…..Unlike ‘Chicken Run’ (which is where all of my pre-farm chicken and egg knowledge came from), the chickens do not have their own nest boxes so we have no idea who has laid which eggs. Instead we just keep all of the egg layers for their whole lives πŸ™‚ Also, contrary to ‘Chicken Run’, chickens lay a maximum of one egg per day so there is no competition, no solitary confinement and no chicken pies!
egg grader

When we have collected the eggs in the morning, we sort them in to those that have a perfect shell and those that are a bit crinkly. The crinkly shelled eggs are used in our cafe and pub while the perfect eggs are sold in the shop. The eggs are graded in to small, medium, large and eggstra large based on their weight and we use a grading machine to help us do this. I LOVE using this machine so much – it is so relaxing watching the eggs roll down the different lanes! All of the eggs have a 28 day ‘best before’ date – next time you’re in the supermarket have a look at the ‘best before’ date and it will give you an idea of how old they are!

extra large

A large egg (right) compared to the beast of an egg I found (left)

One day I found this whopper of an egg – that was one brave chicken!!

pullet

A large egg (left) compared to a pullet egg (right)

pullet eggs

I can hold 4 pullet eggs in my hand!

A chicken starts laying eggs when it is around 16 weeks old. Their first eggs are called pullet eggs and they are about a third of the size that they will be when they are fully grown. These eggs are too light to be graded as ‘small’ so on a lot of farms they go to waste. Luckily we are able to use them in the cafe and the pub and we use them for cooking activities in Rural Care – they are very tasty!

bantam

A large egg (left) compared to a bantam egg (right)

There is such a thing as ‘bantam’ chickens – they are like the bonsais of the chicken world! They are very cute, smaller versions of regular sized chickens and they lay equally cute, smaller versions of eggs!

olive

One of our chickens lays olive green eggs – this is because she is a cross-breed of a brown egg layer and a blue egg layer!

I absolutely love learning new things and learning all about the eggs on our farm has been such a joy. I also love collecting the eggs in the morning and following their progress all the way to the shop!

 

Bagging feed

bagging feed

Bagging feed – simple but relaxing!

I find it hilarious that I get so much happiness from simple things – I think it’s because it provides a bit of a brain break and there’s usually a quick return on progress! Bagging animal feed basically involves putting one scoop of feed in to a paper bag, then rolling the top of the bag down, so simple but my goodness do I enjoy it!! I find it really relaxing digging the scoop in to the food, watching it pour out in to the bag and listening to it hit the paper. Seeing all of the bags of food lined up neatly in the box brings me great joy – there’s just so much happiness to be found in tidy organisation!! Bagging feed is also a great opportunity to sit down with other members of the group and have a chat and a bit of banter which always puts a smile on my face πŸ™‚

Next time you go to a farm and buy some bags of feed, just think about how much enjoyment went in to preparing them for you!

My new job!

goat

Me walking Patti the goat!

I very much believe in fate and that everything happens for a reason. After ‘the horrific thing that happened’ and I had left teaching (and had spent the week on the sofa in my pyjamas), an advert popped up on Facebook advertising a job working in Rural Care at the farm where I got married. I only saw the advert in the first place because I ‘like’ the farm on Facebook so there was my first twist of fate! When I went to visit Rural Care, I went to meet the manager and it turned out that she lives on the same road as me and knows my husband because they have bumped in to each other on dog walks – while this didn’t qualify me for the job, it did help to break the ice when I first met her and there we have a second twist of fate! Going for the job interview was a bit of a gamble because at the time there was only two days of work available per week. Luckily this is where my third twist of fate came in to play. Because I have a teaching background, the opportunity came up for two additional days of work per week working with school children. This made the job up to four days per week so I was inΒ  much better position to go for it!!

I am so SO happy to say that I got the job and I couldn’t be more happy – it is a job that I could never have dreamed actually existed and I feel so lucky to be part such an incredible service. Rural Care is a service that provides adults with learning difficulties and mental health issues the opportunity to work on the farm, learn new skills and make friends. I spend two days a week working with some of the adults and we have a great time together mucking out the animals, feeding them and giving them health checks. We also work on our allotment, go for long walks to litter pick around the farm and use our craft studio to make lots of products that we can sell in the shop to raise money for new equipment. We also have schools and colleges for teenagers with learning difficulties who come to the farm on a weekly basis to complete qualifications for skills in working life. I spend two days a week supporting two classes to complete units of work on animal care, poultry farming, working in a team and following instructions. It is lovely to work in a group with students and see them progress in their skills and confidence.

I personally get so much joy from my new job – I absolutely love the people that I work with and we always have a lot of fun, I feel confident in what I am doing and I know that my managers will always support me when I need it, and I love being outdoors every day working with the animals. I have already found lots of little pockets of happiness to share and I am sure there will be many more to come!