By Tiffany Towne, Nutrena Poultry Expert You’ve cared for them, raised them, housed them and, dare we say it … pampered them. And now your flock is healthy, happy … and producing more eggs than you know what to do with! This is a great problem to have – and it may mean you should consider taking on a new venture in poultry, like starting your own backyard egg business. First and foremost, the key to a successful egg business is a high-quality product. There are several ways you can impact the eggs you provide to customers. Strong Shells One of the main differentiating factors between eggs from your flock and store-bought eggs is the strength of the eggshell. A hard-shelled egg is pleasing to crack against the pan. Here’s how you can influence the strength of the eggshells in your hens: Make sure a commercial layer ration is available at all times and makes up the majority of the diet. This type of feed includes the correct vitamins and minerals, including extra calcium, for excellent quality eggshells. Offer oyster shells or other types of supplemental calcium free choice. Provide this in a separate container and allow birds to have access 24/7. They’ll take what they need. A hen’s requirement for calcium varies greatly based on her age, stage in the lay cycle, and other factors. Even though layer rations have extra calcium, it still may not be enough. That’s why extra supplemental calcium is essential. Don’t over feed treats. Even though they are good girls and certainly deserve it, don’t give your flock members too many extras. Treats include things like scratch grains and kitchen scraps. These unbalance the diet and can affect eggshell quality. Golden Yolks There is nothing more beautiful than cracking a fresh egg and seeing a dark golden yolk. Yolk color is affected by the bird’s diet. Birds that free range on dark leafy greens will have darker yolk color due to the carotenoids that occur naturally in the diet. But if you don’t have the space or ability to free range your birds, don’t despair. Providing a feed that includes marigold as an ingredient will provide the carotenoids that give your eggs a dark golden yolk, too. Keep in mind, yolk color has no effect on the nutritional value of the egg. Egg Whites An egg that stands up in the pan and gives you a delicious egg white is definitely a good goal. One of the best ways to achieve a nice egg white is to ensure your eggs are fresh. Have you ever cracked an egg and noticed that the white is runny or watery? That’s probably because the egg was not as fresh. Eggs that have just recently been plucked from the nest box will tell you how fresh they are by the way the egg white looks – it should hold together well and not be runny. Another way to get awesome egg whites is to feed the correct amount and balance of amino acids. The correct combinations will affect the Haugh units (the measurement of how high the egg stands up in the pan). Again, a commercial layer feed will provide the amino acids that your girls require. Shell Color While you can’t impact shell color by what you feed your hens, you can plan for shell color when you are considering breeds for your flock. Eggshell color depends on the breed of the hen. You can tell if a hen will lay a brown egg if her earlobe is red. If her earlobe is white, she will lay white eggs. The ever popular Easter Eggers are the chickens that lay the blue or green and even pink eggs. Promote your business Once you have beautiful eggs, you are ready to get the word out that they are for sale. There are some easy ways to do this: Tell your friends and neighbors that you are selling your eggs. Chances are they will “flock” to the opportunity to buy eggs fresh from you girls versus purchasing them at the store. Spread the word further by posting a flier on your local community bulletin board, civic center, or at your local farm store. Price Appropriately Compare the price of eggs at your supermarket, farmer’s market, etc., and talk to your customers about what they may be willing to pay. Then decide your price based on make sense for you. You may be able to demand a premium for certain benefits (free delivery, cage-free, etc.), depending on your customer base. Don’t underestimate the value that many people place on buying local. Above all, have fun with your new business egg-venture! To find a Nutrena dealer near you, visit www.NutrenaPoultryFeed.com. Also sign up for Flock Minder at www.FlockMinder.com to receive timely tips delivered directly to your inbox.