The im‘peck’able adventures of Liisa Winkler
by: Liisa Winkler, WSPA Canada Ambassador and supermodel
This summer I want to get to know my neighbours. Not the human ones, the hen ones. My summer mission will be to meet and photograph as many happy, uncaged hens as I can and report back to you with the details. Maybe in reading these accounts, you will appreciate the small family run farms that can be found just outside most major cities. When you buy your eggs, you might wonder "eggs-actly" where they came from. Maybe you will decide to shop at your local farmers’ market where you can meet these farmers firsthand and get a taste of your very first farm fresh egg! I hope to show you how hens can and should be raised. How they can be a part of a large farm or even a small family. The hens that I will meet are all valued members of a farming system and are treated with care and gratitude. I hope you enjoy my adventures and are inspired to find your own happy hens wherever you live!
The Miller Farm
It is a beautiful warm day and we have not had eggs in weeks! Living in the city, we buy our eggs from the local farmers’ market where we can be sure that they are cage-free, happy birds. But we have missed the last few, and are eggless. Now that we are in the country, I feel an urge to actually meet some of the lovely "ladies" (hens) that provide us with their bounty!
We bribe the kids into the car with promises of petting some farm animals and drive past Black Creek up Cty Rd. 17. On the right, there is a lovely hand painted sign "Farm Fresh Eggs $2.50 Dozen" and we pull in a little too quickly upsetting the 2 big "guard dogs" Wallace and Jake, who alert Trevor Miller of our presence (just in case our screeching tires did not).
Trevor has owned his farm since 1989 and has 30 dairy cows, approximately 40 hens, 2 dogs and numerous barn cats who have just had the most adorable kittens I have ever seen! The kids take off with shrieks of joy over the kittens and 2 month old calves, and we chat with Trevor about his farming ideals.
His is a family run, self-contained type farm. He grows his own corn and feed for the animals, and uses their manure to grow his crops. Almost everything he produces is given back to the land, completing the cycle and making him very self-sufficient. While he does sell a small amount of milk to a few local dairies, his family benefits the most. This is the type of farm I often find myself fantasizing about having! But as Trevor fills me in with details of very early mornings and long hours with no weekends, I let it slip back down to Fantasy Land where it can rest a bit longer.
He keeps the chickens "just because he can" and does not aim to make any kind of profit from them. Their eggs are sold to locals and people driving by. We are lucky to find them today, as he is often sold out. We buy a dozen and take a walk around the coop. They live in and around a lovely old barn that is shared at the moment with 3 baby calves. There is a long stretch of chicken wire fencing protecting them from the road and animal predators, but there are quite a few sneaky ladies pecking around outside the fence and all around the property!
The kids try to feed them bits of grass and straw and they all wobble out excitedly to greet us down their extra-long "pirate plank" as my 3yr old calls it. These are some happy carefree birds. Wallace the dog lies down in the sun and looks right at home surrounded by his flock.
We thank Trevor Miller and give a goodbye scratch to our new doggy shadows as we head back home with our treasures.
I feel good about these eggs. It somehow makes them taste even better just knowing where they have come from. I notice right away how each one is a different shape, size and colour; their yolks such a vibrant yellow, unlike any conventional egg laid in a cage! We make a broccoli frittata and before we eat, the kids say a very sweet "thank you" to the happy hens that gave them to us.
Definitely feeling good about these eggs!