Hens fly the coop, lay free-range eggs
Chickens still lay eggs the old-fashioned way at Val and Julie Klenda’s farm northwest of Lincolnville. They are not confined to cages.
Hens lay in wall-hung nests lined with straw. They are allowed to roam outside every day.
Val gathers the eggs at noon, and Julie gathers them in the evening. On Saturday, they picked up 570 eggs. Most of them were laid that morning, but 81 were gathered in the evening.
Julie has the job of processing them every evening. The eggs are collected in big wire baskets that are set in an egg washing machine filled with hot water.
After the eggs are washed, the baskets are set in front of a box fan to cool and dry for 30 to 45 minutes. Julie then candles each egg by shining a light through it to check for freshness.
She sorts them into different sizes – medium, jumbo, or large.
The eggs are placed into new cartons and stored until Julie delivers them to retail stores – Dale’s Supermarket in Hillsboro, Carlsons’ Grocery in Marion, Tampa Trail Stop Store, and Barnes Food Center in Herington.
Gambino’s Pizza in Marion buys the eggs for its salad bar.
The Klendas purchase young pullets twice a year to replace chickens that are no longer laying.
They buy 475 white layers and 50 red at a time. The unproductive hens are allowed to live out their lives on the farm rather than being butchered.
Chicken barns are cleaned out almost every month, and the manure is spread on fields as fertilizer.
Cracked eggs are fed to pigs in the Klendas’ farrow-to-finish hog operation.
Assisted by their son, Phil, who lives nearby, the Klendas also farm and have a cow-calf
operation. “I hope people will continue to buy J&V Cackleberry eggs,” Julie said.