Today I had to go down to the wedding venue we are marketing in Willaston to do a show around. The grounds at Raby Gardens really are in a wonderfully tranquil setting and it’s always a pleasure to visit. The land owners have some farm animals that I’m quite used to seeing which is always a lot of fun. It’s just a great peaceful place to be.
Whilst I was there I took the opportunity after I had spoken with the couple, to take a closer look at the new enterprise that they have going on, their new egg farm which is being run by Fraser Wall and Yasmine Jones. Yasmine kindly took me into the hen enclosure to take a look at the way they produce the eggs and how the operation runs. We have been buying eggs from Raby Farm for a couple of weeks now so naturally I was curious and keen to learn more.
Now, I don’t want to go into in any detail on the ways that chicken farming is normally practiced in this country. Farming for chicken whether the birds are being reared for meat and or for eggs isn’t generally something I’d like to detail in a blog post. I’m afraid that most chickens generally get a bit of a raw deal in the way they are mass produced due to massive consumer demand and it doesn’t make for light hearted reading. The best book I have read on this topic is ‘Meat’ by Hugh Fearnley Whittingshaw for anyone who wants to explore this topic further.
However I am delighted to report that at Raby farm it’s a different story entirely. The Raby Farm hens are living in a chicken paradise! It’s fantastic! On stepping into the enclosure I was greeted by 500 of the happiest and healthiest looking hens I have ever seen. I spend most of my time chopping and cooking these birds and as a bit of a city boy I’m certainly not used to being around them, so I found it very endearing just how friendly they all were. Yasmine explained to me that they are very used to people coming in and out of there to tend to them. I thought that maybe our arrival meant lunch time to them. Apparently not as their feeding is largely automated so they wouldn’t really associate people with food. No, these are just genuinely friendly birds that didn’t mind at all that we were there and seemed quite happy to see us.
Their enclosure is a huge plot of woodland protected by an electric fence to keep the hens in and the foxes out. Free space to scratch and peck is not something these birds are going to run out of in a hurry. I then went in to have a look at the inside area of the enclosure. The business side of things as it were. That’s where they go to lay their eggs. They like to lay in the dark apparently. According to Yasmine, the hens weren’t a big fan of the recent change from BST to GMT which has knocked them all out of sorts. Some have been protesting by laying eggs outside instead. They will get used to the change of hours and most of the time they lay in the right place. There’s a great conveyer belt system to catch the eggs, gently of course where they’re then boxed and taken for grading into small medium and large and then stamped. Yasmine was very proud of her new stamp which is applied to the eggs by hand to assure quality. I think the whole new stamp novelty will be short lived though as she has to stamp almost 500 eggs a day!
The farm has been fully inspected and the birds fully vaccinated against all the bad stuff. The whole operation has it’s full stamp of approval from the local authorities. It’s not hard to see why either.
When we see the words ‘free range’ on packaging sadly sometimes it doesn’t quite live up to what we think it should. That is certainly not the case with Raby Farm eggs. These birds are thoroughly well looked after, and 100% free range, and the eggs taste great! The yolk is wonderful deep yellow which I have taken to see as a sign of quality over the years. Don’t take my word for it though, try them yourself! We use them in all of our egg products and they are available to buy from Claremont Farm shop, Vineyard Farm shop, the Laycroft Longhorn Farm shop in Barnston, Port sunlight Nursuries and Aigburth Hall Nurseries. They are great eggs, and I hope that Raby Farm will be producing them for a long time to come. This is a real bit of great local production. Another hidden gem in Wirral’s farmland.