Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Chickens and eggs - the rules and regs.

This is an updated version of something I wrote a few years ago when we did a smallholders information day here for members of the Suffolk Smallholders Society.

Selling eggs

Lots of people keep a few chickens for eggs for themselves and their friends and neighbours. Usually there are no problems, but every now and again chickens somewhere in the country will get some nasty disease or pick up salmonella. THAT'S when the problems might start.

We've been keeping chickens for their eggs for most of the last 35 years, sometimes just two or three and sometimes, as now, over 100. We've got to know how to keep them to avoid problems and keep within new regulations that were introduced after the last bird flu scare.

PLEASE NOTE- THIS IS THE WAY I UNDERSTAND THE RULES TO BE IN ENGLAND. Things may be different in Wales and Scotland. Rules may have changed that I don't know about yet or I may have misinterpreted something. So please don't take this as gospel. Look it up for yourself!

If you are not selling eggs or giving them away you can more or less do what you like BUT as soon as you do start selling or even giving half a dozen to a neighbour then it's better to be safe than sorry.

If you keep over 50 hens you must register with the National Poultry Register. This costs nothing and is just a way for the authorities to know where large numbers of hens are kept and to be able to notify owners if there are any health problems in their area. You can also register if you have less than 50 hens. There is  one form to fill in and return each year.

If you keep over 250 hens then you must be registered and have a producer number allocated.Then you have to stamp eggs with the number and dates etc - complicated.

If you keep under 250 hens, and don't stamp the eggs, then eggs must be sold (or given) directly to the person who is going to use them  (at the gate, from people coming to your door or by delivering the eggs directly). In other words you can't sell them to a shop who are then going to sell them on unless they are stamped with your number.

Eggs should be sold in new boxes. Now here's a daft thing- You can put eggs out for sale on a tray and supply a pile of any old boxes for people to pack them into. BUT if you put them in the boxes they should be new. ( If you use plain grey boxes I'm not sure how anyone knows if they are new or not as long as they are CLEAN). Egg boxes pick up smells very easily  so if you are returning boxes to someone make sure they are clean and haven't been kept in a smokey house or beside the washing powder.

You must not sort eggs into sizes for selling unless you are a registered packing station.

Eggs that you sell must be perfect - NO CRACKS OR ODD SHAPES. This is why the large scale producers get rid of their chickens after a year as the eggs are not such good quality. I keep odd and cracked eggs to use ourselves or give them away to family.

Eggs sold or given away should be clean. Easier said than done in this winters weather.
Never immerse eggs in water - they are porous.
People who keep and sell eggs on a large scale  have an automatic machine brushing thing. Of course this is why battery hens were popular as they had a roll away system and the chickens never got muddy feet or had a chance to sit on the egg they had laid.

We try first to clean muddy eggs with a dry cloth and then resort to a sterile egg wash. Just a few drops in warm water and a clean cloth every day and try not to get the eggs too wet. Dry with a sheet of clean kitchen roll.

To help with keeping eggs clean use plenty of clean straw in the shed and in the nest boxes. Collecting eggs several times a day will help.

 Our method in winter is to use electric light to extend daylight ( Hybrid Chickens need 16 hours of light to keep laying regularly, pure bred chickens will often go off lay in winter) which is on a timer coming on in the early hours of the morning about 3am. I can then collect a basket of clean eggs at about 7.45am.when I let them out.  I collect again at around 1.30. The chickens are then able to put themselves to "bed" at dusk as usual.

You must not advertise eggs as Free Range, Freedom Food, Organic or anything else unless you are registered with the appropriate organisation.

I have a notice on our stall which says " Eggs are always sold within 3 days of being laid. For best results keep the eggs in the fridge and use within 2 weeks of buying them".  We normally put eggs out for sale the day after they are laid. Usually they are sold by the end of the day. People like to buy our eggs because they know they are fresh.
We also have Public Liability Insurance which is mainly because we have to have it for the campsite but it also covers all the things we do on the holding including egg selling. If anyone sells or gives away eggs that are contaminated then they run the risk of prosecution which could result in compensation of tens of thousands of pounds having to be paid.
So take care when you keep chickens for eggs to sell or to give away.


Back with a normal post tomorrow

PS Welcome to follower 132 and many thanks for comments yesterday.