On the Farm
There are more than 1,000 egg farmers and farm families in Canada who produce fresh, local and high-quality eggs for Canadians to enjoy every single day. We are happy to introduce some of the faces behind egg farming in Canada.
From Farm to Table: The Farm
Have you ever picked up a dozen eggs at the grocery store and thought about where they came from? The journey of the egg is a story that is told every day in every province across Canada. Find out how egg farmers from coast to coast care for their hens and the measures that are in place to keep eggs safe and ensure the quality and freshness of eggs. Learn about the grading process, the breaking station and how fresh, high-quality eggs end up in your grocery store.
A Day in the Life of a Canadian Egg Farmer
There is always plenty to do on the egg farm. An egg farmer’s daily routine of checking on their flocks and collecting eggs is a seven-day-a-week job. Fortunately, most Canadian egg farmers live and work on the same property making for a pretty short commute!
Egg farmers rise early and check their barns. Before entering the barn farmers put on their barn coveralls and boots, disinfecting the boot bottoms every time they enter the barn to avoid bringing germs. When entering the barn, farmers listen carefully to the sound of their hens’ clucking. A healthy hen will have a frequent, crisp chirp that can be heard throughout the barn.
Several critical checks are then completed to ensure the hens are getting plenty of food, water and fresh air. Daily checks include examining the feed equipment for any problems, looking at the water lines and water nipples to make sure clean water is flowing freely, checking the fans to see that they are operating efficiently so the hens are getting fresh air and that the barn is a comfortable temperature. Most egg farmers have alarm systems connected to their house or mobile device so they can closely monitor, day or night, what is going on in their laying barn.
Following these checks, the farmers walk slowly through the barn to observe the hens. Bright, wide open eyes, pecking at feed, clean feathers and plenty of clucking are all signs of an active, healthy flock. Famers check the colour of the hen’s red combs; any paling may be an early sign of a health concern. Any warning signs are carefully monitored. When necessary, a poultry health specialist or veterinarian is consulted.
After the hens are checked the daily routine of collecting eggs begins. Farmers place the collected eggs on pallets, crates and skids and then place them into the egg cooler. At the end of the day, egg farmers always take one last look at their flock. The barn lights are gradually dimmed so the hens can have a peaceful night’s sleep.
Did you know?
- Most egg farmers wear the same coloured clothing each day when going into the barn because hens prefer familiar surroundings.
- Before entering the barn, many farmers will knock on the barn door so the hens won’t be startled when someone comes in.
- To ensure that hens get the best possible care, Canada's egg farmers follow a national Code of Practice, developed by Canada's top veterinarians and scientists as well as representatives from the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
- Farmers take great care to ensure the eggs meet the highest quality standards of freshness and quality. Egg farmers across the country follow a national HACCP-based program called Start Clean-Stay Clean™, designed to ensure the eggs Canadians receive are safe, and of the highest quality.
The Pullet Barn
At the hatchery, eggs from breeding flocks are placed in incubators. After 21 days, the eggs hatch and the chicks are housed in a pullet barn, a barn for young hens. At 19 weeks of age, these hens are transferred to another barn and will begin laying eggs.
The Laying Barn
In Canada, hens are housed a variety of ways. Because Canada's climate is so variable, hens are housed in temperature controlled laying barns. This not only protects them from the inclement weather and extreme temperatures but also against their natural predators like foxes, weasels and even dogs. The different housing systems include:
- Conventional or furnished housing provides hens with small group settings that enable all birds to have equal access to fresh food and water.
- Enriched housing comes furnished with perches and a curtained off area to give hens privacy when laying their eggs.
- Free run housing in a barn provides hens’ access to the entire barn floor area. Hens are able to perch, scratch, forage and lay their eggs in nesting areas.
- Free range housing provides hens with access to the outdoors, as weather permits. Hens are able to perch, scratch, forage and lay their eggs in nesting areas.
Whether raised in conventional housing, free run barns or pastures for ranging, the hens are well cared for. Each housing system is designed to provide a clean environment, fresh food and water, and protection from predators. Indoor housing provides a consistent air temperature and protects hens from coming in contact with wild birds that may carry disease.
Canada's egg farmers are continuously looking for ways to improve the care and well-being of their hens. They invest in research with a wide variety of animal welfare researchers at leading institutions across the country. To find out more, visit eggfarmers.ca.
Did you know?
- In 1945, the average hen laid 151 eggs per year. Now with breed selection, better nutrition, improved housing and lighting, the average hen lays approximately 310 eggs per year—that's almost one egg every day!
- In caring for their birds, farmers feed their hens a regulated diet that could include grains, vitamins, minerals and fresh water. Veterinarian-prescribed antibiotics are administered only in the rare event that a hen requires medication.
- A hen’s diet does not include hormones. Hormones are never administered under any circumstances.
- The colour of the egg yolk is determined by what the hen eats. A hen that eats a wheat-based diet produces a pale yellow yolk, while a hen consuming a corn or alfalfa-based diet produces a yolk that is dark yellow.
- The most common laying hen in Canada is the White Leghorn, a small bird that lays white eggs. Most brown eggs come from another common breed, the Rhode Island Red.