Feb 13, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff WriterRoughly 100 chickens are working extra hard this winter to provide area residents with farm fresh eggs from Melisa and Jim Crouch's business, Orchard Hill Eggs.
The eggs are sold by the dozen and can be bought at their home business, 304 Buckhorn Flats Road, or at Grahams Gluten-Free Foods, 414 E. Main St., Riverton. The couple also delivers to customers in Riverton.
Jim said the business was named after an old apple tree adjacent to the couple's home.
Anywhere from 175 to 200 eggs are laid each day by the red chickens that are a crossbreed of leghorn and Rhode Island red. This mix provides unique brown eggs to customers.
The eggs are collected three to four times a day and are boxed into recycled or new cartons.
Most people order several dozen boxes at a time, and that routine is what keeps the business thriving, the Crouches said.
"In order to have fresh eggs, you need to have customers planned out," Melisa said, adding they try not to sell eggs more than 4 days old. "With a home business, we try to make sure the product is fresh."
She said the business grows its own barley and alfalfa to feed the chickens.
"People are particular of what they're fed," Melisa said.
The chickens' hormone-free diet includes oyster shells to supply much-needed calcium. Melisa said the chickens have not been raised with genetically modified ingredients.
The birds at Orchard Hill Eggs are not placed into cages and often are allowed to roam outside their fenced pens. Heat lamps are used to keep them warm during the winter.
The couple sells small, large, extra large and jumbo eggs. The eggs are ungraded, which means they are not candled, the process of placing the eggs under a light to inspect their size and color. Although this is a common practice by commercial sellers, it can have nothing to do with the quality of eggs or the cleanliness of the facility in which they are produced, Melisa said. Grading the eggs from her chickens, Melisa said, can be difficult simply because they are brown.
The chickens at Orchard Hill Eggs are purchased from a seller in Iowa and are replaced after they are about 2 years old. The 7-month-old and 1-year-old chickens the business currently has first started laying only 50 eggs. As the demand increased, Melisa and Jim --with the help of their son Marshal --increased the supply. Since then, the chickens have been hard at work.
"These girls, they hardly ever miss a day," Melisa said. "They're very consistent, and they're consistent with the size."
The Crouches also donate dozens of eggs to the homeless shelter in Riverton.
Anyone interested in ordering fresh eggs can call Orchard Hill Eggs at 856-3175 or 856-4647.
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