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Christmas on an Egg Farm

Spending time with the family, and the hens, during the holidays!

While some travel to spend time with family and friends on Christmas, farmers have to make sure that everyone is well cared for, especially the hens! Some of of farmers let us know how they spend their holidays!

Tonya Haverkamp

Chris Mullet Koop

Patrick Mainville

Describe Christmas Day on your farm.

Tonya: On our farm on Christmas day, it starts out like a regular day, we will head out to the pullet barn to check on chicks, making sure they have plenty of feed, water and that they are doing well. Then we will have breakfast before heading out to the layer barn at 8:00a.m. All the feeders and waters will be checked, as well along with all our hens. At around 9:00a.m., we will start collecting eggs, that should take until about 2:30p.m.  We will do one last check on the hens before leaving the layer barn,cheking feed and water, then head back into the pullet barn to check up on them as well. The one thing we won't do on Christmas Day that we do on a regular barn day, is clean the packer, sweep and wash the packing room floor. If we did all the regular cleaning, we would finish up in the barn around 4:30. Skipping this for one day means we can get ourselves cleaned up and head for Christmas dinner with my future inlaws in the evening!

Chris: Much like any other day on our farm, Christmas morning still starts at 5am with a flock check in both our layer and pullet barns. What does this look like? Well, when I enter the biosecurity room of the barn, I change my footwear, put on a pair of coveralls, and disposable hair net. In our pullet aviary where the birds are free to roam the entire barn, I also use a mask as aviary environments tend to be more dusty. Before I enter the bird facility, I check the computer control display to make sure that feed lines, waterlines, temperatures, humidity level and ventilation units are all functioning within the parameters I have set, (I can also do this throughout the day via my smart phone). But nothing is as thorough as walking through the barn to look, smell, hear and see the hen environment! So I then enter the bird facility and walk the isles slowly while assessing overall hen health, looking to see that feed troughs have even feed, that waterlines are working properly, and that the equipment in the facility is functioning properly. When I have finished, I record all my observations in a log book.

In the afternoon there is still farm work to be done. But on Christmas we keep work to a minimum and only carry out what is essential. I perform a second flock check as I did in the morning. Then we pack eggs! Since packing eggs is normally the responsibility of our three kids, my wife and I are kind enough to do the packing on Christmas day. Eggs are kept in the cold storage, the pack room is cleaned and again we record all activities and observations in the log book before we exit the barn through biosecurity.

Patrick: We get up at 6 a.m. because the kids are excited to open their gifts. We always open the gifts right away when we get up, after that we make breakfast. Christmas breakfast is always eggs, bacon and potatoes. After breakfast we go to the farm around 9 a.m to pick up the eggs, we will usually finish by noon. In the afternoon, we go to visit our families. At 5p.m. I always come back to the farm to make sure everything is alright (checking for feed and water). After I return to my family's party.

Do you open presents before or after you go to the barn?

Tonya: We will be doing presents Christmas Eve, and any Santa may have dropped off Christmas day. I think once we have a family, we will continue on that tradition. That way anything fun can be played with and not be rushed to go to the barns!

Chris: When everyone has woken and trickled down in their pj’s at their own leisurely pace, we turn on our favorite Christmas music mix, make tea and hot chocolate and sit by the tree. Each of us admires the five stockings that Grandma made for us years ago - all the while conscious of whose looks most portly. Some of us wonder if Grandma should make new ones that are able to accommodate somewhat larger items. The five of us exchange names and Christmas morning is the moment we get to find out who had who, and what is in the stockings! Sip sip…. munch munch…

What does your Christmas breakfast (or any meal) consist of?

Tonya: We will do up a Christmas Morning Casserole (made with eggs, of course!), it is prepared the evening before, then it can be put in the oven the next morning to cook and will be good to go, quick and easy!

Chris: ​When I return to the house, it is usually still quiet – and dark in winter. I have time to scramble up our standard egg breakfast. But homemade cinnamon buns are a Christmas morning feature!

Our family will enjoy a light supper (we call faspa) of cheeses, cold cuts, pickles and swiebach (double decker buns) together with our first taste of our vintage 2016 Concord grape juice. The evening may follow with games, conversation or just sitting by the fire and enjoying being together.

Does your family have any special traditions?

Tonya: I guess a tradition we have is to do presents with my family is to get together on Christmas Eve. With my parents, brother and I all having chickens to look after, it is easiest for us to all get together on Christmas Eve. Like all livestock, our hens don't have off buttons, so they will keep on laying eggs whether it is Christmas day or a regular Wednesday! 

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