Saturday, March 13, 2010

Rules & Regs for Having Chickens

I guess anyone who has chickens has lots of eggs.  This pic is just from the last few days.

Notice that one tiny egg in the center?  That was our smallest egg, weighing in at .2 oz.  It was found outside in a dusty area beside a tree where the hens like to take sand baths. 

Our hens have taken to laying outside these days - the weather has been near 60 F. The birds were all born last Oct and really never have known nice weather when they can spend all day outside. Now they are experiencing spring temps and sunny days for the first time in their lives, and it seems some pullets have no desire to go back inside the coop to lay. They just do the deed outside in the sand, hide it under a bush or behind a bicycle, several have taken to laying in the lawn spreader hopper.  They give us an opportunity to have an egg hunt every day, not just on Easter!

I always wanted fresh eggs, and love them now that I have them, but I didn't really think too much about what to do with too many eggs. I guess I never thought I'd have too many eggs! Is that possible? Now I believe that yes, it is possible!


And so I started researching the rules and regulations on egg sales in Maryland. 

First of all, I realized that all bird flocks are supposed to be registered.  As part of an ongoing effort to identify domesticated poultry flock in the state, the Maryland Department of Agriculture, Animal Health Section works with backyard flock owners to register their flocks with the state.  All individuals involved in keeping or caring for all types of poultry, which include; small households, poultry production, production facilities, suppliers, dealers, haulers, wholesalers, live bird markets and exhibition exhibitors. Anyone owning 5 birds or more for greater than 120 days in a 12 month period are required to register.  I didn't realize all this - but now I filled out the paperwork this morning!

Second, one must consider if they want to be NPIP certfied.  NPIP is the National Poultry Improvement Plan

Third, any people who wish to sell fertile eggs or live poultry in the State of Maryland are required to have a valid permit to sell. The permit will not be issued until a negative Pullorum-typhoid test is reported by MDA inspectors.  I reviewed this application and believe it asks for NPIP certification.  Alrighty then.  I haven't sold any live chickens, have I??

Fourth, in the state of Maryland there are rules and regulations for selling eggs.  All eggs must be graded and sized if they are for sale. The sale of unclassified eggs is not permitted.  Each carton of eggs must be labeled with both the grade and size of the eggs. Egg sizes are determined based upon the weight (ounces) of a dozen.  The grade of eggs (from best to worst), AA, A, and B is based on compliance with quality tolerances.  To determine the quality of an egg, the eggs must be examined for both external and internal defects.  If the eggs are packaged in used cartons, there are specific rules and regulations for them, too.

There are stricter guidelines for selling eggs at farmers markets and roadside stands in MD.  Cartons of eggs are required to be labeled with a grade, a size, a safe handling statement, the packer or distributor name and address, lot number, registration number of the packer, quantity or net weight of eggs, and the identity of the product as eggs. Specific lettering heights and wording for labeling requirements can be obtained from the Egg Inspection Section, Maryland Department of Agriculture. 
Wow, this whole backyard flock thing is going to be a job, I thought it was just a hobby...  Does everyone else out there with small flocks follow these rules in their states?  Or is MD stricter than other places?  What does everyone do with all their eggs?


Lisa said...

Nova Scotia is really bad for farm regulations. The long and short of it is that if you don't have a multi million dollar farm, you cannot sell or in some cases give, eggs, fresh pork, raw milk, chicken, or beef. We are even regulated on how many laying hens we can have.

Once again, the gov trying to stick their noses in people's business.

Texan said...

mmm might be easier to give the eggs away and if people feel inclined to donate money toward their feed then great :O)... then your not selling eggs :O)...

could be more then one way to skin a kitty as they say :O) tee hee

Genny said...

Oh, that tiny, tiny egg is just too precious. I had no idea that having laying hens and selling eggs was so complicated. I wonder if Virginia has so many regulations. Now I'm going to have to do some research before I even think about hens and eggs when I retire.

Jenny wren's nest said...

I didn't even realize there were any rules, guess i better be checking them out.

Dog Trot Farm said...

The bureaucrats have you jumping through hoops, nothing is simple and easy anymore. If I wanted to put an "organic eggs for sale" sign at the end of my driveway, I would have to go before the town's planning board. I do indeed sell my eggs to my neighbors through word of mouth. I took the heat lamp out of the girl's coop and also took the light of it's timer, this helped slow the girl's egg production down.

Lee Johnson said...

If you are going the official route there are at least two more dimensions: egg washing regulation and insurance. Most states have rules about how an egg can and can't be washed, sometimes enforcing less-safe methods, or expensive high-volume methods. I've also heard that your homeowners insurance can get real worked up if they hear you are selling eggs.

Let's face it. Most laws have nothing to do with public good and everything to do with forcing us all to be consumers, not producers. Most forms of small scale farming are either completely illegal, or regulated to the point of being a total loss. I personally believe that citizens have a moral responsibility to ignore laws of this nature. I don't register my dogs. I certainly won't be registering my chickens. :)

We presently give away excess eggs to neighbors and relatives. One neighbor insisted on paying us. Over the summer we will start freezing them as supplemental pig feed.

One of my favorite Ayn Rand quotes: "There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted and you create a nation of law-breakers."

chook said...

i love the difference in the sizes of the eggs. our girls have laid some real monsters.

Leigh said...

In my state they want flocks to be inspected, registered and certified, but fortunately it's still voluntary. Mostly I think this is just revenuing. I'm not sure if and how egg sales are regulated, but I see a lot offered on Craigslist, the local trade paper, and handwritten signs in yards.

Unfortunately all the rules and regs, usually under the guise of safety. only serve to make it more and more difficult for small farmers to make a living farming. But then, it seems that our government favors the industrial agribusinesses anyway, so why should we be surprised.

Wife of a Fab Redneck said...

I love the tiny egg! And YIIKES about all of the laws! I am going to have to read up on the laws in NC!!! I am only getting about 4-6 eggs a day and have a lot of coworkers waiting in line for them! No talk of "donating" to the chicken's feed, but I really like that idea!

I also have a friend that bakes cakes for people b/c she is working on her decorating skills. She only wants free-range eggs b/c they (obviously) taste better. So make friends with a cake baker and that will help get rid of them! :)

Knatolee said...

In Ontario, you are not allowed to sell eggs except from the farm gate, unless they are graded. And I you aren't allowed more than 99 hens unless you have quota. Bottom line, the egg marketing board has a lot of clout, and apparently doesn't want people to know how good really FRESH, free-range eggs are. Don't get me started.

I love your mini-egg!

Razzberry Corner said...

Lisa ~ I agree, this govt regulation is a pain. I didn't realize it also affected small-time farmers; I should have expected it. I guess it's everywhere, not just in MD or even the US.

Texan ~ I love that idea, to give the eggs away & accept donations! :)

Genny ~ VA is close to MD, and I used to live in VA for 8 years. They seemed to have even more taxes and regulations than MD back then. Get ready!!

Jenny wren's nest ~ I didn't even think about it before, either!

Julie ~ I love getting eggs, I don't want to slow my girls down!! I also am selling to friends and neighbors. I plan on selling at work, but must be careful, I work for the govt!

Lee ~ Yes, I did forget to mention the egg washing regulations. We just buff the dirt off our eggs, they really do not get that dirty since we collect them daily. Sanding is an accepted way of cleaning in MD, so I don't worry too much about it. I used to wash them, but then was informed I shouldn't, especially in cool water.

Now the insurance thing is something that I didn't even consider at all! I guess we should notify our homeowner's insurance company...although I certainly don't want my premiums to be raised just because I have chickens as a hobby.

I wish I could not deal with the rules, but I work for the federal govt, and must do the "right" thing. A few of my coworkers know of my farm, and many will know when I start selling eggs at work.

And there already are other people who are jealous that we bought this property, they wanted to buy it when we did but couldn't come up with the money, and they are still trying to be manipulative and do what they can to take our dream property away from us. We have to watch our back with everything that we do, they are waiting for us to do something wrong. There's only so many properties of this size around this area and they missed out. So I really don't want to give them any fuel for their fire. Therefore, I am forced to follow the rules, although I think the rules are outrageous. My property is too important to me.

Chook ~ I haven't gotten any really large eggs, just the one we called the torpedo, which was only 2.1 oz. Any secrets to getting larger eggs?

Leigh ~ I agree, I really don't see too much govt regulation going on in my state with all the online sales. I see birds and eggs for sale all the time on craigslist. No mention of NPIP license, nor bird sale permits, nor flock registration numbers. We bought our chicks at a large auction, no paperwork came with them. Where were the USDA inspectors? Hmmm...makes me think the rules are just for safety reasons, just in case of a bird disease outbreak, but otherwise they're not really enforced...

WFR - I love to bake cakes, too, but haven't done ANY baking cake recently. I have never used my eggs in my baking, but I betcha that it would make a taste difference!!! Thanks for the idea, I am going to start up baking again! :) I love cake decorating and cupcake decorating... Don't even get me started on this conversation ~ I could go on forever!


Lee Johnson said...

Wow, I didn't know about "the rest of the story". That's too bad. Sometimes I really don't understand people.

If you could find regular customers, you might look into a "shares" arrangement if it would help. (The customers are all part owners and you are the caretaker.) I've heard of people doing that with dairy cows to legally work around bans on raw milk.

A lot depends on who's out to get you I suppose. The latest Countryside magazine has an article on states that have recently set up sting operations to catch "raw milk dealers".

Razzberry Corner said...

Knatalee - This is a new challenge for me - I am going to sell these eggs legally, even if it is the end of me!!!

Lee - Sometimes I really don't understand why people can be so mean. Some people carry around such anger, such as those in my "rest of the story". Thanks for understanding. I will have to check out that Countryside mag - don't people have better things to do than go after "raw milk dealers"?? What ever happened to chasing drug dealers and thieves?


Ken and Mary of Fancy Fibers Farm said...

Here in Texas, we often find ourselves overrun with eggs too. I must say that I don't know what the laws are in Texas governing the sale of eggs, but I'm sure we have 'em and they're more or less like everyone elses. We find ourselves giving some away and taking "donations" for the rest. Ken and Mary of Fancyfibers Farms

Texan said...

hey I had another idea on your eggs and how to use them as a income without selling them!!

Barter! Yep that cake making friend...well give her eggs and then in return when you need birthday cakes or work cakes etc...she makes you a cake ... everyone has something they can or merchandise...

I did this with a goat kid :O)... bartered him :O)... I like to barter I think most people do... it requires no money ...

yep there ya go ... get yourself a notebook to help you keep up with it and poof then trade in when you need their service or merchandise...know someone who makes cheese? or how bout maple syrup? or or or :O)...its like income but not :O)

Farmgirl_dk: said...

Oh, oh, oh!! Are you going to save that little eensy egg? :-)

Farmgirl_dk: said...

Wow - yes, MD is stricter than OR. Private sales of eggs directly to the consumer are completely unregulated.

I found this little snippet online at the Oregon Dept of Agriculture about egg selling here: "Eggs may be sold at markets without an egg handler’s license and without labeling, but only by the farm that produces the eggs. All other eggs—even those produced by friends or relatives on neighboring farms—must come from licensed facilities and comply with labeling requirements. "

That's a horrible story about the people angry about you getting your property, Lynn - I had no idea!

Razzberry Corner said...

Ken and Mary - I've been giving away alot of eggs, too!

Texan - GREAT idea - I like the barter thing. And country people like I live around would go for that. I have to get to know more of my "neighbors" (other people out here in the country)...

Danni - Egg selling is a science these days, not a hobby! Did your tiny egg shrivel all up when you kep it in the window?


Farmgirl_dk: said...

Hey Lynn - My tiny egg(s) had their insides dry up when I left them in my sunny (south facing) window. Every now and again, I'd go over and shake them and then put them back in the window. Now, when I shake them, there is a hard, little pea-sized yolk that rattles around on the inside. The shell has remained the same...tiny & cute! :-)