A Good Egg
It's a wet winter's day in Kaiwaka, but judging by the gentle murmuring coming from the paddocks on Annelize van Blerk's farm, her chickens are happy. They stroll freely and peck in the grass, or perch in the fruit and native trees, as free as a bird should be.
She has 2700 chickens now, but Anni started with just a couple. Sadly one of those hens met an untimely demise in the driveway, so, believing that chickens should never be flying solo, they bought five more.
Soon they had too many eggs for her family to manage, so she took the extras in to her workmates at an accountancy firm in town. Her eggs were so good, demand started outstripping supply. It became a business, and in order to grow, they needed to move from their lifestyle block in Waitakere.
Along with her husband Johan, and their two children, they found their farm in the Kaipara district, about 90 minutes north of Auckland. Anni strongly believes in animal husbandry and is committed to best farming practices. "I love it and I'm passionate about it," she says.
Their brown shavers, a mix of 20 week old chickens and rescue hens, truly are free range. They live outside, have constant access to water and food, are allowed to moult, and die of old age, usually at about seven years.
Last summer when the hens were struggling in the heat, they installed fans in the coop to help them cool off. Keeping them happy isn't hard, says Annie. "Just let them go outside, and give them good food."
She believes happy chickens lay better eggs, which are collected twice a day. Anni's Eggs are sold to shops, restaurants and bakeries around West Auckland and in the CBD, getting up at 5am to do deliveries before heading to weekend farmer's markets at Oratia and Orewa. And she still takes dozens of them into her workmates in town. Demand for her eggs isn't slowing any time soon.