When Jay and Nancy Jernigan moved their family from Chicago to Evansville in 2015, their youngest son, Kaleb, thought maybe he'd get a horse. Instead, he got 12 baby chicks as pets. But when their circle of friends heard that Kaleb was raising chickens, they lined up to ask for eggs.
The Jernigan's were new to raising chickens, though, and had to learn that it could take months before they would start laying eggs. Rather than wait, Jay decided to get 24 full grown hens. They started collecting eggs immediately from those chickens, but friends and family quickly bought up all that they could produce. Months later, those babies were laying eggs as well. It still wasn't enough. They still couldn't keep up with the egg orders they had. So, they quickly added another 24 hens to their flock It was still not enough.
The family needed to expand more than they had imagined if they wanted to fulfill all of the orders they had coming in. That's when they started ordering fertilized eggs and hatching their own chicks.
By 2017, they had grown to over 150 hens. They even added a few turkeys and ducks to expand the type of eggs they sold.
Why is there such a demand for J&N Farm's eggs? It's more than just Kaleb's charm. The hens are well cared-for, thoughtfully fed, and the results show in the flavor and quality.
For starters, the birds at J&N Farm are fed a special hormone free food blend that's high in protein. They're given plenty of local, non-GMO greens to forage every day. The most interesting part of their diet is when the chickens receive grain-free cat food. Nancy says, "the cat food is like candy to them, but the protein boost in the food helps keep their feathers fuller and helps with egg quality." The family grows and dries their own marigolds and roses each summer to add to the chicken feed all year round. Marigolds keep the egg yolks a rich orange color, and the rose petals are an immune booster for the chickens.
In the winter, cold weather can slow down a hen's laying. To combat that, the Jernigans give their birds fresh, hot oatmeal every morning to wake them up and help them stay warm. "We know our chickens are spoiled, but when the chickens are happy, they lay happy eggs that look and taste fantastic," Nancy says. The whole operation could have ended abruptly in December 2018, when an electrical wire in their chicken barn shorted and the barn went up in flames. The barn was a total loss, over 100 birds didn't survive, and they lost all of their feeders and food.
But the Jernigans were not ready to give up. Today, they've rebuilt the barn, invested in new feeders and nesting boxes, and the chickens have an even bigger area than they did before the fire. Since moving the chickens into the new barn, they've starting laying eggs again. "They seem really happy back in their normal routine", Nancy says. Which means, J &N Farm is back on Market Wagon, and you can get their "happy eggs," as Nancy calls them, delivered every week.