Why Eggs Are So Expensive Right Now–and What You Can Do About It

Day 240 of 365

Everyone is talking about it. My friends and family send pictures of eggs with expensive price tags. Eggs have been so cheap in recent years that people are shocked by how expensive they are right now. Prices vary by area, but as of December 2022, egg prices had jumped over 49 percent. It looks like the prices may continue to rise in the coming months. On top of the rising prices, I have read reports of egg rationing in some areas of the U.S., much like what has happened in the UK in recent years.

What is going on? Though rising costs of feed and supplies for farming are factors, avian flu or bird flu is mainly to blame.

Avian Flu Hits the United States

Avian flu has historically been relatively rare in the United Sates. There have certainly been outbreaks, but last year was a big one. Last year, anyone with chickens was highly aware of a deadly outbreak of bird flu in the U.S. Even here in Maine, a state that had been fortunate in terms of avian flu outbreaks in the past, there were enough cases of avian flu that chicken farmers throughout the state were encouraged to enclose their flocks, something that is not an easy task for most small farmers. While most of the cases here in Maine were near bodies of water, it was a serious scare for everyone in our state.

But Maine’s cases were few compared to what was happening in other states in 2022. According to recent data from the United States Department of Agriculture, an estimated 57.8 million birds were affected by avian flu last year. I don’t know if everyone else was paying attention to the chicken news, but it was devastating to read about the cases impacting large farms where millions of birds had to be destroyed. Sadly, they were often destroyed in some of the most inhumane ways. It was like a tragedy that just kept building upon the previous tragedy. Now, months later, consumers are feeling the effects of a year of epic loss.

The United Kingdom As Warning

As a chicken farmer, I have been following the outbreak of avian flu in the United Kingdom fairly closely because the stories have been worrisome for years–year after year of outbreak, flocks destroyed, required indoor lockdown for all flocks. These are things we are not used to here in the U.S, but scientists have been warning for years that the U.S. could be in for a taste of what has happened in the U.K. Year after year of outbreaks has led to significant changes in the way poultry are kept in many parts of the U.K., and even that is not enough. 2022 was a record year for avian flu in the U.K. According to reports from late last year, egg rationing was necessary in some grocery stores.

Bird Flu and Climate Change

You may be wondering why we are seeing such record numbers of avian flu cases, and some scientists point to climate change. At the very least, researchers know for sure that climate change impacts avian flu cases amongst wild birds. And this year’s epic outbreak of avian flu was directly related to wild bird contact with commercial and backyard flocks. Experts were not seeing cases spread from flock to flock. It was being spread by wild birds, who are often immune to the symptoms.

Climate change impacts migratory patterns–what birds come into contact with what other birds and when. On top of this, warmer temperatures impact transmission. According to a report from Arizona State University, researchers at several universities in the U.S. warned in 2019 that “a shift in the global climate could lead to a shift in migratory patterns, leading to the reassortment of these viral strains and increasing the chances of a new, threatening strain emerging. Higher temperatures are also typically more conducive to viral transmission and pathogenicity.”

What You Can Do

I have always been a supporter of buying local eggs from your local chicken keepers, and now is a good time to connect to someone locally who sells eggs. Even chicken farmers and homesteaders with small flocks will often have extra eggs to sell during the spring and summer months. Of course, these small chicken farmers are also being impacted by the cost of feed and supples, but if you are looking for delicious eggs at a fair price, now is the time to connect with your local chicken lady.

In addition to saving money, you will be buying fresher eggs that taste better and may even be more nutritious than the eggs you get a the grocery store. You will also be able to experience the beauty and diversity of eggs from a small farm or homestead. You will find eggs in all shapes and sizes and in a variety of beautiful colors from blue to green to chocolate and cream.

And, if you are ambitious and have been thinking about getting chickens anyway, it’s something to consider. Of course, right now, building a coop and buying expensive food may not be the best option if you are looking to save money; however, in the long run, you will be more self sufficient and prepared. And, more and more, cities across the country are allowing backyard flocks.

What the Future Holds

Because there is a connection between climate change and avian flu, as a chicken farmer, I have concerns about the future. The U.S. has been fortunate, but scientists have been warning that we may not always be so fortunate. This last year has been cause for serious concern. In an article from NPR early last year, Jonathan Runstadler, an influenza researcher at Tufts University said, “It’s somewhat surprising how widespread it is already in North America.” He continued. “It’s clearly able to persist and transmit from year to year in parts of Asia, Europe, Africa, and I don’t think we should be surprised if that’s going to be the case here.”

If we do see repeated years of avian flu, it could mean that eggs will be more difficult to get, even from a local chicken farmer, as smaller farmers most likely do not have the facilities to keep chickens in lockdown–or at least not very many chickens. If we had to lock down our chickens, for example, we would have to keep fewer chickens, which means we would have eggs for our family and a couple other families, but we would not be able to sell eggs on the scale that we do now. We would also have some very sad chickens who would lose their freedom to come and go as they please.

For now, however, I try to be hopeful, hopeful that we will not see a repeat of 2022 in 2023. And, for now, it’s going to be a really good year to buy eggs from your local chicken farmer.

Apples: Part III

Day 147 of 365

“Foraged Apples, Sweet and Sour” by KierinSight, Unsplash

Just as I was starting to understand that I wanted to change my life, to live more connectedly to nature, to get close to my food, I met a colleague who worked in the grants office at the university where I was teaching, and she understood me as others had not yet been able to. I treasured her. One day, I arrived for a meeting, and she had a gift for me—a bag of organic apples from a farm near where she lived in New York state. I held those apples with such love and admiration, and my gratefulness to this person ran so deep. I am a person who is deeply grateful for gifts. It seems so wonderful that someone thinks of me to give me anything. But organic apples! What gift in the world could I have loved more? 

Apples and I keep having these “run-ins” of sorts, so I have to write just a little bit more. Plus, there’s something about a trilogy, I think. I have been thinking about why I love apples so much all week. I realize, after a week of pondering apples, they represent hope to me. 

Apples are special, not in their sweetness and beauty, but in their sweetness, beauty, and durability. After all, strawberries are so sweet and beautiful, as are raspberries, and so many other beautiful fruits from the harvests here in Maine. But apples. Apples can last. You don’t even have to freeze a good storage apple like a Granny Smith or a Liberty. Even the ever-so-sweet Honeycrisp stores well. You just wrap them in newspapers and put them in a basket in the basement, and those apples will feed you for months. How generous of them to be so sweet and so sturdy.

The events of my life so far have shown me that sturdiness is important. I have this feeling it’s going to be even more important as life goes on. 

Climate change is already making our lives harder, and it feels like things are really just getting started. Still, there is some acceptance I notice in myself that I didn’t have before. Because I work with people in the sciences on their dissertations, I have noticed a shift in the rhetoric about climate change in the last year or so. 

For a while, there were the warnings: “Listen up, climate change is going to happen if we don’t do something right now.” Then, the rhetoric got really unusual. Scientists were angry, yelling, desperate to get our attention, something not common at all in academic writing: “Listen here! This is serious! We’re not even kidding!” Of course, it seems the course was set. Now, there is a shift toward a kind of acceptance: “Okay, so this is happening. Let’s help humanity figure out how to adjust, migrate, adapt, survive.” 

Somehow, though I would have thought this place of acceptance would feel more hopeless to me, it feels more hopeful. Maybe it’s that the reality of it cannot be avoided, but it seems like more and more, the people I know—and not just the scientists—are looking for ways to adapt, which often involves learning how to live more in harmony with Nature. The farmers I talk to are nothing short of heroic to me, but they are determined. And, in seeing this, I find solace—and hope. 

The state of affairs with the apple exemplifies what smart people can do when they have to. When Michael Pollan published The Botany of Desire in 2001, he expressed deep concern for the state of the apple. We had farmed the diversity right out of the apple, and lack of diversity within any species is dangerous for that species. If everyone is the same, it doesn’t take much to wipe everyone out. Strength is diversity. Isn’t it interesting that this seems to be a truth humans struggle so greatly to learn? 

But true it is, and, thankfully, people like Michael Pollan raised awareness about the apple. Then, more people started doing something about it. Farmers started to work hard to preserve heirloom varieties of apples. Small farmers and individuals got involved and started working to ensure more apples varieties were cultivated. And consumers helped too. They showed they were open to different and interesting varieties of apples. 

I used to only buy my apples at chain grocery stores. I remember a time, not that long ago, when I bought apples at the grocery store, I really had just three or four varieties to choose from—Red Delicious, Granny Smith, and a something yellow, maybe a Gala, maybe a Golden Delicious. Today, even at the chains, I see at least seven or eight varieties, sometimes more in apple season. And so many people now shop from small farms and at farmers markets. In John Forti’s speech at the Common Ground Fair last month, he said that, in the last decade or so, the number of farmers markets in the United States has grown from the hundreds to the thousands–and the growth continues. 

Historians and farmers continue to work together to preserve heirloom apples. The work on this here in my adopted home state of Maine is remarkable. Maine treasures its heirloom apples. I recently discovered a map of heirloom orchards here in Maine and hope to visit one this year. How fantastic would it be to try a Sundance, a Zestar, or a Cox Orange Pippin apple? And there is a whole movement toward cider apples and a market for hard cider. We don’t want to lose this diversity, so we work to keep them going for future generations. 

And if we can work together to ensure future generations have heirloom apples, we can work together to figure out ways to adapt to climate change. Hopefully, right? 

Apples are such a gift, such a reminder that nature is magnificent, sturdy, that humans can be magnificent, and that life can be so sweet, even if we have to be a little sturdy to ensure we can enjoy it. 

I wanted to conclude my apple trilogy with a quote shared with me by a dear friend, one who sees through my wall of protection so well that I decided to just go ahead and take it down. It’s a quote by Louise Erdrich, from her novel, The Painted Drum, which I have yet to read but is on my list for this coming Winter. When you read this quote, I am certain it will be on your list too because it’s full of truths about life, love, loss–and apples. 

Think of this quote. Go to the apple orchard. Pick the apples. Eat them. Remember to love them. Remember to love. 

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and being alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You have to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes too near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could.”

The Weather Report for Chickens

Day 89 of 100

I was going to write tonight about corn and give a crop report. It’s fascinating to me what Ron has managed to do in the garden despite the water and temperature struggles this summer. Some things have failed–but not many things. But I will have to give more detail tomorrow because I have a joyful story to tell, and I feel like, right now, if you have a joyful story to tell, I want to hear it. I hope you feel the same.

This is Juliet’s baby, who is on her own with her brother since last week. Oh, Juliet! She has no name yet because I have to know her a little before I can name her well. Today, I learned something about her. I was giving watermelon to the big chickens first, and this tiny hen squeezed under the fence, ran out there with the grownups and stole some watermelon. That’s bold. There’s an order in chicken culture, and this would be punished with a good peck if she were to be caught. She surely knows this, but that baby ran out there anyway while the other babies watched in awe and stole some watermelon. This is fantastically bold.

I always give my chickens the weather report to try to help them through the bad days. I am so sensitive to how they feel that, when they are struggling with extreme weather like we are, I worry extra. I try to make their lives reasonable during tough times, I mean, the watermelon rinds are piling up out there. Still, hot and miserable weather is hot and miserable weather for everybody. Generally, in the summers, I can say, “just a few days, and we’ll get a little break,” but it became apparent last month that we were in for a long heat wave and dry spell the likes of which I have not seen in Maine. I did not want to tell my chickens the bad news, so I just laid low.

But, today, as I delivered another round of watermelon and checked all of the waterers, I got to to deliver the good news as well–one more bad day! The cooler temperatures are coming for us on Monday. The high tomorrow is supposed to be 95. The high on Monday is supposed to be 70–and the rain is coming too! All the animals, including some very old hens who I was really worried about in this heat, seem to be going to make it!

Mary Jane is still alive. I gave that old girl a pep talk today. She is doing much better than I thought, so I told her to hang in there a little longer. If she can make it just one more day, she can live to see another glorious fall around here. Chickens LOVE the Fall. The cooler temps, the leaves, the bugs on the leaves. Even if they take turns molting, overall, fall is a fun time for our pasture-raised chickens. The pasture gets extra fun.

I was feeling so good about sharing the good news with all the animals tonight when I tucked everyone in for their bedtime. Shortly after, I came inside after wrapping up the duck game. While outside, I could hear music coming from the house, as, of course, all of the windows are open. When I came inside, I found Ron and our son dancing in the kitchen with the music so loud I am sure the neighbors could hear it. It was 7 Nation Army by the White Stripes, and they both looked so quirky and adorable. Our son was wearing his sunglasses and dancing around with his “old da.” The best part was that Boudica was joining in and jumping and playing in between the two of them.

I smiled so big my face literally hurt.

There is joy in the air on our little homestead. The rain is coming. The heat will break. Ron has kept the crops alive, and I have kept even Mary Jane alive. It’s been tough. I am so thankful rain and cool are coming.

The weather report looks good.

P.S. If you are a farmer or homesteader reading this post and you are struggling with heat and drought, my heart goes out to you. I hope with all of my might that you get some rain soon, too.


Day 88 of 100

Tonight, I spent some time in the farming and homesteading discussion forums. It was fascinating to read about how other farmers are dealing with the heat and drought that has been just extra this year. Too many people are having their wells run dry, and it’s just heartbreaking to read about people having to give up their animals or find temporary homes for their animals where there is still some water.

photo credit: Frame Harirak, Unsplash

It’s easy to feel isolated in farming and homesteading work. In the summers, you are so busy that it can be hard to make time to connect. But connecting is important to learn from one another, and I am thankful for good forums with smart homesteaders and farmers. It’s good to share strategies in times of challenge. This year has been a challenge.

I have seen that Ron is pretty weary from all of the watering he has had to do this summer. Tonight, I read story after story of homesteaders just being so weary as well from all of the hand watering. Some are just giving up and praying for rain. I also read some articles about what has happened in Italy and Spain’s olive crops. It’s all concerning to me.

Ron has not given up, and we are very fortunate in that he has kept most of the crops healthy, but it has taken a toll on him. And when he’s watering all day, it leaves a lot of other chores to me. I get a little weary myself from extra responsibilities. It’s important and joyful work to me. I love having and caring for animals, but summer is extra work with all of the teenager chickens, babies, broody mamas, and the extra watering and care required in this kind of heat.

Early next week, it is supposed to rain. I think we’ve had just two good rains this whole summer. And that last one wasn’t as good as it needed to be.

Tonight, as I read the farming and homesteading forums, I wished for all of those farmers to get rain on Monday. I wished for us to get rain. I wished for everyone who so desperately needs it right now to get rain. This is the summer that climate change, for me at least, went from being something I have been wringing my hands about to something that I understand is just going to have to be dealt with–and it’s not going to be easy. I wish to be wrong on that, but I am worried I am not.

It’s Weirdly Hot for May in Maine

Day 3 of 365

Ruby is off her nest of eggs right now, and she has just 12 minutes before it makes an hour. I’ve read broody hens can be off their eggs for longer, but an hour is a safe window of time for a break. So, in the middle of writing this, I will have to go check on Ruby. She didn’t take a break at all yesterday, so I know she needs one. Still, I’m hoping she will get back to work soon.

It’s been really hot this week, very hot for May in Maine. Ron has been planting everything early but has been most worried about getting the broccoli and cauliflower going because it will bake in the heat and not produce. It needs our usual cooler temperatures. He did well, he got the plants into the ground, but getting hot this early is a concern. Hopefully, the plants will survive this heat wave.

The heat is hard on our animals too. We have several very old chickens. One is a meat bird, Mary Jane. If she makes it to the first of June, she will be five years old! This is something of a miracle, but she’s very large and very old, and I worry very much about losing her to the heat. Thankfully, our birds have a lot of shade from the many trees on our property, and I take great pains to make sure everyone has access to fresh water and cool treats throughout the summer. Still, a couple of years ago, we lost an older hen to the heat. I try to keep a watchful eye.

Yesterday, my son and I went for a walk on our road, and when we got home, I noticed the chickens looked so hot and dry. Earlier than usual, I went to the shed and got their extra waterer. I gave it a good scrub and put it out for everyone near the dust bath hang out. It was a hit. As soon as I sat it down, several chickens circled the waterer. They still had access to their main waterer, of course, but new is better. They always think this. When I am feeding scraps, I have some hens who will constantly move on to what I am dropping last, even if they are giving up a very good position with very good scraps I dropped earlier. Apparently, these hens do not understand the old saying, “a bird in the hand.” In so many ways, humans are the same.

While I was scrubbing the waterer, I noticed the ducks, who have their own area separate from our chickens. That’s another story in and of itself. We tried to keep our chickens and ducks together, as some farmers do, but it was a hard “no” for us. This meant Ron had to build an entirely new duck area complete with duck house and 1/2 acre fenced area. He’s kind of a miracle, though he doesn’t think so. Anyway, the ducks were watching me closely with the water hose, and one duck in particular, a duck we rehabilitated after she was over-mated at another farm, was making eye contact. Her name is Anna Maria.

I looked at her. She looked at the kiddie pool. I didn’t feel like scrubbing and cleaning their pool, as I needed to go make dinner, and we try to just do the pool clean just once per week to be frugal with water. They have access to large bowls with fresh water every morning, but the pool is pretty big. It hadn’t been a week yet since it’s last clean and fill, but when I looked at her again, she looked at the pool. I got the message.

“Alright, Anna Maria, hang on.”

I scrubbed and filled the pool with the sparkling water made extra beautiful by the fact that the kiddie pool is light blue. The ducks gathered and watched in anticipation. When the pool was filled Antonio, our only male duck, was the first one in. “Come on in, girls, the water’s fine,” he said with the bob of his head. The ladies seemed skeptical.

But after a few minutes, they couldn’t resist, and the girls piled in as well. But not Anna Maria. She waited. I went about my other work, as I knew she would get her turn. Indeed, she did. I came back by a few minutes later, and Anna Maria was in the pool with one other female. They were both ducking down and raising up, letting the cool water run over their heads, and my heart was so happy for Anna Maria. I will have to write more about her soon, but she has been though a lot in her life. Every single time I see her being joyful, I feel like I have done some good in the world.

I feel like I flail around the world most of the time–wanting to do some good, usually feeling helpless. I cannot affect much change in the world. I cannot convince world governments that we need to take action now on climate change, that Maine is too hot in May. I cannot even figure out how to help my children prepare for an ever-changing, more difficult world than I grew up in. I try but feel like a failure at every turn.

But I made Anna Maria’s life better.

And, yesterday, in the sparking water, as the sun shone on her between the trees, I saw a joyful duck, and there, before my eyes, was some good I have done in my life.


While writing this, I had to take a break and check on Ruby. Her hour was up, but she was still off her nest. Much to her dismay, I had to capture her, which is no easy task. Chickens are fast! But when I took her back to her eggs, she went to them immediately. She sat her little self down, adjusted her body to spread over the 8 eggs in her nest, and looked content. I guess she just needed to be reminded. She’s on day 2 of 21. On day 7, I’ll candle the eggs!

What’s Going On?

by James Sands, guest blogger

“… and I scream from the top of my lungs, WHAT’S GOING ON?! “

My wife was casting about for potential guest bloggers, and I reluctantly answered the call—not certain if my current brand of comma-laced (the world gives me pause), cynical incredulity would be deemed appropriate for public consumption—but, if you are reading this, and hopefully not reluctantly, it, apparently, was.

Perhaps some or maybe even most of you will remember the pop tune from the early nineties, “What’s Up,” written and performed by Linda Perry, formerly of 4 Non Blondes, and its unavoidable, inherent question. Linda Perry could belt one out, and that question was aurally etched into the auditory pathways of my brain with the earnest fierceness and underlying frustration of someone who, I imagine, knows the biggest and most important questions are typically the ones that go unanswered. Her question, timely then, is even more so today.

“What’s going on?”

There is much I do not understand. We are in the midst of what is possibly the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. And, in addition to climate change, we are also in a pandemic that has sickened almost 250,000,000 people and caused the deaths of over 5,000,000 people world wide. This seems like a time when humans should come together, should unite in common purpose against global crises that detrimentally impact us all.

Yet what do we do? We divide; we attack; we fracture—swayed by forces that seemingly are out to confuse, profit, segregate and control. Why?

It is apparent many of us live in two separate realities, polar realities supported and fueled, in part, by major media organizations that, seemingly, no longer view themselves as purveyors of the news, keepers of the sacred truth. Instead, they have become “social influencers.” My spell-check does not like the word “influencers; “neither do I. I am disgusted by it. The truth is sacred—but not to some.

Social media for example. What promise. What possibility. What potential to educate and unite. But no. Social media has become a powerful wedge for the dividers—and a money machine for those who have the power to check and eradicate the lies that live and thrive there. Tragically, it is also, for some, the only source of “news.”

Why is it easier for some people to believe prominent democrats run child prostitution rings out of pizza shops or JFK junior is not deceased but has been in hiding the past twenty-two years and will return to become president or Covid vaccines contain satanic markers than it is for them to believe the burning of fossil fuels has altered our climate to the point where we now are on the cusp of irreversible, planet-wide disaster?

The internet, via social media, now runs the biggest tabloid press on the planet. 

I can see with my own eyes the climate is warming. Ten years ago, my young son and I built a snowman on the day after Halloween. This year, on November 2, I harvested the last of my peppers from plants that were still producing blossoms, yielding almost a half bushel basket the day before our first major frost. This in Bangor, Maine. I have never had pepper plants survive, let alone thrive, outdoors past mid October.  

I have been to Los Angles; I have been to Boston; I have been to Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis, Buffalo. I have witnessed the traffic; I have seen the sick gray skylines, the billowing clouds of smoke. I have watched the documentaries, seen the pictures of smog-shrouded cities in India, Pakistan, China, Kuwait, Uganda, Bangladesh, Russia, Mexico, Peru, Egypt, and Iran to list a few.

Where does all of that pollution come from and where does it all go? I have read the literature. I understand how CO2 emissions affect the upper atmosphere. Climate change driven by the burning of fossil fuels is accepted as fact by a majority of scientists world-wide. Do they have an agenda? Are they making money by promoting this. Is there an international corporation of scientists whose board of directors dictates this truth be told in order to keep their stock holders cash-fat and happy?

I do not own a gigantic mushroom-shaped projectile filled with enough liquid rocket Viagra to penetrate and inseminate the mesosphere nor do I have a cowboy hat. I grow a garden; I raise chickens, and I refuse to be divided. Many of my neighbors do not agree with my political views. I refuse to hate them for it. Granted, I do not agree with or understand why they are where they are regarding issues like climate change and Covid-19, but I do understand how they were led there. Still, I refuse to be divided.

We are all human; we are all one; this planet is one—our only one. I cannot escape it nor would I want to. I love the earth and all the creatures on it. This is my home. Agree with them or not, all humans are my people.

And this is where I really get cynical. Do I think we will come together to save ourselves? Right now, I do not. There are powerful forces aligned against us, powerful people hell-bent on dividing us–hell-bent on turning this planet into a hell. Too many seem unwilling to change; too many seem profit-driven rather than socially motivated. Too many seem selfish, mired in ego and greed. As a whole, we humans just might be fatally flawed. We continue to repeat the same terrible mistakes, revel in the same ridiculous arguments, fall along the same unwholesome divisions.

Will we survive? Will we find the common ground that exists all around us, under us? If we are going to find a way out of this, we had better. And that, now, is the ultimate truth.  

And maybe next year, I’ll plant watermelons.

photo credit: Rachel Jarboe, Unsplash