Healthier Choice Eggs Farm is an all-natural poultry farm on-island that we visited Tuesday for the “Eggs” episode of Genuine Cayman. Located in the district of East End, HCE was started by Caymanians Kevan and Donna Connolly in 2009, from an idea of wanting to do something with all the local, wild chickens that were in the yard. 1-day-old chicks are imported through assistance from the Cayman Islands Agriculture Department and raised on a diet of natural chicken feed mixed with various seeds and greens. From that a poultry business was formed.
“I used to hate chickens! But turns out chickens saved my life,” explains Donna. “I started with 200 little fuzzy balls… Chickens are not what people think they are, they are finicky! You lose some at first. I lost 71 of the original 200. They have to be warm, no draft… It took months of research to find the best way to produce the best product.”
Healthier Choice Eggs are all natural, home grown, preservative free, hormone, free, steroid free and are always guaranteed fresh. They are farmed from a mix that took a while to master but produces a tastier egg which has a thicker egg white and a yolk which keeps its shape better and has a nice deep yellow color. Chef Thomas is paired with Donna for Slow Food Day’s farmers market at The Grounds tasting, and will be presenting soft-scrambled farm eggs on garlic toast with grilled green onions and piave vecchio from the MGFD Cart.
Donna keeps mostly Red Sexlink (a cross between Leghorn and Rhode Island Red) and a few of the white variety. Brown chicken, brown egg; white chicken, white egg. There are three well-ventilated, clean pens — a progression… You have the youngest chickens together, the teenagers in the middle and then the “old girls” last, which go to the slaughter house and make for a great locally- and humanely-raised bird. Farmer Patrick Panton is taking a page from Donna’s book, too, and has begun a small poultry operation on his produce farm in Bodden Town, as well. Thomas has sampled the chicken in the MGFD chicken and began buying it for the restaurant a few months ago. He’s been really pleased with the product so far.
“Right now I light the cages to trick them to keep egg production up in winter,” Donna explains. “Everything they do, they do in a pattern. A chicken will lay an egg-a-day at their peak, as few as one every 3 days.”
There are two roosters on the grounds, although we only traded power stares with one of them on our visit. You’d think he keeps the hens in line, but Donna begs to differ. “You don’t need rooster for eggs,” she says. “We got self-sufficient women here!”
Production has been steady, and Donna’s customer base has grown to include individuals in the surrounding community, a gas station, and of course the farmers market at Camana bay. Restaurants are next on the list.
“I’m thinking about ramping up and expanding,” she adds. “I’ve got big plans.”
Healthier Choice Eggs poultry farm is located on Austin Conolly Drive in East End. Eggs can be purchased at Market at the Grounds on Saturday mornings in Savannah, every Wednesday at the weekly Farmer Market at Camana Bay and East End Texaco. Eggs can also be delivered by contacting Donna 925-7701 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For photos of our farm visit, see this Flickr set.