Hannah Elbaum ’19
Students have recently noticed the recurring appearance of hard-boiled eggs at breakfast in every Smith dining hall. In an effort to ensure students are meeting their recommended daily protein intake and to provide on-the-go options, Dining Services has taken to hard-boiling several hundred eggs each week.
Dining Services has said that they frequently experience egg shortages and have been looking for ways to prevent this after being bombarded by emails from enraged students who did not arrive to breakfast in time to get an egg with their oatmeal. Dining Services paired up with The Board of Trustees and the Office of the President to look into ways to fix this problem and recently came to a solution.
Davis Lawn, the grassy field behind Cutter- Ziskind and next to the Davis Ballroom, has been outfitted with three oversized chicken coops, and a room in the Ballroom has been converted to store high quantities of chicken feed. In response to the high demand for hard-boiled eggs, Davis Lawn will be converted into a chicken coop complex.
Director of Dining Services Andy Cox has done extensive research into the project. “Including rotational grazing the capacity, Davis can accommodate the nearly 1,200 hens we would need for a steady supply [of eggs]. We are considering a few breeds that are cold- hardy, [have] prolific layers and are aesthetically pleasing, like Rhode Island Reds, Silver Laced Wyandottes and Buff Orpingtons,” Cox said.
Should demand for hard-boiled eggs increase beyond its current point, Cox also said that Burton Lawn may also be repurposed into a chicken coop complex.
This move is being embraced by many as a step toward Smith’s goal to reduce its carbon footprint, as well as place emphasis on consuming local food. In addition, upkeep of the chicken coop complex and care of the chickens will create approximately 15 new jobs for the Smith Facilities Management team. A representative from Facilities shared that the expenses saved from buying eggs for hard- boiling is equal to part-time salaries for ten employees and five full-time employees.
Responsibilities for the new roles will include feeding, cleaning and providing companionship for the chickens in order to allow them to produce only the highest quality eggs for Smith students. There will also be opportunities for student workers to work as a “Chicken Companion” as part of the work- study program.
Chick Hen ’17 is in favor of the move. “Smith emphasizes serving local food, and bringing the source to our backyard is good for everyone. We get fresh eggs and these chickens get a nice home surrounded by Smithies.”
Roo S. Terr ’18 lives in Cutter and is less thrilled by the change. “The constant squawking is really distracting when I am trying to study in my room.” Terr also noted the previous uses of Davis Lawn and loss of that space for events or other activities. “I used to see little kids playing there, which was cute and not as loud, and now, it just smells like a farm,” Terr said.
Several other disgruntled voices have made themselves heard as well. An official statement released by the Smith College Vegans Club said that they are “disappointed in Smith for blatant favoring of the non-vegan diet and lifestyle and hope that Smith will rethink their choice. In the meantime, we wish for positive treatment of the chickens.” Their statement was accompanied by several articles on maltreatment of chickens in the egg industry.
Cox has voiced his concerns for the future of this program but sees solutions that are easily accessible. “Egg production dwindles after a hen’s fourth laying season,” he said. “We will need to develop a plan [to] consider a pasture for retired chickens out McLeish Field Station.” At the moment, there are no plans to use the chickens for anything other than their egg-producing skills.
In response to questions about why the more centralized Chapin Lawn was not chosen to be the site of this project, Cox said, “Unlike Chapin Lawn, Davis is devoid of long acronyms limiting crossing, so chickens can get to the other side.”