The Fancy F’s Rainbow Eggs are Absolutely Delightful
Catherine Delphia’s 15 acre farm in Hillsdale, New York has a name so cheeky that I laughed out loud when she first said it: “A Whole Acres,” she explained. “I figured it was less offensive if I spelled it A-W-H-O-L-E. The ‘W’ made it wholesome.”
Delphia is a farmer who sells beautiful 6-color “spectrum eggs” as The Fancy F— a set of rainbow eggs set in beautiful, modern packaging that she designed. Raising dozens of rare, heritage breeds on her farm upstate, Delphia (a board-certified medical illustrator) is something of a visionary when it comes to farm-fresh eggs and the aesthetic experience they can provide. “We’re lucky to have the New York market so close,” she says, reflecting on the bespoke quality of her product. “Not everyone is willing to pay $12 for a carton of eggs, but that’s what it takes to produce them including retail markup– but we’re kind of still in prototype mode.”
The incredible color of Delphia’s eggs stems from the different varieties of chickens she rears. “After experimenting with different breeds and egg shell color, it wasn’t until we got this farm going, in February 2016, that we were able to get to where we are now [producing color spectrum eggs].” The eggs, moreover, are a byproduct of Delphia’s passion for chickens and her ever-expanding curiosity about rare breeds.
“Our rarest breed is a Lemon Cuckoo Cochin,” she announces proudly. “They were imported from England. They’re the only two in the United States, and they’re here at our farm in Hillsdale, which is pretty cool.”
“We also have Blue Copper Marans and Black Copper Marans; we have pretty much every color Cochin you could imagine; we do Hamburgs, we do Exchequers; we’ve got Belgian D’Uccles… we’ve also got Japanese Grey Bantams, Cream-Crested Legbars, Wheaten Ameraucanas, and something new called ‘Super Blues’. And we’ve also got Silkies”– a breed of long-hair chicken that has become a cult Internet sensation. When asked about the phenomenon, Delphia is equally enthusiastic. “Oh, Frizzles, Frazzles, Sizzles… the variety of Silkies is endless!” she quips in approval.
Delphia’s standard 6-color egg spectrum is sold in packaging based on a 1930’s carton design that she discovered when researching egg packaging throughout history. (Below shown is the white birch box and spectrum dozen eggs.) With its chic, modern design made of recyclable cardboard, the eggs are almost too pretty to eat, inspiring awe and delight in everyone who comes across them at Foragers Market locations in Chelsea and DUMBO (where they are currently sold in limited supply.)
The Fancy F’s standard 6-color egg spectrum is sold in packaging based on a 1930’s carton design that Delphia discovered when researching egg packaging throughout history.
Part of the eggs’ nuanced beauty has to do with how difficult they are to produce. “A vet once told me that chickens are pretty much made to die,” Delphia explains when asked about the difficulty of caring for chickens (let alone of obtaining a consistent yield of colorful eggs).” Chickens have a number of developmental problems and are prone to nutritional deficiencies, digestive issues, and diseases. If left to roam unattended on open pasture, hawks may swoop down and eat pullets (young chickens) right in the field–an occurrence that Delphia notes is “not for the faint of heart”.
“If you breed your own birds,” as Delphia does, “You also can’t get the vaccination in small enough quantities that you can vaccinate your own birds… so you’re doing to lose birds to Marek’s disease. It just happens,” she continues, enumerating the many ways that chickens are, in fact, seemingly built to die. “There are also respiratory problems and something called ‘sourcrop’, which is basically when the food in a chicken’s gullet sours and kills them… Sorry, this is so much information!” she stutters, realizing how unsavory the topic might seem.
If this is so, and chickens are an incredible vulnerable species, then how do giant mono-agricultural operations keep their birds alive? In big, midwestern factory farms, a bird’s life would seem wholly jeopardized by the substandard living conditions that most of us read about in The Omnivore’s Dilemma— especially given that the use of hormones in chickens is illegal in the United States.
“It’s messed up, but I kind of see how they got there,” she says of factory farms. “They’re not doing it to be cruel to the birds; they’re doing it to protect the birds… they are protecting the birds from predators and disease, and they are controlling their environment perfectly so that they are less likely to get sick. And they’ve also bred their chickens to better tolerate that environment, so they’ve got chickens that you can identify as male or female on Day 1; they’ve got the vaccinations in large quantities; they’ve got birds that start laying eggs at 4 months instead of 8 months.”
Part of the eggs’ nuanced beauty has to do with how difficult they are to produce. “A vet once told me that chickens are pretty much made to die,” Delphia explains.
Delphia is dismayed at notion of this agricultural practice and its implications for the environment, but as someone who raises chickens she understands why the configuration was developed– “I too wanted to believe it was possible [to raise chickens en masse another way], but after seeing the ravages of nature– when you realize that free-roaming chickens can so easily get picked off from the sky– it makes me appreciate ‘pasture-raised’ and how hard it is to achieve that designation even more.”
In this way, the production of The Fancy F’s spectrum eggs really is a miracle born of Delphia’s passion; it can’t be scaled to the degree of a massive agriculture operation, which is why it’s so special. Opening up one of her cartons is a breathtaking experience that only a lucky few who manage to pick them up at Foragers (or at A Whole Acres) have the privilege of having. (Chickens molt twice a year, and stop laying eggs for a few months in the fall.) “We are definitely exploring making custom carton designs for other farms, businesses, and individuals, though,” she adds. “We will also continue breeding our heritage birds– and creating a few of our own.”
Stay apprised of what’s going on with Delphia and her chickens at The Fancy F.