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Eggciting business at Farmer’s Market

The jumbo brown eggs from Hilliker’s Ranch Fresh Eggs are popular at the Scripps Ranch Farmer’s Market. (photos by John Gregory)

Eggciting business at Farmer’s Market

Park your car at the Scripps Ranch Farmer’s Market in the lot, cross the driveway, turn the corner and you’re bound to find a stand selling fresh eggs next to the produce booths.

This is the booth of Hilliker’s Ranch Fresh Eggs, Inc., a family-owned business from Lakeside that brings its oval products to Scripps Ranch each Saturday. This egg ranch has been in San Diego County since 1942 and is owned by the same family that started it. Today, Frank Hilliker along with his sister, Lara Woliung, and Frank’s wife, Cindy Hilliker, run the ranch.

Connie Strawn described the selection of eggs from Hilliker’s Ranch Fresh Eggs.

Regular shoppers at the local Farmer’s Market seem to appreciate the eggs from Hilliker’s Ranch; their booth is a popular place. A steady stream of visitors stops by to purchase another carton of 12 eggs or a flat of 20. Customers also return their empty cartons because Hilliker’s recycles them.

Last week, Connie Strawn, Frank’s mother-in-law, was staffing the booth and explained some facts about Hilliker’s Ranch and the eggs that are produced there.

“We have brown leghorns and white leghorns,” she said, describing the types of chickens there. “The white ones lay the white eggs and the brown ones lay the brown eggs. We don’t have to dye them or bleach them as some people think.”

Hilliker’s Ranch has about 40,000 chickens, and that is considered a small egg ranch, Strawn said.

All the chickens used to be kept in a suspended cage system, she said. This means their cages were lifted off the ground in a single layer so their feces did not pile up around them and this kept them much healthier. Today, half the chickens are cage-free chickens. Strawn explained what this means.

“Half the ranch changed over to cage-free. It’s a large aviary where the birds can fly up and down and around,” she said. “There’s a jungle gym, that’s what we call it, down the two sides. This is how chickens get their exercise. They like to lay around, really, but they have to go to different areas for their food, their water, for nesting. They like privacy, so they have nice little dark nesting boxes so they can do that.”

The ranch uses a conveyer belt system to collect the eggs and bring them out.

“We don’t even have to go in to the barn to collect the eggs anymore,” Strawn said.

Hilliker’s Ranch brings large white eggs, large brown eggs and jumbo brown eggs to the Scripps Ranch Farmer’s Market. The jumbo browns are the best sellers there, she said.

Hilliker’s Ranch Fresh Eggs can be found each Saturday at the Scripps Ranch Farmer’s Market from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at 10380 Spring Canyon Road, in the Innovations Academy parking lot. Visit hillikereggs.com.

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