Egg farmer sadly bids adieu

Passion for poultry . . . Pauline Rietveld, of Saddle Hill, feeds her flock of chickens. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

A Dunedin poultry farmer has shut down her free-range egg business to focus on caring for her mother.

Pauline Rietveld, of Saddle Hill, said the decision to close her business was difficult.

On her 2.5ha lifestyle block in Coalstage Rd, her husband had built a range of chicken coops, which she had given names – one coop was called “the creche”, another “the hospice”.

“I started this passion because I’ve always loved chickens.”

She originally bought enough “little brown chickens” to lay enough eggs to feed her family including her five children.

But the flock produced more than they could eat.

So a few years ago she acted on the advice of a one of her children and put a sign on the gate to sell the surplus.

Demand for the eggs was so hot she bolstered her flock size to increase supply.

“I went from 10 hens, to 20 hens, up to just under 100 because I didn’t like saying no and disappointing people.”

She washed and weighed the eggs to ensure each dozen weighed the same and greeted every customer.

“It was a full-time job.”

“Heartbreaking” . . . A sign on the gate to Pauline Rietveld’s home in Saddle Hill. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

When her stepfather died in October last year after a battle with cancer, she began to look after her 76-year-old mother, whose health has been declining, who does not drive and who lives in Ocean View.

“When I’m there I was worried about what’s happening over here and when I’m here I was worried about what was happening over there.”

Something had to give.

She put back the opening hour of her business to 1pm but when she returned from her mother’s a queue of customers was waiting for her to open.

The constant rush made her anxious.

In a bid to simplify her life, she put a sign on her gate to say the business was closed.

“It broke my heart to have to put that sign up.”

The flock was now smaller and had returned to its original job of producing eggs for her family. She hoped to have no chickens by the end of the year, so she could realise a dream of travel before her mother’s health deteriorated further and she needed more care.

She has two grandchildren and “one on the way” and was looking forward to having more time to spend with them. She thanked her customers for their “loyalty and understanding”.