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By the Way: Easter’s not right without Rick’s

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For our family, Easter wouldn’t be Easter without Rick’s Egg Farm. Even though our extended family won’t be here this year for the holiday, I’ll still dye a few eggs, although now I tend to boil them with onion skins or in beet juice for a glow chemical dyes never provide.

It’s likely others who live in Upper Bucks or who dine in area restaurants, fancy and plain, have eaten eggs laid by Rick’s feathered friends. The store is a busy retail and wholesale market,

Our favorite egg farm was founded by the late Paul Rick in 1931 on land shoved under water in the 1970s when the state turned it into Lake Nockamixon. It’s now situated on dry land on Durham Road just north of Trauger’s Crossing Road in Nockamixon Township.

We’ve been buying eggs there ever since we moved to Upper Bucks. It has become a ritual. In fact, I’ve never known anything else. Even when I was a child growing up in Bristol, my mother drove out to the country every week to buy eggs directly from a farm in what is now Levittown.

Ricks’ Leghorn chickens were once housed in the same building as the store and when our children were little, they would scamper up a few steps to peer through a window at the chickens. Old Mr. Rick, who had a thick Pennsylvania Dutch accent and twinkling eyes, always seemed delighted to see them.

Now 4,000 chickens are in a separate building where they wander around cage-free and happily clucking. Tim Rick, the founder’s son, took over the business in 1979. His sister, Faye Kooker, has works with him since then, and they employ two part-timers.

I just assumed Easter was the Ricks’ busiest time of year, but Tim said, “People don’t dye eggs like they used to. We’re still busy, but it’s just a single week. Our busiest time is from Thanksgiving through New Year’s because of all the baking people do.” Tim said at one time his father had 12,000 hens, and Faye added, “I remember one day people were lined up outside and we ran out of eggs.”

The store was eggs only, but Tim has diversified and it’s actually evolved into a small farm store. The eggs, antibiotic- and hormone-free, produced by their own free-nesting uncaged hens, still are the mainstay, but in-season fruits and vegetables provide a colorful and changing panorama all year long. Also featured are hormone-free milk, butter, ice cream, cheese, jams and relishes, locally roasted organic coffee and local all-natural frozen beef.

Adding to the color outdoors are a great variety of herbs, annuals perennials, vegetable plants and hanging baskets. “The flowers are really just my hobby,” Tim confessed. Customers have long been treated to a view of his lovely garden next to the store, and it’s obvious he has the gardener’s green thumb and is in touch with his creative side. He also designs Christmas wreaths and makes colorful crosses and other items for cemeteries.

While Tim is partial to his floral pursuits, Faye loves the chickens. The chickens are good layers for about two years, she said. Then they are sold to make room for a new batch. I wanted to take a photo of the chickens but a protective Faye said they are molting right now and “pretty ugly,” so they are camera-shy until they grow new feathers. The Rick chickens are fed a high-protein diet and they’re going through only a partial molt so they are laying some eggs, but not up to their usual volume.

Faye said each bird has its own personality, with some remaining stand-offish and others friendly and rushing to meet her when she arrives. It’s her job to candle the eggs daily. She and a helper pass each egg through a machine called a candler/grader that reveals any spots on each egg and then weighs it to determine its size.

Faye also loves the customers – and it is her friendly face that greets everyone who enters the store and stops to chat. She makes it a fun place to visit.


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