Becoming an Egg Farmer


Every Albertan has the opportunity to become an egg farmer.  Whether you want to manage a commercial egg operation or become a backyard hobby farmer, there are some questions you need to answer and a lot of information you need to be aware of.  Egg Farmers of Alberta works closely with Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation to oversee the provincial egg industry.

All egg production in Alberta – whether you have one hen or a thousand hens – falls under the provincial Marketing of Agricultural Products Act and regulations, including Egg Farmers of Alberta Plan Regulation (26/2022) and Egg Production and Marketing Regulation (293/97).

How many hens do you plan to have?

This number is important because it determines whether an egg farmer is considered a registered producer (part of the regulated egg industry) or an exempt producer (for personal consumption).  In Alberta, any farmer with more than 300 birds must become a registered egg farmer and become a quota holder.  Farmers with 300 birds or less are exempt from registration and quota.

Note: The 300 hen maximum applies to both individuals and legal land location, for example:

  • Mr. & Mrs. Smith can have a maximum of 300 hens on their home quarter
  • Mr. Jones can have a maximum of 300 hens divided between his two hen houses, even if one hen house is located on his home quarter and the second hen house is located on a different section of land

What is required to become an exempt (small flock) egg farmer?

If you plan to raise 300 laying hens or less, you can operate as an exempt farmer in Alberta.  It is your responsibility to consult the municipal by-laws to determine if you are allowed to have laying hens, especially if you live in an urban center.

All egg farmers are required to apply for a Premise Identification (PID) from Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation.

What is a Premise Identification (PID)?

Premise Identification (PID), one of the pillars of traceability, links livestock and poultry to land locations or premises.  Alberta’s PID Program was established to help protect animals in the event of an emergency, such as a natural disaster or disease outbreak.  By completing a PID Application and keeping your information up-to-date, you will take an important first step in protecting your animals and those of other Alberta and Canadian producers.

If you have animals (excluding household pets and wildlife) and they are under your care and control, you must apply for a PID Account and obtain a PID Number for at least one of the land locations (or premises) where the animals are located.  If you are an operator of a commingling site (ie: fair ground, auction market, abattoir, etc…), you must apply for a PID Account and obtain a PID Number for each land location you operate a commingling site on.  You must also provide the PID Number of the commingling site to animal owners who use the site.

Please note that a PID Number is required to sell livestock and poultry at auction markets, to buy over-the-counter medication for livestock and poultry at retail outlets, and to apply for many Agriculture and Irrigation grants.

Applying is easy – visit the PID Program website at to apply online or download the application form.  You can also learn more about the PID Program, including what information you’ll need to provide when applying and how to keep your information up-to-date, by reading the FAQs.  If you require assistance, please call the Alberta Ag-Info Centre at 310-FARM (3276) to find a PID service provider nearby.

Traceability Protects!  Your animals – Your livelihood – Our future

What is required to become a registered egg farmer?

If you plan to raise more than 300 laying hens, you must first acquire a license from Egg Farmers of Alberta.

All egg farmers are required to apply for a Premise Identification (PID) from Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation (see above).

You can contact EFA to request a visit from one of EFA’s Field Inspectors, to review all the requirements to become a registered egg farmer, as well as the various requirements and regulations that registered egg farmers must adhere to in order to maintain their license to sell eggs in Alberta.

Registered egg farmers must have quota, which can be purchased or leased by any Canadian.  One (1) unit of quota is equal to one (1) egg laying hen.

How can quota be obtained?

EFA launched the provincial Quota Exchange Program in 2019, which was designed to ensure equal access to quota sales and transfers, with optimal accessibility and transparency to egg quota transactions in Alberta.  If you are interested in buying quota, please review and submit a completed Application to Purchase.

EFA has also launched a New Entrant Program, which provides an opportunity for those new to the egg industry to access quota.

You may purchase a farm that currently has quota allotted.

What is required after I become a registered egg farmer?

All registered egg farmers must have a license to produce eggs in Alberta, which includes the following requirements:

  • Complying with EFA’s on-farm Food Safety Policy
    • Passing EFC’s Start Clean – Stay Clean (SC-SC) program
    • Have layers housed in production facilities dedicated to the regulated egg industry
    • Abide by EFA’s Salmonella Enteritidis Sampling and Post-Positive Policy
    • Source from pullet growers that meet the above requirements (are accredited in the SC-SC pullet program and have facilities dedicated to the regulated egg industry)
    • Birds from a single flock must be within 4 weeks of age and sourced from a pullet barn
  • Complying with EFA’s Animal Care Policy
    • Passing EFC’s Animal Care Program (ACP)
    • EFA’s directive prohibiting the installation of conventional cages after December 31, 2014
    • Housing specifications including space density
    • Reporting of unacceptable animal care practices and facilities
  • Subscribing to the egg industry’s Salmonella Enteritidis Insurance Program through the Canadian Egg Industry Reciprocal Alliance (CEIRA)
  • Maintaining a good standing with EFA with Regulations and Policies

How can I sell my eggs?

When it comes to selling eggs, the same regulations apply to both registered and exempt egg farmers, as outlined in the Purchase and Sale of Eggs and Processed Eggs Regulation (23/2004).

Egg farmers are allowed to sell ungraded eggs directly to someone who will be using the eggs in their own household for personal consumption, typically at your farm gate or at a farmer’s market.  Ungraded eggs must meet the following requirements:

  • The eggs must be for the consumer’s own household consumption (it is the seller’s responsibility to ensure this is the case)
  • The eggs must be clean, have no visible cracks, and must not be leaking
  • The eggs must be kept at a temperature of 7°C or less, until they leave the farmer’s possession
  • The eggs must be packed in clear cartons, which are marked “UNINSPECTED” in letters that are at least 2 cm tall

It is illegal to sell ungraded eggs to someone who will not be consuming the eggs themselves.  Therefore, ungraded eggs cannot be sold to grocery/retail stores, restaurants, bakeries, hospitals, etc…  Eggs sold for commercial use must be graded in accordance with federal Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulations.

What are graded eggs?

Grading is the process by which eggs are classified by interior/exterior quality (ie: Canada Grade A, B, or C) and weight (ie: jumbo, extra-large, large, medium, small, or peewee).  Graded eggs have the Canada grade symbol on the carton.  Only grading stations registered with the CFIA are allowed to apply the Canada grade symbol to their egg cartons.

Most registered egg farmers sell their eggs to a CFIA-certified grading station.  The grading station then washes, inspects, grades, packages, and sells the eggs commercially.  Some registered egg farmers also have their own CFIA-certified grading station on site.

As an exempt farmer, can I sell my eggs to a grading station?

Exempt egg farmers are allowed to sell their eggs to a registered grading station, but require an exemption number from EFA to do so, which is required by regulations and helps the grading station track their egg shipments.  You can contact EFA to request an application form for an exemption number, which is provided at no cost.

Your exemption number must be provided to the grading station when selling your eggs to them.  It is entirely up to the grading station to determine whether or not they will purchase eggs from exempt farmers.  The purchase price is negotiated between the exempt farmer and the grading station.  Having an exemption number does not guarantee that you will be able to sell your eggs to a grading station.  You can contact EFA to request a list of CFIA-certified grading stations in Alberta.

For each dozen eggs shipped to the grading station, levy will be deducted from the farm’s payment and remitted to EFA.  This levy is consistent with the levy paid by registered egg farmers.  You can contact EFA to request the current levy rates, and find out more about what levy funds are used for.

As an exempt farmer, can I grade my own eggs or someone else’s eggs?

Any egg farmer – registered or exempt – may obtain their own CFIA grading license, which enables them to grade their own eggs and/or someone else’s eggs.  Please contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency directly to learn more about CFIA-certified grading stations.

When a CFIA-certified grading station begins grading eggs other than their own, they must obtain a Processors License from Egg Farmers of Alberta and submit levy for eggs processed at their grading station.

Looking for more information about raising chickens in Alberta?

Whether you are a registered or exempt farmer, whether you are in a rural or urban setting, raising egg laying hens is a significant responsibility.  EFA has developed two resources to help individuals and municipalities decide whether urban/backyard egg farming is right for them.  The Urban Hens Fact Sheet provides basic information and issues to consider, while the Urban Hens Top-Ten Chores outlines the major responsibilities that every egg farmer faces.

Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation has a website dedicated to poultry, which houses a wide variety of information about industry-related issues, including resources specifically about raising chickens and raising small flocks in Alberta.