Posts Tagged ‘backyard egg production’

Eggs: Great Healthy Food in a Hurry


Lately I’ve been thinking about the miraculous nature of backyard chickens. They are lovely to see, fun to hear, and all their waking hours they convert stuff you can’t eat into stuff that you can. I can’t keep mine loose because we have a large tribe of local coyotes, but every time I walk by their roofed yard and hear the pleasures and squabbles of chicken life, I feel better. Chickens fit easily into nearly every backyard and enrich soil, nutrition, and QOL.

Then there are the eggs. I feed my chickens a ton of fresh alfalfa and other green stuff in the summer. This time of year, their diet includes dandelions, mustard leaves, kale, and grass. The yolks are a glorious deep yellow and they are very delicious. I’m fond of eating them hard-boiled for snacks, often just shucked out of their shells while still warm and eaten with salt and pepper. Sometimes I want something a little more elaborate but not much, and that’s where an egg salad sandwich tastes just right. It can be made in less time than it takes to read about it if you keep some hard boiled eggs in the refrigerator. You will also need bread, mayonnaise, and some herbs.

My sandwich is a display of what eggs can do, because the base is a low-carb flatbread based on eggs and flaxseed and the mayonnaise is my homemade type. But you can use Hellman’s and any bread of your choice.
Egg salad can be elaborated with all sorts of stuff in it, or it can be a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise with a small handful of suitable herbs snipped in; I used tarragon, green onion, and garlic chives in about equal quantities. Slice in two hard boiled eggs, stir and mash, and spread on the bread. I think it isn’t real egg salad without a lavish sprinkle of powdered chipotle chile on top, but use paprika instead if you prefer.

So my real point is, find a source of great eggs and eat them. Even the best eggs cost, at most, about 50 cents each, and they will make you healthier and simplify your life. If you hard-boil a dozen at a time, they are always waiting to be converted into egg salad, or other types of salad, or deviled. Asian salads with lots of herbs, some lime and fish sauce in the dressing, and a sprinkle of peanuts are especially good.  I love them sliced on top of a Thai jungle curry, or as the center of an Indian dish made by forming a large meatball of spiced meat around a hard-boiled egg and frying it. I can recall making a Mexican dish twenty years ago that involved soft corn tortillas filled with a green toasted pumpkin seed pipian and sliced hard-boiled eggs. I can even imagine making the basic egg salad above and plopping spoonfuls of it on very good crackers with some chopped kalameta olives or even caviar on top, as an easy and delicious appetizer.

If you need more ideas, there is a marvelous cookbook by Michael Ruhlman simply called “Egg” that every eager cook should read.



Books Worth Reading: food gardening and the chicken micro-flock

The New Food Garden is the newest volume by Frank Tozer, an author I admire for his complete and knowledgable gardening books that don’t seem to get the attention that they deserve. This book is about how to create an integrated property producing vegetables, fruit, and pleasure. He uses permaculture principles but doesn’t get dogmatic about it. There are good sections on garden design, fruit trees and trees generally, “hard drive” infrastructure garden stuff such as paths, buildings, and greenhouses, and lots of information about outdoor living areas that assumes you will want to live in and enjoy your garden as well as harvest food from it. There are brief but interesting sections on a variety of subjects that give you a good framework for more detailed reading, such as fencing, water features, and use of human urine and humanure. It doesn’t include much info on growing specific vegetables, because he’s already written an entire book about that (and a very good one, by the way.)
This and Mini Farming are my favorites of the scads of new gardening books that I’ve looked over this winter. What’s the difference between them? MIni Farming emphasizes very precise soil amendment techniques and concentrates on maximizing returns in small spaces. Tozer takes a more relaxed approach in which compost, mulch, and other organic techniques are used, parts of the property are used as living areas rather than producing a food return, and fertility builds at nature’s pace. Please also note that Mini Farming has very detailed info on integrating chickens into the small layout for meat and eggs, while Tozer is a vegetarian and includes no information on food use of animals. The best solution is to get both. They won’t go unused.
Best tip and best quote: “You probably never realized that you are a walking plant fertilizer factory and that every day you are literally pissing away money.”

City chicks is a very good collection of information for the chicken owner who plans to have a micro-flock of laying hens. There is lots of information about every aspect of keeping a few layers, clearly organized so that beginners can find what they need. If you plan to have a dozen hens or fewer and don’t plan to produce any meat, I would recommend this book above most others. Do be aware that there is zero information about butchering and meat production, so if you plan to replace your hens every couple of years to keep production up, you’ll need another source of information about how to get them into the stockpot.
Best tip: Use plastic laying mats inside the nesting boxes. These are like stiff artificial turf, and droppings don’t stick to them. They can be hosed clean. They keep the eggs clean and dry. The hens can’t scratch them out of the laying boxes as they will with other types of bedding. This matters, because they then lay on the bare floor of the box and the eggs can be cracked, which renders them useless and introduces the hens to egg-eating. They cost about $4 each. I got mine from Murray McMurray, but other hatcheries have them too.