Here’s a few questions:
What gets you up in the morning? kids jumping in bed? the alarm clock? the sun shining through the shades?
For Sweet Shark and me, it’s a rustling at the foot of the bed, a cold nose touching mine, a small whine: it’s Layla, letting us know that she needs to go out and she is hungry.
Anyone woken up by cock~a~doodle~do?
How many of you have a dog or cat as a pet? According to the APPA (American Pet Products Association), approximately 37-47% of all households in the United States have a dog, and 30-37% have a cat.
But how many of you raise chickens in your backyard? I don’t know. Google couldn’t provide an answer and Siri was no help.
But I do know 2 people who have chickens in their backyard. Our good friends Wende and Mike have chickens. Not out in the country, but smack in the middle of Dallas. They live in an neighborhood of 2+~acre lots that is grandfathered to have barnyard animals ~ years ago Wende had a goat! Sweet Shark and I are lucky enough to get a dozen eggs every now and then. A few weeks ago we were at their house for dinner and Wende took us on a tour of the chicken house.
I asked Wende to share some history about the chickens. Here is what she told me.
“We first got chickens about 18 years ago, shortly after we got married. I had a goat at the time and thought she wanted company. Plus, we wanted eggs. I had a friend who bought me a few chicks from the feed store. Baby chicks are hard to raise, they need to be under a heat lamp and have their feed and water changed several times a day as they are messy little peeps! I had a handyman build a little coop attached to the old horse shed and we enjoyed learning about chicken keeping, even if it was by the seat of our pants!
That group lasted about 6-8 years, although they only lay eggs for about 3 years. By then, Northaven Gardens (me: that’s one of our longtime local nurseries.) had begun selling young hens (pullets) and offering Backyard Chicken classes. I bought 4 more pullets and Megan (me: that’s Wende and Mike’s daughter~in~law) named them Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda! They were a fun batch until they passed, Carrie was the remaining hen and she was about 6 years old.
We realized we missed the fresh eggs, so we decided to “re-chicken”, and invested some money into improving our coop. We replaced the fence, tore down the old coop, and added nesting boxes and roosting rods to the horse shed. We added a door to fully enclose them and an automatic chicken door (has a light sensor to open at dawn and close at dusk.). When we had to take down an old hackberry tree, our tree guy used a large branch to make a “jungle gym”, where they spend many hours! I went to Roach Feed and Seed and bought 2 pullets, Rhode Island Reds named Thelma and Louise, then took our grandkids to Urban Chickens and let them select and name a pullet. We have CoCo, a Cuckoo Maran. She has feathered “boots” and lays dark brown speckled eggs. Cloud and Coila are white hens that lay greenish eggs. Some other names are Henrietta, Rose, Shirley, and Sunflower. We get a range of egg colors, as you know.
Just before Easter my neighbor had several broody hens. (Hens who want to be mothers, so they lay on their eggs in the hopes they will hatch. But with no rooster to fertilize the eggs, they are not going to hatch!). She suggested I buy 2~day old chicks and let her hens foster them until they are old enough to move to our coop. I took her up on it and purchased 8 more Ameraucana chicks which her hens happily provided heat and nurturing until they moved here in early June. We hope to start seeing their eggs after Labor Day. Our grand total is 16, with 8 currently laying anywhere from 12-20 eggs a week. Thelma and Louise are pushing 3 yrs old and will stop laying soon, plus the heat is a factor also.”
The night we were at Wende and Mike’s house, she let the chickens out of the coop into the back yard, which is huge, so they can get a little “free~range” exercise. They get along just fine with Wende’s 3 dogs.
A few months ago, I found this sign at a flea market and knew I had to buy it for Wende’s chickens. She hung it inside the chicken coop. You can see the thermometer and the air vents.
I can’t tell you what a treat it is to receive eggs from Wende’s chickens. They taste so much better and fresher than store~bought. When I do buy eggs at the store, I always keep the empty cartons and give them to Wende ~ it’s just a little way of returning the favor.
How to Crack an Egg Properly
One of the most versatile of foods, eggs are found in most food cultures, for obvious reasons. Where would the culinary world be without Eggs Benedict, Spaghetti Carbonara, Caesar Salad, Ice Cream, Pasta, Bread, Cakes, Meringues or Soufflés? Eggs can be fried, boiled, baked, scrambled, steamed, or poached. Used in baking and cooking, either whole or separated into yolk and white, eggs are indispensable in the kitchen. High in protein and other nutrients, eggs should always be in your fridge.
When we are baking or cooking with eggs ~ unless you are soft~cooking or hard~cooking the eggs ~ we always begin with cracking the egg. Yes, there is a right way and a wrong way to crack an egg. Are you doing it correctly? Let’s find out.
First, always crack eggs when they are still cold from the fridge, especially if you are going to separate them ~ but that’s another lesson.
Avoid cracking an egg on the sharp edge of a bowl.
Crack the egg on the flat surface of a small plate. This method keeps the egg liquid from running off the counter and keeps shell shards getting into your other ingredients or into the raw egg.
Gently pull the 2 parts of the shell apart. Don’t apply too much pressure or you might crush the shell, sending shell pieces into your beautiful egg. The spot of red is a bit of blood that occasionally gets into the egg. It’s harmless and you don’t have to remove it.
Now you can transfer the egg to a bowl or skillet or combine with more eggs. Using this method, your counter stays clean and free from contamination and you avoid the possibility of shell shards getting in the egg yolk or white.
I’ll be sharing more egg tips at The Bulletin on Friday, so please sign up to receive more cooking tips and recipes. The Kitchen Hacks give away continues through next Sunday.