Thursday, July 9, 2009

An Egg of Your Own

If you keep chickens, or just like chickens, you know the name because, well, when it comes to chickens, they are the go to hatchery. McMurray's have made Bantams and rare breeds almost a household name. Just take a wild guess where Martha gets her chicks sent from? You guessed correctly- McMurrays. Earlier this year Murray McMurray had a rare problem in the business world of today. He couldn't produce chicks fast enough. In fact, he had a six week back order for hens. There is good reason for this delay. Every one from your neighbor to your local farmer is buying chicks this year. Victory Gardens are not the only thing on the rise in self sufficiency- backyard chickens are gaining hefty speed. A lot of urban cities allow four chickens, which is more than enough to keep a household in good supply. There are different rules for every city but in general the chickens have to be kept a certain distance from the nearest neighbor, kept clean, and many do not allow roosters. Take it from one who lives near farms a plenty, roosters like to crow all day every day- not just at 6am. Luckily for us, roosters are not required to make a hen lay her eggs, and without those eggs getting fertilized, there's no more roosters to hatch in your group of four sisters. This is good for the squeamish, like me, who might have a problem ringing their cute little necks. Conjur up the scene of Ruby on Ida's front porch in Cold Mountain and you'll get the picture mighty quick. Hens lay about one egg per day, and whether your hen lays a white or brown egg, the inside is the same.

Pretty little Bantams lay smaller eggs than their larger cousins. Rare breeds and Bantams can lay eggs in shades of blue and green which are truly beautiful to behold. Aracuanas are a good choice for their colored blue eggs. There are also increasing numbers of backyard ducks and geese, and quail, guinea, and pheasant. The reasons are the same. Those fresh eggs just cannot be beat, no pun intended. It only takes a glance at the difference in price of battery raised eggs and free range organic eggs to see why. The latter can be three times the price. A lot of people have the image of battery chickens in their mind and this is not an easy image to shake loose while crackling open your little morsel of goodness. So keeping your own layers seems like a good idea. They require daily care. Clean coops, feed and water, and a good place to scratch in the dirt, whether this be on a run attached to their house or a free for all in your garden beds. You'll also need to grab those eggs daily because once you have a broody hen she can be difficult to dissuade.

Hen houses have come full circle and have taken on a cottage industry trade in their own right. They are handmade to look like little houses, painted in cheerful colors, planted with flower boxes, and sometimes literally made the center of backyard attention. Or, for the poor souls where no chickens are allowed, they may be able to house their flock incognito in hen houses made to look like nothing but harmless garbage cans. See neighbor, that fence might just be there for a reason. Chickens have loads of personality and often run right out to greet their owners. Many chicken enthusiasts tell me they can spend hours just watching their feathered friends frolic about together. Some will even snuggle into a warm lap. Fresh eggs in the morning, always handy for baking, and coupled with a snuggle...I ask you, what is not to love?

1 comment:

  1. Now I wanna raise chickens! Oops! The kitties, not to mention our resident eagles, may have other ideas. Great article!