I love growing herbs. For the most part, they're easy, not picky about the soil conditions or whether you water them regularly...and they add a delicious flavor to my cooking. Well, here's another way to put the herbs and edible flowers you grow to good use - in your egg boxes and coop. Fresh or dried - the aromatherapy and other benefits are immense for your flock!
The first creme brulee recipe was published in François Massialot's cookbook,“Cuisinier Roial et Bourgeois” (Royal and Borgeoise Cooking) in 1691 and literally means 'burnt cream'. This classic dessert is one of my favorites and often appears on restaurant dessert menus, but it's easy to make at home - and made at home with fresh eggs rivals any that I have had at any restaurant.
Here is the classic recipe and also two delicious variations: coffee-brandy and bananas foster. All three recipes use the same basic recipe and techniques. A handheld kitchen torch makes the bruleeing easier, but you can also broil your custards in the oven if you don't have a torch.
A broody hen can be a godsend if you are trying to hatch chicks. No worries about incubators, brooder boxes or heat lamps...the hen will take care of it all.
Feed bags are made of incredibly sturdy material and come in all sorts of pretty colors and patterns and it's a shame to just throw them out. Some communities are banning plastic grocery bags, others are taking a few cents off your grocery bill for each tote bag you use, but even if you live in an area that doesn't give an incentive to use a reusable tote bag, its still an in expensive, easy, eco-friendly way to help save the environment.
If you have ever fed your chickens scratch grains then you know that they go absolutely nuts for it. They scramble around pecking up the various grains and seeds as fast as they can, fighting and scratching for each last piece (hence the name 'scratch'!). Not very nutritious, but a great cold weather energy source for the chickens and they love it! I toss a scoopful into the run each afternoon in the winter a few hours before dark.
Dust baths are a chicken's way of keeping clean. The fine sand or dust keeps their feathers clean and helps them stay free of mites, lice and other parasites. You can help make bathing easy for your chickens by finding a nice dry spot in the run where there is fine dirt or sand and adding some fireplace ash, food-grade diatomaceous earth and dried herbs.
Egg laying natural slows at various times of the year due to the heat, shorter days, molting etc. [Read more here...] But if you plan ahead and freeze some of your eggs when they are plentiful, you won't end up having to resort to buying store bought (icky) eggs.
I love hard-cooked eggs. I like to keep a container of them in the fridge and like to pop one in my mouth for a quick, nutritious snack.
The one downside to fresh eggs is how hard they are to peel. Everyone says 'just mark some and put them aside for a few weeks and then they'll peel fine'. Well, to me, that defeats the purpose of raising chickens for the fresh eggs if you're just going to let them sit around and get old. I was determined to figure out how to get perfectly peeled hard-cooked eggs. I tried every method out there I think - with mixed results.
Not long after you start keeping chickens, every predator in the neighborhood will have your coop on their radar. One of the hardest things about keeping chickens is keeping them safe from predators, but if you can figure out what you're faced with, it can make trapping or otherwise dealing with them far easier. This is clearly not a topic that is pleasant to think - or read - about but as a chicken keeper our responsibility is to keep our chickens safe.
I enjoy cooking a leisurely breakfast on Sunday mornings and there's nothing better than using fresh eggs collected that very morning. They are wonderful scrambled, over easy, fried, and as omelets...but if I had to choose just one way to eat eggs for the rest of my life, I would chose Benedict-style.
"Polly, put the kettle on, we'll all have tea."
~ Charles Dickens~
One spring project you might want to put on your list is an herb garden for your chickens. I have a small section for herbs in my vegetable garden, you don't need a lot of room for them.
The chickens love to eat fresh parsley, basil, cilantro, mint, oregano and other herbs. Herbs contain lots of nutrients and since chickens can actually choose to direct nutrients towards themselves or to their eggs, the more nutrients they eat, the more excess they have to direct right into their eggs.
Since starting to raise our own chickens, chicken as a food group as pretty much dropped off the menu at our house. Once I started to learn about chickens, and watch their social interactions both within the flock and with our other animals and family members, I just couldn't see them as food any longer.
To heat or not to heat your coop in the winter.....that is the question. Dry straw or shavings, wood, chickens, heat source....not a good combination. An oft-debated topic among chicken keepers is the subject of heating your coop or not.
When we had only 8 chickens, it was relatively cheap and easy to just add extra lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, corn or other treats to my weekly grocery shopping list for the chickens, but now with 33 little mouths, I find myself trying to be more creative and also feed them mainly kitchen scraps, leftovers and things from the yard and garden.
If you raise chickens long enough, the day will come when you need to administer first aid. Whether it be a sprain, hurt foot, broken toenail, puncture wound, insect sting, respiratory infection, cuts, frostbite, bumblefoot, open sores, mites, worms, or an injury from another chicken or a predator, you want to be prepared in advance so you aren't running around trying to find what you need, or making a trip to the store, an emotional mess, with a hurt chicken on your hands.