How to Raise Backyard Chickens
5. Entertain your chickens. Chickens are very social creatures (thus the phrase “hen party” referring to a group of gossiping women). If they have nothing to do they get bored and may start destroying the coop or bullying each other. Having access to a run, “toys” (like a half a cabbage hanging from a string out of reach), or some tree branches makes their environment more interesting. A study in Mother Earth News showed that eggs from chickens that are able to roam freely had greater nutritional value (read: higher omega 3’s).
6. Eat your eggs. If you start with baby chicks, it will take about 4 to 6 months until they start laying. When they do, the eggs will be very small and thin-skinned, but get larger and sturdier as the hens continue to mature and eat well. You need to collect the eggs every day. If you don’t, the chickens may get “broody,” think they are hatching baby chicks (a maternal instinct), and refuse to give up their eggs. Chickens also molt (lose their feathers) once a year, and during that time they won’t lay eggs. If you see a tiny blood spot in the occasional egg, don’t worry. This is normal.
Whatever decision you make, be sure to enjoy your girls. Dean, who has had her chickens for the past two years, says, “They are my friends. I love looking out my kitchen window at them. You never lose the wonder of a fresh egg!” To Your Health!
If you want to know whether an egg is fresh, place it in a bowl of cold water. If it sinks to the bottom and lays on its side, it’s fresh. If it floats to the top, it is old.
For maximum freshness, store your eggs pointy side down. The blunt end of an egg has an air pocket between the inner and outer shell membranes, which gradually gets larger as the egg loses moisture during storage. That air pocket is also the reason why it is easier to peel a hard-boiled egg when it is older.
Fresh eggs keep for a few days without refrigeration. Most farmers just keep them on the kitchen counter.
Resist the urge to wash your eggs off—the outside of the egg has a delicate membrane called the “bloom” that wards off bacteria and other foreign substances. Scrubbing damages it.
Helpful websites for chicken basics
Girl with chickens photo via Shutterstock