Thursday, October 29, 2009

Extra Extra Extra Large

Check out this humongous egg! It is so huge that the extra large chicken carton I put it in will not close properly. I told Paula that this egg counts for two.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Never Enough Fence

After the 3.5 inches of rain we got last Tuesday, I noticed tons of new plants growing on the hill. Dave and I felt sure that the chickens had eaten every seed and we were quite concerned that the winter rains would cause a mud slide. Dave actually called several local government agencies to find out if we were eligible for free grass seed.

Since there is life in 'them thar hills', we decided that it would be prudent for us to fence off the area to allow the vegetation to grow. Of course, this means more fencing. We had most of materials on hand so Dave tackled the project Saturday afternoon. He needs to borrow a come-a-long and rope to stretch the fence tight so he will finish the job this Thursday when he has a break from work. The chickens will not be pleased but the new trees we planted last week and the baby weeds and grass will get a break from their pecking. Eventually we will let the chickens roam this area again but we will manage the amount of 'grazing' they do.

The following photo may look familiar as I included many of Dave setting up the original fence in earlier blog entries.

The tree above the word hill in the photo below is our new lemon tree. We plan to cover the hill with other fruit trees this fall. So far we have a pomegranate, a lemon, a fig, and a white peach tree. The hill is composed of shale so we are not sure how well these plants will grow. I guess time will tell!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How Long Will These Eggs Stay Fresh?

"How long are these eggs good for?" is one of the most frequent questions I am asked when I offer eggs to friends. In this post I will attempt to answer that question while also explaining why some hard boiled eggs are easier to peel than others. My source of information is the Chicken Keeping Secrets newsletter at

When an egg is formed, the yolk and whites are enclosed within a thin membrane. A second membrane lies just inside the egg’s shell. In a fresh egg, the two membranes lie against each other. In an older egg, evaporation has had a chance to occur within the egg because of the porous egg shell resulting in more space between the two membranes. When you boil a fresh egg, the two membranes lie so closely together that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to peel the egg. Use for old eggs for making boiled eggs.

You can use a “float test” to give you an idea how fresh your eggs are. The older the eggs, the larger the air pockets between the two membranes. The more air the eggs contain, the more they will float.

Fill a bowl with cool water. Gently place your eggs in the bowl.

(1) If the eggs lie flat on the bottom of the bowl, they are very fresh. These are the best eggs for eating alone.
(2) If the eggs stay in contact with the bottom of the bowl but one end starts to rise, these eggs are still fresh, just not quite as fresh as the one that lies flat.

(3) If the eggs stand on end but still stay in contact with the bottom of the bowl, they are still perfectly safe to eat but they are better used for baking or cooking. These are the eggs to use for boiling, since the air pocket between the two membranes is large enough to prevent sticking when peeling the shell away from the egg.
(4) If the eggs do not stay in contact with the bottom of the bowl, throw them away as they are not good for eating.

In the following photo, the brown egg is one day old. The white egg is a Safeway 'special' with a "sell by" date of October 30. As you can see, the white egg is already beginning to tilt upwards.

The reason store bought eggs usually peel so easily is because they are not very fresh. You may not realize this, but eggs can be more than 45 days old before you buy them. I do not know how long the “farm” has to package their eggs for sale once it has been laid. But at the time of packaging, the “sell by” date is 45 days later! In short, most of the eggs that you scramble for breakfast are likely 2 months old!

If your are lucky enough to get really fresh eggs, enjoy them as they are very special.

First Rain of the Season

Our rainy season begins in late October and continues through April or May. Yesterday we got our first serious rain and I was curious to see how the chickens would react to it as they have never seen rain. As I expected, the ladies were not very happy. Like us, they do not like to get wet. As the torrential rains hammered their playground, they stayed underneath the hen house, the only dry area available to them. I checked on them several times and they were extremely delighted to see me. I felt sorry for them so I made them macaroni and cheese. Needless to say, they polished off this comfort food in no time at all. I added flax meal to the cheese mixture to boost the nutritional quality of their eggs.

The rain finally abated around 4:30 PM. The chickens cautiously made their way around the yard and scratched at the damp soil. I was glad that they had some play time before retiring for the night at 6:45 PM. Withthe days get shorter, the birds head back to the hen house earlier and earlier in the evenings.

Here you can see the tail feathers of an Ameraucana being fluffed by the wind.