Monday, April 4, 2016

C is for Chickens 101


I never dreamed I would grow up and be a totally awesome chicken chick, it just happened.  My husband is actually responsible for sharing the love of chicken raising with me.   It is my fault, however, that we have 30 chickens.   I fell in love with them as babies and then fell in love with the different breeds and eggs and I became set on having chickens that were cool, cute, and gave me Easter colored eggs every day of the year. 

When I was talking to hubs about this blog challenge he said I should do eggs for E.  I said, no because I am doing chickens for C and since chickens came first for us, eggs are just going to be part of the C.

So let's talk eggs.  Did you know they come in colors beyond white and brown?  You can see in the picture below that my eggs are white, brown, green, and sort of a pinkish beige color.  I have some eggs that come out looking like they are polk-a-dotted. 

The egg color is actually determined by the breed of hen and there is absolutely no significance to the shell color and nutrition or taste.  The shell color is simply the shell color. 

What about nutrition and taste though?  Are all eggs created equal?  Not by a long shot.   Pasture raised chickens lay a dark yellow/orange yolk that is rich and much more flavor filled than a cage or so called free range chicken.   Pasture raised eggs also should be more nutrition packed than eggs from chickens who aren't running around eating bugs, my flowers and vegetable garden, and quality feed. 

When you are looking for the most tasty, rich, and nutritious eggs, you should find a local chicken farmer and see if they are willing to sell their eggs or better yet, build a coop and start your own backyard chicken ranch.  You don't need 30.  Two or three will do most people nicely.

I want to explain a few things about store labels.  There has been a big movement to cage free eggs.  Cage free hens are only slightly less tortured than caged animals.  It is terrible that chickens, who have so much personality and character, are forced to live their life in a cage but the label cage free is really misleading.   What most people believe when they are buying cage free, organic eggs, is actually what they would get by buying pasture raised eggs. 

My chickens are outside all day and don't go to bed until the sun sets.  Between dawn and dusk my chickens are running around my yard and sometimes my neighbor's yard.   They roam.  Is it dangerous?  Yes, we do lose some to predators and this has been a hard lesson for me.   I can't stop the chicken hawk or coyote but I also can't stand the thought of making my birds stay in a closed in area, grass or no grass, all day long.

Speaking of grass or no grass, the cage free raised chickens are not required to actually have grass.  It is sad really, what some misinformed Hollywood stars and the media try to pass as the kinder, gentler chicken farming. Cage free chickens may never even get outside.  Free range chickens go outside but they may only be out for an hour a day and they aren't required to have access to grass.   The labels are really misleading and the eggs are super expensive for what you are actually getting. 

Understand this, people who raise their own chickens probably aren't doing it to get rich.  I sell very few eggs, give a bunch to family and neighbors who take care of them when we are out of town, and eat the rest.  Feed isn't cheap and although my girls and boys (Yes, I have roosters, 3 to be exact) aren't picky, they do like to have some cracked corn or better yet, fresh corn along with a few treats like cabbage and whatever else I can find on sale at the grocery to keep them out of my garden.  

Chickens are very entertaining.  It is amazing how much time I spend out in the backyard just talking to and watching these little balls of goofy.   Did you know that chickens are the closest living relative to dinosaurs?   Watch them walk and it will make sense. 

So, in the end, I would say, chickens, while not the smartest animal alive, are incredibly fun, well, except for the cleaning the coop.

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