Backyard Chickens, Breeds, Fresh Eggs

The Backyard Chicken Egg Rainbow: Selecting breeds for their distinctive egg colors

From the moment that we began selling our eggs locally, the importance of displaying beautiful colors in each of our egg cartons was second only to the health of our hens. As a new farm, and as farmers who learned by trial and error, we were extraordinarily busy. We used daylight hours for working outside on the farm, and when it turned dark, we turned to indoor tasks such as customer service, marketing, research & development, web design, and egg washing. We frequently washed eggs into the hours that should no longer be considered night, but can’t yet be called morning. After hand washing and packaging our eggs, we frequently reconfigured egg cartons to evenly distribute the most beautiful eggs and maximize the beauty of every carton so that when our customers opened their cartons to cook, the eggs would unfailingly make them smile. We were one of the first farms in our area to place such an importance on the beauty of each dozen eggs we sold. We were lauded by our customers and the farm amassed a very loyal following.

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When food makes us happy, we place a higher value on how it’s made and where it comes from. We’ll spend the extra time and money to find it and purchase it from a small farmer who valued it enough to grow it well. We will take the time to prepare it for a nice meal, and we will savor that meal, or share it with family and friends. Placing value on food such as this nourishes our bodies, our homes, our relationships, and our communities.

This is one reason why backyard chicken keepers are obsessed with the colors of the eggs all their hens lay. A colorful box of eggs can make a gorgeous host gift, teachers gift, trade, and more. From dark chocolate brown eggs to creamy tinted eggs and all the shades of blue and green in between, here are a list of the breeds that lay all the egg colors you’re looking for.

Araucanas – The South American tufted and rumpless Araucana lays gorgeous sky-blue eggs.

Ameraucanas – The bearded Ameraucana, bred forth from the Araucana in America, also lays a stunning blue egg, but the breed has been relieved of it’s deadly tufted gene, and the rumplessness that causes fertility issues.

Barnevelders – Though the shades vary tremendously based on the quality of the bird, the Dutch Barnevelders are known for laying a darker brown egg.

Cream Legbar – Instead of laying just one color of eggs, this British breed may lay either a light pastel blue or green egg.

Easter Eggers – These are Ameraucanas that are not show-quality, or true-bred; but they lay a larger size and higher number of eggs that have a magnificent range of colors from blue to green.

Isbar – This Sweedish chicken’s eggs vary from light mossy green to dark olive green.

Marans – Though the French Marans chickens are highly sought after for the rich dark chocolate brown of the Black Copper Marans eggs, this breed is quite difficult to obtain. Other Marans may lay beautiful dark brown eggs, though not quite as dark, depending on the quality of the breeding and the Marans variety.

Olive Eggers – A cross between any green or blue egg layer and a dark brown egg layer gives you a hybrid that lays a beautiful olive green egg.

Penedesenca – The flighty Spanish Penedesenca also layes a gorgeous dark brown egg, though is a much harder bird to keep for backyard chicken keepers.

Welsummers – Another Dutch chicken prized for large dark brown, and often speckled, eggs.

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Backyard Chickens, Fresh Eggs, Pecking Order, Uncategorized

4 Important Things to Consider when Ordering your First Chickens

In addition to looking forward to scrumptious and beautiful eggs, as backyard chicken keepers, we also hope that our feathered, breakfast-making ladies will be our pets too. As you prepare to get chickens for your coop and backyard, there are a few important things to consider in order to foster a flock that is healthy, happy with each other, and happy with us. (Note: this will certainly make for the-most-delicious-tasting eggs.)

  1. Choose wisely when deciding on the number of chickens you’ll get. First, check with your city ordinances to find out if there is a limit to the number of chickens you can keep. Next, determine the maximum number of chickens you can keep based on the size of your chicken coop. Chickens, like most living beings, need personal space and some freedom to move about. If you pack too many hens into a small area, you’re asking for heavy cleaning and loads of bickering (or worse), somewhat like taking kids for a long car ride! You can generally assume that about 10 square feet per chicken should be sufficient, less if you plan to free range them outside the coop. Lastly, determine how many eggs your household will reasonably use, sell, barter, or give away. On average, a good laying hen will give you 5 eggs per week.
  2. Keep pullets around the same age or size. We recommend keeping adolescent pullets within a couple months of age of each. If you’re starting with baby chicks, keep them all within a few weeks of each other – they will need much different heat requirements if they’re too far apart in age. If you’re starting with mature hens – they’ll all be the same size and the age does not matter. It may seem like a great idea to get some chickens that are ready to lay to appease our excitement to harvest fresh eggs, and some chickens that are small and fluffy that we can bond with. Unfortunately, putting together a group of chickens of wildly different ages can be really tough on the little ones, and its never okay to put baby chicks together with adolescents or adults who are not currently broody and ready to be mothers. Younger chickens in a flock of older birds will often get ostracized from the group, kept away from the food and water, and subjected to a much tougher and lengthy pecking order. Baby chicks will not survive the cold or the pecking order, and getting just one baby chick for your brooder will make it lonely, stressed, and cause other health problems.
  3. Avoid including just one chicken who looks different from the rest. Surely you’ve heard the saying “Birds of a feather flock together,” and it’s true: chickens seem to know when they look like each other. They’ll pair up or stay in groups that look alike and the one chicken that doesn’t look like anyone else will get left out. Our favorite recommendation is to get all different breeds. Chickens become like pets and will probably all get names, and this makes it easy to tell them apart. You could also get all the same breeds, get pairs or multiples of different breeds, or make sure there are at least 2 chickens that look different from the rest.
  4. Integrate chickens as few times as possible. It may seem like a good idea at the time to start with a couple, and get more as you go but the pecking order can be a nasty score to settle for some chickens. This is not to say it isn’t possible or it’s too hard, but it’s not pleasant and it can be quite a bit of work.  Unless you’re absolutely not prepare to bring your ideal number of chickens in all at once, or your heart is set on breeds who will hatch in different times of the year we recommend getting everyone at once.

For more helpful information on getting started with chickens, purchase tickets to our Backyard Chickens Classes or browse our free Care Guide!

by: Megan Raff

Backyard Chickens, Fresh Eggs

Perfecting your Egg-cellent Breakfast: Soft-Cooked Eggs

We enjoy our eggs in countless ways — sunny-side up, poached and smothered in Hollandaise sauce, or gently enveloping your favorite cheese and veggies in a fluffy omelet. Soft-cooked eggs on toast was my ultimate comfort breakfast food as a kid. But I could also be quite finicky about them – firm, chalky yolks were tossed in the trash and I wrinkled my nose at under-cooked whites. Eighteen years later, America’s Test Kitchen took this one to the lab and came up with a FOOLPROOF method for soft-cooked eggs. They’re technique yields results that will satisfy every time, with perfectly solidified whites and soft, glossy yolks that will saturate a piece of buttered whole grain toast beautifully.

Perfect Soft-Cooked Eggs, Cooks Illustrated

Perfect Soft-Cooked Eggs, Cooks Illustrated

 

Because we can’t see the inside of an egg while it’s cooking, it’s difficult to guess when exactly it reaches the perfect doneness. And since egg whites and yolks harden at different temperatures, timing is of the essence. Hundreds of eggs later, the brilliant food scientists in the Test Kitchen discovered that steaming, rather than boiling the eggs, yields better soft-cooked eggs. While dropping cold eggs into boiling water temporarily lowers the water temperature and therefore alters cooking time based on the number of eggs, steaming uses such a low amount of water that the curved edge of an egg in contact with the water will not significantly affect the overall temperature in the steaming pot. What’s more, eggs will not crack and lose half the white to the cooking water from the harsh pressure change that often accompanies the full-boil method.

 

 

To steam your eggs, even without a proper steam basket, simply fill a saucepan with a half inch of water and bring it to a boil. Then place as many eggs as you’d like in the pot, cover with a lid so the water is simmering, and set your timer for six and a half minutes. Promptly remove the pot from the heat and run the eggs under cold water for 30 seconds. Enjoy any way you like — scooped right from shell, as a dip for tender spears of asparagus, or peeled and broken over that thick slice of toast!

 

Written by: Carly Chaapel

Edited by: Megan Raff

 

Sources:

 

Cook’s Illustrated. “Foolproof Soft-Cooked Eggs.” 1 Jan. 2013. http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipes/article.asp?docid=41579

Backyard Chickens, Farming, Fresh Eggs

Summertime Egg Recipes

Summer is here with it’s abundance of glorious foods: sun-ripened tomatoes ready to fall off the vine, boxes of California avocados, baskets of bright green spinach and zucchinis, and of course, for backyard chicken keepers, nesting boxes overflowing with freshly laid eggs courtesy of our feathered friends. Sunny side up eggs on whole grain toast is always met with enthusiasm in the morning on our farm, but for added excitement, here is a collection of some of our other favorite recipes for this season.

 

Local Eggs - Out of the Box Collective

Out of the Box Collective – Local Eggs

SPINACH QUICHE by JENNIFER PIETTE, OUT OF THE BOX COLLECTIVE

This egg and spinach dish is a hearty way to start your day. Saute up fresh, local spinach, spread into a pie crust, and cover with eggs, milk, salt, black pepper, and nutmeg. Sprinkle with your choice of cheese and chuck it in an oven preheated to 375F. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the cheese is browned, but still moist. Roast tomatoes in the oven to pair with the quiche and top the quiche with your choice of herbs. 

 

 

SPINACH BALLS

Excellent appetizers for summertime gatherings, this will easily feed plenty of hungry mouths after outdoor activities. Spinach, stuffing crumbs, Parmesan cheese, 4 eggs, butter, pepper, nutmeg, and onion: Mix, shape, and bake! 

 

 

GERMAN APPLE PANCAKES or DUTCH BABY

Grandma makes this dish as a small dessert for family dinner nights, but I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner too! (So could Grandpa!) Brown butter in a skillet, and sprinkle with a mixture of sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Line the skillet with apples and cook over medium-high heat until simmering. Pour batter over the simmering apples and slip the skillet into the oven at 375F for 10 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with a squeeze of lemon, or a helping of maple syrup. 

 

 

AVOCADO BREAKFAST BAKE

Wellness Mama – Avocado Bake

California avocados are incredible – and if you’re from California, you know anyone with an avocado tree is always trying to find a happy home for their boxes and bags of avocados this season. I find it effortless to eat an entire avocado in one sitting, so this recipe is perfect (not to mention easy)! Halve an avocado, remove the pit, and place on a baking dish. Crack an egg into each avocado and sprinkle with s+p. Bake for 15-20 min at 350F. Top with cilantro, tomatoes, cheese, green onions or any ingredients you choose. Viola & mmm…..

 

 

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE WITH ANGEL FOOD CAKE

We are located in strawberry field heaven, near Santa Maria, where the strawberries in fruit stands are today’s harvest of bright red, juicy delights! This light rendition on strawberry shortcake is perfect for a hot summer’s treat! Use twelve of your egg whites to make this fluffy angel food cake. Mix together 1 1/2 lbs of fresh sliced strawberries (or strawbobbies as my sister used to call them) and 3 tbsp sugar. Stir and refrigerate to let the juices develop. Place the strawberry mixture over sliced cake, top with whipped cream, and help yourself to two servings! Trust me, you can’t just have one. 

 

EGGS ON TOAST

But then there’s always eggs on toast for breakfast, and honestly, how can you go wrong? 

Eggs on Toast by Rachel Frenkel

 

Happy Summer!

Backyard Chickens, Farming, Fresh Eggs

Collecting, Cleaning, and Storing Eggs

You’ve built your coop and raised your chickens, and now they’re FINALLY laying eggs! But what do you do with all the eggs your girls start to lay? After the eggcitement of the first egg is all over, its time to find a routine for collecting, cleaning, and storing your fresh eggs. Here are some tips to get started with the right habits.

 

COLLECT DAILY, PREFERABLY IN THE EVENING

Chicken eggs are a commodity for animals as well as for humans. The smell of chicken eggs will likely attract pests such as rats, skunks, possums, and raccoons which you don’t want near your chickens. Collecting eggs daily, especially in the evening, is the best way to prevent those predators from coming around at night. 

It’s also a good idea to collect chicken eggs every evening to prevent the chickens from dirtying them, breaking them, and eating them. Chickens sometimes sleep in their nesting boxes, or walk all over a nest of eggs with dirty feet, making the eggs harder to clean. If they accidentally break one while climbing over a large nest of eggs, they will eat it out of curiosity. They may even begin to eat eggs out of boredom during the winter months when they’re stuck inside. Once they begin to eat their own eggs, they can form a bad habit that is really destructive, and really hard to break.

 

STORING EGGS

Eggs are laid with a natural mucous coating over the shell called a ‘cuticle’ or, more commonly, a ‘bloom.’ The bloom protects the egg from bacteria and controls the amount of water and air that is passed through the shell. This naturally keeps the eggs as fresh as possible without refrigeration, which is why you can keep fresh eggs in a cool, dry place such as your counter or cabinet rather than a refrigerator. However, they do stay fresh even longer if they are unwashed and refrigerated. Once the bloom is washed away with water, they do require refrigeration to keep them from going bad. We recommend collecting your eggs and keeping them unwashed in a clean carton in the refrigerator, and then washing your eggs just before using them. 

KEEPING THEM CLEAN

The saying “prevention is better than cure” goes for dirty eggs as well. In addition to collecting daily, the easiest way to have clean eggs is to keep a clean nesting box. Routinely check the nesting boxes and remove or replace dirty shavings, especially during winter when mud is prevalent and chickens have no manners to wipe their feet! Discouraging your hens from sleeping in the nesting boxes also helps tremendously. Keep roosts away from nesting boxes, and preferably in a higher place than the nesting boxes. 

DRY CLEANING

If you must wash your eggs before you store them, it is best to dry wash them. Dry washing uses an abrasive, such as sandpaper, an abrasive sponge, a sanding block, or other abrasive utensil to scrape or rub off any dirt or poop. This leaves the majority of the bloom intact and keeps the egg as safe as possible while still removing the yucky stuff. 

 

 

WET CLEANING

If you must wash them with water to remove the dirt and poop, be conscientious about the way you wash! Be sure the water you’re washing with is at least 20 degrees warmer than the eggs as washing with colder water creates a vacuum which sucks bacteria into the egg. It’s best not to soak them in water, but rather to wash them under running water. If you must use detergent, it is best to use natural dish detergent rather than antibacterial soaps.  

HOW LONG DO EGGS LAST?

Eggs should last approximately 45 days from the date they were laid if kept in the right conditions; however you should use them as soon as possible for maximum freshness and taste. After eggs are approximately one month old, it is best to test them for freshness before using them.

FLOATING EGGS TO TEST FOR FRESHNESS

To test for freshness, you can float your eggs. The broad side of the egg is filled with an air sac. The older the egg, the more air fills the sac. The more air is in the sac, the more the egg floats. Place your egg in a large bowl filled with cold water. If the egg sinks to the bottom and stays laying on its side, it’s still fresh and good to eat. The higher the broad side of the egg floats up, the older it is. If the broad side of the egg floats straight up and leaves the egg standing on the pointed side, its nearly a month old and should be eaten before it goes bad. If the egg floats right to the top, it’s old and probably is no longer good to eat.


FOR MORE TIPS ON EGGS AND MORE BACKYARD CHICKEN TOPICS

Visit the Care Guide section of our website at www.dare2dreamfarms.com. If you have any tips you’d like to share with your fellow backyard chicken enthusiasts, leave a comment below! 

Chicken Health, Fresh Eggs

Scrambled Eggs: Insight into the Egg Industry, and Encouragement for Backyard Farmers

This video by the The Cornucopia Institute is incredible. Cage-free eggs or organic eggs sound great in principle but, as we suspected, the commercialized egg industry cuts corners on the quality of life for their mass production hens. The requirement for “outdoor access” is a term left open to a broad range of interpretations, and mass scale egg producers take advantage of that. This video is less than 5 minutes and really hits home about why we farm the way we do – and why we encourage you to be your own source for eggs by raising chickens with all the love and care they deserve.

 

 

In the appendix to their report “Scrambled Eggs: Separating Factory Farm Egg Production from Authentic Organic Agriculture”, The Cornucopia Institute discusses the three approaches to organic egg production (pasture-based, permanent housing, and industrial organics) and the corners cut by industrial organic egg producers including that “chickens don’t like to go outside.” It exposes rogue animal welfare labels and identifies the good ones. If you can’t raise your own chickens this is a great read to help you identify the best egg sources for you or your family.

 

For more information on our pasture-based farming, you can visit our website to Meet the Flock or read About the Farm for pictures of our mobile housing and chicken pastures.

Fresh Eggs

Double Yolk Eggs

Although double yolk eggs are not rare (about 1/500 eggs), they are still really exciting to find and they have been throughout history. Some used to believe it was good luck in general while others believed it was a sign of an upcoming marriage or death. Whatever you choose to believe, it is still fun to crack open a large egg to see a double yolk plop in your pan! Consumers of store bought factory eggs hardly see these since they are usually separated from the eggs to make egg products instead. It makes finding them in your own coop even more special!

Double Yolk Egg in a Skillet = JOY

 

Reproductive Mistake

 

Double yolk eggs are a reproductive mistake that happen for a couple different reasons. The reproductive error can be hereditary, or it can be attributed to the age of the chicken. Chickens with a hereditary reproductive error will lay double yolk eggs occasionally or often through their entire life. Others may only lay them when they first start to lay eggs or at the end of their laying cycle. A young pullet that is just beginning to lay may have more trouble than others with synchronizing her reproductive cycle. Some may release eggs too quickly causing more than one to be enveloped in albumen (egg white), membrane, and shell. Some reproductive systems will actually lose track of egg yolks causing another to drop and connect to the first. Most girls will find a rhythm and begin to lay single yolk eggs regularly. At the end of a hen’s laying cycle, she may begin to sputter again and lay odd eggs including double yolk eggs.

A normal egg & a double yolk egg


 

Eating Double Yolk Eggs

There is nothing wrong with eating a double yolk egg! Its twice the nutrition in one shell! Great if you have hungry boys running around the house…

Hatching Double Yolk Eggs

 

Unfortunately, double yolk eggs will not hatch. There have been success stories with help from science and lady luck, but the chances are slim. First, there is not enough room in the egg for both chicks to develop. They will push against each other, and likely smother each other inside the shell. It would be more likely for one to pass, and one to live. Secondly, there is not enough air in the shell’s pocket for both. Lastly, even if there was enough air, it would be highly unlikely that both were positioned inside the shell to face the air sack due to a lack of space.

Egg Records

 

By account, the record for the most yolks in one egg is nine! The record for the world’s largest egg, however, is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records with 5 yolks and 9 inches in diameter! The record for the world’s heaviest egg is a double yolk egg with two shells and weighing in at 1 pound.  

Variations in size from ‘Extra Large’ to ‘Off the Charts’


 

Resources

Damerow, Gail. Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens. Third. North Adams: Storey Publishing, 2010. 223-24. Print.

“Egg Food Safety Frequently Asked Questions.” Egg Safety Center. N.p., 2010. Web. 1 Oct 2012. <http://www.eggsafety.org/consumers/consumer-faqs

 

“Egg Problems.” Avian Web. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Oct 2012. <http://www.avianweb.com/eggproblems.html&gt;.

 

Theer, Pete. “Odd Eggs, Double Yolks, No Yolks, etc.”PoultryHelp. N.p., 11 Feb 2011. Web. 1 Oct 2012. < http://www.poultryhelp.com/oddeggs.html>.

 

“What Causes Double Yolks?” Better Hens and Gardens. WordPress, 13 Apr 2011. Web. 1 Oct 2012.