Eggs: grow your own. August 24, 2010Posted by ourfriendben in chickens, critters, homesteading, pets, wit and wisdom.
Tags: backyard chickens, chickens, eggs, hens, salmonella outbreak
Our friend Ben confesses to feeling a bit smug this morning as I walked into the kitchen with three big, beautiful, organic, still-warm-from-the-nest eggs. Not that I would eat a raw egg, but I knew that I could eat these eggs (or feed one to our egg-loving black German shepherd, Shiloh) raw without worrying about salmonella or anything else. No recalls here at the Hawk’s Haven Pullet Palace!
The fact that salmonella-tainted eggs are once more in the news shines a spotlight on factory farming and its loathesome, cruel, filthy practices. According to The Washington Post, just 192 “agribusinesses” own 95% of the laying hens in the U.S. And if 192 companies producing pretty much all our eggs doesn’t strike you as too small a number, consider this: Americans consume 60 billion eggs a year. Our friend Ben has noticed that it’s now trendy to refer to the monster pharmaceutical conglomerates as “big pharma.” I’d like to suggest that we start calling these agribusiness conglomerates “big farma.”
But there is a way to feed your family safe, wholesome eggs, and it’s as close as your backyard: Grow your own. Chickens are the easiest animals to raise after aquarium fish. They’re colorful, personable, and fun. You don’t need a rooster to get eggs, so you don’t have to worry about crowing disturbing your neighbors or a rooster going nasty and trying to spur you or your kids. And just two or three hens will give you the luxury of farm-fresh eggs every day (or, if you have a big family or a big egg-eater, every couple of days).
Our little flock of five heritage-breed chickens provides our friend Ben and Silence Dogood with plenty of eggs for omelettes, huevos rancheros, fried eggs, and hard-boiled eggs for our salads, as well as for baking. And we almost always have some to give away to friends (and, of course, share with Shiloh). In return, we supplement the chickens’ diet of scratch grains and egglayer pellets with tons of fresh greens, bread, fruits, veggies, and the occasional leftover pasta, rice, or what-have-you. They thrive on it all, and our eggs are out of this world. Thanks, chickens!
Keeping chickens isn’t cheap, but that’s only because of the initial outlay for a coop and a secure chicken yard. We designed the Pullet Palace ourselves and had a carpenter friend build it, then enclosed it and a good-sized yard around it in tall kenneling walls set over horizontal wire to keep critters from burrowing under. We also added kenneling panels over the top as a secure roof to keep out hawks and raccoons, then grew a wine grape over it to provide shade for the yard in summer. (Not to mention yummy grapes for the chickens and us!)
Once the setup is in place, it’s simply a matter of providing food, water, grit, and straw (we also line our nestboxes with shredded paper if we have it on hand), visiting with the chickens, and collecting those yummy eggs. We think it’s a wonderful return on investment!