There is nothing like having your own fresh eggs from your own backyard flock!
Fresh eggs….nothing compares!
We have our own chickens and we have them for many reasons. Both Bill and I had small family flocks growing up. Our breed of choice is the Buff Orpington. Right now we have 25 chickens- 23 hens and 2 roosters (Baxter and Charlie) with more on the way. A couple of Bill’s Biddies (what we call the girls) are “with egg” and sitting patiently on their nests. The first little family is set to hatch on Father’s Day (how fitting) and a second little family the following Sunday. Having your own small backyard flock of chickens has its advantages.
Here’s the list of the advantages of having a backyard flock –
- Very fresh eggs – Really, there is a huge difference between the eggs you buy in a store and those that come from your own hens. The difference in the flavor is amazing. And you never know how long the eggs in the stores have been hanging around. They can be 3-4 weeks old. The yolks are an insipid pale yellow and the whites are runny. With our fresh eggs, the yolks are a deep gold and they are very plump and round. The whites stay together rather than running when you break then into a bowl.
- Healthier eggs – Having your own laying hens is healthier. You know exactly what your chickens are fed, and how they are taken care of. Most production based farm chickens are fed hormones and antibiotics to make them grow larger and at a faster pace. Those chemicals are passed on through the egg, which means you ingest them anytime you buy store bought eggs. Remember the scare a year or so ago when eggs in grocery stores from one certain farm were dangerously tainted with salmonella. Click on this text to read NY Times article regarding what commercial chickens are fed. If you raise your own chickens, the eggs will be healthier for you, and more natural, the way Mother Nature intended!
- Cheaper than store bought – Fresh eggs are definitely cheaper than buying store bought. By letting them free range in the spring, summer and fall, you reduce the feed bill for your flock. Plus they can eat a lot of the kitchen waste you would normally throw away and even the grass trimmings from mowing your lawn. Raising your own eggs will mean a lower grocery bill.
- Great compostable material – The litter from your chicken house can greatly enhance your compost pile.
- Great life lessons for your kids – Having your own flock of chickens teaches kids that food does not magically appear on the shelf of a grocery store. Taking care of them can be a lesson in responsibility, caring for something that is dependent on you
- Bug control – If you let them free range part of the time, they will keep the insect population in your yard down substantially.
- Sell extra eggs – You can sell your extra eggs to neighbors and friends. Because we have roosters, our hen’s eggs are fertile so we also sell hatching eggs in the local shopper newspaper and on Ebay. We ship eggs all over the lower 48 states to people wanting to start their own home flock.
- Humor -They are great for comic relief. Sitting and watching your chickens go through their antics is more fun than you can imagine.
But there are some con’s to the situation to –
- Many municipalities have zoning laws against farm animals. You will have to check this out in your area.
- There are daily chores involved – watering, feeding, collecting eggs, closing up the hen house each night so predators can’t destroy your flock.
- If you let them free range, you will find round little nuggets of chicken poop in places you may not want it (like stuck to the bottom of your shoe), and you may have to fence off your veggie garden as they will peck at your produce.
- If you have a rooster (only necessary if you want to replenish your flock by raising your own chicks), roosters get up very early! We’ve had a couple that seemed to never go to bed! I have learned to tune them out, but close neighbors might not be appreciative of your built in alarm clock singing the praises of the early dawn at 4 AM.
- If you have a rooster, you may have to explain sexuality to you children at a younger age than you intended to. Chicken sex is not romantic at all and very rough.
Living where we do, in a very rural wilderness area, we don’t confront any zoning issues and the neighbors that are in hearing distance of Charlie and Baxter’s early morning serenades never complain. In fact, most of the folks on the road buy eggs from us. Bill and I are only two people and there is no way we could eat 2 dozen eggs a day no matter how delicious they are.
But the difference in the quality of fresh eggs is amazing. I bought a dozen at the general store the other day so I could show you the difference. You can see the comparison below.
In our fresh eggs, the yolks are golden, almost orange, and are nice and plump and round, compared to the pale, insipid pale yolks , that are flat and runny from the commercial source. The whites are firm and hold together in our fresh eggs, but are loose and runny in the commercial egg. And the flavor is delicious in our home produced eggs where the commercial eggs are almost tasteless and bland. We have the breed, Buff Orpington. I refer to them as the “Golden Retrievers” of the chicken world. They are the same color as a Golden Retriever and they have the same personality, happy go lucky and friendly. They are one of the calmer breeds of chickens, very steady and predictable, unlike a breed like the White Leghorns (which are renowned for their egg production) which are panicky and create chaos the minute you open the hen house door. Buffs are sweet, although the hens that go “broody” (wanting to hatch their eggs) will get a little temperamental when you take her “baby eggs” away. We will take the “broodys” and set them on their own private nest in quiet place to hatch out next year’s flock. Hens don’t lay eggs forever. They go through “henopause” eventually and stop laying eggs. That’s when they are ready for the stew pot but that’s another story for another day. A hen starts laying eggs at the age of 5 months and the next year will be her most productive, laying an egg almost every day. In her second year, the laying will not be quite as productive with an egg every other day, and then after the second year it gets very random. Hens have a finite number of potential egg cells in their body and when they have all been laid, that’s it. There won’t be anymore. We only keep an older hen if she is an exceptionally good mother as not all hens are good at setting on eggs. Hens can live to be 10 years old or older so a decision has to be made as to what to do. You can kill and eat the birds. They will be a little tough but there are methods such as stewing or slow roasting that will make them very tender. If slaughtering your chickens is not your thing then you can sell or give them to someone who will. That’s what we do now as Bill has gotten a very soft heart in his old age and just doesn’t want to dispatch the girls.
There is nothing like having fresh eggs from your own hen house – fresh, tasty, and safe. Yummy!