Eggs, have you ever tasted a really good egg? Chances are you haven’t. I am writing this post while visiting my mother in Florida for Easter, so eggs are on my mind (and yes, I am very fortunate to be able to combine family reunions and beach life.. I know!) Earlier this week, we went out with old friends for breakfast at a typical diner and ordered the standard bacon and eggs. My son looked at his food with a special look on his face and said ‘what is wrong with my egg?’ as he dipped his toast into a pale yellow yolk.
We are used to deep orange yolks, full of flavour and nutrients, and we eat them with good conscience because we have our own chickens. They quite honestly won the chicken lottery getting a spot in our hen house after having lived their lives indoors before they came here. Now they eat our kitchen scraps and garden slugs and free range in the sun. And in return, we get eggs, garden fertiliser and entertainment – they are great company!
After having been part of a local community farm where multiple families share duty taking care of a chicken coop with 60+ chickens and sharing the eggs, we decided we wanted chickens of our own. We began the conversion of the old outhouse into a chicken coop. The house we live in is the house that my husband grew up in. In those days, it was a summer cottage with no insulation, an outhouse and only summer water. It has changed a little since then 😉 The indoor part of the coop is the old outhouse measuring about 3 square meters, and we built a covered outdoor area around 12 square meters. The outdoor part has a translucent roof that keeps the area dry and lets light in, It has been a godsend, having seen how mucky a coop can get without a dry zone outside!
The biggest surprise we had was when we brought home our hens. We got them from a place that is checked regularly for disease and we were confident that we would be getting hens without salmonella or any other worrisome health concerns. What we were not prepared for was the state of the birds when we got them. They had apparently lived their lives indoors in cramped spaces, and the signs were hard to miss! Feathers broken and missing from either pecking or rooster damage, scars from pecking due to overcrowding, and their nails were long curly and overgrown from not having had proper flooring. It was bittersweet to watch them when we took the tops off the boxes.
When we opened up the boxes, they were stunned, not quite sure what to make of the situation, they did not move. They had never seen the sun, had a proper floor to walk on, space to spread their wings… I had to take them out of the boxes and sat back to watch them experience a whole new world.
Their lives have changed since then, free ranging in the garden, often visiting the neighbours, taking dust baths in the sun. Their have become quite agile compared to when they first came, and come bolting up the hill when we call them for treats. They love to hang out by the kitchen door, and nap under the table free from the worries of overhead predators.
We know that very few people are in the position of having their own hens, and not everyone would even want to if they could, but that does not mean that they can not get access to quality eggs, and feel good about eating them. Visit your local market, support a trustworthy farmer, ask if any neighbours have hens and would like to earn some money for their eggs or join a community supported farm. You will not regret it, once you have tried a good egg, you will never turn back.
PS. If you would like to educate yourself on industrial egg production, google away, just know that something I often say is “Ignorance WAS bliss” it is hard to ignore the truth once you see it.