3.22.2011

The Local Food Report: backyard chickens

Hi everyone. Happy snowy morning! What happened to in like a lion, out like a lamb? Oh well. Let's talk about Sage instead.


Sage up there is five, and those are her two Plymouth Bard Rocks: Ciely and Kiely. Her family started keeping chickens last fall—six altogether—and she is now quite an expert in laying hens. She and her brother Skyler, age seven, help with the feeding, and water changing, and coop cleaning, and every morning, they go in to collect the eggs. Sage says there are usually six, sometimes five, and that when the hens are laying, they get kind of excited and noisy about the whole thing. She and Skyler have all sorts of games they play with the chickens: dust bath and soccer and swinging and even tag, and according to Sage's mother Rebecca, the hens are very affectionate.

A lot of other families we know with kids around this age have been getting chickens, too, and Sage's dad Michael says he can see why. Chickens are easy—low maintenance, not much daily trouble, a steady supply of fresh eggs, and excellent education and entertainment for the kids.

My nieces got chickens last year, and I can attest at least to the education and entertainment bit. They know all kinds of chicken facts—what they can eat, what they can't, what predators to watch out for, you name it—and they spend as much of their free time as possible either watching the chickens or letting them out of the coop and carrying them around and letting them go and then attempting to catch them. Between this and the backyard egg supply, I have to say, it seems to work out pretty well for everyone.

If you're interested, here are a few resources to get you started. There's a family in Osterville that writes a blog about keeping chickens—Tilly's Nest. NOFA also offered its first annual Backyard Poultry Workshop Day last July in Acushnet, and they haven't announced anything for this year yet, but to me, first annual implies that they'll be doing it again. There's quite a bit of information on backyardchickens.com, and Urban Chickens is another good site.

One note: before you build anything or make any solid plans, be sure to check with your town about zoning laws. In Brewster, you can keep up to ten hens without any sort of permit, but you need to go before the Board of Health to keep even one rooster.

Oh, and if you need a little more inspiration, here's a recipe for egg salad—as Rebecca says, the absolute best way to get rid of a dozen eggs.

CURRIED EGG SALAD

The trickiest part about egg salad is getting the timing right on the eggs. To hard boil the eggs, put them in a pot of water, bring it to a boil, and wait exactly 9 minutes. No less, no more. Then pull them out and drop them into an ice bath. Leave them to cool for about five minutes or so. This process should yield an egg that is easy to peel and has a soft, just cooked bright yellow yolk. It's all downhill from there.

1/2 cup chives, chopped fine
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons whole grain Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons white vinegar or lemon juice
4 teaspoons cumin
salt and pepper
a dozen eggs, hardboiled

In a small mixing bowl, beat together the chives, mayo, mustard, lemon juice, and cumin with a whisk. Add the egg yolks and continue mixing until everything gets smooth and creamy. Taste for seasonings—you may want a little more lemon juice, or a bit of salt and pepper—and then set this aside.

Get out a cutting board and chop the egg whites into fairly small bits. (How small you go is a matter of taste; I tend not to go too fine.) Mix the whites in with the yolk mixture and boom!—you're done. This egg salad is excellent with leaves of butter lettuce on toasted whole wheat bread, and maybe a pickle on the side.

6 comments :

Jess said...

There's a 4H staffperson in my office and 4H is a great place for kids to get resources about backyard chickens!

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Let's hear it for backyard chickens, even for adults. We don't have kids, but we have seven hens, with a new batch of chicks coming this June.

There's the eggs and the learning experience, but don't leave out stress reduction. Anxiety and chickens just don't co-exist very well. After a difficult day, there's nothing like a half hour hanging with the flock.

And don't get me started on comic relief ...

Tilly's Nest said...

Your site is beautiful! Thank you so much for mentioning Tilly's Nest in your recent post about backyard chickens. We are so happy to have these wonderful additions to our family. We also love having organic eggs delivered fresh to our door every morning! We have linked back to your site. All the best,
Melissa

Tilly's Nest said...

NOFA Backyard Poultry programs for 2011 now announced:

http://www.nofamass.org/programs/extensionevents/organicpoultry.php

All areas of Massachusetts are covered. Should be very informative. I just might go, you never know, I still have lots to learn!

Farmer Emmett said...

It's true, chickens are so much fun to just watch. When we got our first batch of chicks 3 years ago, we'd sit in the garage over their brooder "watching chick TV." We now have about 100, plenty to keep us busy!

Thanks for the great posts. Keep up the good work!

Elspeth said...

Hi everyone! Sorry it took me so long. I don't know where I've been.

Jess, thank you for sharing that info. Excellent!

Tamar, new chicks!? Baby chicks are right up there with black lab puppies and chubby toddlers, in my book.

Tilly's Nest, thanks so much for passing along that link. And thank you for your kind words!

Emmett, 100 sounds like it would keep you busy indeed. But with chicken t.v., at least you know where to go when you need to relax.

Hooray for local chickens!
Elspeth

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.