Showing posts with label Chickens. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chickens. Show all posts

Jun 5, 2018

How Can I Tell If My Hen is Laying?

How Can I Tell if My Hen is Laying
Q: I'm not getting very many eggs from my hens. I have 8 that are about 3 years old and 9 that are about a year old, and I only get 9 eggs a day. I know the older hens are past their prime, but how can I tell which ones (if any) are still laying?

A: You're right that you should be getting more eggs. I expect one egg per hen per day (on average) and don't put up with much less. Slackers have gotta go! Fortunately, there are several ways to determine which of your hens are good layers and which are not.

1. Check the Vent. The first thing I do is take a good look at each hen's vent (the hole where her eggs come out). Good layers usually have large, oval, moist openings. Poor layers have smaller, rounder, drier vents. I believe this is the best way to tell a good layer from a bad one (aside from separating each hen and watching her daily).

2. Check Color. For chickens that have yellow-pigmented beaks, legs, and skin, the vent of a good layer will typically look pale. If the hen is not laying, the vent should be yellow. (This is because there's a limited supply of yellow pigment in a hen's body, and if she's laying, she needs that pigment for her egg's yolks.) Good laying hens of all breeds also have bright combs and wattles. A hen who is not laying will have a paler "complexion" on those body parts.

3. Check the Abdomen. Lay each hen on her back (as if you're cradling a baby in your arm), and gently feel her abdomen. If it's pliable and soft, she's probably laying eggs. If it's not very flexible, she's probably not laying eggs. This test isn't foolproof because if the hen has an egg forming, her abdomen will feel harder.
Comb and wattle color matter. (Courtesy of Anup Shah)
4. Check the Bones. While you're at it, take a feel at her pelvic bones. If they are far apart (say, 3 or 4 of your fingers fit between them), she's probably laying. If there's a more narrow space between them, she's probably not laying often. You can also look at the space between the hen's vent and keel (the pointy bone at the base of her breast). If you can fit about 4 fingers between the vent and keel, she's probably a layer. Less distance means the bird probably doesn't lay well. (These measurements only work for full sized breeds.)

5. Check for Appetite and Activity. Although activity levels vary from breed to breed, generally speaking, hens who are laying are usually more active than those who are not. They have an active appetite, too, and tend toward eagerness when you supply food. Hens who aren't laying, aren't nearly as eager and won't eat as much as laying hens.

* Cover image courtesy of  Tamsin Cooper

Dec 28, 2017

Top 5 Most Popular Posts for 2017 - Plus Top Posts of All Time!

This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

2017 is nearly at an end, which means it's time for reflection and maybe some new goals. This year has certainly been a life-changing one for me: Reversing my diabetes (and most of my other health complaints) through a keto diet; hubby no longer commuting 92 miles one direction in order to get to work; and my need to do more to help support my family financially. And one of the things I always do around this time of year is access this blog.

So let me ask: What are my readers (you!) needing from me? Please, let me know in the comments below!

Another way I learn what readers want is to look at this blog's most popular posts from the previous year, and for the entire life of the blog. (Did you know I've been writing this blog since 2009?! Holy smokes!)

Most Popular Posts from 2017

# 5. Catnip for Human Medicine 
This popular post was inspired by the catnip patch that came with our homestead - and which our cat (who also came with our homestead) adores. I was surprised to learn catnip is so beneficial for humans, especially for helping us relax. It also repels mosquitos better than DEET. Find out what else catnip is good for by clicking here.

# 4. How to Get Out from Under the Laundry Pile
A lot of you struggle to keep up with your family's laundry, and in this post, I give you my best tips for how I make laundry easy and stress-free.

#3. Can I Use My Instant Pot Pressure Cooker for Canning?
The Instant Pot electric pressure cooker (buy it here) hit the world by storm in 2017, and my third most popular post definitely reflects that. In it, I dispell myths about using pressure cookers as pressure canners. Be sure to read it before you can!

#2. Cauliflower Chowder Recipe
Combine the Instant Pot and a keto recipe and you get my second most popular post from 2017. This is actually a revised version of a non-keto, non-Instant Pot recipe I posted in 2015. It's been a family favorite, so when I went keto, I was thrilled it was easy to make low carb. It's also easy to make in the Instant Pot (or slow cooker/crock pot, or the stove top).

 #1. 50 Low Carb and Keto Thanksgiving Recipes
When I started eating keto in December of 2016, I never dreamed that keto recipes would turn into the most popular posts on my blog! It's really a testament to this healthy diet, which truly works for treating type I and type II diabetes, cancer, Lyme disease, epilepsy, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, metabolic disorder, sleep disorders, pain, infertility (especially PCOS), multiple sclerosis, and other diseases - not to mention for losing weight, especially when the pyramid diet fails. (I've lost 45 lbs., my husband has lost 60 lbs.) Keto works, my friends!

Most Popular Posts of All Time

#5.  Easy Refrigerator Pickled Beets
Here's a little secret: I hate pickled beets. But my family loves them - and, apparently, so do you! This post from 2014 continues to be among my most read.

#4. The Best Free Apron Patterns on the Net
I'm glad I'm not the only one who loves a good apron - or two, or three, or...Since 2011, this post has pointed ya'll to some pretty awesome, free patterns for my favorite kitchen accessory.

#3. 6 Ways to Teach Kids the Books of the Bible
I'm so happy at least one God-centered post is popular on this blog! ;)

#2. How to EASILY Clean Ceilings & Walls - Even in a Greasy Kitchen!
It turns out, greasy kitchens are my specialty. I also specialize in finding "lazy girl" ways to clean. This post from 2014 combines both these "talents."

#1. How to Train Chickens
This has been my most read post since 2012, which cracks me up! I'd have never thunk it. But I guess hubby and I are pretty good at getting our hens to cooperate and do the things we want them to.

Nov 13, 2017

8 Rooster Myths: Busted!

8 Rooster Myths
Poor roosters. They take a lot of flak - even for things they don't do. Are you guilty of believing any of these rooster-related myths?

Myth #1: Roosters always mean. 

Many roosters are friendly to humans and hens, and some are downright sweet. On our homestead, our rooster, Joseph (shown in the photos for this post), is a gentleman with his ladies and would never dream of pecking or hurting any of the humans on our property. He's a little hard to catch, but once we do catch him, he submits to us completely, and never tries to fight us. In his demeanor, Joseph is not unique.

How do you choose a rooster that's friendly? Selecting a docile breed is a good idea. But chickens, like humans, are individuals, and some are just more pleasant than others.

Myth #2: When you have a rooster, your hens will lay more and bigger eggs. 

Having a rooster in your flock won't change your hens' laying or eggs in any way...except that the eggs will be fertilized.

Myth #3: If you have a rooster, all your eggs will have blood spots in them. 

Blood spots can occur in any chicken egg, including those that aren't fertilized. Blood spots (also called "meat spots") occur when a blood vessel on the yolk surface or the wall of the oviduct ruptures. They never indicate fertilization, and eggs with blood spots are perfectly safe to eat. (Incidentally, those of us with backyard flocks are far more likely to bump into eggs with blood spots because commercial eggs are checked for blood spots, and those eggs that have them are discarded or put to a use other than grocery store egg cartons.

Fertilized eggs, however, do have "bullets" - a blastoderm, or the first stage of embryonic development. Most people don't even notice this bullet, because of it's subtle nature. (Click on over to The Chicken Chick to see a photo and a more detailed explanation.) In order for the blastoderm to develop into an embryo, the egg must be heated for a specific length of time, so there's no fear of finding a partially formed chick in your eggs...unless you let your hens sit on them.

Myth #4: Roosters crow only at dawn. 

Nope. Roosters crow whenever they feel like it, which is usually often. This is why it's a great idea to have the chicken run far enough away from your house that crowing is a pleasant sound in the background.

Myth #5: Only get a rooster if you want chicks (or fertile eggs). 

Even if you don't want fertile eggs or chicks, an excellent reason to add a rooster to your flock is that he will do everything in his power to protect your hens. Roosters are ever on alert, watching for any danger to the flock. If danger does appear, roosters will give their life to protect the hens.

Myth #6: Only roosters get spurs. 

Some people think they can look at pullets (teenage hens) and determine whether they are male or female by seeing whether they have bumps on their feet that will grow into spurs. But all young chickens have these bumps, including the girls. In most hens, those bumps don't grow into spurs...but it's not uncommon for hens to develop spurs as their egg-laying slows down. In addition, some breeds of hens (like Leghorns, Polish, Ancona, and Minorca) are more likely to grow spurs. Sumatras may even develop multiple spurs on each foot!

Myth #7: Roosters kill chicks. 

I heard this myth a lot after the recent loss of our chick. But the truth is, all chickens have the potential to kill chicks, and roosters are no more likely to do it than hens. Roosters do not try to kill chicks because they want to mate with the mother hen. In fact, most roosters are protective of the flock's chicks - sometimes even "mothering" the chicks the way a good hen does.

Myth #8: Roosters can't live together. 

Most people believe each flock can only have one rooster, or the roosters will fight until only one lives. However, more than one rooster really can live happily in a flock, though the males will scuffle with each other to work out their pecking order (just like hens do). Eventually, the roosters will sort things out - sometimes allowing mating privileges to only one male. Only breeds raised for cockfighting will actually fight to the death.

That said, it's smart to keep your rooster to hen ratio in mind. This can vary from breed to breed, but generally you'll want  rooster for every 8 - 12 hens.

Sep 15, 2017

The Little Chicken Who Couldn't

This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

Our Internet line was down for five days, so I'm playing a lot of catch up! (Not only do I work exclusively online, but my children were doing online school, too. Oy.) And while I was disconnected from the world, a lot of things happened at the homestead - including the hatching of our hens' eggs.

X marks the incubating eggs.
Mama hen had been sitting on 10 eggs for 21 days. When she first started sitting, I carefully marked each egg with a penciled X, so I'd know exactly which eggs were being incubated. Then I left Mama to it.

I knew the general advice is to separate the mama hen from the rest of the flock, but I had no way to do this, and I wanted to see what happened if I did things the old fashioned way - letting Mama do all the work.

Well, Mama was an excellent broody hen. She sat diligently every day, only getting up rarely to drink, relieve herself, and eat a wee bit of food. She growled at us when we checked on her (yes, hens can growl!), though she never pecked when I peeked under her. (I'm telling you, Australorps are the sweetest chickens ever!)

One day when I went to collect the other hens' eggs, I laughed because I found two eggs immediately in front of Mama's nest. I assumed (ahem) the other hens wanted to lay in her nest - because hens are like that; you can give them each a nesting box, but they'll all lay in the same one. Then, I thought, they couldn't hold their eggs any longer and out they popped in front of Mama's nest.

Mama, sitting diligently.
Well, a few days later when I went to cook with those eggs, I got a surprise. I was making a huge batch of pancakes to freeze for my children's breakfasts, and when I cracked one egg, the contents were bloody. Upon closer inspection, there was an embryo in that egg. Gross. That huge batch of pancake batter had to go in the trash, but the kids were fascinated to see a real embryo up close and personal.

I knew then that the egg had originally been under Mama, and somehow got booted from the nest. And over the course of the next several days, I found a few other partially incubated eggs with embryos in them. (Needless to say, I started cracking eggs in a separate bowl before adding them to whatever I was cooking.) Embryos only develop in fertilized eggs if those eggs have been incubated (i.e. warmed up by a sitting hen or an electric incubator). So either Mama booted those eggs accidentally, or other hens snuck into her nest when she got up for a quick break and they booted them, or Mama rejected the eggs, thinking they were bad.

None of those embryo-filled eggs had pencil marks on them, by the way. Note to self: Use a pen next time.

In the end, though she had six eggs under her at the end of 21 days, only one egg hatched. In other words, only one egg had been under her for a full 21 days.

Some people asked why I removed all the unhatched eggs after that time. Why not just leave them under Mama and let them hatch when they were ready? I had two good reasons not to do that. The first is that most hens will abandon their chick before they abandon the eggs in their nest - which means the chick has pretty much zero chance of survival. In fact, this scenario played out on our homestead.

I heard peeping on a Monday afternoon. By Tuesday afternoon, I could still hear peeping, but couldn't see any chicks. I didn't want to disturb Mama too much, so I didn't peek under her. I assumed (see how my assumptions lead to bad things?) she had chicks still hatching.

That night, however, when my husband locked up the chickens in the hen house, he looked inside with a flashlight. There, in a spot underneath the slightly raised nesting box, was the chick, peeping for Mama to help him. Somehow, he or she had fallen out of the nest. But Mama would not abandon her eggs. (Hubby says broody hens are a lot like Daleks from Doctor Who, but instead of having a one-track mind that says "Exterminate!", they have a one track mind that says "Incubate!") Fortunately, this happened during a heat wave, so the chick didn't die of cold, and my husband tucked the chick back under Mama, who seemed grateful.

Mama and her chick.
The second reason I needed to dispose of the additional eggs is that in 21 days, Mama had hardly eaten or had anything to drink. By the time chicks hatch, the hen is much thinner and really requires a break from sitting in order to be healthy.

So, the other eggs were gone and Mama was focused on her single, cute little fluff butt. The chick seemed bright and alert and curious, and Mama had her work cut out for her.

By the third day, she took the chick out of the nesting box and let it wander around the hen house. She showed it the water and the chick feed and taught it to eat, and she remained highly protective, even fiercely pecking my husband once. (Normal for the average hen, but really aggressive for this one.)
Mama love!
Then she must have taken the chick outside to teach it to scratch. That evening, my husband found the chick dead in the chicken run, its eyes pecked out.

We'll never know exactly what happened. Maybe the chick took a turn for the worse, it died suddenly, and the rest of the flock did what chickens do to dead things. Maybe the chick showed signs of illness, which chickens greet with cannibalistic fervor. Maybe the chick fell of the ramp to the hen house and was injured or died. Or maybe Mama simply didn't do a good job protecting the chick from the rest of the flock, who, not knowing what it was, assumed it was food.


It's never easy when animals die on the homestead, but at least I know we gave the chick every chance and that nature took its natural course.

My husband says he wants to use an electric incubator next time. Personally, I'd like to give Mama another chance, but this time put her (and her chicks) in a smaller run of her own, safe from the rest of the flock. We'll see.

Jul 5, 2017

Why Did the Rooster Cross the Road? Because Our Hens Were on the Other Side!

Late Sunday afternoon, my hubby spotted a beautiful rooster wandering around the outside of our chicken run, trying to find a way in. We've been wanting to add a rooster to the homestead, but every time we see one advertised, someone else has already snatched it up. So light bulbs went on above our heads. My husband called our neighbor, knowing it must be his bird. "Your rooster is over here romancing our hens. Do you mind if we keep him for a few days?" Our neighbor readily agreed.

So we opened the gate to our chicken run - there was little danger of our hens wandering off; they are so content in that run, they show little interest in leaving it. And within minutes, the rooster had found his way inside.

First, he crowed. Repeatedly. "I proclaim these ladies are mine!" I imagine him saying. Then he spread his wings wide as if to impress our girls with his splendor. Soon, he started scratching around, found some food, and called to the girls. "Ladies! I found something tasty! Come and get it!"

They eyed him suspiciously and didn't take him up on his offer.

Finally, he began following them around, cooing bewitchingly. At least, I guess he was bewitching, because within 30 minutes, he was making whoopie with one of our hens. He then wasted no time getting friendly with all of them.

We are thankful he's a gentleman about it all. He never once pecked, scratched, or got violent with the hens. And when dusk came and I locked the hen house...he was nestled away in there like he'd never had any other home.

His second day here, I walked by the run to see how things were going...and discovered the gate was unlatched. That morning, my daughter hadn't closed it properly. All but our two broody hens were missing. (Broody hens are in a hormonal state that prepares them to hatch eggs.Among other things, they sit on the nest and do not leave it. It doesn't matter that our eggs were not fertilized. ) I was a little panicky, since the rooster was not ours to lose.

My first thought was that Mr. Rooster had lead our hens to his old property, wanting to integrate his new lady friends with his old ones. But before we could call the neighbor, my son spotted the partial flock in the woods, busily scratching away on the forest floor, finding bugs. The rooster hadn't been trying to get back home. He was merely looking out for his new hens, finding them a good foraging location.

To complicate things, our 90 lb. puppy, Ed, got loose. He's good around "his" animals, but I was worried he'd go after the rooster, thinking it didn't belong on our property. So I spent 15 minutes trying to catch him, wrestle with him, and lock him up before I could proceed with the chicken rescue mission.

By the time this was accomplished, Mr. Rooster had lead the hens to a prime foraging spot under some trees on a steep embankment. And, naturally, he did his best to protect them from me. Still, one by one I grabbed squawking hens, handed them to the children, and had them put the girls back in the chicken run. 

I was not looking forward to picking up the rooster. Roosters have spurs...need I say more? (I didn't realize at the time that Mr. Rooster is young enough he doesn't have spurs yet.) But I walked back to the woods to do my best and...he had disappeared. Completely vanished. I hoped he was headed back to "his" ladies. I was right! I don't know how he moved so fast, but he was already pacing outside the run, with the hens ruffled and upset he wasn't inside with them. (Amazing how quickly those hens adopted him!) I opened the gate and chased him until he ran into the run to flee me. Whew!

Later that day, amazed by how the rooster seemed to complete our flock - how the hens already adored him and obeyed his gentle commands - and entranced by his lovely crowing that just made the homestead more homesteady - my hubby asked the neighbor if we could buy his rooster.

"Tell you what," our neighbor said. "Give me half the chicks from your first two clutches, and he's all yours."*

Happy dance!

Of course, hatching chicks the natural way is a little bit iffy. There's a reason chickens mate constantly; not all clutches of eggs hatch, and all newborn chicks are incredibly fragile.

But, best case scenario, sometime within the next 3 weeks, our hens will lay some fertilized eggs, and one of our hens will be patient enough to sit on them for 21 days, then mother the resulting chicks.

Hens often get fed up before 21 days of sitting have passed. But we have one particularly broody hen who seems very patient. Twice now, she's plucked her chest feathers and sat on unfertilized eggs. She's felt hot and gives that gentle clucking sound only broody hens make. When we remove eggs from under her, she scolds us - and even, once, pecked. (Which is a huge deal for Australorps. They are not much into pecking, especially at their humans.) In fact, when Mr. Rooster originally crossed the road, we had her separated from the flock, trying to get her to come out of the broodiness she'd had for several days. Now she's in with the rest of the flock and we hope her broody dreams come true!

I'm ridiculously happy to have this rooster. He is so nice - which is a huge bonus. Many roosters are just plain mean. He is gorgeous. (I think he might be an Americauna.) The hens love him. And now my hubby has an excuse to get around to expanding the hen house. (Wink.)

Only one questions remains: What should we name him?

* In case you're wondering, Mr. Rooster shows zero interest in crossing the road again. For whatever reason, he has chosen our hens as his.

Jun 26, 2017

Our Favorite Chicken Breed: Australorps

Find out why Australorps - a heritage breed originally from Australia - are our favorite homestead chicken breed. Hint: Think lots of eggs and sweet more!

May 1, 2017

8 Common Chicken Keeping Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

Recently, someone my husband and I know made a huge newbie chicken raising mistake: He added pullets (teen age hens) to his existing flock of adult hens. The next day, he discovered every single one of the pullets dead - killed by his grown hens. It's a terrible story - but just one of hundreds I've heard or witnessed that involved a perfectly preventable chicken keeping mistake. Here are the mistakes I see most often - and how you can prevent them in your flock.

Mistake #1: Not reading up. Almost every chicken raising mistake can be avoided if you just do a little reading. You'll save yourself tons of time, money, and aggravation - not to mention suffering on the part of your chickens - if you read up on caring for them before you bring them home. Internet sources are useful (see my Chickens 101 posts, for example), but I recommend reading at least one book on chicken care before you buy chickens. Better yet, read a few! If money is tight, look to the local library. Or buy used books for cheap off Amazon. (Spending a little money on books will save you money in the long run, friends.)

Mistake #2: Not having everything ready for the chickens before you buy them. It's tempting to pick up chicks and think, "I'll worry about their coop (or their feeders, or whatever) later." But the truth is, those chicks have immediate and important needs right now - and before you know it, they'll be needing a coop and run, too. Prepare for the chickens before you bring them home, and you'll ensure the animals stay healthy and happy.
Have all supplies ready before you buy chicks.

Mistake #3: Trying to skimp on supplies. Frugality and homesteading go hand in hand; however, there are some things you really can't skimp on. For example, all chicks require a heating lamp and chick waterers and feeders. Trying to use, say, a bowl as a waterer will result in disaster. (Chicks drown in water bowls.)

Mistake #4: Not knowing how to introduce new birds. You cannot just throw chickens into a new flock and expect anything less than blood. New birds should, first of all, be kept in quarantine for 4 weeks, to ensure they are not contagious. Ignoring this rule may kill your entire flock. Then, new birds should be kept in a caged area immediately next to the old birds; this allows the animals to get to know each other without letting them kill each other. Don't co-mingle the birds until they've had at least a week to get to know each other through the fencing. And while you're at it, don't add a single hen to any flock. She will be mercilessly attacked, possibly killed, and at the very least, ostracized.  P.S. Chicks should be kept separate from the flock until they are almost grown. Put them in an attached but separate run when they are pullets. For more advice on adding new chickens to a flock, click here.

New chickens should be separated by a fence. Courtesy

Mistake #5: Allowing chickens to free range. At least without understanding the consequences. Free range chickens scratch at everything. They will destroy your lawn and gardens, and poop everywhere. If you're fine with that, then by all means let your birds free range. Otherwise, let go of the idea of true free ranging, and consider a chicken tractor, a rotating run, or a permanent run.

Mistake #6: Not feeding your birds. Some people think they can let their chickens free range and not give them poultry feed. But even if you have excellent forage in your yard, all chickens should be given feed, too. They will lay more consistently, have stronger egg shells, and will generally be healthier hens.
Free range chickens are a handful. Courtesy

Mistake #7: Not keeping chickens safe. All chickens require a predator proof coop they get locked into every night. When outside the coop, it's a good idea to protect chickens from predators, too, especially hawks and other big birds. This means covering the chicken run or having the run where there is plenty of tree cover.

Mistake #8: Getting too many chickens. Don't overcrowd your birds. This will make them fight, and will make them more prone to disease. At bare minimum, chickens require 3 square feet of indoor space (including 1 foot of roosting space) in the coop, and 10 square feet of outdoor space. But more space is better!

Mar 15, 2017

Why I Refrigerate Our Chickens' Eggs

Maybe you've seen them - the homesteading posts explaining why you don't need to refrigerate chicken eggs. They are everywhere, it seems. And yes, those posts are right. But I still refrigerate our hens' eggs. Here's why.

Why Eggs Don't Need Refrigerating

As I mentioned in my post on why I don't wash our chickens' eggs, the FDA requires commercial eggs be washed before they are sold; this destroys the natural bloom on eggs, which normally would protect the edible part from bacterial contamination. Theoretically, refrigeration helps keeps commercial eggs from making us sick - but refrigeration itself can be problematic. In fact, the European Union forbids egg refrigeration because if a consumer buys refrigerated eggs, then carries them home, more than likely those eggs will develop condensation - which attracts and breeds bacteria.

But...if you don't wash your eggs until just before you're ready to cook them, the protective bloom on those eggs stays in place, So, the argument goes, there's no need to refrigerate eggs. Especially eggs from backyard flocks, where the risk of salmonella is low. ("In fact, the likelihood of getting salmonellosis is greater with other pets than with poultry," claims the website of the University extension system.)

So yep, that's right; you can leave eggs on the counter, and they are perfectly safe to eat. The European Union recommends grocery stores keep eggs between the temperatures of 66.2 degrees F to 73.4 degrees F. - easily done at home, except on the hottest days.

But Why Did Our Ancestors Preserve Eggs?

So if eggs don't require refrigeration, why did our ancestors preserve eggs in lime or waterglass (liquid sodium silicate)? For that matter, in days gone by, why was it common practice to keep eggs in a cool cellar?

The answer, my friends, is the same reason I refrigerate my family's eggs today: Because we can't eat as many eggs as your hens produced each day, and we know even the best hens don't lay well during the winter. In other words: We have more eggs than we know what to do with during the sunny seasons, but aren't getting many (or any) eggs during the winter.

As it turns out, the whole reason the United States began the tradition of refrigerating eggs is that they are not naturally a year round commodity. Today, commercial farms force hens to lay in the winter by putting them in well lit (and crowded) barns. But before that was standard practice, farmers didn't have eggs to sell in winter. So the extra eggs laid during sunny months were stored in the refrigerator to be sold during the winter months.

Yes, fresh eggs last a long time when refrigerated. I personally have stored them for six months in our fridge, and never found a bad egg.

So rather than buy store bought eggs during the winter, or rather than just doing without during the dark months, I dig into the fridge and have plenty of eggs to last us until our hens start laying again.


No matter how you store your eggs - the fridge or on the counter top - it's always smart to check them for freshness before you use them. It's easy to do this with a float test; click here to learn how.

Mar 9, 2017

Why I Don't Wash Our Chickens' Eggs

One thing you'll quickly learn when you add chickens to your homestead is that backyard eggs don't look like store bought ones. Oh sure, they're that classic egg shape and come in all the same colors (and then some). But, unlike store bought eggs, backyard eggs aren't always clean.

This is especially evident during wet seasons, when the homestead tend to be muddy. But the mess on chicken eggs isn't always just mud. Often, there's poop involved, too.

This happens for several reasons. One is that chickens, like all birds, poop on the go - so sometimes they step in their poop, or the poop of one of their sisters. In addition, some hens will poop in the nesting box, or may have manure on her rear end that didn't fall off. (Hey, we're homesteaders, here; there's no use being squeamish on the topic!) Some of these things can be controlled at least somewhat by homesteaders; click here for my tips on getting cleaner eggs from your hens.

But then there's the inescapable fact that the physical passage used for egg laying is the very same one used for pooping. (My husband once had a friend who'd recently bought backyard hens. He loved them...that is, until my husband happened to mention the above fact. The friend was so grossed out by this, he gave away his hens...But he still eats store bought eggs!)

Now, obviously we don't want to get any of that poop in our food. And the natural inclination is to clean those dirty eggs as soon as we collect them...but that inclination is, in my opinion, WRONG.

Why Egg Washing is Bad

You see, eggs naturally have a protective coating, called "bloom," that prevents bacteria from entering the egg shell. This is God's creative way of keeping chicks healthy enough to hatch - and humans healthy enough they can continue to eat eggs. As soon as you wash eggs, that bloom is typically removed - and the part of the egg you eat is now totally exposed to lurking bacteria.

What About Store Bought Eggs?

Why do store bought eggs look so clean? It's certainly not because of the crowded, dirty environment commercial hens are raised in. Instead, it's because those eggs are washed before going to market.

Yep, you read that right.

The FDA requires all commercially sold eggs to be washed in detergent. A fact, by the way, that would make them illegal for sale throughout the European Union. Because Europeans understand that washing away the egg's bloom makes it easier for bacteria to enter the egg and make humans sick.
THIS is what real backyard eggs look like.

Once upon a time, American farmers applied mineral oil to egg shells after washing, in order to create a sort of artificial bloom. This is rarely done today.

To add insult to injury, commercial American eggs are always refrigerated. But refrigeration can lead to condensation, which can lead to bacterial growth.

What About Farmer's Market Eggs?

Rules about the sale of eggs at farmer's markets and similar venues varies from state to state. But generally speaking, small market farmers are not expected to wash eggs the way large commercial farms are. Instead, they are usually allowed to simply sort through their eggs and not sell dirty ones, or use a brush or sandpaper to gently remove dirt from eggs, or lightly and quickly dampen the eggs to make dirt removal easier. Sometimes, however, small farm eggs are washed by hand, using FDA approved detergents.

How I Handle Our Eggs
I don't really take our egg cartons out to the hen house :)

Though we've had backyard hens for many years, and though I grew up with chickens, I am not an expert and the law says you should not take my advice as you would that of a scientist.

But I can tell you that on our homestead, dirty eggs go into egg cartons, and then straight into the fridge. When I'm ready to cook the eggs, I wash them immediately beforehand. (How to wash eggs: Under cool, running water. Pat dry immediately. Do not soak eggs.)

Some people are totally grossed out by the thought of putting poopy eggs in the fridge - or anywhere else that's near food. But in my experience, egg cartons protect any other food nearby, and the bloom protects the eggs so we don't get sick.

Now...shall we talk about why I refrigerate our eggs, even though it's not required? I think I'll leave that for another post. Until then...happy homesteading!

Aug 15, 2016

Meet the Chicks!

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information.

It's true; we still haven't really started unpacking. Our storage container is full to the top. I still
don't have most of my kitchen equipment. The kids don't have their toys. My gardening stuff is still in the container...somewhere. But we just couldn't delay getting chicks anymore.

It was a sad day for my hubby when he took down our suburban hen house and gave our chickens away to a co-worker. He loved those birds. The kids loved watching them. I loved those much-more-delicious-and-healthy backyard eggs. But buying a bunch of stuff we already had - in storage somewhere - so we could get chicks this fall wasn't something I wanted to do.

Still, last weekend, hubby and I went to the feed store. They didn't have our favorite breed (Australorps), but they had Barred Plymouth Rocks, which are a great laying bird, pretty, and they have a cool name. But when we started filling a shopping cart with the stuff we'd need to keep the chicks healthy - a plastic storage container to use as a cheap brooder, a heat lamp and bulbs for it, a waterer, a feeder... - I added up the cost, told myself it was wrong to buy new equipment when we had perfectly good stuff in storage, and we walked away from the store empty handed.

Then I paid the monthly bills and missed backyard fresh eggs some more, and this morning said, "Let's just do it."

Hubby, the kids, and I were all ridiculously excited as we packed into the car. We love this property, but it just wasn't a homestead without the chickens. In some ways, it just wasn't home without them, either.

And in the delightful way God works, on Saturday we walked into the feed store to discover the Barred Rocks were gone...and had been replaced by Australorps. That really got me grinning.

The fluff balls peeped all the way home, then piled on top of each other in their cardboard box because they were getting cold. (TIP: Always go straight home with the chicks. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Those babies need a nice, warm brooder ASAP.)  Once home, I lined the plastic tub with sheets of packing paper, filled the waterer and feeder, and hubby hooked up the heat lamp. The chicks huddled under the lamp for a bit, then wandered away and literally fell flat on their faces, sound asleep.

As I type this, they have slept off the excitement of their big move and are now eating and exploring their new digs.

We've never purchased chicks in the fall before. It seems like a less economical way to do things, since hens don't start laying until they are 5 or 6 months old, and since darker, wintery weather reduces egg laying, too. But it will be interesting to observe any differences.

Anyway, it's good to have them home.

Related Posts:

* Getting Ready for Chicks
* Buying and Caring for Chicks
* Setting Up the Henhouse and Run
* Predator Proof Your Henhouse and Run
* Chicken Care
* Why You May NOT Want Chickens

Dec 29, 2015

Most Popular Posts 2015 - and All Time!

I've been blogging at Proverbs 31 Woman for six years (and have written over 1,140 posts!), but honestly, I never have any clue which posts are going to be the most talked about or viewed. They say the Lord works in mysterious ways, and judging by what posts are most popular here, I have to agree! It's always a pretty eclectic list. I hope you enjoy it!

(P.S. Want to see more popular posts from Proverbs 31 Woman? Check out the Pinterest page "Most Popular Posts at Proverbs 31 Woman.")

Most Popular Posts from 2015:

1. Why I Don't Watch HGTV (And Maye You Shouldn't Either)

2. Free Art History Curriculum: Edgar Degas (this whole series is popular, but this is the most popular post from the series)

3. How to Kill E.Coli on Vegetables and Fruits

4. No Fail Healthy Pie Crust Recipe

5. Keeping the House Cool in Summer (With and Without AC)

6. 12 Old Fashioned Birthday Party Games for Kids

7. How to Make a SCOBY for Kombucha

8. "I Am..." A Self Worth Craft for Kids

Most Popular Posts of All Time:

1. How to Train Chickens (and Get Them to Do What You Want Them to Do)

2. Best Free Apron Patterns on the Net

3. 6 Ways to Teach Kids the Books of the Bible

4. Best Ideas for Upcycling Jeans

5. How to Clean a REALLY Dirty Stove

6. How to EASILY Clean Ceilings and Walls - Even in a Greasy Kitchen

7. Canning Pickled Green Beans (Dilly Beans)

8. Easy Refrigerator Pickled Beets

9. Freezing Apple Pie Filling

Dec 22, 2015

Best Homesteading Posts of 2015

People talk a lot about the negative side of the Internet - and certainly it has one. But there's one huge positive side to the web: The enormous amount of information available at the click of a mouse. I remember having to call a reference librarian to look up specialized information for me...and sometimes they turned up with little or nothing. I remember asking my parents questions and having to be satisfied with, "I don't know. Try looking it up in the encyclopedia." And then not being able to find the answer. But today, if my children or I have any question, we can easily and quickly look up the answer in about one minute!

Well, one area where the Internet is currently excelling is in proving information for homesteaders (and wanna be homesteaders). Never before have people been able to exchange ideas, failures, and successes in homesteading as they can today. And with that in mind, I want to share with you some of my favorite homesteading articles of 2015. Show these homesteaders some love! Click on the links and check out their excellent posts and blogs!

1.  How to Train a Rooster to Be Nice (Farm Girl Inspirations)

2. The 5 Stages to the 100% Self-Sustaining Flock (Abundant Permaculture)

3. How to Milk Once a Day (The Elliott Homestead)

4. Laundry on Our Off-Grid Homestead (Homestead Honey)

5. Tips for Starting a Food Forest (The Walden Effect)

6. 6 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Goats (Common Sense Homesteading)

7. How to Keep Goats Fenced In (Farm Fit Living)

8. Make an Outdoor Produce Washing Station (Homespun Seasonal Living)

9. 11 Tips for Using a Clothesline (104 Homestead)

10.  How to Create a Homestead on Wooded Land (Return to Simplicity)

Got a favorite homesteading article published in 2015? Please leave a link in the comments!