Love the articles on Houzz this week on urban chicken-ing! Check them out!
I normally do not “adopt” hens that are offered to us, but because I wanted a full sized, laying hen to have at an upcoming Home and Garden Show, when I was offered 2 Buff Orpington (or mostly Buff Orpington hens, as they turned out to be) I jumped at the chance to have them. The girls, named Flossie and Arletta, turned out to be not just full sized, but also very gentle hens having spent their lives in a small yard with a calm surrounding and doting family. Because I needed 2 hens for a special family, I knew I would be re-homing Arletta and Flossie after the show where they could live out their lives being well loved.
As luck would have it, the 2 hens had been on a commercial grain feed diet all of their life. Because I so believe in our grains and the importance of a milled, organic, non GMO grain vs. a processed product, I decided to do a comparison on their eggs over a 2 week period of time.
The two hens both laid eggs the day they arrived at our home, one a dark brown egg and one a light brown egg. We cracked and ate the darker egg (which held a pale yoked egg) and saved the other for our comparison. Because hens lay the same color egg all of their life, and because the 2 eggs were so different in color, I knew I could compare the same hen’s egg 2 weeks later. The following morning, Flossie and Arletta had a change of diet to our non-GMO grain. The first thing I noticed with the hens was a noticeable change in their “poo” which had been a little gooey, for lack of a better description. Their poo very quickly changed to a tighter consistency, making their “poo” no longer “goo” on our milled grain vs. their former diet of processed pellets.
Two weeks quickly passed and before we knew it, it was the week of the show and I knew I would have to time my egg consumption carefully in order to get a comparable egg for our experiment. For several days I had no light colored egg laid, only a single darker one and I thought may have missed my opportunity to compare; but the girls had another plan.
The day of the show, exactly 2 weeks after I had “adopted” our 2 lovely hens, we left for the show. As if the girls knew I needed a going away gift that morning, they both laid for me an egg in their coop, one dark and the other light. I quickly placed the lighter egg in the frig to compare to the egg saved prior to their diet change and we left for the show. When I had returned home that night after a full day at the Home and Garden Show, I cracked open both the egg from the processed grain and the new egg on our grain and placed them in the same bowl. The results were remarkable as shown in the photo below. The yolk of the egg from an organic, Non-GMO feed vs. the other was markedly richer and deeper.
So if you think what you feed your hens does not make a difference…think again.
Limited Quantity: 20 weeks by Late March
Buff Orpingtons , 3-4 eggs per hen per week. These are the main stock of our rental flock. Orpingtons are big, friendly dual-purpose birds originally developed in the UK. They’re friendly and cold-hardy due to their fluffy plumage. They are so family friendly and are great foragers; meaning they love to look for food in your yard. We know you will love these girls!
In very limited quantities: First come, First Serve, 16 weeks of age by Late March and not raised the first few weeks on Non-GMO feed but are on this feed at time of purchase.
Black Australorps, 5 eggs per week Australorps are the Australian take on the Orpington breed. They are calm and friendly, and excellent layers of light brown eggs. The Australorp’s exceptionally soft, shiny black plumage has hints of green and purple in the sunlight. They are both peaceful and dignified.
Rhode Island Reds, 5 eggs per week per hen. Rhode Island Reds are the official Rhode Island state bird. They were once hugely popular in America, though they declined right along with the small farmer. Today they’re making a comeback due to small flock owners (like us!). They’re the do-everything bird: they lay exceptionally well, they’re valued for their meat, they’re extremely cold hardy, and hardy in general. They are a bit more skittish but are dependable, great layers and are used in the development of many other breeds of chickens.
Easter Eggers, 4 eggs per hen per week. Easter Eggers are not a breed, but a variety of chicken that does not conform to any breed standard. They lay large to extra-large eggs that vary in shade from blue to green to olive to aqua and sometimes even pink. Easter Eggers vary widely in color and conformation, and are hardy. They are usually quite friendly to children and humans in general but remember, the key word is “usually”. They are not the same as Ameraucanas or Araucanas which are very flighty, but do have the same blue gene that creates the blue tint to the eggs.
Plymouth Rocks, 4-5 eggs per hen per week. Plymouth Rocks are one of the most popular dual-purpose chickens. Their heritage is unclear with reports of different crosses, but what is clear is that they’re very friendly, great layers of large brown eggs and able to withstand cold weather. Though they tolerate confinement, they’re most happy when they get to range freely and we love their black and white plumage!
White Leghorns, 4 eggs per hen per week. (Pronounced “Leggern”) Remember Foghorn Leghorn the cartoon? Yep, this bird one and the same. The White is separate from the rest because they lay large, white eggs practically every day! Other varieties aren’t nearly so prolific. Whites are said to be nervous, but can be quite tame at times.
Fresh Chicken Stock
Chicken stock is always better made while you are cooking a whole chicken to remove the meat for another dish. However you make it, you must use the bones. That’s where the flavor is!
Resist the urge to add salt. As the stock cooks, the flavors concentrate. You can add salt as you cook your other dishes using this stock resulting in just the flavor you wish!
Yield: Approx. 4 cups fresh chicken stock
Tarragon Chicken Pot Pie
*I purchase a whole, bone in 3 lb. chicken and cook in water to yield 2 lb. chicken meat as well as fresh chicken stock/broth-see recipe for chicken stock
Yield: 6 servings
Serve with a fresh green or fruit salad on a cold winter night. Delicious!
Best Pie Crust
Why purchase a pie crust when this flaky crust can be made in a few moments at home, using ingredients that are readily available?
Yield: 1-10 inch pie crust
Egg white, diluted with small amount of water, can be brushed onto pie crust if desired.
*Can also be made in a food processor.
Fresh Fig Tart with Homemade Almond Paste
In a few minutes you can have a beautiful fig tart ready for the oven that will knock even the pickiest of fig eaters off their feet!
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. Prepare baking sheet by coating with cooking spray or covering with parchment paper
3. Place pie crust on prepared baking sheet and set aside
4. In food processor, grind almonds with sugar until fine. Add butter and egg and pulse several times to mix well
5. Divide paste into 4 equal parts, saving 1 part for fig tart. Freeze remaining 3 parts to use in any fruit pie recipe and use within 1 month
6. Spread saved portion of almond paste onto unbaked pie crust, leaving ¼ inch rim around the outside edge of crust
Yield: 1-10 inch tart to serve 6-8 people, or 1 greedy one!