04 March 2009

The golden egg

Eggs! Back on the menu! Our older layers quit mid-December, and our young flock would be ready to start laying eggs this spring. There are no other small farms around us who raise natural eggs, and instead of buying organic eggs from the grocery store, we figured we could go a few months without them. At first it challenged me in the baking department. Most of my dessert recipes call for at least one egg. But in my short life as a vegan, I ate plenty of delicious vegan cookies, so I knew it could be done. I tried my pumpkin cookie recipe without eggs, and they came out just fine, and I continued to experiment with substitutions like applesauce, and adding ingredients like poppy seed and dried blueberries, and spices such as corriander and cinnamon to give the desserts a more distinct flavor, and not just flour, sugar and fat. We missed eggs for breakfast, but oatmeal porridge is our favorite winter breakfast. After a few weeks, eggs were just a pleasant memory that we knew would reappear, like flowers and fresh greens. And the day finally came, two days in a row, an egg in the nesting box!

I cannot do justice to the flavor and savor of our fried egg breakfast this morning. The creamy texture of the yolk... yum, I love my eggs right on top of the toast.

The two hens that layed these eggs are 8 months old, we could have encouraged them to lay earlier with a light in the barn, but it is a cold time of year to start laying eggs, so we let them concentrate their feed on keeping warm and growing to full size, and knew that they would start laying when the light approaches 12 hours. There is another batch of hens just now 6 months old who should start laying eggs this month as well.

This picture was taken a few months ago, they are now grown to full size. This is our first home-incubated brood, we crossed a Plymouth Barred Rock rooster over the commercial laying hen, called Isa Brown, which is a cross between Rhode Island Red and Rhode Island White. They came out with four distinct coloring, some more attractive than others, and had the vigour of hybrid crosses.

This rooster shows the characteristics of both parents, and even has some iridescent green feathers in his tail like the Rhode Island Red. The hens that look like the Barred Rock are just that, and do not have the red and green feathers. And there is a kind of White Barred Rock hen, the one who layed the first egg, who, to be honest, is not the most attractive of the bunch and looks a bit sooty. But she is the biggest hen, and won the prize for the golden egg.

We have been feeding our chickens our own wheat and rye, without any other protein supplement. Last year we ran into problems feeding soy to our chickens, they had underdeveloped organs, and did not gain weight. After doing some research, we decided to cut the soy out of the feed. The wheat and rye are 13-14% protein, and the pullets are growing well. With this mix, we may not get an egg a day on a pure grain diet, but when they are out on pasture, the protein will be supplemented in a more digestible form. This summer we will also be growing more peas and amaranth to add to the winter ration.

So, with eggs and milk back on the menu, I am revisiting old favorite recipes with a greater appreciation. I am also glad to know first-hand that resource rich foods like dairy, eggs and meat can be incorporated as seasonal foods, with a bit of substitution and creativity in the kitchen.


el said...

Oh Freija I am so happy for you! I was never much of a fan of eggs until, of course, I had my own birds. Our own drought wasn't as long as yours but believe me when I found our new eggs I certainly did the egg-happy dance. They're just so yummy, and so good for you...

all the best of a soon-to-be-here spring!

farm mom said...

I love the look of your crosses. So healthy and vigorous. And congrats on the eggs. We treasure them here as well. :) Oh, and thanks for the thyroid info. I've been so scattered lately, but I'll write soon I promise! :) xxxoo

Freija and Beringian Fritillary said...

el, yes I didn't know there was a happy egg dance until I found myself doing it this week!

farm mom, they are a motley bunch, but they have great temperments (at least they have a good personality *smile*). You just take care, and I'll keep in touch! xo

Chiot's Run said...

That's so exciting! I love love love eggs (although I'm slightly allergic). The farm we get ours from bought a bunch more layers for the winter so they'd have more eggs (they get fewer in the cold months but still get some).

Have you considering getting a duck or two for winter egg production? Or is it too cold up there? Next year we're planning on getting 3-4 ducks for our eggs here at Chiot's Run.

Freija and Beringian Fritillary said...

Chiots, wow egg allergy, didn't know you could be. And yes, ducks would be ideal up here, with those downy feathers, and fat under the skin to keep them warm. We have been looking for a local source, but we may order some eggs and incubate them. Ducks would do a lot better through our winters in our barns, and would be easier on the grain in summer. What breeds are you looking at?