Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fresh Eggs Daily: a Fresh Take on Chicken Keeping (& Book Giveaway)

"There is a TON of conflicting information. You can rest assured that I will only give advice based on MY personal experience."

These were among the first words of wisdom shared with me in an email from Lisa Steele more than a year and a half ago.  I was in fervent research mode preparing for the arrival of our chicks and found myself quite puzzled.  It seemed that of each book I read, every website I reviewed and all the magazine articles scoured, I was met with as many opinions on chicken keeping as there were authors.  While a few did provide research or statistics behind their logic, many took on a 'just because' air in which I was simply supposed to trust what the writer was stating.

I was relieved to have Lisa tell me her approach to chicken keeping, which I'd been keeping up with via Fresh Eggs Daily's Facebook and her Fresh Eggs Daily blog, was tried and true for her.  Her thriving, healthy flock was just what I was hoping for in my little chicks future, so I began paying close attention to Fresh Eggs Daily and conversed quite regularly with Lisa...and my poor friend hasn't been rid of me since!

I was thrilled when I learned her first book would be published and knew that so many could benefit from her experience and advice.  In reading through the chapters, I found that Lisa was able to convey her passion for raising healthy, happy animals with clarity for those inexperienced and offering a fresh outlook to shake the dust off the old school keeping methods.

This is not a beginner's how to raise chickens manual, nor is it another book filled with the same recycled advice you'll find in other basic poultry care books.  (It even kindly says so toward the end of the introduction)  It is a wonderful companion book to your chicken health library. This book is an absolute go to resource for strengthening the health of your flock while also improving the quality of their lives.  By using Fresh Eggs Daily's advice, you will be incorporating herbs into your chickens diet in order to prevent certain illness, offer them the immediate beneficial effects of the herbs and also to give them nutritious treats.
Could the catnip I was growing for our feline
friends offer benefits for my birds?  You bet!

I knew that herbs had positive health benefits, but I truly had little idea a fraction of what they were capable of.  Repelling mosquitoes?  Blood clotting?  Pain relievers?  Yes, all these things and much more!  In my inexperience, I simply thought that they were just good for them - kind of in the way that I know vaguely the benefits of eating vegetables are.  I never thought that I could use them to help prevent illness in my hens or, if the worst came, I could rely on them as part of my first aid kit.

In true Fresh Eggs Daily fashion, there are also several recipes and how-to projects to make your coop kids happy with healthy treats and sprays to make their digs clean and smelling great too!  Lisa knows I love to spoil my animals, so I was thrilled to see a few new snack ideas for them in the chapters.  My girls will be distracted this winter by a few tasty creations!

Again, this is not old school chicken keeping.  The book offers it's share of tried and true advice, but you won't just get bare bones basics of raising poultry.  Can you raise a flock without herbs?  Absolutely.  You can offer them basic chicken feed straight from the bag, feed only cracked corn (as a few I know do) or let them free range and hope they get enough from scavenging.  It has been done for countless decades past.
But consider this: if you ate the bare minimum of food and nutrients you needed to survive, what could you expect your health to be like?  Do you think you'd be very strong or lively?  How happy would you be to sit down to a basic, bland diet every day?

In caring for animals, as in caring for people, you absolutely get what you give.  

In spending a small amount of money and time growing herbs, you can offer your flock a nutritional boost, protection against illness and a fun treat.  (Also in having herbs grown for the chicken, consider the ways you can incorporate them into your life)  Some may think such things are frivolous, but I disagree.  You will be rewarded with more nutritious eggs and healthier birds.  And who doesn't love a big beautiful egg or watching their girl's gorgeous feathers shimmering in the afternoon sunlight?

This barren planter box will hold a
bevy of beneficial herbs come spring!

If the minimalist approach to animal care is for you, I wish you luck.  You will need it eventually, I fear.  As for me, I will eagerly look forward to spring and deciding what herbs I'll try my hand at growing for my girls.  As always, I will turn to Fresh Eggs Daily for more insight and wisdom that works!  This beautifully photographed and highly informative book will remain front and center in my chicken keeping library - and now I'd like to give you a chance to put it to use in your own flock!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Entries will be accepted until Friday October 25.  The winner will be announced Saturday October 26!    If you aren't that lucky winner announced, be sure to go to order a copy today!  Good luck to you all!

My Fresh Eggs Daily Review, by Meredith Anderson

*Mom Disclaimer: my daughter is an animal lover with a thirst for knowledge, so it didn't surprise me one bit that she too wanted to read Fresh Eggs Daily.  She has read through all the books and magazines I've collected on the subject, and while some of it was a bit above her comprehension level, she wanted to learn all she could about her feathered friends.  She read this book on her own and in turn wrote a review.  All mom did was type, hit spell check and post.  BE KIND OR HOLD YOUR TONGUE!  Mama Tina gets pretty protective when it comes to her girl!*

Taking notes for the review!
Hi, my name is Meredith Anderson.  I'm 9 years old and in 4th grade.  I have had chickens for about 1 1/2 years because I thought they would be a fun 4-H project.  I love my chickens because they always cheer me up.  I have large breed laying hens and I have 6 bantam babies.  Raising chickens has made me want to learn more about them and I have tried to read everything I can find on them.

My mom's friend Lisa wrote a book about chicken keeping and she said I could do a review on it.  I think Fresh Eggs Daily is a good book for kids because there is a lot of good information for kids to learn.  This book is different from other books I've read because it is about doing things naturally.  In most other books it wants you to go out and get medications for your chickens, but Lisa talks to you about making your own treatments for your chickens with herbs.  I never knew there were so many good herbs for your chickens!
Herbs can help my chickens
lay better eggs!

My favorite chapter in the book is chapter 7, When You Want to Spoil Them, because there are a lot of good treats you can feed your chickens and bad treats you should not feed them.   My favorite recipe idea for chickens to eat would be the Cranberry Scratch Wreath in chapter 10.  It looks like the chickens would really enjoy this because there are many healthy foods in the wreath.

Munchkin the silkie and I can't wait to try some herbs!
I have learned a lot about how to help take care of my chickens in this book.  I will read this book again when I need helpful information about making my chickens healthy and happy in a natural way.  My birds and I love Fresh Eggs Daily!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

GIVEAWAY & Being Perfectly Imperfect: What a Chicken and a Dog Can Teach You

This book is a visual delight for everyone to see
and the story of Percy's struggle for perfection is touching
We are all well aware of the standards of perfection that are impressed upon us on a daily basis.  How we measure up, quite literally and figuratively  from our newborn days til the last of our lives somehow become an unnecessary definition of who we are.  These concepts have lead to increased incidents of bullying in our schools, lowered self esteem and higher rates of depression and anxiety.  In short, we are so worried about being perfect that we are letting it control our lives.  But what is perfect?

I had the opportunity to examine this exact question from a unique and unexpected angle after visiting the Ohio National poultry show in November.  No, it wasn't the striking plumage of some rare breed or the shining display of trophies that put my mind in action.  It was a chance meeting there with a wonderful man who has accomplished many things.  While pursuing the vendor tables and club displays, a table set up caught my eye.  A book, but not just any book.  A brightly colored, vividly illustrated children's book beckoned to me from a few stands away.

Roo relaxes with a young reader and enjoys hearing a great story
I simply adore books and couldn't resist straying that way.  I am one half of a registered therapy team and, along with my partner Roo, together we do something we truly enjoy.  As a Pet Partner therapy team and a Reading Education Assistance Dog team, we visit our local elementary school several days a week.  While we are there, we work with students one-on-one in a safe, supportive environment where they do something truly special: they become a storyteller to a canine friend.  The young student reinforces literacy skills by reading aloud a story to Roo, who listens to them without judgement of their possible hesitations or mistakes.  They find a love and support without limits or conditions from Roo, and a friend to offer assistance from me.  We call our little group Read to Roo, and we love our time at the school.  (please visit Roo's facebook page, Roo's blog or Read to Roo's website to learn more)

The children get to read along with the book via projector
A few moments after approaching that table, in meeting Rick Rieser and learning more about his wonderful book, I knew I wanted him to come to our school.  In a kind and professional manner, Mr. Rieser spoke to me about Percy Learning Farms and his experiences with children's advocacy and his efforts to help strengthen anti-bullying efforts employed by schools.  His book, Percy the Perfectly Imperfect Chicken, takes a message that so many have tried to help instill to children today and puts a new spin on it.   

Percy is born into a flock of hens who are obsessed with perfection - so much so that they threaten a pecking to the newly hatched chick if he is found less than to their standards.  What's a youngster to do?  Afraid that he will not look just right for them, he hides away while he grows.  Soon he finds that he is far more different that they had ever imagined and the hens begin to gang up on him.  He flies away in fear and finds that from that birds eye view (see how that works?) things with the hens are not quite as they would like it to seem.  They too are hiding little flaws from the others and Percy tactfully points them out to them one by one, allowing the reader to draw personal comparison that perhaps bullies are hiding something of their own which makes them insecure.  The story ends in a most heartwarming way, with the coop learning a lesson about acceptance and love.  My favorite lines of the entire book are that of the last page:

"Mama what's perfect?" Percy still did persist.
Mama said, "Percy, it's nothing.  It doesn't exist." 

Roo's Lucky Foot
and his stylish brace
This really resonated with me, because my wonderful therapy dog is often viewed as being imperfect.  Allow me to explain, because at quick glance you might never see it.  He is a healthy, beautiful example of a dog who is intelligent, kind and gentle.  His manners are exceptional and he is as friendly to a stranger as he is a life long friend.  In watching him walk however, you would begin to see his differences.  Rather than the graceful fluid movements of a collie, his gait is bouncy - more like that of a horse's trot.  You see, Roo was born with a deformity in his front left leg and paw.  The leg itself is narrowed through to the foot, and his paw only has three toes.  They aren't sure why this happened to him when the rest of the litter was unaffected.

People often pause and ask "what's wrong with him" when they see Roo walking toward them.  Some days his differences are made even more obvious when his arthritis flares and he needs to wear his leg brace.  When I hear people question me with that all familiar phrase, I usually respond in the same way: absolutely nothing is wrong.  He is just right.

He may walk differently, lay down differently.  His left leg and foot might appear quite different when it's compared to the right.  But nothing, nothing is wrong with this remarkable dog.  In fact, I'm grateful he is so unique.  If not, he might have ended up in the show ring, a show dog like his parents were, instead of doing what we love to do so very much.  What makes him special has brought him to this time and place he's in today and sharing his life with the children he adores!  I will forever be grateful for his differences and embrace them as something to be celebrated.  His left foot has even earned the nickname of "Lucky Foot", because we feel it was very lucky for us that he came into our lives.

...and you simply cannot deny that it bears a strong resemblance to a rabbit's foot, a long-believed superstitious charm.

Please visit the Animals for Life Foundation
for more information about this amazing organization
Over the summer I wrote and applied for a grant through a wonderful foundation called the Animals for Life Foundation.  This organization strives to educate the public and supports the many ways that animals play a positive part of our lives.  I was honored to be one of their grant award recipients and their grant has helped fund our 2012-2013 school year supplies, activities and events for Read to Roo.  Because of this wonderful grant from the Animals for Life Foundation, I was able to host an event in which we could have Rick Rieser come in and share his book with our school.  

Rick helps explain to the children why we should all be proud
of the things that set us apart and make us unique
On March 5, our students in grades K-3 all enjoyed grade specific assemblies in which Mr.  Rieser shared Percy the Perfectly Imperfect Chicken via projector.  During the assemblies  the students were involved in the story, being asked questions about how they thought different characters were feeling and if they had ever felt the same way.  They were encouraged to go to a trusted family member or school official if they ever felt like they were being judged harshly or bullied, like Percy had been.  We all had a wonderful talk (see Roo's interview with Rick)...then, the feathers really began to fly...

Rick and Little Percy (left); Sprinkles calmly stands & watches (center); Hershey meets friends from the audience (right)

This was, of course, all in the best of ways!  Rick brought along three of his own chickens for the children to meet, each one looking strikingly different than the next.  Sprinkles the Silkie, Little Percy the Serama and Hershey the Chocolate Orpington all were fun and entertaining to show the children that we can all look different and beautiful in our own special, unique ways.  Everyone had such a wonderful time meeting Rick and his friends and sharing in the special message that Percy's book has for us all.

I would love to share that message with some of you as well.  I'm proud to announce that I will be hosting my very first giveaway!  Two Grand Prize Winners will receive an autographed softcover copy of Percy the Perfectly Imperfect Chicken and a Percy Learning Farms T-Shirt.  Three additional winners will receive a Percy Learning Farms T-Shirt.  (only sizes XS and XL are available)

Follow the link below to enter for your chance to win!  The contest ends March 20th and the winners will be announced on March 21st.  Good Luck!

Click HERE to Enter!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Visit Manna Pro and Enter to Win

It seems like only yesterday my little chicks came home and first started exploring their brooder; trying the feeder, spilling the waterer, and doing what little chicks do best - besides looking adorable.  Yes, I do mean making a mess!  How do you keep your brooder fresh?

I'll admit, I was a round the clock cleaner.  Constantly trying to stay ahead of 11 little chicks was impossible!  I wish I'd known about Coop N Compost and how it could save me some time in between cleanings.  Now I've got a new trick up my sleeve for the next time, and I do plan on getting chicks again!

If you'd like to read more about using Coop N Compost with baby chicks and have a chance to win a supply of your own, visit Manna Pro's blog and enter their contest today.  The contest ends March 25th, so be sure to get your name in before those baby chicks start hatching!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Pumpkin-Apple Harvest Delight Muffins

Look at all those little goodies inside just
waiting for the chickens to peck them out!
If you have learned anything from looking at my blog, it's that I love my animals dearly.  Some folks might think that it is a bit overkill to bake for birds and if you would have asked me a few years ago, I might have been one of them.  But day by day, these feathered creatures have shown me that they have as much personality and capacity for love as the traditional family pets I was raised with and found it commonplace to give treats to.  They beg for goodies, jumping and racing around at my feet to make sure they are at the very front of the line.  Their eyes look up, shining and expectant, waiting to see if I have something special with me.  Oh, and the delighted little noises when they receive even simple scraps of vegetables or fruits!  Who am I to deny them this pleasure?  Who am I to deny myself this enjoyment in watching their happy antics?

This particular batch of muffins came about because of an event we had scheduled for February 22nd for my volunteer reading program called Read to Roo (see website here, blog here and Facebook here).  Author of Percy the Perfectly Imperfect Chicken, Rick Rieser, and a few feathered friends were set to come in and speak with our students about his wonderful book.  In this book, a new little chicken (Percy) hatches in the coop and soon is discovered by the others.  He is found to be less than perfect in their eyes and feels ashamed, though he doesn't quite understand what perfect is.  I will be writing a book review, event details and even be hosting a book give away soon - so stay tuned for that!

I wanted to be able to give Rick's birds a thank you gift for being good companions and helping the children experience the book's message in a fun way, besides being an extra exciting way to get to learn more about chickens for those who have never been around them!  Wanting to give them something that was heartfelt and showed them I appreciated him going the extra mile with the kids experience of the book, what better way than with home-baked goodies?

from my original Pumpkin Muffin recipie:
muffin for humans (Right), muffin for chickens (Left)
I decided to dust off my old Pumpkin Muffin recipe and make that for Rick's birds.  My girls really loved it, and it freezes and thaws very well in case he didn't want to use the entire batch all at once.  I began to get my ingredients out when an idea struck me.  I had recently purchased a bag of Manna Pro Harvest Delight Poultry Treat.  My recipe called for mixing in sunflower seeds, raisins, and craisins...why not substitute this wonderful poultry treat in place of the typical mix in's?

For those who have never heard of Manna Pro Harvest Delight Poultry Treat, here is a quote taken directly from Manna Pro's website:

Harvest Delight™ Poultry Treat is a great way to reward your flock! With whole grains and real fruits and vegetables, you can provide a treat year-round that contains the goodness of a spring garden! And with peanuts, flax, sunflower seeds and your specially-formulated nutrition pellets, you’re also getting added protein, vitamins and minerals. At Manna Pro, we understand that animals are our companions as well as our providers. So whether you raise blue-ribbon show birds or you simply enjoy the eggs and entertainment from your backyard flock, treat your feathered friends with wholesome and delicious Harvest Delight.
  • Wholesome and delicious!
  • Whole grains, peanuts, carrots, tomatoes, raisins, flaxseed, sunflower seeds and more!
  • Perfect for treating your flock!

my own shot of some of the delectables for your chickens inside Harvest Delight Poultry Treat by Manna Pro

Thus, this recipe modification was born:

Pumpkin-Apple Harvest Delight Muffins

  • 1 c. all purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. cornmeal
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2.c old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 c. wheat germ with flax seed
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 c. pumpkin
  • 2 eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 1 c. applesauce (natural, no sugar added)
  • 2 c. Manna Pro Harvest Delight Poultry Treat
Dry Ingredients + Pumpkin + Applesauce + Egg
All Mixed Up
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, oats, wheat germ and nutmeg until blended.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the lightly beaten eggs, pumpkin and applesauce.  Mix together until blended.
  4. Add wet and dry ingredients together and mix well.
  5. Stir the Manna Pro Harvest Delight Poultry Treat into the well mixed batter.  
  6. Spray muffin tins with a light spray of non-stick cooking spray.  (or line with liners if you choose, but I haven't been.  They don't mind the slightly chewy bottoms and lets face it...peeling off that paper only slows you down when you've got beggars at your feet!)
  7. Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full of batter.
  8. Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until muffins are a beautiful golden (somewhat orange) brown and they pass the "toothpick test".
Read, Set, Bake!
My daughter and I made this batch in a mini-muffin pan, baked at 15 minutes exactly, and had enough batter for 48 mini-muffins.  These pint sized baked goods looked good enough to eat - but we didn't - and got packaged up to gift as soon as they were cooled.  I could hardly wait to see if his birds would enjoy their snack as much as we had enjoyed making them.

Flash forward to 05:40 am when school is canceled due to an ice and snow storm, you'd find me pouting in bed.  I had my heart set on so much that day with the event and so many people had worked hard to pull it all together.  I knew it would be rescheduled, but I couldn't deny myself a childish moment of sulking.

Flash forward to 07:00 am when I finally brave the elements and slip slide my way to the chicken coop to do chores.  The wind is still whipping pretty fiercely out here, so I decide to keep the girls on lock down a bit longer until the storm subsides and they look at me with (almost) narrowed eyes as I don't pop open the coop door to the run.  Bad momma!  Then, a crinkling sound from the depths of my deep winter jacket pockets shake them from their tantrum.  I have brought them muffins and I have been redeemed.  Good momma.  This pleases them and they coo excitedly, forgetting that they have been denied the going's on of the outside world for a bit longer.

I will again make another batch of muffins the night before the rescheduled event to gift to Rick's chickens, because these were a massive hit with my girls.  Without a doubt, they preferred this over the original pumpkin muffin recipe and it has to be because of all the wonderful surprises hidden inside each muffin, thanks to Manna Pro Harvest Delight Poultry Treat!  

...If this keeps up, my chickens are going to need their own recipe box...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Twisted Oreo Truffles: Dark Chocolate Caramel

My creation: Dark Chocolate Caramel Golden Oreo Truffles.
Disclaimers: this will not be a typical chicken post.  Majority of my blog revolves around my birds, recipe modifications for my birds and events that involve chickens.  Not today.  This blog post is pure, selfish indulgence.  This recipe that follows is not healthy.  It isn't intended to be low fat, organic, or homegrown.  It’s sugary sweet, rich, delicious decadence that if you – like me – have a weakness you’ll admit to, will permit yourself every now and again.  If you’d like to judge me, feel free.  I’ll just sit here with my truffle while you ride that high horse of yours.  I hope you enjoy your nosebleed while I enjoy my chocolate bliss.

I've heard of Oreo Truffles before.  I believe I've even had them a few years back.  I liked them.  Who wouldn't?  Chocolate, cream cheese, Oreo cookies; a dream combination.  Couldn't get any better, could it?  There, we both stand corrected, my friend.

Key Players: Golden Oreo Cookies and
Philadelphia Indulgence Dulce de Leche Cream Cheese.
These days everything comes in at least 26 assorted sizes and flavors, give or take.  For instance, Oreo cookies: original, golden, golden chocolate cream stuffed, triple double chocolate, chocolate berry burst ice cream, peanut butter, mint, cool mint (different how?) springtime (what does springtime taste like?), heads or tails, several kinds of cakesters and double stuffs and probably a half dozen more at the time of this post.
Philadelphia Cream Cheese is wonderful in its original flavor and a bunch of savory flavors great for bagels and other cooking matters, but then comes in tempting Indulgence flavors of: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, cinnamon, and dulce de leche.


You see where I’m going with this, don’t you?  Of course I’m going to mix things up.  Wouldn't you? 
Here is how you make original Oreo Truffles:

  • 36 Oreo Cookies, finely crushed
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 16 oz Baker’s brand chocolate, melted

  1. Combine crushed cookies and softened cream cheese together in a bowl until blended.  
  2. Shape into 48 balls, approx 1” in shape (1/2" if you prefer a smaller treat), and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.   
  3. Freeze for 1 hour until firm.  
  4. Melt chocolate. (use your preferred method)  
  5. Dip cookie balls in melted chocolate and place back on lined cookie sheet.  
  6. Place back in freezer for 1 hour.  
  7. Store in refrigerator until eaten…which won’t be long

Mixing it Up.
Ready for the Freezer.
They are pretty uncomplicated to make.  You crush the cookies, creme and all.  You will see that the only chain in the photographic sequence that is missing is the dipping.  Anyone who has worked with warm chocolate knows that you have a window of time before it starts to set.  Baker's brand chocolate is wonderful for dipping and almost immediately creates a magic shell like quality, which prevented me from taking a moment to stop and snap any photos.  My  "after" shots with them lining the cookie sheet will have to do until you try this for yourself.

Freshly Dipped!
My twist today?  I used Golden Oreo Cookies, Baker’s Chocolate and Philadelphia Indulgence Dulce de Leche Caramel Cream Cheese.  The end result?  Think Dark Chocolate Caramel Truffle.  I only wish I would have thought to sprinkle a bit of sea salt on top.  

Adorable Evie loves Aunt Tina's candy!
My family enjoys them so far.  Even my niece Evie loves them.  She is really big into sharing.  She let her momma have two small bites before she stuck the whole truffle in her mouth.  I’d say that’s a pretty strong endorsement!

Next time I think I might try Mint Oreo Cookies, White Baker’s Chocolate and Philadelphia Indulgence white chocolate cream cheese.  Or maybe Peanut Butter Oreo Cookies, Baker’s Chocolate and Philadelphia Indulgence milk chocolate cream cheese: ala peanut butter cup.  What do you think? 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Odd Squat: A Gathering of Bad Eggs

The wrinkled shell wonder laid by our hen.
This isn’t the first time this investigation has been conducted.  It certainly won’t be the last.  I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here; I’m just looking for answers.  You might be asking yourself why.  Well, you see, I have recently ran into this bad egg.  I should correct myself right about here: I’m sure it’s not a truly bad egg.  It’s just a little odd, a little different than the rest.  Let me paint you a picture of the day we met.  It was a dark and stormy summer night It was a cold and windy Saturday afternoon. This past Saturday, to be exact.  This little chick I know was on lock down for bad behavior.  The little vixen (No, really.  Her name is Vixey, our Partridge Plymouth Rock) got mixed up in some feather picking and needed solitary confinement to think about what had gone down.

A pretty little tan colored egg was ready for me that morning as I awoke at 6:30.  A peace offering I think, but this guard can’t be bribed so easily.  I ran out to do some errands and was headed back home when my husband gave me a call.  He told me that he found something weird in Vixey’s shavings.  An egg; a bad egg.  Two eggs in just three hours.  Hmmm…My curiosity piqued, I hurried home, at the safe and respectable speed limit.  Sure enough, waiting for me on the counter when I arrived was the salvaged pieces of the bad egg he’d scooped up from the shavings.  Break out the gloves.  It’s autopsy time.

The thin, leathery shell just couldn't contain a yolk that big and bold!
Immediately I can see that the beautiful yolk, bright and vivid as a daffodil in spring, has leaked out.  Such a waste!  The shell is leathery, wrinkled and puckered in places.  It isn’t at all firm and protective, as a normal shell should be.  Why on earth would this happen?  My girls aren’t sick.  They eat a very healthy diet, supplemented by fresh fruits and vegetables, not to mention probiotics and other power packed extras.  Aside from a little bout of bullying, nothing has been out of the ordinary at all.  Here’s where my researching came into play.

I first consulted:  The Chicken Encyclopedia and Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, both by Gail Damerow.  I love The Chicken Encyclopedia for its ability to be quickly and easily accessed for reference to topics.  I can get the cold, hard facts without sifting through chapters after chapters of a book.  Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens is an absolute go-to book for the things you need a detailed, comprehensive explanation on.  Breaking down the who/what/when/where/why for the chicken keeper is what has made this book an essential part of the chicken keeper’s library.  

From these books, here are a few things that Gail Damerow has to say about this subject:

Notice the lower egg has a very different, very odd shape. (Photo:Janet Garman; Timber Creek Farm)

“The number of eggs a hen lays and their size, shape and internal quality – as well as shell color, texture and strength – may be affected by a variety of things including environmental stress, improper nutrition, medications, vaccinations, parasites, and disease.”

Egg Shape: “…An egg’s shape is established in the part of the oviduct called the isthmus, where the yolk and white are wrapped in shell membranes.  An egg that for some reason gets laid after being enclosed in membranes, but before the shell is added, has the same shape as if it had a shell.  Each hen lays eggs of a characteristic shape, so you can usually identify which hen laid a particular egg by its shape.”

Odd Shaped Eggs or Wrinkles Eggs: “…may be laid if a hen has been handled roughly or if for some reason her ovary releases two yolks within a few hours of each other, causing them to move through the oviduct close together.  The second egg will have a thin, wrinkled shell that’s flat toward the pointed end.  If it bumps against the first egg, the shell may crack and mend back together before the egg is laid, causing a wrinkle.”

This egg has a wrinkled, rubbery outer membrane.
(Photo: Kate Richards; Farmhouse 38)
BINGO!  We have an answer!  Vixey was definitely stressed from being separated from the bunch, not sick or having parasites.  She laid one perfectly normal egg, followed about 3 hours later by a wrinkled, thin leathery shelled egg.  Sounds exactly like what these two books described.  Mystery solved, but I am learning so much by this research that I’d like to point out a few more egg oddities that we all might encounter.

Thin Shells: “…may cover a pullet’s first few eggs or the eggs of a hen that’s getting on in age.  In a pullet, thin shells occur because the pullet isn’t yet fully geared up for egg production.  In an old biddy, the same amount of (or less) shell material that once covered a small egg must now cover the larger egg laid by the older hen, stretching the shell into thinner layer.”

Soft Shells or Missing Shells: “…occur when a hen’s shell forming mechanism malfunctions or for some reason one of her eggs is rushed through and laid prematurely.  Stress induced by fright or excitement can cause a hen to expel an egg before the shell is finished.  A nutritional deficiency, especially of vitamin D or calcium, can cause soft shells.”

Bloody Shells: “…Blood on a shell sometimes appears when a pullet starts laying before her body is ready, causing tissue to tear.  Other reasons for bloody shells include excess protein in the lay ration and coccidiosis, a disease that causes intestinal bleeding.  Cocci does not often infect mature birds, but if it does you’ll likely find bloody droppings as well as bloody shells.”

Chalky or Glassy Shells: “…A chalky shell or glassy shell occasionally appears due to a malfunction of the hen’s shell making process.  Such an egg is less porous than a normal egg and likely will not hatch but is perfectly safe to eat.”

Pale Shells: “…An older hen typically lays eggs with paler shells than those laid when she was younger.  Once explanation is that as the hen ages and her eggs get larger, the brown-pigmented bloom must spread over a larger surface area.  A younger layer that produces eggs with paler-than-usual shells may be suffering from stress.  Overcrowded nests, rough handling, loud noises, and anything that makes a hen nervous or fearful can cause her to either lay her egg prematurely, before the brown-bloom coat is completed, or retain the egg long enough to add an extra layer of shell on top of the bloom.”  (I would venture to say that the word brown could be substituted for white, blue, green, etc depending on the color eggs your hen lays)

Double Shells: “An egg within an egg, or a double shell egg, appears when an egg that is nearly ready to be laid reverses direction and gets a new layer of albumen, covered by a second shell.  Sometimes the reversed egg joins up with the next egg, and the two are encased together within a new shell.  Double-shell eggs are so rare no one knows precisely why or how they happen.” 

Hobby Farms Chickens is another wonderful book for the chicken keeper to have on hand.  Full of great information is an easy to read manner, this is a book I consult often.  Here is the books explanation for why two other common egg oddities occur.

Double Yolks: “…Double yolks occur when one yolk moves too slowly and is joined by a second yolk before the shell is formed.  Usually heavy-breed hens lay these eggs, though pullets sometimes lay them, too.  According to Guinness World Records, the current record-holding largest egg had five yolks, and the heaviest egg on record had two yolks and a double shell!”  (Say it with me folks; OUCH!)

Yolk-less Eggs: “…Wind eggs, sometimes called “cock eggs” or “dwarf eggs”, have no yolk.  They’re usually laid by pullets in early production.

While you are still online, you can check out these websites and articles that have some great information and photos about abnormalities that occur in egg laying:

The University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture has this to say on their frequently asked questions page about eggs with calcium deposits: “…Calcium deposits on egg shells are not that uncommon. The 'pimples' (calcium deposits) are distortions to the shell. The hens may have an infection affecting their reproductive system. Infection is not the only cause, however, because the same condition also occurs in disease-free flocks. The defect may be partly hereditary. Age of the hens is also a factor. With increasing age there is an increase in the likelihood of calcium deposits.”

A beautiful speckled egg.
(Photo: Lisa Steele; Fresh Eggs Daily)
A lovely streaked egg.
(Photo: Lisa Steele; Fresh Eggs Daily)
The Fat Finch has a wonderful blog entry on that details egg color, including why we find speckled or streaked eggs.  Truly amazing what birds are capable of!

Be VERY sure you stop by my good friend Kate’s blog, Farmhouse 38, to see what funky egg her girls gifted her with.  Her photographs in this post really help illustrate some of the truly weird things that can happen with laying!

As you can see, the occasional bad (or rather odd) egg can happen and isn’t necessarily a sign that your chicken is infected with a horrible disease.  You should always be vigilant to the signs your chickens give you however, and if you start to see symptoms that indicate a bigger problem, please seek medical attention for your birds.  Whether it’s a fluke occurrence or a side effect of illness, if you keep chickens then you will eventually find a crazy looking egg in your nest box one of these days.  Lucky for Vixey, I learned that the stress from being separated from her gal-pals was proving to be a harder lesson for her than I planned.  Solitary confinement was now over.  Vixey has been pardoned and is now out in the yard with her friends again.


Bibliography of Books Cited (in order):

  • Damerow, Gail.  The Chicken Encyclopedia. North Adams: Storey Publishing, 2012.  Print.
  • Damerow, Gail.  Storey’s Guide to Raising Chicken, Third Edition. North Adams: Storey Publishing, 2010.  Print.
  • Weaver, Sue.  Hobby Farms Chickens, Second Edition. Irvine: BowTie Press, 2011.  Print.

Links to Websites Cited (in order):

Credits to Photos Used (in order):

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Oven Scrambled Eggs

As a person who now has the joy of having freshly laid eggs waiting for me each day, I have found myself looking for more ways to use them.  Our young pullets have only been laying since November, so their eggs are still weighing on the small to medium size.  One gal is almost tipping the scales into the large, so I'm thinking that as spring approaches we will find ourselves with more and more large egg layers.  This makes it tricky using them in recipes that would typically call for large eggs, so for now we are eating a lot of tried and true omelettes and scrambled eggs.

That doesn't mean I'm not stock piling up on fun and fabulous recipes to try once my girls grace me with some standard size eggs!  One great website for egg recipes is about as obvious as they come.  We've seen the commercials, we remember the slogan: "the Incredible Edible Egg!"  Check out Incredible Egg fun egg facts, amazing recipes and even more reasons to love these protein packed beauties!  From their website, I wanted to try their Basic Oven Scrambled Eggs.

Now scrambled eggs are hardly a difficult chore.  They only take a few minutes and can be as dressed up or dressed down as you please.  In looking at the recipe they list, I can already tell that this wouldn't save me any time in preparing them for my small family of 3.  However if I needed to prepare a large batch for a hungry family, and possibly had some stove burners occupied with bacon or sausage or pancakes, this could be a real asset.  (I'll post their version exact as it is from the website, however I made some modifications due to having small/medium sized eggs and making a smaller batch.)

Basic Oven Scrambled Eggs

Prep Time:  3 minutes
Cook Time: 19-22 minutes
Servings: 6 to 12 servings

  • 12 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

  1. Heat oven to 350 F.  Beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper in a bowl until blended.
  2. Pour egg mixture into a lightly greased 13x9x2 inch baking pan.  Bake in 350 F oven until eggs begin to set, about 7 minutes.  Leaving pan in oven, pull out oven rack.  Gently pull the eggs completely across the bottom and sides of the pan with an inverted turner, forming large soft curds.
  3. Continue baking.  Repeat pulling eggs with a turner a few more times until thickened and no visible liquid egg remains.  12 to 15 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Serve immediately.

We decided to do a half batch considering we don't need to feed "6 to 12" people.  Another compensation we had to make was because our eggs weren't standard sized.  Instead of using 6 eggs, as a half batch would call for, we used 8 of our small/medium sized eggs.  Here's how we made our oven scrambled eggs.

We assembled our ingredients for our half batch, then because my husband was doing the cooking (while I did photography), he decided we should add minced onion.  Everything, in a man's mind, is better with onion, isn't it?  Never the less, we followed step one plus onion and blended it up.

Our mixture got poured into a greased baking dish of smaller size and added to the oven.  We gently stirred the mixture around a few times as it baked and indeed, those egg curds did form.  Our finished product was just as light, fluffy and moist as if it were scrambled on the stove top.  But scrambled eggs alone just isn't a meal.  We enjoyed ours with some nice juicy ham steaks!  My daughter opted for the eggs as they were, while my husband and I sprinkled some cheese and salsa on top.  Yum!

There you have it:  oven scrambled eggs!  As I said before, this isn't a time saver or convince for a small family like ours.  Making the full sized batch for a hungry crowd would be a much more realistic use for this recipe, so I'll hang on to it for now.  What are your favorite, easy egg recipes?  Feel free to share with us!