Tag Archives: keeping chickens

I need to talk about chickens

2 Dec

So, a few things have changed in my life recently.

I left my flat in the city and moved in with my boyfriend, The Captain. We live in the country, a mile or two away from the nearest town and surrounded by fields. The bottom of the garden leads to a lovely wooded hillside, and if you walk down through the trees you reach the River Clyde. It’s a beautiful part of the world.

That was number one change.

Then I got a new job. I had the interview and was offered the job a few days before I moved house, so it was a pretty hectic few days. And for the first time in my life I decided to do the grown up thing and take a week off between jobs. I’m so glad I did it.

I’d sort of thought I might get some unpacking done that week, but it appears that if it’s not essential, it stays in an unmarked box in the cupboard under the stairs, behind many other unmarked boxes. We’re now nearly three months on and I’ve still got a big pile of boxes to deal with – but of course nowhere to put all the things inside the boxes, so perhaps it’s easier if they all just stay where they are. I’d really like to find my circular knitting needles though, and be able to reach my vases again, but these things can probably wait.

So, the week off. Instead of unpacking boxes we built a chicken run. And then got chickens. Three gorgeous wee broon hens. They are Lohmann Browns, a hybrid breed, bred especially to give high egg-laying yield (around 300 eggs a year is possible from one chicken). What I didn’t know when I got the wee girls is that they are the easiest creatures to keep, and that these three ladies would have such friendly personalities.

What I’ve discovered about keeping chickens in the last 6 weeks:

  1. They each have their own unique personalities
  2. I feel a bit squirk when I get an egg straight out of the chicken, still warm and then cook it and eat it
  3. I’m no longer sure that I could eat my chickens once they’ve stopped laying
  4. Chicken will come running to you when they are called
  5. Chickens LOVE sweetcorn
  6. Dogs and cats and chickens can live in harmony after a few days of anxiety
  7. Moby our jack russel wants to be a chicken
  8. The chickens don’t want Moby to be a chicken
  9. A free range chicken is a happy chicken
  10. Eggs from your own happy chickens really do taste better
  11. Poaching a REALLY fresh egg is so much easier than one even a week old (and I suspect most shop bought eggs are at least a week old)

So, now for some pictures of my girls. Next time I’ll give you my quick no fail method of poaching an egg.

Chickens on a mission

Chickens on a mission

Hector thinks someone might have a treat for her

Hector thinks someone might have a treat for her

Tommy doesn't lay eggs. She just chooks about and annoys Hector and Achilles

Tommy doesn’t lay eggs. She just chooks about and annoys Hector and Achilles

4 ordinary eggs and the FrankenEgg (it was a lovely double yolker)

4 ordinary eggs and the FrankenEgg (it was a lovely double yolker)

My girls, chooking about like chickens do

My girls, chooking about like chickens do

 

Going to work on an egg (or the arrival of my Greek heroes)

13 Oct

People who know me may know that for some years now I have wanted to have chickens. I don’t really know when this desire first rooted in my heart, but I suspect it was long long ago on summer holidays up at Marbrack, a Galloway hill farm where my Aunt Joyce lived (with my Uncle Frank and 5 of my cousins).

Marbrack had one of those lovely farmhouse kitchens, the real heart of the home. We all sat on a long wooden bench at the even longer kitchen table, with our backs warmed by the rayburn behind us. The same rayburn which occasionally would bring a wee cold dying lamb back to life in the bottom oven (or have I made that bit up?). And the same rayburn which produced all manner of delicious teatime treats, including scotch pancakes (drop scones) freshly made straight from the hot plate.

Anyway, I think we went to stay a few days every summer holidays. My memory is of being a hopelessly shy child, especially around all my big boy cousins, so I spent most of the time close to Aunt Joyce’s apron strings. Spending time in the kitchen was bliss – there was the huge bowl of fresh milk to be brought in from the back kitchen, so I could skim off the cream from the top. And there were cakes to bake. But best of all, there were chickens. Each day we would take a pail of scraps out to the chickens, and then would look for the eggs. Thinking about it, now I know why there were so many cakes – all those eggs to use up!

For years I lived in London and there was no possibility of having chickens in a basement flat, so it wasn’t until my life changed a few years ago that I thought about being able to have my own chickens.

And now that I live in the country I have my own three wee chook chooks.

And thanks to The Song of Achilles being our recent book group book, two of the chickens are named after Greek heroes – well, one Greek hero and one Prince of Troy: Achilles and Hector. The third is called wee Tommy.

And yes, I know these are boys names.

Two things:

  1. I don’t suppose chickens know the difference between a girls and a boys name
  2. If by chance they do, I feel very comfortable with gender dysmorphic / transsexual chickens in my coop. And they seem very comfortable with it too.

l to r: wee Tommy, Achilles, Hector

And after three days I’m getting three eggs a day from these wee heroes. When I go out in the morning and call them they come running out of their wee hen house to see what treats I might have brought them, and they peck around my feet. I’ve learnt that shoes with shiny buckles are too enticing for chickens. And that a corn on the cob on a string is the best sport for chickens in a coop.

So, there will be many more pictures, and many recipes for what to do with an egg laid by a Trojan Prince. But for now, I give you my failsafe boiled egg for breakfast recipe.

The perfect boiled egg

Now, of course if you have access to a super fresh egg, straight from a Trojan Prince that is what you should use. Otherwise, just use an egg from an egg box. But I hope your egg is at least free range – those batteries are nasty places, and I hate to think of hens cooped up with no space to move about and be inately henny.

And where do you keep your eggs? Mine are kept at room temperature, so they are at the same temperature as everything else when I am baking cakes. I don’t see the point of keeping them in a fridge, they don’t need it. Or not in our cold kitchen anyway! If you have a larder that is where I would keep them.

The best place for eggs

Anyway.

Get a small saucepan, and pop your egg in the bottom of the pan. Pour water over the egg, so the egg is just covered with water. If your eggs is super fresh it will sit on the bottom of the pan. If it’s been around a wee while one end might bob up to the top, which is fine. If the whole thing properly floats I would chuck it – it’s been around too long and may be icky.

Place the pan over the heat – a medium heat is fine – and bring to the boil.

At this point you should make your toast if you want any.

Once the water is properly boiling, put your timer on for one minute. The water should be properly boiling, not like wild rapids so the egg is being thrown about the pan, and not a wee soft simmer, but something in between.

After a minute, take the pan off the heat.

Get your egg cup ready and pop your egg on the egg cup. It should be at that delicious soft yolk stage. And all you need with it is a scrunch of black pepper, and a teaspoon for breakfast perfection. Of course if you made that toast, then a single slice of hot buttered toast works (perhaps with a scraping of marmite, if you’re feeling in need of a salty hit and some B vitamins).

For a low carb diet a boiled egg (or two) for breakfast is just perfect – in fact for everyone it is the best start to the day, with a wee hit of protein to get you up and keep you going till lunchtime.

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