Dog Crates and Duck Eggs

Day 16 of 365

I have no recipe for you today, as today has gone longer than I had anticipated, but I do have a name for that recipe now and will have the recipe for you tomorrow. I think it will be a treat. My struggle with recipes is that I want to tell too many stories before I get to the recipe, which just annoys the heck out of people, so I am trying to figure out how to tell my story about the recipe very briefly. We’ll see if I can manage that tomorrow.

Today was spent focused on duck eggs and dog crates. I’ll start with the dog crate story.

We have two giant dog crates, which are truly just essential for chicken keeping. They are hospital wards and broody hen homes. Two used to be enough–until Juliet claimed one. She has to come into the garage to lay her eggs, and unless I provide her with a proper dog crate, she’s going to either lay her eggs in my husband’s tools or just leave altogether and lay her eggs in the woods. We’ve been there and done this.

Since Ruby has a dog crate now and I need a space for Kate and her eggs, I have been looking online for a used dog crate. I refuse to pay full price for a new dog crate. My frugal self simply will not allow it. Both of our current dog crates were purchased used and have been wonderful. Once you get a good deal on something, how is it possible to then go backwards and pay full price for something? For me, it’s just too painful.

So I have been on the hunt and getting a little desperate. But, today, I found a used dog crate that would be perfect! Ron was in the garden working, so I went out to discuss it with him. He was not a fan of my plan. We don’t really have the room for storing three dog crates. “We need a barn,” he said.

I agreed, but I explained that there was really no choice in this matter because of Juliet.

“You’re going to buy another dog crate because we have a spoiled chicken?” he asked.

I confirmed.

So I set up the meet, drove out to a beautiful house on a beautiful pond, and landed the perfect dog crate for Kate. I’ll have to share a picture soon because I am quite proud of myself.

I spent another part of my day washing and then freezing duck eggs. I love chicken eggs, but duck eggs are just extra. To me, they are everything wonderful about chicken eggs–and then some. I love them boiled the most, but they are an absolute dream for baking. Professional chefs and bakers prize duck eggs for their cooking, and I can see why. They are magnificent.

Ours are also beautiful, at least I think so. We have a total of seven ducks–six females and one male, Antonio. He’s both wonderful and terrible at the same time. We originally had just six ducks, but a few years ago, a farmer friend asked if I might be willing to rehabilitate a female she had who had been over-mated. Anna Maria was in pretty tough shape, but I took her on and am thankful. I am happy to report that she thrives now.

She also lays a green-ish egg! My reward for sure!

We have one other duck who also lays a green egg, but Anna Maria’s are the darkest. This morning, after I washed the eggs and was about to crack and freeze them, I decided it was imperative that I do a duck-egg photo shoot.

Aren’t they beautiful?

***

I have a quick Ruby and now Kate update. Ruby is doing well considering. She had some whole wheat pancake for breakfast, and I discovered that she won’t really eat unless I feed her. I put a tiny bowl right under her face, left and did some other chores, and came back to find she hadn’t eaten. When I put the pancake bites in my hand, she ate. So I guess I’m feeding Ruby by hand for the next week.

Kate will be moved to her crate tomorrow, and, then we just cross our fingers that she’ll take the baby chicks next week. I’ll detail the process in a later post. She seems to be doing well.

Candling Eggs–and a Little Surprise from Juliet

Day 9 of 365

I have such a great story to tell today.

It was a big day because it is day 8 for Ruby’s eggs, so I decided to candle her eggs to see which ones were developing and which ones were duds. It’s good to remove the ones that aren’t developing, as they will go bad and just take up extra space. Ruby was sitting on 8 Salmon Faverolle hatching eggs from Why Not Farms, and I was hoping we would have at least 4 or 5 eggs developing so far.

I waited until Ruby was taking her break this morning and decided I would just scoop up all of the eggs into my son’s old Easter basket and candle them quickly in the house. It’s important to be gentle when you candle, so as not to disturb the developing chick. It’s also important to try not to candle too much, as it is just more disturbance. Historically, this has been a challenge for me. I think I candled my first batch of hatching eggs 4 or 5 times. That’s not a good idea. I will probably candle Ruby’s eggs just one more time in another week. I probably don’t need to do it again. I probably will anyway.

When I started putting the eggs in the basket, I counted to 8 and then had 1 more in the nest. I counted again. There was a total of 9 eggs under Ruby. I paused. I wondered if I had been mistaken, but, no, we had just 8 eggs at the start. Then, I looked more closely. The last egg in the nest was not a cream Salmon Faverolle egg. It was an olive egg from Juliet! Oh, she’s a clever girl!

Juliet is our most special hen. She refuses to hang out with the flock–unless she’s in the mood to hang out with the flock. Every morning, she leaves the coop and heads for the driveway and garage. She used to fly over the fence, but we now just let her out when we open the door in the morning. She’s always waiting and ready to go.

She sneaks into the garage where she gets a special treat, either some sunflower seeds or scratch; then she either hangs out in the garage and driveway doing her own thing or she heads to the dog crate with straw I have set up for her to lay her eggs. I did this because I realized last year that she was not going to lay her eggs in the nest boxes. Instead, she laid her eggs in the woodpile, under trees, in the shrubs. I normally would not find them until it was too late. I started to try to train Juliet to lay her eggs in a box in the garage.

It took just a few times. When she laid her egg in the nest in the garage, I was there immediately with a treat. Within three days, she was trained. And I set her up with a nice dog crate. This became our routine. In spring, summer, and fall, when Juliet is laying eggs, she lays her eggs in her special nest, and when she’s finished, she gets a treat from me. It’s the deal we seem to have.

A couple of weeks ago, I forgot one morning and closed the garage door. About half an hour later, I heard a chicken hollering at the front door. It was Juliet. I apologized, opened the garage door, and she made a path to her dog crate.

Juliet is wicked smart. Still, how she managed to sneak into Ruby’s nest and lay her egg during one of Ruby’s short breaks is a bit of a mystery to me. I always check on Ruby while she’s on her breaks and never once saw Juliet in Ruby’s nest box. I don’t know when she did it, but she did it. “Cowbird,” I thought to myself when I saw that adorable little olive egg.

I am happy to report that 7 of 8 of the lovely Salmon Faverolle eggs from Why Not Farms were developing! Those are very good numbers. I am also happy to report that Juliet’s egg is developing too. She’s such a fantastic little stinker. NOW, Ruby really has 8 eggs.

If the egg continues to develop and a chick hatches, it will be the first and only baby we have from Juliet.

It’s Time to Freeze Your Eggs

Day 7 of 365

I have to start today’s post with a Ruby update. She deserves top billing today. This morning, when she took a break from her eggs, I started the clock for her. I always give her one hour and then have to go chase her down and bring her back to her eggs. But not today! This morning, after her hour break was up, I went out to see where she was. I was feeling quite tired from last night’s big night of cello. I have learned over the last few years of being a cello mom that another perk of being an empath is that I feel exhausted after my kiddo performs. I did not think I had the legs to chase a tiny, speedy chicken again this morning.

I am happy to report she was waiting for me at the door of the coop. When I opened the door, she went right to the garage. I played it cool and watched from afar. Sure enough, within a minute or so, she went to her eggs! I was so thankful she didn’t have to be reminded this morning. I brought her some treats. She rewarded me with a good peck on the hand.

Another task for the day was freezing eggs. It’s May, and our hens always lay really well in May and June. By the end of June, half of the flock is trying to go broody, and the egg laying drops off. We have a few customers who love our eggs, but I am hesitant to take on too many more, as I have found, that later in the summer, things slow down. And, of course, in fall, there is the molt. And, of course, after that comes winter. And since we do not add light in our coop, egg production really slows down. But right now, we are overrun with eggs!

Since hard times are always coming in fall and winter, a few years ago, I started the habit of freezing eggs in May and June. Then, this coming Thanksgiving, when I need like two dozen eggs to make Thanksgiving pies and rolls and the like and only have two eggs in coop, all I have to do is bring out the frozen eggs.

One year, I had to take the walk of shame at the grocery store and buy eggs. It had been years since I had eaten grocery store eggs, but our hens really slowed down one winter when we had no new hens laying to help us through the slow times. We ended up making scrambled eggs one morning out of those store-bought eggs, and I could not believe the difference! The eggs were terrible to me, and, I am not kidding, I just about cried eating them. “They taste like depression,” I said. I couldn’t finish eating them. For real, you can taste the difference between happy eggs and sad eggs–at least I think I can.

After that, I started freezing eggs.

It’s a very simple process. I have tried a few different methods I read about on the internet, but this one worked best for me. If you are overrun with eggs and do not plan to add light to your coop in the winter, now is the perfect time to freeze your eggs. They will be great for baking, quiche, and even scrambled eggs come December.

Supplies

muffin pan
whisk
small bowl
cooking spray
eggs
metal straw (optional)
gallon freezer bags for storage

Directions

  1. Spray your muffin pan with cooking spray.
  2. Crack an egg and scramble it in a small bowl. It’s best to scrambled it. I tried a batch without scrambling, and the yolk was just too hard and wouldn’t thaw properly after freezing.
  3. Pour each single egg into each individual muffin round.
  4. After you fill up each round, put your muffin pan into the freezer. Leave for a good half day. I always forget mine and leave them for a full day anyway.
  5. Remove your muffin pan and let it sit at room temperature for just about five minutes. This will allow the outside of the frozen egg to soften a bit and will make it easier to get the eggs out of the little round.
  6. Using a butter knife, pop out the frozen egg and place it in your freezer bag.
  7. After you have a dozen eggs in your gallon bag, seal it most of the way. Get out as much of the air as possible and then seal the bag. As an option, I use a metal straw and suck out any extra air, but you have to be careful not to suck up a piece of egg. This happened to me last time, and it was not pleasant.

Using Frozen Eggs

This has been the tricky part for me. Come winter, when you have to use your frozen eggs, you have to plan a bit. The eggs should be thawed in the refrigerator, but I can never plan ahead this well. Ron figured out how to use a low defrost setting on our microwave to thaw our eggs, but it’s tricky. I failed several times and accidentally cooked some eggs. I think thawing in the refrigerator is the best method.

I was told that you should use the frozen eggs within a year, and I can see this is ideal. However, we saved so many in 2020 that we were still eating them a year and half and up to two years later. They were still good! I could tell no difference between the year old and nearly two year old eggs.

I hope this can be helpful to any new chicken keepers who may read this. In your first year of keeping chickens, they will lay through the winter. In the second year, they will molt and will slow down quite a bit or even stop laying altogether in the winter. Freezing eggs now will keep you from having to eat sad eggs later.

I have to tell you a story about this egg…

I have to tell you a story about this egg because I think it will warm your heart. I know it warmed mine.

This beautiful blue-green egg comes from a breed of hen called an Easter Egger. Easter Eggers are technically not recognized as an official breed, but, for backyard chicken keepers, they might as well be their own breed. They are unique because they lay a green to blue-green eggs, like Easter eggs, hence the name “Easter Egger.”

Interestingly, it is actually a virus that hens carry in their genome that causes some breeds of chickens to lay the blue eggs. The Araucana, a breed from Chile, lays blue eggs. Easter Eggers are essentially a “breed” of chicken that has genes mixed with the blue layers.

All eggs are beautiful to me. They are little treasures, gifts from the hens to nourish us. I have hatched baby chicks from eggs, and I have seen how magical eggs are.

Eggs are so full of nutrition that a baby chick can survive for several days without food after they first hatch because they have been nourished so well by the contents of the egg from which they are born.

The eggs our hens lay are extra special to me. They taste better than store-bought eggs, and there is some compelling research indicating they are also more nutritious. Happy hens lay better eggs. Of course, they do.

Last year, before I was wise enough to freeze eggs during peak laying season, while our hens were taking their “winter break,” I had to buy eggs from the grocery store. The eggs were terrible to me. They tasted like depression. That’s the only way I know how to describe it. I don’t think I will ever again be able to eat store-bought eggs. I need eggs from happy hens. And, if you have never eaten eggs from happy hens, please do try some.

We have one hen, named Schubert, who lays the egg you see here. She’s an Easter Egger, but her eggs lean more toward a light teal than any Easter Egger eggs I have ever seen. The picture doesn’t do her egg justice. The color is magnificent in the sunlight. Schubert, named after the composer Franz Schubert, has her own way of putting beauty into the world—through her gorgeous eggs.

A couple of weeks ago, I delivered a dozen eggs across the garden fence to my neighbor, who was just inside the chicken yard with her grandchildren. They were feeding our hens grapes and breadcrumbs when I came upon them with the carton of eggs in my hands.

The children wanted to see the eggs, and I was excited because I knew they would be pleased with the beautiful colors. We have some olive-green eggs now, all shades of browns and creams, and, of course, Schubert’s blue-green egg.

Both children were immediately drawn to Schubert’s egg. I heard them arguing over which one of them would get the egg. As one sibling is in Kindergarten and another is still a toddler, it seemed like the oldest might win. If nothing else, she would have more staying power on the issue. And I was right.

A few days later, my neighbor told me that the oldest insisted she take Schubert’s egg home with her, that she needed to keep that beautiful egg. I loved that this little girl had to have that egg, that this little girl thought the egg was so beautiful that she just couldn’t let it go.

“She is my people,” I thought to myself. And that thought, the thought that there is another human in the world who sees eggs for the beautiful treasures they are, brought me joy.

Because I have to believe, if we can learn to treasure the gift, we can learn to treasure the gifter.