With the weather doings its usual February misery, I have been spending a lot of time indoors dreaming about starting some new spring projects. One I have been thinking about is whether I should buy …
With the weather doings its usual February misery, I have been spending a lot of time indoors dreaming about starting some new spring projects. One I have been thinking about is whether I should buy some chickens. The price of eggs is through the almighty roof. I have been reading that the avian bird flu outbreak has been the deadliest in our history with some fifty-eight million poultry birds dying in the US and in an effort to contain the bird flu from spreading any further thousands of healthy flocks had to be destroyed. All my favorite baking websites are suggesting all sorts of egg substitutes- baking soda and vinegar, unsweetened apple sauce and even something called aquafaba-the liquid found in a can of chickpeas!
To get some answers I spoke with my friend and neighbor Chere Krist and her husband Joseph who raise chickens and sell eggs. I met Chere and Joseph because these generous souls regularly donate eggs to the St. Anthony’s Food Pantry which is a special treat for our visitors. Chere has been raising chickens since she was a kid in Pennsylvania because at Easter, there would be little adorable peeps for sale and her dad bought her four-and somehow, they all managed to live so she started her career as a poulterer and raised chickens. She told me that because of the bird flu you cannot buy any pullets (chickens with feathers that are four-six weeks old) and can only buy peeps that are a day old and get shipped out immediately. Since losing four chickens recently to a combination of racoons and accidents, she just bought six peeps. When the little peeps arrive, she keeps them in a small dog crate in her coop to keep them safe and avoid any fights. Chere said this is where the term “pecking order” actually comes from. She chooses her chickens for hardiness (Blue Andalusian with white eggs) and different egg colour eggs (Cuckoo Maran-brown, Ameraucana-blue to green). She also showed me the false egg she keeps in their nesting box so her chickens lay their eggs in the same spot.
Chere also does not use any artificial lighting with her now fourteen chickens because she feels it causes them to be overworked and they need a break from laying. The average chicken lays about 250 eggs per year (depending on the breed) for about two or three years. Chere explained that by not using artificial lighting and giving them a natural pattern of rest, chickens extend their egg laying years up to five years or more depending on the breed-and there are hundreds of chicken breeds to choose from. I was surprized to learn from Chere that chickens are not herbivores but omnivores and will eat seeds, insects, and small snakes and mice. She said that any mice or snakes that get into her coop are on a one-way trip for sure. She is also very careful with leaving any broken eggs around as the chickens will eat them as well. I asked about the recent cold snaps we have been having lately affecting her chickens, and she told me in the cold she feeds her chickens a combination of scrambled eggs mixed with raw oatmeal for extra protein that helps them deal with the cold and none of her flock died from freezing. Chere said her chickens are doing well and she has a lot of eggs right now. For freshly laid eggs, the general rule is unwashed eggs will last for two weeks unrefrigerated and about three months or more when immediately refrigerated. As a final question during my lovely visit to her coop, I just had to ask if she names her chickens and she said her granddaughters Isabelle and Evelyn do and mostly the names are from the movie Frozen. A dozen of her fresh eggs in various sizes and beautiful colors are $5.00 and you can reach Chere at Ludakkris55@aol.com or call 646-489-4280.
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