Farm eggs, dirty?!

beautiful fresh eggs

Lately, someone on social media commented that they can never use farm-fresh eggs, no matter how much they would like to, because they’re so dirty and full of gunk. As you may imagine, I couldn’t just scroll by. It seemed almost tragic to me that someone should miss out on the goodness of farm eggs because of an unfounded prejudice, or because they chanced to run into a dirty dozen.

My family has consumed mostly home-grown eggs for over ten years. For the most part, our eggs are absolutely pristine. The picture above shows the eggs as collected – I never wash eggs because the eggshell is porous, and washing can push any contaminants into the egg.

I often pull the eggs straight from under a hen and hold them against my cheek because they’re so nice and warm (yep. Really! It’s one of the weird things I never thought I’d admit). You can bet I wouldn’t do that with an egg that isn’t perfectly clean.

Of course, we do get the occasional dirty egg, especially on rainy days. But overall, our eggs are lovely and clean. There’s just absolutely no reason why farm or homegrown eggs should be dirtier than factory eggs.

In some cases, though, farm eggs may end up extra dirty because ofú:

a) A very crowded coop and not enough nesting boxes

b) not enough lining in the nesting boxes

c) letting eggs pile up

All of the above can lead to eggs breaking and making a mess over any other eggs next to them. I have one nesting box for 3-4 layers, I line the boxes with plenty of straw, and I collect eggs at least once a day. It makes for nice, fresh, clean, and healthy eggs.

Disclaimer: even clean eggs may carry contaminants. I advise only consuming thoroughly cooked eggs, regardless of their source.

Why do chickens eat Styrofoam?

In a nutshell: I have no idea.

OK, here’s the long version. I’ve raised many chickens over about a dozen years now, and not one of them could resist a bit of Styrofoam packaging or a stray construction panel with Styrofoam insulation.

Chickens will go for Styrofoam even when they have fresh pasture

My chickens consume a diverse diet of layer feed, kitchen leftovers, and pasture. They choose Styrofoam over their feed, vegetable peels, fresh grass, and any food you can imagine. No, they won’t only eat Styrofoam, given the choice, but they’ll eat it before anything else.

It seems this isn’t an anomaly. Chicken owners all over the world report the same thing: their hens and roosters can’t resist Styrofoam. If I ever publish an updated edition of The Basic Guide to Backyard Livestock, I’ll be sure to include this phenomenon.

What do chickens find so appealing about Styrofoam? Its texture, I suppose. It’s easy to peck at, and when it scatters, it looks like crumbs. But surely when they taste it they should be disappointed?

Compared to humans, chickens have very few taste buds, so they don’t respond to taste the same way we do. However, they generally have an innate ability to choose nutritious foods. Styrofoam doesn’t quite fit the profile, though.

Will Styrofoam harm your chickens? I can only speak from experience. For years, I have tried to discourage my birds from eating Styrofoam. I offered distracting treats and shooed them away. I herded them out to patches of succulent fresh grass teeming with bugs. To no avail. If Styrofoam is available, they’ll come back to nibble on it. So far, my flock hasn’t sustained any visible damage.

Naturally, eating Styrofoam can’t be good for chickens. Theoretically, Styrofoam could impact a bird’s crop and cause suffocation. The only practical way to deal with this problem is to avoid leaving any Styrofoam lying around.

Do your chickens go crazy over Styrofoam too? Tell me in the comments.

It’s hatching season again

New arrivals

A little belatedly, hatching season opens here again – and this time, with guinea fowl eggs. I have received some as a gift, and apparently a couple were already in the incubation process, because they surprise hatched after only a week.

So far, we lhave these two adorable keets. One looks like the standard coloring and the paler one could be lavender.

This little one had huge trouble getting out of the egg. I ended up performing an assisted hatch and peeling nearly all the shell. I was really apprehensive, but after a couple of hours it was already running around the brooder! So don’t give up on those chicks who are struggling to get out. They may be perfectly fine and just require a bit of assistance to start out in life.

Best friends

By the way, did you know guinea fowl are kosher? I have only discovered this recently. We don’t eat our birds, but I’d love to try some guinea eggs.

Finally, a predator-proof coop!

Last week, we had a sad incident, in which a fox got two of our chickens. I admit I have grown a little careless, as I wasn’t aware there were any foxes in the area.

From my previous experience with foxes, I knew they never give up until they’ve eaten all the chickens in a coop OR until they realize it’s impossible. I knew my old coop wasn’t fox-proof. And I knew I didn’t want to race outside with a hammering heart every time a hen started clucking.

So for a week, I overnighted my chickens in boxes inside the house, and meanwhile, I commissioned a secure and convenient stainless steel coop.

New home for the hens!

Although it isn’t as pretty as some of the rustic style coops I’ve admired on Pinterest, it’s by far the best coop I’ve ever had. I can’t believe how much I paid to have it made, but I’m happy 😊

A housewarming party 🎉

It has two handy shelves for nesting boxes, and a lower section for our quail that can also work as a secure space for a broody hen (of course I would put the quail elsewhere).

Now I’m just waiting for this fox to come again so I can laugh at it 😁

When it rains, it pours

From last season

During the previous couple of weeks, we’ve had such lovely sunny weather that I was finally tempted to go out and start planting some things. Yesterday and today, we’ve had a sharp overturn toward torrential rains and howling winds, and now I’m afraid all my poor seeds will be washed out. Reminder to self: never trust the weather at this time of year.

What I’m happy about is having had time to line my chicken coop with a nice, thick layer of dry leaves prior to the rains. I expand on this in my latest Mother Earth News post:

Using dry leaves for chicken coop bedding has numerous advantages:

1. It’s free: just grab a bag and haul all the leaves you want.

2. Leaves are plentiful and readily available

3. It will entertain your chickens: a bag of leaves will always contain tidbits like seeds, grass stalks, bugs, and other edibles your chickens will enjoy unearthing. 

I’m also proud to say that my post about preparing your chicken coop for the spring has made the latest MEN newsletter:

Our chickens pick up the cue of longer days and generally resume laying around February, even though it’s still cold. The young pullets hatched at the end of last season – say, September or October – are generally ready to start laying in February or March.

I can hear some of you laughing hysterically, saying “Cold? You guys don’t know what cold is”. True, we rarely get any snow, but the shorter winter days still affect our egg production. Come spring, I look forward to:

  1. Having all the omelets we want
  2. Raising baby chicks
  3. Planting
  4. Hiking

I’m not looking forward to:

  1. Passover cleaning.
  2. Uh… no. Nothing else. Just the cleaning. 🙂

Stay snug and warm, everyone!

Naughty roosters

Sadly, a couple of days ago we had to re-home one of our two roosters, because the duo was simply making too much noise for our long-suffering neighbors. As hard as it was for us to part with one of our guys, it’s better than having to give up chicken-keeping entirely.

We have an excess of roosters every year, and it’s never possible to keep them all – and always hard to say goodbye.

This coincides with what I wrote recently in my latest Mother Earth News post:

“It’s hard to be totally pragmatic and just weed out as many birds as possible when you have raised them from an egg. Plus, cockerels are fun and often so handsome it’s hard to part with them. It can be tempting to keep a “backup” rooster or two in case something happens to your alpha roo. 

The problem around here – and in many other backyard flocks – is that we always end up with too many roosters. We hatch chicks every year, and around half are male. This year we had about 60% male chicks.”

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