Archive for the ‘Backyard Chickens’ Category

Silkie Chicks

April 24, 2012

I finally did it! I now have two sweet Silkie chicks that I picked up on Saturday. The breeder, who lives west of town by a couple of hours, graciously met me halfway and we surreptitiously swapped money and chicks while dodging raindrops in the middle of a dance hall parking lot. I’ve been dancing ever since.

I’d been exploring the possibility of getting a couple of Silkies for the last year or two but it wasn’t until the untimely death of Coco that I decided to go ahead with it. I know, I keep replacing 1 chicken with 2 chickens, but it’s very hard to introduce 1 chicken by itself and Silkies are bantams, meaning they’re half the size of standard chickens, so these two really quality as just 1 “regular” chicken. Or so I rationalize. read more »

Natural Dyed Farm-Fresh Eggs

April 05, 2012

When I first started getting eggs from my own backyard chickens, I didn’t feel the need to decorate them come spring and Easter time. In fact, I was proud that I had my own naturally decorated eggs, the delicate blue, green and suntanned-brown eggs looked gorgeous simply placed in a bowl. But after several years of displaying eggs au naturel, I’m having fun exploring the possibilities of using natural dyes to color eggs. I am thrilled by the depth, colors and designs I can get from dyeing and decorating my backyard flock’s colored eggs.

I prefer using all natural dyes when decorating my homestead eggs, as the results are spectacular and occasionally unpredictable making it lots of fun. Follow the chart below to create your own dyes from common ingredients. White, brown or colored eggs can be dyed. White eggs produce the most intense colors while brown eggs produce a deeper and richly earthy version of each color. Light brown eggs will yield a stronger color than darker brown eggs. I’ve found that holding brown eggs overnight in dye in the refrigerator produces a deep brilliant color.

read more »

Greens, Strawberries and Perfectly-Cooked Eggs

April 18, 2011

I started hoarding eggs for Easter last week. With hard-cooked eggs, whether dyed or au naturel, older is better. I’ve learned the hard way that even week-old homestead eggs can be too fresh for easy peeling. So I’ve found that eggs need to be about two weeks old to peel most easily.

I can gather eggs from my girls, of course, but if you’re buying them from the store, I recommend that you get your eggs as soon as possible.

While everyone longs for every hard-boiled egg to peel perfectly, it doesn’t always happen. Don’t despair of those less-than-perfect eggs. Here’s a wonderful salad recipe from my book that I recently taught in a class (recipe below) that includes eggs, and imperfections will not lessen the fabulous mix of flavors and colors. Plus, I’ve included tips for perfect hard-cooked eggs.

read more »

New Beginnings

March 24, 2011

Welcome to my newly designed blog and website! I’m very excited about it and glad it’s finally up and running as it’s been several months in the making.  I’m anxious for feedback, so please let me know how you like it. I have to give credit to my fabulous designer, Lisa Hazan. After stumbling on my own for so many years, it’s great to work with someone who actually knows what they’re doing!

While all of this has been going on, I’ve also been busy promoting my book. I’ve done several book signings here in town and if you look at the Events tab above, you’ll see some of my upcoming appearances. I’m also being interviewed on radio shows across the country. It’s a first for me, but I’m really starting to enjoy it. The radio hosts are great fun and very enthusiastic. I’ll be posting some of the taped interviews on my Facebook page, so please join in as a fan of Chicken and Egg to hear them. As a result of the great reception the book has received, I just found out today that it’s gone into a second printing, so I’m very excited!

Ruby and Cleo splashing in the puddles

The chickens are continuing to do well. Last week’s 50ºF. weather had them dancing in the melting snow. They’ve been a little frumpy after Tuesday’s snowstorm, however, and haven’t ventured out since. To read more about them, please wander over to the Chronicle Books Food Blog where I wrote a guest column and posted one of my favorite recipes: Extra-Creamy Scrambled Eggs with Buttermilk-Chive Biscuits. If you leave a comment on their website this week you could win a free copy of the book!

Now that things are settling down, I’ll plan to be in touch more often. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Making Me Laugh

February 16, 2011

I saw two news items today confirming the continued popularity of chickens across the world. The first came from Sunset Magazine proclaiming backyard chicken coops as one of the Top 100 Cultural Trends in the West. It’s part of “The ideas, people, places, and things that are making life out here better right now.”

The second news item came from Dorset, England, where they’re experiencing a rise in chicken thefts. The reason? The price of a purebred chicken has risen because of the popularity of raising chickens. “The Domestic Fowl Trust says chicken thefts, driven by rising prices, are happening more regularly across the country. When you could get a bird for £5, no-one cared. But now that keeping poultry is more popular and prices are higher, we are seeing these thefts increase. It is a really popular hobby – it is the fastest growing pet market there is at the moment.” Shouldn’t we have a “Domestic Fowl Trust” in this country too?

I think that one under-appreciated reason for the chicken craze is because chickens brighten your day and make you laugh. Take this morning for instance. My day started out with six knobby chicken knees peering through the window at me. I was late with the girls’ warm breakfast mash and as I entered the run I looked up to find a line of scaly legs as the only thing visible through the coop window. Kinda’ looked like the Rockettes – if the Rockettes were made up of chickens.

Everyday it’s something new. Yesterday Roxanne didn’t want to touch the snow but she was also tired of being held by me. So, off she flew from my arms, bounced twice on the snow-covered path like a deflated basketball and finally landed up to her neck in the snowbank. She haughtily scrambled out of the snow attempting to keep her matronly dignity intact.

Then there’s Ruby, who wears as much food as she eats. As her beak gets coated with a mustache of yogurt she swings her head causing it all to land on her head. Yesterday she wandered about with a cape of arugula perched on her back.

Chickens are pets that provide many diverse dividends. Yes, they give us eggs, but they’ll also give you something to smile and laugh at. In spite of yourself.

Chicken and Egg Released

January 30, 2011

My book Chicken and Egg; A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes is officially out! I kept hearing reports from friends and family across the country from Boston to Bethesda to Kansas City that they’d seen it at their local Crate & Barrel store and they’d send me photos as proof. But it still didn’t seem real to me until I made the journey this week to our local C&B to see it on the shelves.

You’ll have to excuse the photography as I did my best with the less than perfect lighting available in the store, but there it was, beautifully displayed! The excited sales staff I talked with told me that, “It’s our favorite cookbook right now!” and “We all want to get one.” They all loved the photography and artwork. I agree, it really makes the book!

If you’re still waiting for the book to come to your area or your favorite store, don’t worry. The official release date was 1/26, which means the books should have left the warehouse on that date but it may take weeks before they’re actually on the shelves. You’ll have plenty of choices from Crate & Barrel, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Williams Sonoma, and Anthropologie and possibly more. Let me know when and where you see the book in your area and send me a photo if you’d like. I’ll do a shout out on Facebook and Twitter for you!

In honor of the book’s official release, next time I’ll share one of my favorite recipes from the Late Winter chapter in the book.

Protecting Chickens Against Frostbite

January 21, 2011

The chickens were not happy with me yesterday. Roxanne was particularly vocal with her complaints. It’s because I decided to put Vaseline on their combs and wattles to protect against frostbite. This “little dab’ll do ya” business has put us all in a bad mood.

The girls didn’t see the point. What they did see was me being mean and nasty as I smeared sticky goo over their crowns while they flapped and squirmed. Have you ever tried putting Vaseline on a chicken? It gets everywhere. I now have Vaseline on my coat and my gloves as well as their entire heads not just the intended parts. Of course the girls immediately tried to rub it off and I saw Ruby eating a glob off Roxanne. They’ll eat anything once.

If you’re wondering why I was doing this, it’s a matter of guilt. With the overnight temperatures predicted to be -15ºF to -20ºF I knew that even with additional heat the coop temperature would drop below freezing and I wanted to add as much extra protection as I could. Gail Damerow, the nation’s foremost chicken expert, advises “Coat combs and wattles with petroleum jelly as insulation against frozen moisture in the air.” Who am I to disagree?

Well, the chickens weren’t buying it and just looked at me accusingly with their sticky heads covered in bits of straw and food.  I could almost hear them thinking “If you’re so worried about us, why can’t we spend the night in your warm cozy house?” I didn’t let them guilt me quite that much. I just put another layer of Vaseline on each one when I put them to bed last night.

As of this morning, the girls seemed to have survived the night frostbite-free. Thank goodness. However, they’re filthy dirty. Everything sticks to their heads and their feathers are black. I now have four grease balls bobbing around still looking at me accusingly.

This weekend? I’ll probably have to bring them inside for a shampoo, blow dry, and “comb out”. Life with chickens is never dull.

Catalog Dreams

January 17, 2011

The new poultry catalogs started arriving in the mail this week and the chatter online has turned to baby chick orders. As I page through the catalogs I find I have a bad case of chick envy.


Aren’t they just the cutest?

I’m not planning on ordering any chicklets this spring, but as I look at all the cute pictures I’m really tempted. The more you learn about chickens and read about the marvelous varieties available, the more you want to try them all. Chicken owners are much like gardeners with their new garden catalogs: each variety seems more promising and, like kids in a candy shop, we want them all!


The trouble with raising chickens in a suburban backyard is there’s only so much room, so you’re limited in how many chicks you can manage. I’m aware that plenty of backyard chicken owners start a whole new flock every year or two, but in order to do that you have to be willing to dispose of the original flock either by processing them (read: butchering) or giving them away. I’m not willing to go there with my girls. Hence, my options are limited.

Right now I’ve got four chickens who are laying like crazy in spite of the frigid weather. In fact, I can hardly keep up with all the eggs they’re giving us, so I really don’t need any more chickens. But I still can dream. Someday I’d love to have Marans for their dark chocolate-colored eggs, striped Barred Rock for their plumage, or Silver Spangled Hamburgs for their regal look. And of course I’d like to have Silkies just because they’re so cute. These tiny bantam chickens with black skin and feathers as soft as fur don’t take up much room at all. (Maybe……just maybe…..I could get a couple this year?)

If you’re wondering which breeds of chickens would be best for you, they all have their own qualities. While I love the elegance and the unique blue and green colored eggs laid by the Easter Egg chicks, my plain brown egg-laying Rhode Island Red hen Ruby has laid more eggs than any hen I’ve ever owned. And my Silver Wyandotte Coco is not far behind.

Good luck on your own chick hunt and let me know what you’re ordering. (I’ll be jealous, but it’s okay.)


As I mentioned, lately we’ve had almost more eggs than we can eat, so I’ve been eating an egg every day for lunch just to make room for the next day’s collection. I usually throw together a salad and top it with a 4-minute cooked egg. The combination is perfect and oh so satisfying, especially when you know the hen that laid your egg.

read more »

Nighttime Magic

January 12, 2011

It’s hard to convince people this time of the year that keeping chickens can be fun when the weather fluctuates from freezing cold to nose-biting frostbite, gentle snow to blizzard whiteouts, and bone-chilling wind to hurricane-force gales. All in one day! No one wants to be outside—for any reason—let alone take care of chickens.


In spite of the weather, there is a certain sense of magic whenever I head outside to the coop, especially late at night. I must admit I’m not eager to take time away from what I’m doing to pull on my heavy winter jacket, Sorel boots, ear muffs, neck scarf and ski gloves and tromp outside into the cold. But once I’m outside I often linger. The backyard has a different quality in the winter darkness. The snow and ice luminously glisten in the pale light, making the snow look so fluffy, so precise, and so perfect it looks fake. The crunch and squeak as my boots cut through the path, however, quickly prove that it’s real as I head out to tend to the chicks.

Chickens put themselves to bed when the sun goes down (something most parents wish their children could learn), but I add extra light during the winter months so they’ll continue to lay eggs. I therefore head out around 9 pm to tuck them onto their roost and turn off the light (the light’s on a switch, so there’s no timer). They know the routine and are waiting for me. They’ve had their suppertime snack and are usually on the roost although flighty Ruby has a hard time settling down and keeps thinking I’m bringing her more treats at bedtime. But, eventually they snuggle down and I switch off their light then head back to the house. The short walk is quiet and peaceful. Yes, it’s cold and yes it’s hard to leave the warm house, but the stillness and gentle cooing of the chickens more than makes up for it. It’s often the best part of the day.


Bedtime snuggling right before lights out.

Cabin Fever? Make that Coop Fever

January 05, 2011

Snow Birds

The tension is building in the coop tonight. It’s cold and the girls are tired of being literally cooped up in the coop and the run. They’re used to having the entire backyard to roam in and this winter cold and snow is cramping their style. So they’re starting to take it out on each other.

Tonight when I brought the girls their suppertime snack they crowded around me as usual, each wanting to be petted while at the same time getting to the treat first. They started eating and I was tidying up the coop when I began to hear short little barks coming from below. As I looked down I saw Cleo giving a bark-like warning cluck while simultaneously nipping at the head of whoever got near her. There was no way she wanted to share her treat tonight and this grand dame was going to make sure that everyone else stayed away.

I think I understand how she feels. I’m getting a little crabby and feeling cramped having to constantly be inside too. We all need a break from this year’s vicious cold. Tomorrow I’ll give the girls some special sprouts to eat and something new to play in. I’ve saved some bags of dry fall leaves and they’ll have a fun time digging in those, at least for a day. I don’t think dry fall leaves will cure my cabin fever, however; if only it were that easy.

This is my perfect antidote to the winter blues.

read more »