Kim Burnell is a Southern California-based event hostess, recipe developer (and curator), edible-garden keeper, and backyard-chicken warrior at the Rustic Garden Bistro. In between hosting cookbook/author launch parties, supper club dinners, and living room jazz concerts, Kim blogs about her latest recipe triumphs, gardening gems, and fourteen chickens. Behind the scenes, she’s scouting properties to run a Bed and Breakfast, complete with a gourmet brunch, cozy bistro, edible landscaping and… backyard chickens! Connect with Kim on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
10. To broaden your culinary arsenal.
Let’s face it, when you have a flock of chickens, you’re rollin’ in the eggs. Take me, for example. I have flock of 14 hens. In a typical day, one’s broody, one’s molting, and a couple of others are otherwise takin’ the day off. I’m still collecting about ten eggs per day. That’s a heck of a lot of eggs for a family of two to work with. So in the past year, I’ve done the following: scramble eggs, fry eggs, poach eggs, four-minute eggs, whip eggs, coddle eggs, quiche eggs, six-minute eggs, soufflé eggs, freeze eggs, temper eggs… you get the point. I promise you, I wouldn’t have mastered the five-minute #unprocessed hollandaise sauce if I didn’t have my chickens. With your own flock, you too, can be master of the egg.
9. To eat fresh food.
So to reiterate: commercially packaged chicken eggs are already 3-4 weeks old by the time you buy them. Then think about how long they sit in your fridge before you actually eat them. Tip: Check for a three-digit number printed on the side of your commercially packaged carton. That number corresponds to the calendar day that the eggs were collected. 001 = January 1, 002 = January 2, and so on. Do a Google search to see what day that number corresponds to, then determine how “fresh” your eggs really are. In summary, backyard chicken eggs are the freshest eggs you’ll ever get your hands on.
8. To flex your entrepreneurial skills.
So maybe you don’t have the time or desire to make 1,001 things with chicken eggs… So how ‘bout makin’ some money with your surplus?! When I started out, the goal was to have three chickens. I won’t tell you how I got to fourteen (#chickenmathfail), but that’s how many I‘ve got, so at the end of every week, I usually have about five dozen eggs. Keeping one dozen for myself, I still have four dozen eggs to offload. Then I tell everyone I know that the eggs they bought from the market are likely already a month old (See also: To eat fresh food). After I let them process the surprise, I slide into my sales pitch: “You can buy my pastured, free range, not to mention FRESH!!! and colorful chicken eggs for just $5/dozen. I collected them this morning. All proceeds go towards feeding and housing the ladies.” Then I mention my eggs are cheaper than Whole Foods. BOOM, sale! Done. And as of today, $190 cash in the basket.
7. To supplement your doggie’s diet.
If you have a dog, and you’re all crazy-balls over her diet like I am with mine, you’ll want to save your eggshells. And if you keep chickens, you’ll have lots. Toast the eggshells in the oven, grind them down, then add a tablespoon to Fido’s #unprocessed dinner, and KA-POW! Your dog has all the calcium she needs for strong, healthy bones. Then experiment on how to make dog treats using eggshell powder. Or, ask me for the recipe. (See also: broadening culinary arsenal).
6. To give your kids responsibility.
In my kingdom, it’s never too early to teach a kid about responsibility, and egg collection is a wonderful daily (or twice daily) chore. Should you choose to pay your kid five, or even ten cents an egg, you’ll still come out ahead. Want to dish out more responsibility? Teach ‘em about gardening. Get together to fill some empty eggshells… Add soil, plant seeds, give them some water, and watch something grow.
5. To fuel your compost bin.
If you compost, you know you need poop. Lots and lots of poop. Most people get it by buying bags of cow poop, but if you have chickens… guess what?! They poop! They poop a lot… So all you gotta do is scoop it up and add it to your pile. Done, BAM, ecology at its finest.
4. To cure you of the blues.
The next time you have a bad day, go outside and pull up a stool. Then just watch your chickens for a bit. Better, stick an iPhone in their faces and watch them ham it up for the camera. At my house, observing the fluffy butts is called “chicken tee-vee.” An episode of just 10-15 minutes is enough to free me from all of my woes. Bonus: it’s cheaper than cable and available all day. Unfortunately, DVR doesn’t work here.
3. To source your own protein.
An average-sized egg contains about 6 grams of protein. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could get this out of your own backyard? And if you also have a produce garden, think of the combinations and permutations of food ingredients you could put together to make something edible. Then challenge yourself to see what you come up with (See also: broadening culinary arsenal), and take pride in knowing just how much you’ve reduced your grocery bill.
2. To cut back on your landscaping expenses.
Chickens spend all day pecking and scratching… pecking and scratching. In the process, they have a magical ability to eradicate any garden of the peskiest weeds. So give your gardener a day off, and put your chickens to work. In just a short amount of time, your weedy patch will become a barren brownscape. When you’re ready to re-plant, skip the dirt turning and the fertilizing; the chickens will have done all that already. Bonus: the extra chlorophyll in their diet (from eating all the greens) will turn your egg yolks from medium yellow to dark orange.
1. To be the coolest kid on the block.
It’s true. Once you’re in the club, you’ll be everyone’s best friend. Long-lost family members will show up on your doorstep, friends will surface from the shadows, neighbors will lurk over their fences. And everyone will ask the same question: Can we have some chicken eggs?! (See also: flex your entrepreneurial skills.) Feel free to impress everyone with all of your chicken-keeping trivia. Did you know that a chicken’s earlobes determined their eggshell color? Red lobes = brown eggs. White lobes = white eggs. Blue lobes = blue eggs. Or that Roosters are so chivalrous that they stand-by at feeding time to let the ladies eat first, or that they’ll throw their bodies down over a hen to protect her when a hawk is flying overhead? Did you know you could even clicker-train a chicken to recognize shapes and colors? Or how about the fact that their pecking order is so well-established that they roost in the same spot, every single night?
Finally, let me reiterate that chickens are all-around awesome to keep around the yard. Want some eggs?! I’ll be happy to sell them to ya for $5/dozen. You should know that they were collected this morning.
Want more chicken fun? Check out this guest post from the 2010 challenge: Backyard Chickens Have the Good Life.