Saturday, 20 July 2013

The Chicken Diaries #2

Whenever I talked about 'the girls' in the past, I would be referring to the four daughters from my first marriage. Ranging in ages from 16-25 years old, they are all mostly independent and give me many reasons to be proud. However, they are being replaced. When I talk about 'the girls' now, it will be more than likely that I am referring to the four lovely ladies that live at the bottom of my garden - our chickens.

I wasn't sure how long it would take our little flock to settle into their new environment and start laying so I was delighted when on day one there were two lovely brown eggs in their run by mid morning. Another egg appeared later bringing the total to three. The following day, there were three more. Two of these had been laid in the nesting boxes which now had fresh straw in them to create a sweet smelling and inviting place to do ones egg related business. The third was laid under a tree in a little hollow. I felt ridiculously proud.

My husband had been away on a 200 mile bike ride when the chickens first arrived at our home. His opinion of chickens was that vegetarians should be OK with eating them because they are so stupid they are practically insects (to clarify, that is chickens, not vegetarians!) Meeting 'the girls' changed his opinion very quickly. He was even more excited than I was when he found his first egg in the nesting box.

Some time ago, after we'd first talked about the possibility of keeping chickens, I happened to be in my local Wilkinsons. I love a bargain so I was drawn to the aisle with the large red sign advertising SALE. I found an egg plate for 50p. Even now I am not entirely sure what an egg plate is for. Is it for storing fresh eggs or for presenting hard boiled eggs? I bought one anyway. I used my egg plate to display my growing number of eggs we'd collected.

My little girl, Addy loves fried egg. I promised her one of our special chicken eggs for her tea. She was very excited. Too excited. She became impatient and decided to 'help'. The first I knew of the disaster was when she ran to me with a very worried look on her little face saying Mummy, come quickly. I've made a mess. She was not wrong.

The egg plate had been on the top shelf of my fridge  safely out of reach - or so I'd thought. She had climbed up the shelves inside the fridge to reach it. Miraculously she managed to get the plate and four of the eggs undamaged to the counter. A further four eggs had been dropped in the process. Four smashed eggs oozing their gelatinous gloopy contents over the interior of my fridge and down onto the floor. I could have cried.

I cleaned up the mess and Addy had her egg for tea.

I had intended to use some of the eggs to bake a chicken themed cake to celebrate the arrival of our girls. I love the sunny weather but with the recent relentless heatwave,  it had just been too hot for baking. Instead, the eggs that survived Addy's clumsiness became part of a Friday Night Fry Up.

I was slightly disappointed that I couldn't tell any difference between our fresh eggs and the ones I usually buy from Morrisons - until I realised that the change in diet and living conditions almost certainly haven't had time to have any effect on the quality of the eggs laid. The eggs were quite possibly identical to usual 'free range' dozen that find their way into my weekly shopping basket.

The chickens now have access to plenty of vegetation and I watched with horrified fascination as the one with two good legs scratched deep enough into the dusty dry soil today to find damp earth and peck excitedly at the wriggling things it found there. I do not want to over think how that might have an influence on the taste of my runny yolks but I am intrigued to see if it does.

This morning, once again, there were two eggs in the nesting boxes by mid morning. Addy collected them - VERY carefully!

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