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I Love My Reclaimed Wood Coop

In the Fall of 2015 my husband and I made the decision to tear our back porch off the house. We had found  (during a stre...

Monday, May 16, 2016

Let's Talk Egg Storage Options

One of my learning experiences with backyard chickens has been the challenge of egg storage. When I had four layers, it was fairly easy, but now I have seven and three more are almost there as well. I have also noticed this seems to be a hot topic with my fellow chicken keepers.

Here were my questions:

1. Do you refrigerate or store on the counter?
2. How do you know which ones are the most or least fresh?
3. How many eggs will I have at once?

Fairly simple.

In my case, I store in the fridge. Storing on the counter is just fine for eggs. My choice is personal and based on these three reasons: I have very little space in my kitchen and counter space is precious, I have two evil cats who think knocking things to the floor is entertaining, I do like the eggs lasting a little longer, although they seem to be gone much more quickly now.

I also mark each egg with a pencil or sharpie with the lay date. This is super handy and I feel more confident on the freshness of the eggs as a result. The small amount of eggs I get, this is not difficult.
So, far, the largest amount of eggs I've had in the fridge at one time was a little over 30. Not bad. I have a neighbor that buys two dozen at a time, so I can be wiped out quickly. If they have purchased recently and it starts to add up, I either post on Facebook that I have extras or make a delicious quiche for dinner. Either way, I have had no problems with eggs sitting around. 

However, I do have issues with storing them and keeping the dated ones together. Here were the dilemmas: I hate the door thingy that is supposed to hold eggs (horrible design), egg cartons are a pain and have to be removed each time I need an egg, egg flats are too fragile and wear out quickly. I wanted something easy to lay the eggs in and easy to grab one quickly, while keeping them in the fridge and the oldest eggs roll to the front so they're are the first to go.

Skelters are pretty popular, like this one on the left. But they are round and kind of tall, leaving them either taking up quite a bit counter space or not fitting in the fridge well. I'm also a sucker for symmetry. It just doesn't seem like the optimal design.

I found some designs that really seemed to fit what I need, but they are challenging to find in the US. Since we, as a nation, tend to refrigerate our eggs, people don't think about egg storage much.

So, I made my own. Necessity really is the mother of invention.

I wanted something that fit easily on a shelf in the fridge and was sloped enough the eggs would roll towards the front. It also needed to be not incredibly deep so I could reach into the back of it and place the newest eggs as I collected them. I went to Home Depot and walked around, staring at various sizes of wood and screws and nails, to see what might work. 

This is what I came up with:

I like it. It's pretty and the dark stain looks nice. It's clearly too small for the amount of eggs I get and plan to keep. It would be excellent for the single person who grabs the half a dozen eggs a week. I have one person who buys that many eggs at a time from me.

Also, the sides are too wide. I'm going to need multiple rows in the same unit and a 1" block of wood between them is a bit much. However, the slope is perfect and I really do love that stain.

Then I made this one:

I like it as well. The thinner sides are clearly much better and the blue paint is so fun. I can see people liking this one quite a bit. It's still too small for the amount of eggs I get and plan to keep. I went ahead and posted this on a Facebook group to get folks opinions and the chorus agreed; it's too small. I did realize that you can stack the eggs on top of other eggs here and it works nicely. The only issue is the eggs don't roll easily. 

So, then, I went all out and made this one:

This is the one. I really love it and I love this new choice of stain as well. I immediately put this one in my fridge and started using it. I grabbed a couple of pencils and put them in the left row (I constantly lose them)  and used it for the next week, with tremendous success. 

Here it is in my fridge:
Since i took this picture, I also slide empty egg cartons behind this so I can grab them  quickly when someone drops by to buy some eggs. There's the perfect amount of room.

I have tried a few variations, wider rows for larger eggs, but then the regular and smaller size eggs don't roll well. I also tried just having a larger bottom without the row dividers as a whole and nope, just didn't work as well as a whole. I think the wider rows is still a win, particularly if you're like me and you have a chicken that tends to only lay the big eggs, it would be handy. 

Here's a teal version of the wider rows. The large egg is 3 1/2" long and turned out to be a triple yolker (the only one I've ever seen). However, it's really for the larger eggs only. The smaller eggs didn't really work with the slope. 

So there we have it. I have made a few different models and added them to the shop to see which ones people prefer. I have sold one, the blue oneabove with the regular size rows. I haven't gotten feedback yet, but I'm crossing my fingers it was a win. No news is good news, right?

Meanwhile, the large one works for me so well. I'm still looking for ways to tweak it; I had one person suggest chalk paint on the front so you can write dates on for tracking egg freshness. I like that idea very much and think it's going to be my next experiment.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Benefits of Backyard Chickens - No Really

There are a lot of articles out there about the benefits of having backyard chickens. Most of them seem to point out the positive impact chickens have on the environment or the importance of treating animals humanely. Sure, that's great! I'm a big fan of all that stuff, but what if that's not really your thing? What if you want them to benefit you and/or your family without making a political statement? What if you just want to do something cool and super fun?

Raising chickens in the city is something that has provided me tons of things that have nothing to do with being organic, liberal guilt, or animal rescue and they can do the same for you!

1. The eggs taste better. They really do. I didn't expect that one, I was all, yeah, right. It's definitely true though. The yolks are darker than store bought and have a richer flavor. I wasn't a huge egg fan before I got the ladies, but now, I cannot get enough quiche. I even own egg cookbooks. 

2. They eat bugs and mice, lots of them. I love that they eat bugs, but in particular, mosquitoes. YES. I watched my barred rock jump and pick them out of the air once and it filled my heart with joy. My husband, meanwhile, loves that they eat spiders. That's all I'll say about that. Them eating mice is one of my favorite things as well. And they don't leave little body parts, like my cats do. 

3. Thanks to composting with bedding and chicken poo I bought my first bag of garden soil just last week. Usually, by early March, my husband and I are trying to figure out how we can afford to get a ton of new soil for the gardens. But thanks to composting over the winter and deep litter in the run, we had plenty of excellent stuff to use for the garden and to get things going. 

4. They are hilarious. I cannot express this one enough. They truly crack us up all the time and have such individual personalities. We used to have a bantam rooster named Turtle (when he was first hatched he would fall on his back all the time and couldn't turn over). His complete inability to properly mate our regular sized hens is just hilarious. The poor guy. He's very intense and we believe it is frustration.
And spaghetti noodles; watching them run away from each other to hoard them is amazing. Who knew? If you really want to be convinced, find someone who has chickens, bring beer (or coffee or whatever) to their house and sit and watch the chickens. It's hours of fun.

5. If you're up for harvesting chickens, they taste way better fresh than the frozen Kroger version. This was also a nice surprise. My feelings on hearing this from chickens folks(or people who spend $25 on a whole chicken at a snooty grocery store) was very much like #1. But, as I tell my kids, sometimes it's good to be wrong. 

6. They get my lazy butt outside.
I get more exercise since I started with the chickens, than I have since I was in my early 30s (my peak physical time). And because I care about their well-being, I do all sorts of stuff during the winter to keep them comfortable as well, even if it's freezing, rainy, sleety, muddy, all of it. A couple of years ago, I would have chuckled at the thought. I HATE the cold. Yesterday, there were tornado sirens going off and I was running outside with mealworms to get them into the coop. Yes. I hate tornadoes. I'm usually the one in the tub with a couch cushion over my head. It's like I've gone insane.

7. They mow the yard. Now, this is both a plus and a minus really, because really, they'll demolish your yard, depending on how many doodles you have. Our first year, they kept the yard mowed, but the second year there was no grass to be seen. So, we worked out a compromise and built an enclosure, agreeing to split the yard with them and our side gets seeded a lot. We have the chicken yard and the people yard. Our front yard (no chickens there) started getting mowed this year in early March and we will likely mow the backyard 2-3 times this summer.  

8. I can build stuff now. Due to a desire to take care of these monsters, I have new power tools and have learned all sorts of things about building stuff. My husband has been a patient teacher of the basics and he has learned more complex stuff as well. Just a few of the additions to our tool collection include a dremel, router, table saw, a cordless drill and circular saw set, so we can both work at the same time. We're very macho. 

9. You get to buy cool stuff. I now own things like muck boots and work gloves. I go to tractor supply now and need cool things in the store. I even have a bunch of t-shirts declaring my chicken love. Good stuff.

 10. Falling in love. Since I have gotten chickens, my life is truly more full. This from a woman who was incredibly happy before. In that time I've had my kids move out, had to convince my husband  (he's 100% on-board now. Ok, he's as bad as I am) and had many friends think I've gone out of my mind. I went from not having pets during my adult life to becoming this giant animal lover in my 40's. But, I am absolutely in love and my husband and I have such an amazing time with them. Being home is my favorite. 

11. And ... baby chicks. I mean seriously. Everyone loves them and watching them hatch out of an egg is exciting EVERY time.

Now, go buy chickens. GO.