As recently as ten years ago, farm-to-table dining meant making a reservation at the local hipster restaurant. Today, from the tiny terraces of San Francisco to the towering rooftops of Brooklyn, personal beehives, vertical gardens, and micro chicken coops have spawned a backyard-to-table movement. There are few things more gratifying than producing one’s own food, so we wholeheartedly embrace this direction at OR HQ. And while it’s a bit early to plant spring crops, chick season is upon us, so now is the time to prepare for this year’s batch of fluffy future egg-layers.
We’ve got a few veteran tips to make being a chicken tender easy for first timers, including a bunch of egg-centric recipes for when your bounty piles up (and of course you can always send houseguests home with a carton of your farm fresh loot). However, if you prefer to buy your eggs at the local farmer’s market (or you’re stocked up from a visit to OR), scroll on down purely for the entertainment and for some tasty variations on the incredible, edible egg.
THE CHICKEN OR THE EGG?
Both! For starters, farm-raised chickens lay unique eggs. The yolks are large, thick, and a deep orange color. They smell less, taste better, and last longer than store-bought versions. Also, science. Eggs from free-ranged hens have much higher concentrations of Omega-3s, vitamins E, D, and A, as well as Folate, B-12, and antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. Additionally, hens will eat all of your old [vegetarian] leftovers and turn them into fantastic fertilizer, which makes them the cheapest composting machines on the market. They also control insect populations (especially ticks!), require minimal work and modest startup costs, and provide lots of laughs.
WHERE TO PICK UP CHICKS
Mail-order chicks are a thing, but most farm supply stores sell two-dollar, day-old babies during March and April, and they generally specialize in breeds that do well in their particular location (we need hardy birds in the northeast). Unfortunately, we can’t get into all the nitty-gritty details of chick rearing, so we recommend beginning here, then buying this starter guide. Cliffsnotes: on Day One you will need a warm space indoors (tack rooms are perfect), a small cage (large buckets work, too), water and feed dispensers, and a heat lamp. The rest can come later!
CHICKS WITH PERSONALITIES
One might be surprised by how interested the general public is in the social lives of chickens. We are often asked if chickens have personalities, and they certainly do. Of course they adhere to the “the sky is falling” stereotype, but they’re pretty low on the food chain and wouldn’t last very long if they didn’t. Beyond the squawking and flapping and running that occurs when danger may (or may not) be imminent, chickens come when called and can learn tricks. Some are shy, some are bold, some are bossy, many are quite chatty, and they all eat bugs!
We haven’t answered all of your questions, such as: how many hens should you get; do you need a rooster (no, but ours is named Chick Jagger); do eggs need to be refrigerated (nope); will you get lice (also nope); to free-range, or not to free-range? But the answer to virtually any query can be found at Backyard Chickens. And if you care to dive even deeper into the poultry world, watch the 2016 documentary, Chicken People. It’s like Dance Moms, only…chickens. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be surprised when you hear yourself recommend a chicken documentary to a friend.