Home

FROM OUR BLOG

Dating and Refrigerating Eggs- What You Need to Know

To refrigerate or not to refrigerate farm fresh eggs. That’s the question. If you’ve traveled out of the US, you might have noticed that many countries don’t actually keep their eggs in the fridge. Grocery stores throughout Europe keep their egg cartons at room temperature, and it’s the same in many countries around the globe.

That begs the question, do we really have to refrigerate eggs?? It all boils down to three questions: do you wash your eggs, how quickly will you use the eggs, and what are you doing to avoid salmonella?

What You Need to Know About Egg Safety

Chicken eggs are covered in a protective layer called the bloom or the cuticle. This layer keeps harmful bacteria like salmonella out of eggs. The USDA requires that commercially produced eggs are washed right away to protect against salmonella poisoning.

Washing eggs removes the bloom which makes it possible for salmonella to enter the egg. After an egg has been washed, it needs to be refrigerated to keep harmful bacteria out of the egg. This is true for farm fresh eggs, commercially produced eggs, European eggs – all eggs.

In Europe, many hens are vaccinated to protect against salmonella so commercial eggs are not washed right away. That makes it possible for them to be stored at room temperature.

How should you decide what to do? Consider the following three questions to help you make your decision.

 

  1. Do you wash your eggs?

Washing or not washing eggs right away is your call. But it is true that refrigerated eggs will last longer than eggs stored at room temperature. Farm fresh eggs have a shelf life of several weeks if left (unwashed) at room temperature and several months if kept cool in the fridge.

Once an egg is put in the fridge, it needs to stay there. Don’t refrigerate an egg and then put it back on the counter.

I personally wash really dirty eggs and put them in the fridge. We all know how dirty eggs can get if a chicken cracks an egg in a nesting box, or during mud season. These really dirty eggs get washed and put in the fridge.

If you’ve concerned about keeping track of dates, you can write the date on the egg (using a pencil) or the egg carton, if you fill one up.

 

  1. How quickly will you use your eggs?

I do like to leave some eggs on the counter though. If I know I’ll be using eggs in a week or two, I leave the cleaner eggs on my counter. Room temperature eggs are preferred for baking and eggs on the counter free up room in my fridge, so I do like to have eggs on the counter.

 

  1. What’s your salmonella protection plan?

While salmonella isn’t as common in farm fresh eggs as commercial eggs, it is still a risk. Salmonella is definitely an illness you don’t want to get.

To Reduce Your Risk of Salmonella:

  • Keep your chicken nesting boxes clean.
  • Don’t eat cracked eggs.
  • You might consider discarding eggs that have a lot of chicken poop on them as salmonella is transmitted via the poop.
  • Rinse your eggs before eating if you don’t refrigerate them.
  • Crack your eggs in a separate bowl before incorporating into a recipe, just to make sure it looks ok.

 

What’s your protocol for farm fresh eggs? Do you wash? Store in the fridge?

Ways Chickens Benefit a Garden

Are you raising chickens and trying to grow a garden?  Don’t get hung up on trying to keep your garden and chickens separate.  Instead, try to think about how you can make them work together.  Chickens can be extremely beneficial for your garden.  In fact, before chicken coops were a thing, many homesteading families relied on their chickens to help in the garden.

 

Benefits of Chickens in the Garden

  1. Chicken Manure.  Did you know that many farmers spend a lot of money each year to put chicken poop on their fields?  Chicken litter, or chicken manure, is a wonderful fertilizer that is packed with nutrients that plants need.  Chicken manure is nearly perfect in terms of the nutrients that it contains.  Chicken poop has nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that plants need to grow and thrive.  When your chickens are in the garden, they’re fertilizing for you!
  2. Pest and Weed Control.  Nearly 60% of a chicken’s diet is from insects when they are allowed to free-range.  I don’t know about you, but sometimes keeping insects off of my garden plants is a struggle.  I’ll gladly take all of the help that I can get.  Chickens love to eat the bugs that you don’t want to deal with in your garden, like the soft-bodied caterpillars that will eat your plants and the squash beetles that will destroy your zucchini crop.  Chickens are also helpful when it comes to keeping weeds under control.  Chickens love to eat small shoots and new, small grass.  Once your vegetable plants have gotten large enough, your chickens won’t mess with them.  Instead, they’ll pick around them looking for the small weeds that you’d otherwise pull up by hand.  *A word of caution- Avoid letting your chickens in the garden while vegetable plants are small or if you have seeds in the ground.  Chickens will eat your small seedlings and dig up any seeds you’ve planted.*
  3. Free Tilling.  Chickens love to scratch around the dirt in search of insects, seeds and other bits of food.  They use their toenails to dig around in the soil, moving around looking for food.  Chickens will flock to your garden in search of insects.  They’ll dig around in your garden, working the surface of the soil as they scratch for insects.
  4. Free compost and mulch spreading.  Have you ever put a pile of hay, grass or anything else in your chicken coop?  Chickens love piles of materials that they can dig through looking for insects and food.  If you want to have help spreading mulch or compost in your garden, simply pile it up and let your chickens have at it.  They’ll spread the mulch or compost out until you can’t tell there was ever a pile.  Once they’ve picked it clean, they’ll move on.

Sometimes we get so tied up on keeping our animals and gardens separated on the farm that we forget that these animals and our garden can work together.  This garden season, try to work your chickens into your garden.  You’ll get some help with pest control, fertilizing and keeping it in good shape and your chickens will get time out of the coop and some healthier meals.  It’s a win-win for both of you!

 

How to Help Your Flock Beat the Heat

Welcome to June, everyone! Summer is here and we couldn’t be more excited! I’ve said this before that one of the best things about living in Minnesota is being able to experience all four seasons.

I get asked fairly often if it ever gets warm in Minnesota. The answer is yes! In fact, the temperature forecast for this week is the 80’s and 90’s! And, due to the fact that we’re the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, it’s often very humid. However, if you’ve lived through a Minnesota winter, you learn to love and appreciate the warm summer days!

However, my chickens do not share the same love for the heat that I do. In fact, most people spend a fair amount of time worrying about their flocks getting too cold in the winter. The truth is chickens can handle the cold much better than the high temps. Chickens do not have sweat glands like we do. On a hot day, you will see them with their wings out, feathers puffed up and standing in the shade. This is their way of trying to cool off. If they’re unable to cool themselves off, a chicken can suffer from heat stress.

 

A chicken who suffers from heat stress could have the following symptoms.

  • Lethargic

  • Panting

  • Rapid breathing

  • Pale combs/wattles

  • Dehydration that leads to the loss of electrolytes

  • Diarrhea

  • Stops eating and/or drinking

  • Decreased egg laying

 

In my opinion, it’s better to be proactive than reactive on these hot days. Here’s some tips and tricks keep your birds cool in the heat:

  • Put 1 or 2 bowls of cool water out so your chickens can dip their legs and beaks in it to cool off.

  • Refresh their water often and give them frozen treats.

  • Add sunshades and run fans in the coop while they lay their eggs.

  • Don’t snuggle birds or chase them in the heat! It’s best to keep them calm and not allow a lot of handling during the extreme heat. Chickens have built in down coats with their beautiful feathers, and this can be extra warm if they’re being chased or snuggled.

  • Keep away from scratch treats containing a lot of corn or other high carb sources. These make the girls work harder to digest and create even a higher body temp for them. These treats are excellent for the colder months!

  • Give your girls fruits and veggies, herbs and mealworms for treats in the summer!

 

One product I always keep on hand is Flock Fixer! Flock Fixer is a vitamin rich additive that helps hydrate, restore vital nutrients and boost immunity of chickens in times of stress. It contains electrolytes for rehydration, prebiotics and probiotics for digestive health and organic essential oils that support immunity. Chickens can go downhill pretty quick if they get stressed and in extreme heat, they definitely do this!

Mix one scoop of Flock Fixer with one gallon of fresh water and give to your flocks. The scoop is included! I even whip up Flock Fixer frozen treats! I mix up my Flock Fixer and then portion out containers with their favorite treats and pour over the top. I freeze in the freezer and it comes out like a nutrient packed popsicle that they love!

Check out this video below on how to make my Flock Fixer frozen treats!

You can help your chickens beat the heat by doing these few simple things. They will thank you! Happy summer, everyone!

 

Until next time,

–The Wing Lady

Special Trick for Boiling Fresh Eggs

With the warmer months now upon us, fresh eggs are more and more abundant!

The hens are now laying on overdrive, supplying us with tons of nutritious eggs everyday!

A fresh egg is still at its peak of nutrition. Fresh eggs make splendid cakes, custards, scrambled eggs, quiches, the list goes on…

But- have you ever tried boiling fresh eggs?

The eggshells always stick!

Boiling fresh backyard eggs for me, personally, has always been a huge challenge! I’ve tried it all; adding baking soda to the water, adding baking powder to the water, having the eggs dunked in an ice bath immediately after boiling, etc! Each time, I ended up getting so frustrated with eggshells sticking and tearing the eggs, that the entire batch ended up going to the dogs.

Why doesn’t this happen with store-bought eggs?

They always peel perfectly.

People have long thought it was the age of the egg that made peeling effortless. The older the egg, the easier to peel.

Completely by accident, I discovered this is not always the case!

The answer is COLD, not old!

 

Put your fresh eggs into the fridge!

 

Leave the eggs you want to boil in the fridge for a few hours; overnight would be even more preferable.

Put them carefully into boiling water straight out of the fridge. Boil for 10 minutes. Take the pot off the eye for 5 minutes, then put them in a bowl of ice cold water.

Peel and be amazed!

 

When an egg is new and freshly laid, it has a relatively high acid content. This acidic environment keeps the albumen, or egg white, stuck firmly to the shell membrane. Store-bought eggs are washed prior to refrigeration. This washing removes the protective bloom barrier of the shell, thus allowing air to pass in and out of the shell’s porous surface. This results in a decreased acidity level, therefore loosening the albumen from the shell membrane. This explains why store-bought boiled eggs peel better, but it still seems to work for fresh eggs that have been chilled.

I do not wash my eggs before putting them in the fridge, but it still works!

 

Although it isn’t the PERFECT method for getting easy to peel eggs every time, it certainly works for MOST of the fresh eggs! Try it, I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised with this simple trick!

 

Another interesting bit of information I have noticed with my hens is that some particular hens’ eggs easy always easier to peel than another. One of my Midnight Majesty Marans, Goldie, lays a deliciously beautiful dark brown egg, but it never fails that her egg will be hard to peel. On the other hand, I have an Easter egger, Fantail, who lays a blue egg, and it is always so easy to peel!

There is probably more science out there to be discovered on this topic, but for now, put your eggs in the fridge!

They will peel much easier I promise!

Starting Seeds in Eggshells

Starting seeds in eggshells is a great activity to do with your kids this summer! Now that school is almost out and last frost date has passed, it’s time to get going with warm crops for the summer garden.

 

Eggshells make a great seed starting pot! Not only do they decompose once they’re planted, but they also enrich the soil with calcium and nitrogen during the decomposition process. These two nutrients are essential for your seedlings and will help them grow well in the garden!

Supplies

You don’t need a lot of supplies to start seeds in eggshells, but make sure to have the following items on hand:

 

Eggshells

Potting soil – good quality seed starting soil

Garden seeds – any seeds you want: sunflowers, pumpkins, beans are especially fun for kiddos!

Egg carton

Spray bottle for watering

 

How to Start Seeds in Eggshells

To start seeds in eggshells, simply save eggshells after cracking eggs. Try to crack the eggs in half, but if one half is smaller than the other, that’s ok too. Rinse the shells before filling them potting soil.

 

Moisten the potting soil and carefully fill the egg halves using your fingers or a small spoon. Place one eggshell in each carton slot and keep them in the egg carton.

 

Make a small indent in the soil and drop one or two seeds in each slot. Cover the seeds with soil, and place the egg carton in a warm, sunny window.

 

You’ll want to gently mist the soil every two to three days to keep the soil moist. The most difficult part of starting seeds in eggshells is that they don’t have drainage holes, so you’ll want to be very careful not to over water.

 

If more than one seed germinates per eggshell, snip off the smaller one to encourage the larger seedling to grow better. Make sure to keep watering the seedlings and keep them in as much light as possible.

 

Hardening your seedlings

Once the seeds have developed their second pair of leaves, it’s time to harden them off to get them ready to move to the garden. Hardening off seedlings is the trickiest part of seed starting. You need to slowly acclimate them to sun, wind, and being outside. Do this by very gradually leaving them in a safe spot outdoors – take care to keep them safe from any animals you may have outside including dogs, cats, birds, and kids. J If you need tips for hardening seedlings, make sure to read this post.

 

How to Transplant Your Seedlings

When it’s time to transplant your seedlings, simply dig a large hole in a larger pot or in your garden, and place the entire seedling, eggshell and all, right in the hole. Cover it with soil and water it thoroughly. Make sure it stays well-watered for the first few days!

 

If you have a lot of eggshells, this is a great way to have a little summer fun with your kids! Have you tried seed starting in eggshells before?

When Can Chicks Start Eating Veggies?

Mom is the best teacher. That’s true with both people and chickens.

While a mother hen is teaching her chicks, she can also instruct observant people.

Years ago, most baby chicks had the good fortune to have a mom.  In those preindustrial days broody hens patiently sat on fertile eggs for 21 days until they miraculously hatched into peeping babies. Then, for the next couple of months, she kept them warm, protected them from danger, and taught them how to choose a healthy and balanced diet.

That’s not common today.  Nearly all baby chicks are hatched in incubators and never enjoy the comfort or instruction of a mom.  Chicks from a farm store or ordered through the mail never knew a mother.  They depend on people to keep them safe and provide nutritious food.  Commercial starter/grower feed makes feeding easy.   It contains all the nutrients chicks need to thrive, but like adult chickens and people the babies love snacks.

Adult chickens are adept recyclers.  Hens quickly gobble up bits of rice, scraps of pasta, cookie crumbs, leftover salad, and other human foods that would otherwise head to the landfill. They seem to instinctively know what’s good to eat and what isn’t.  For example, toss bread chunks into the run and they will be enthusiastically devoured, while nearby citrus fruit is ignored.

Chicks haven’t gained life experience to know what foods are good to eat.  Like hens they enjoy diet diversity, but adding greens or kitchen scraps into a brooder filled with youngsters should be approached with caution.

Mother hens lead their chicks about the yard and introduce them to the wide world.   She’ll scratch in dirt, mulch, or grass, take a couple of steps backward, and if she spots tasty safe seeds, greens or bugs with a special cluck, she’ll summon her babies to chow down.  Under mom’s monitoring even three- or four-day old chicks eat a diverse and balanced diet.  Insects and seeds provide protein while greens add vitamins and some calories.

Mom’s secret is providing a nutritious and diverse diet in moderation.  Human parents do the same thing, encouraging children to eat vegetables while going easy on sugary sweets or salty chips.

Since brooder chicks don’t have mom to guide their diet humans must make sure they eat properly. Chicks should always have commercial mash available but it can be supplemented with occasionally tasty treats.  They’ll peck at bits of salad greens, rice scraps, and other kitchen waste. Caution is needed.

Moderation is important.  Mature hens know what’s good to eat and when to stop.  Chicks may not and most of their diet should come from the commercial mash.  Introduce new diverse foods into the brooder sparingly. The right portion is what they’ll eat in just a minute or two.

Most kitchen scraps fed to chickens hold a lot of water. Moisture is a catalyst for disease. If the chicks don’t eat moist tidbits quickly remove them and always keep the brooder dry.  Remember, food scraps are snacks, not the prime diet.

Like most birds (owls are an exception) chickens need grit in their gizzard so these toothless animals can pulverize food.  Chicks eating only commercial feed may not need much grit, but once they begin eating harder food it is essential. A few pinches of fine sand sprinkled in the brooder gives the tiny birds grit that helps them digest treats.

Like people, chickens of all ages love diet diversity. This diversity can come from kitchen scraps or even garden weeds, but they’re best enjoyed in moderation.

podcasts