Ethel, Laverne, Peep, Daffodil, and Mahalia would like to start the new year by setting the record straight. There are a lot of funny misconceptions and mis-information out there about chickens. I know, because I believed every one of them, even Number 13, that was debunked for me just two days ago. Who started these ideas? Well, anyways, let’s set the record straight!
1. Brown eggs are healthier than white eggs- Give a pat on the back to some executive out there, this was pure advertising genius making this up! Millions of brown eggs were sold in the hopes for better health! Turns out the color of the egg is determined by the color of the chicken’s earlobe. Nothing else. So, Ethel, the California White, lays white eggs, the buffs lay brown eggs, and Laverne, who is all black with brown ear lobes, lays petite light brown eggs. This year we would like to get Araucanas for their green eggs.
2. Chickens need a rooster there in order to lay eggs- I get quite a few people who look confused when we say we don’t have a rooster. “How do they lay eggs?” I think I may have asked this during the barrage of questions I followed my chicken friends around asking before I got my ladies. You need a rooster to fertilize the egg to make babies, but just like mammals, the egg cycle goes on, man or not.
3. Eggs go bad quickly- The eggs that you get at the grocery store were laid many weeks ago. They will stay good in the fridge for another few weeks. Farm fresh eggs have their natural coating on them (we don’t wash ours until we are ready to use them and only if they really need it) so they will stay good on the counter for 3-4 months. Pretty impressive, huh? How to check for a bad egg. Place egg in a cup of water; if it floats throw it out, if it hovers in the middle, eat it right away, if it sinks, it is still nice and fresh.
4. The yolk is the baby- The yolk is the feed sack for the baby as he’s growing. He/she will use the yolk as nutrients and food until he busts out of his shell in search of other things. So, when you break into that delicious yolk, it was not going to become a baby!
5. Eggs from a factory farm are the same as the ones out of your coop- The chickens that lay eggs for the grocery stores are in tiny cages where they cannot get up or even turn around. They get their beaks lopped off so that when they go crazy (you would too in that situation) they don’t hurt themselves or the chicken inches away from them. They eat genetically modified grain all day, no yummy plants. Whatever they eat, you eat when you eat the egg. Aggression and fear releases cortisol which transfers to the animal products we eat. Happy chickens running free in the back yard produce healthy, better tasting eggs!
6. It is difficult to have chickens- From Denver to New York and many cities in between are allowing coops to go up. Did you know that it was Martha Stewart who spearheaded the change in government policies so that she could have chickens? Chickens are no trouble at all. I let the girls out of the coop in the morning into their run, or if I am supervising, in the yard. I check their food and water and collect their eggs. At night, when the girls get tired and go into the coop to roost, I go close the door (and give kisses). I use organic chicken feed and it costs less than dog food.
7. Chickens are noisy- I know a lot of little dogs that create a lot more racket than chickens! They strut around and squawk when they lay an egg, or in the mornings when they want out of the coop, but otherwise, not a sound. They are deliberate creatures, looking for food in all places and don’t have much time to talk. Roosters will crow several times a day but I am still at a loss as to why that is considered a nuisance in cities. I know many children and dogs considerably noisier. By the way another myth-Roosters crow at dawn- is a bit deceiving too. They can crow at dawn, but they crow when they want to say something. I actually hear the guys across the street at lunchtime more than dawn!
8. Chickens don’t fly- Most do. If you read my post about Ethel flying the coop, you know the little bugger flies wherever she sees fit while her devoted followers attempt but can’t really get off the ground yet. Many chickens will roost in trees if you let them stay out in the summer. (Not recommended; invites chicken dinners!)
9. Chickens are dumb- The girls see me coming. If they hear the back door close they know I am about to open the coop and start hooping and hollering. They run to their little chicken door to go out. They jump up and down in front of the food. They are at least as smart as my Greyhound! Ethel finds every hole in the fence and the exact spot to fly out of the run. Peep has a bad habit of getting stuck in the snow. She runs to the bird feeders only to realize that the whole ground beneath is covered in icy snow. She jumps up on the bench and tries to figure out how to fly over the snow. Soon, she will turn towards the back door and starts squawking until I come out and get her to clearer ground.
10. A red dot in the egg means it is fertilized- Another beauty I was told at a health food store and believed until the occasional one popped up in my eggs, and there is no man in sight! It is simply a little bit of blood from a broken blood vessel when the egg was forming. It won’t kill you and it’s not a baby!
11. Roosters are mean- Just as some men can be nasty, so can some roosters. But it would be unfair to say all men and roosters are bad! We love all the good ones! A rooster’s job as the man of the coop is to protect the ladies. He keeps a sharp look out for predators and keeps the girls safe. If the rooster knows you, if you raised him from a peep, he could be as cuddly as a kitten. Some will take their job seriously and be more aloof. And there is a percentage that will be jerks. I would like a rooster though. I love their sweet crowing and I would love help keeping a lookout for chicken eaters!
12. Chickens love lush yards with lots of ornamental plants- My mother told me that the chicken run will be just dirt quickly. I wasn’t sure until I saw it. The girls are so busy aerating the chicken run, that indeed, no plant will survive their tiny beaks and claws. However, the manure and its nitrogen will make a lovely garden if replanted. I keep an eye on the girls in the rest of the yard. They have done wonders for the ailing lilac bushes we inherited when we moved in. They have aerated and fertilized and the bushes are just bursting with new growth. The yard wasn’t full of lush grass when we came in, so the ladies can’t do too much damage but I make sure we don’t concentrate on any one spot too long. If I keep them moving and they only graze the top layers and fertilize, the yard ought to look pretty good next year.
13- And the one I just learned, A rooster can only make babies with the same breed- A rooster can make babies with any breed, that is why there are cross breeds of chickens. So, make sure you get a breed of rooster with the qualities you want in a hen, good layers, cold hearty, etc. I think I may get an Araucana rooster. I am still researching and I still have much to learn!
Now that we have cleared up the main fallacies going about, a word on Mahalia. In case you were wondering what ever happened with Mahalia and the egg dilemma, she laid an egg the other day. It looked as if a goose broke into the coop and laid an egg and ran out. It was the size of my palm (poor girl)! It also had something really gross inside the shell. It has been in there for a bit too long. She is good, probably feels a lot better, and we’ll see if she starts laying an egg a day again! Thanks for reading, folks, now go pick out those chicken breeds!