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Our family finally took the plunge and invested in baby chicks. My husband and I have talked about raising chickens for years and, honestly, I don’t know what took us so long. We did our research, bought some books, looked on the web, went to the library, and decided this year was the year to extend our renewable food sources. I recently posted an article addressing the need to prepare for the possibility that your stored food may not be enough to last in an extended situation.
Eggs hold so many nutrients and the “chicken ecosystem” as a whole is an incredible source of food, the eggshells can be ground up and taken for added calcium, the shells can be added to compost, and the chicken manure can be used as fertilizer for the garden. Best of all, by raising your own chickens you are in control of the health and quality of the eggs you consume.
I love eggs. You can scramble them, fry them, bake a cake with them, hard boil them, make a quiche, or wait until they spoil and throw them at bratty kids in your neighborhood. Just kidding. In the event that one day you wake up and find out that there is no more food at your local supermarket and you are on your own, having chickens will be a relief. Eggs themselves are a wonderful source of needed protein and fat. On average, for every hen you have, she will lay one egg per day.
I have included this simple recipe that you can make in any situation you may find yourself in, provided you have some Ziploc freezer bags. If you have a garden or have canned foods you can use, you will be set with an easy protein packed nutritious meal.
Omelet in a Bag
- 2 eggs
- 2 slices ham, chopped (optional)
- 1/2 cup shredded cheese (optional)
- 1 tablespoon chopped onion (optional)
- 1 tablespoon chopped green bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tomato
1. Crack the eggs into a large resealable freezer bag. Press out most of the air, and seal. Shake or squeeze to beat the eggs. Open the bag, and add the ham, cheese, onion, green pepper, tomato, salsa, and mushrooms. Squeeze out as much of the air as you can, and seal the bag.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place up to 8 bags at a time into the boiling water. Cook for exactly 13 minutes. Open the bag, and let the omelet roll out onto a plate. The omelet should roll out easily.
So let me break down the benefits that I have researched by starting with grinding up eggshells for extra calcium. My mother does this for the calcium benefits. Even if you are happy with your Centrum with Calcium right now, this is handy to know about in the event things go bad and driving to your local CVS to pick up your supplements is no longer an option. Calcium is important for bodily function as well as promoting strong teeth and bones.
Source: Nourished Magazine
If you are not using your eggshells for calcium, then by all means add it to your compost for added calcium to your crops. Tomatoes love it. Place some crushed eggshells at the base of your growing peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage to deter slugs and cutworms. If you are trying to attract birds, for their benefits, put crushed eggshells near or in a feeder. Woodpeckers in particular love it, and it will keep them from pecking a hole in the side of your house at 5 a.m.
Chicken manure makes wonderful fertilizer for your garden. However, you never want to add it directly to your soil because it is too strong. Here are some tips for handling and dealing with your chicken’s manure.
Manure Safety Tips. Fresh chicken manure may contain disease organisms that could contaminate root crops (carrots, radishes, beets) and leaves (lettuce, spinach), so DO NOT spread uncomposted manure on the soil in your vegetable garden. The following “Safety Tips” are summarized from the Stewardship Gardening Program provided by Washington State University:
If you live on a small plot of land and are concerned you don’t have the space, no worries. Chickens require very little space and take about as much time to care for as you would spend on a dog or cat. In fact, I would venture to say that our chickens take much less time to take care of than our cat. Our family feline likes fresh ice water twice a day, is constantly hungry, and likes to vomit all over the carpet because she eats too fast. And before anyone contacts me to diagnose any illnesses that might be inducing this annoying habit of hers, don’t. She is perfectly healthy. I remind her every day as she stares me down with contempt, that if she were a real pet she would lay eggs. I digress.
We opted not to purchase a rooster because we weren’t interested in making baby chickens just yet and we figured our neighbors wouldn’t be crazy about the racket early in the morning. If you have a large plot of land, though, a rooster may be right for you. They are protective over the hens and can fight off predators.
Okay, so now I have convinced you that if you don’t buy chickens this minute, you will surely perish. Can you order them on Amazon? No. Not yet. We bought ours from the local Tractor Supply. We were able to walk in and pick the exact breed and point to the particular chicks, which to our novice eyes, looked as though they would grow to be mighty hens that would spit out giant yummy eggs in abundance. My sister, on the other hand, who is Martha Stewart’s nicer twin, purchased hers online at My Pet Chicken. There is a plethora of information about breeds and their various qualities. We wanted hens for egg production and not for chicken salad so we chose Leghorns. An excellent guide to chickens and their many breeds is at http://www.mypetchicken.com/chicken-breeds/breed-list.aspx
I hate bugs that eat my garden veggies and bite my tender flesh. Well, chickens actually eat bugs. They also eat many varieties of weeds. A chicken can make your gardening work easier by doing some post-harvest gardening for you. Let them loose and they will scratch and dig your garden beds. We have a fenced in garden, so I am hoping to move them into our garden occasionally to help improve the soil and destroy unwanted pests and weeds.
You can purchase commercial feed, but it does contain soy and GMO corn which many experts believe will compromise the quality of your eggs. I have included a homemade chicken feed recipe. I must be honest, I have not made this recipe yet, so I cannot elaborate on the shelf life, storage of, or tell our readers where to purchase all of the ingredients. I can say, however, that all of these ingredients are good for human consumption, so in the event of a disaster situation, you and the chickens can share the same food items. This means you can alleviate the hassle of buying food for yourself and stocking up on a separate food to keep your chickens alive and healthy. I would suggest making small batches and storing in an airtight container as you would your own grain. The following will provide your chickens with the nutrients they need to produce delicious and nutritious eggs:
Okay, so what happens in the event you have depleted all your supplies of lentils or commercial chicken feed? Commercial chicken feed is only good for a couple of months. Stockpiling food for chickens is a good Plan A, but what about Plan B? Here is a list of some food items for your chickens that are storable or may be on hand:
Every Prepper wants to know how to preserve food for storage. Eggs have a long life once they are layed. They can be stored for two to three months in your refrigerator or at temperatures no higher than 55°. There is a process whereby you can oil the eggs and keep them in warmer temperatures. It will compromise the flavor, but in an emergency most of us would not complain. Here are simple instructions for oiling eggs.
The eggs you’re going to store this way should be oiled 24 hours after being laid. (This will immediately put store-bought eggs out of the running.) In a clean, closed carton that is located in a cool, dry place, eggs dipped in oil will keep for several months. They will, however, eventually develop an off-flavor, and this off-flavor is especially pronounced in eggs stored at 34°F for more than four months. By the time you hit the six-month mark, the flavor is usually unacceptable to most people.
If you’re able to have fresh eggs at your house day in and day out from some pretty prolific layers, or because you have a neighbor who gives you fresh eggs each day, or if you’re able to obtain fresh eggs from a farmer’s market, then this method may be for you. Regardless, the knowledge alone will be a great help if and when the worst were to happen.
To properly oil your eggs, they must be at room temperature (50 to 70 degrees F) and they must be dry. Make sure your oil is free of bacteria and mold by heating it 180°F for about 20 minutes. Then, with tongs or a slotted spoon, dip the eggs one at the time into the oil. Set them aside on a rack such as is used in candy making and let them drain for about 30 minutes. Pack them away in clean, dry cartons.
It is not necessary to have a chicken coop to get your baby chicks. Your chicks will need to mature before you can set them outside. You will need a large box or bin to keep them in, a heat lamp to keep them at the required 95° the first week, bedding, a water dispenser, a feeder, food, and chicken wire for the top to keep them from escaping once they become juveniles. As I write this, I can hear their soft peeps and stirrings behind me. They possess a delicate, sweet, downy smell that fills our sun-room. Caring for them has been unbelievably easy and rewarding when I think about how our family has secured another renewable food source for our future. Now if we could just figure out a purpose for our demanding cat.