Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Good Eggs!

One sign of spring is farm-fresh eggs! I don’t think that many Americans realize that eggs are a seasonal item. Their appearance in spring is one reason why we think about eggs at Easter.

If you stop to think about it, most birds don’t lay eggs in wintertime, and so neither do chickens—according to nature, anyway. The reason we have hens’ eggs in our grocery stores year-round is because big commercial egg farmers manipulate the photoperiod using artificial light to trick the chickens into not having any idea what day, month, or season it is! There are no calendars in commercial chicken houses.

Before farmers figured out how to fool the chickens with electric lights, and before refrigeration was available, it was a real game for people to figure out how to preserve eggs during the months when hens weren’t laying. To give you an idea of this chore, here’s a quote from The Hearthstone; or, Life at Home: A Household Manual, written by Laura C. Holloway, published in 1883:

To keep Eggs Fresh.—One of the best means of preserving eggs is the following: Select good fresh eggs and pack endwise in a mixture of equal parts of fine dry charcoal and salt (cold). Keep in a cool, dry place until required for use. A thin coating of gum or a trace of oil will prevent loss of moisture through the shell. The best time for preserving eggs is from July to September.

So anyway, there are still some chickens in this land, our land, that do natural things, like scratch in the dirt, flap their stubby wings and go clumsily airborne (as chickens do), peck at corn, strut around and cluck, nibble on grasses, capture beetles, and listen to robins singing on these fine spring mornings. And they do know what season it is: It’s the season to lay eggs!

My friend Rhoda lives in Columbia and has chickens, and now that her hens are producing again, she let it be known (Facebook to the rescue!) that she was ready for buyers again. (Note: if you are reading this and are wanting to contact her, let me know, and I’ll put you in touch. Realize—she’s not a commercial chicken farmer, so she doesn’t have a bazillion to sell.)

For my Central Missouri friends who are wondering, hers is not one of the backyard-chicken-coops that have recently become lawful in the city of Columbia (last year the city council passed an ordinance permitting it—cool, huh?)—she’s actually zoned “Agricultural.”

Anyway—what a great thing! Happy chickens, awesome eggs.

I love it that they’re all different colors, shapes, and patterns. Sometimes you want a smaller egg; sometimes you want a great big one. And the variety reminds me of the fact that each of her chickens are individuals—I don’t know if she has names for them, but they are certainly far from being anonymous, confused birds in little boxes.

Having awesome eggs makes me want to do something special with them.

Stay tuned!


Anonymous said...

Very interesting read and great photos.

stardustspeck said...

I just started buying Eggs from Rhoda (who I now from Facebook/our kids' school). They are fantastic!
especially the greenish ones. Everyone in/around CoMO should try local eggs

eht said...

Hi! Just found your blog from a link at I really like it. I'm one of those Columbia residents with backyard hens (4), all of whom kept laying all winter, even though I warned my family we would probably have to economize on eggs for the winter, since we are eating seasonally. Of course, the girls are just youngsters, and I know next winter may be different. Just want to say that it's not just the delicious eggs. They are beautiful, entertaining, eat bugs, help me clear the winter cover crops from my garden, and produce fabulous compost! If only the dogs had so many useful qualities!

Loved your photos of the pedestrian bridge, too. I think now that it's open, my husband and I may plan a weekend getaway to Jeff City--we have gone to Boonville and Rocheport in the past.

Julianna Schroeder said...

Thank you all for your nice comments! I have to say I'm proud of Columbia (my home town) for passing that ordinance; hopefully it won't get out of hand. Everyone I've heard of who's taken advantage of the freedom to grow chickens in Columbia has done so with great conscientiousness, considering public health, the neighbor's wishes, humaneness for the animals, and so on.

Here in Munichburg in Jeff City, a few years ago we had a neighbor (the daughter of a former city councilman, even) who kept 4 or 5 free-range chickens, including a rooster, in her/our/all the neighbors' backyards. She didn't fence them in, and they just wandered from yard to yard. Little kids chased them with sticks! And we're only about 3 blocks from the Capitol building! Cock-a-doodle-doooo!

Here in Jeff, you can get away with all sorts of stuff if nobody complains. You'd think we were way out in the country! Don't fence me in!

Thanks again for the kind comments!