Let's Get Some Chicks

by Brenda Athanus
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ImageIt is snowing briskly outside my window for the third snow storm in 4 days! The winter snow has collected halfway up my windows, but today is the day to order new baby chicks, which will arrive via delivery in less then a month. Placing my order should make the sun come out or at least make the snow stop. We always order our baby chickens from Murray McMurray because their quality is the best and they have an unbelievable selection, from the mundane to the most obscure. What is a mundane chicken? That is a chicken bred for laying eggs, not exotic and not really a bird that would be too good for later becoming a broiler or roaster. Just a good egg layer for 4 to 5 years. The consensus wants a large breasted chicken for a meat bird like Cornish Rock, which to me seems very sadly industrial and a statement of our eating public that they prefer to breed meat birds that fall over after eating and aren't able to get up until the grain in their bellies has digested.

So, what is so wrong with a chicken that is a normal size all over? I seem to remember broilers when I was a kid being normal in size - not super-sized - and oh were they flavorful! You determine what kind of chicken for laying based on what your weather is like - cold or warm. As I live in Maine I prefer old English varieties for their hardiness like Silver-laced Wyandottes, Speckled Sussex or my favorite the Buff Orpington for their very sweet nature. These all lay brown eggs which I prefer. Then I might add half a dozen obscure varieties, that's why you must get your order in very early in the season because some varieties are limited and on a first come first serve basis.

ImageIt is snowing briskly outside my window for the third snow storm in 4 days! The winter snow has collected halfway up my windows, but today is the day to order new baby chicks, which will arrive via delivery in less then a month. Placing my order should make the sun come out or at least make the snow stop. We always order our baby chickens from Murray McMurray because their quality is the best and they have an unbelievable selection, from the mundane to the most obscure. What is a mundane chicken? That is a chicken bred for laying eggs, not exotic and not really a bird that would be too good for later becoming a broiler or roaster. Just a good egg layer for 4 to 5 years. The consensus wants a large breasted chicken for a meat bird like Cornish Rock, which to me seems very sadly industrial and a statement of our eating public that they prefer to breed meat birds that fall over after eating and aren't able to get up until the grain in their bellies has digested.

So, what is so wrong with a chicken that is a normal size all over? I seem to remember broilers when I was a kid being normal in size - not super-sized - and oh were they flavorful! You determine what kind of chicken for laying based on what your weather is like - cold or warm. As I live in Maine I prefer old English varieties for their hardiness like Silver-laced Wyandottes, Speckled Sussex or my favorite the Buff Orpington for their very sweet nature. These all lay brown eggs which I prefer. Then I might add half a dozen obscure varieties, that's why you must get your order in very early in the season because some varieties are limited and on a first come first serve basis.

ImageMy dream bird is the breathtaking, non-mundane Cochin. I love them in any color from silver to white to blue (powder blue) to black. These are the variety with feathers all the way down to the tips of their feet. They look like a snowball of fine feather and their temperament is sweet, mellow and considered a quiet bird, great for an in city chicken coop. There are many wild varieties to pick - from a Polish with a little feather tuff (looks like a Royal hat) on it's head, a chicken with a ring of skin around it's neck to the real wild Egyptian fayoumis that matures at 4 1/2 months and is considered to have a small statue but manages to rule the roost.

Today I am ordering a few of each variety and with any luck I'll be early enough to get a few rare colored Cochin varieties that I seem to miss yearly. I find that it is dangerous to be ordering anything when it is a blizzard outside, so I may get a little carried away.. As long as my sister, my neighbor doesn't know until they arrive the better off, I pick the varieties out, buy them, ultimately cook the eggs and she raises them- feeding and watering them daily and making sure that the heated chicken house is toasty and their wood shavings are clean until they can go outside to scratch.

ImageWhen our baby chicks arrive in April I keep them in a huge box in the corner of my kitchen with heat lights on them 24 hours a day, they must be at 100 degrees so they don't get cold. When our box of chicks arrives from the post office you must dip each chick's beak into the sweetened warm water of the dispenser to teach them to drink for the first time! So primal, it still overwhelms me that I needed to show them where their food is. It is almost impossible not to become instantly attached, they are so very small and precious. They grow so quickly at this stage!

After two weeks or so we transfer them all to a small section set up with heat lights in the grown up chicken coop and by then I am ready for them to leave my kitchen as they are getting very loud early in the morning. They will start laying eggs hopefully by the middle of August. Some varieties will start laying sooner and some later but the first appearance of an eggs is oh, so, very exciting! No matter where you get eggs from nothing compares to eggs from your own chickens that you raised on your own land. The taste is incredible! The white is so viscus with a clear electric yellow tint but the yolk is the marvel-it is bright orange and stands high above the white like a geodesic dome. With our first seven eggs, we religiously make oeufs Mayonnaise and feast on our chicken's wonderful gift to us!

 

OEUFS MAYONNAISE

7 fresh eggs from your backyard coop

Cover 6 eggs with cold water, bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Plunge immediately into cold water. Run a stream of ice cold water on the hot eggs until they are cold. Peel carefully as fresh eggs peel stubbornly! Refrigerate the peeled eggs while you make the mayonnaise by hand.

1 perfect egg yolk
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, fresh and hot!
1/4 cup fruity olive
1/4 cup corn oil
Salt and white pepper to taste
A teaspoon or two of Lemon juice to brighten the flavor

In a bowl combine egg yolk with the mustard using a whisk, add oil a drop at a time.Slowly so you get a strong emulsion. It will get thicker and thick as you whisk in more oil. When all the oils have been added season with salt pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. If too thick at a small amount of hot water.

Next, cut the hard cooked eggs in half with the yolk still in the white and place on a bed of watercress "cut side down", please! Slather as much mayonnaise over the eggs as you're comfortable with a perhaps a retro tomato peel rose on the side...

And raise your glass to those precious chickens in the backyard and to the next souffle!

 

Brenda Athanus runs a small gourmet food shop in Belgrade Lakes, Maine with her sister Tanya called the Green Spot.

The Green Spot
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207.441.9327
 

 

Comments   

#1 lareader 2011-03-01 01:11
wonder if we're zoned for chickens?

Comments have been closed for this piece.

 

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