Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Never Rains But It Pours

So... we're not getting any new chickens this spring. Other than the 3 bitties we have that hatched, that is. But odds are at least 2 of those will be roosters, so my point is: we're not getting any significant number of new egg layers this year.

What this really means is that EVERY hen we have now will go into a molt and stop laying for the late fall and winter months this year. Which means no eggs. (or very, very few). Last year we didn't get any eggs for about 2 months. I even *gasp!* bought eggs. (From the co-op. Pastured.) As close to MY eggs as I could get. And worth the price to not be too greatly disappointed by the difference in quality.

And now that it is springtime every hen we have is in laying overdrive. For a while a few of them were laying off in the woods (as you may know) where we couldn't find them and all was OK in the world. This week everyone has gone back to laying in one of our 10 nesting boxes (although I keep getting hens coming out of our new shed with no door squawking their egg-laying achievement... I just can't find any...) and we have more eggs than we know what to do with. As in 8 - 12 eggs a day. Oh boy.

But the chest freezer (best birthday present ever! Thanks Lone reader!) comes in here to the rescue. You can freeze eggs. Woohoo!!

My favorite method is not below. Because my favorite method involves cracking one egg each into the well of an ice cube tray, freezing them, and then popping them into a big old ziploc bag. Wash, rinse, repeat. That way you can pull whatever number of eggs you may require at a time and use as needed.

Alas, I currently don't have any ice cube trays.

And I can not find one with big enough wells for a whole egg (and I don't live in the bay area anymore so those awesome Asian dollar stores that always carry this sort of thing is beyond my reach...).

So my second favorite method:

Figure out how many eggs you want to put in each bag. Label said bag. Use a big sharpie. You know you want to.

Put the bag in a cup, bowl, tupperware - anything that will hold the back with its contents. Flip the fastener portion over the sides to hold it in place, and to help keep from getting egg on said fastener. You're welcome.

Break all yolks. You don't want to add air - just bust them. Why do you do this? No idea. But anyone I've ever spoken to who freezes eggs does this. If you know, let me know.*

Lay flat, and put in freezer flat. That way they will both freeze and defrost faster than if you leave them in a clump. In fact, whenever you freeze anything in a bag, you should do it this way. Again. You're welcome.

This pile of eggs (plus another 8 I pulled from the fridge)...

...turns into this pile of shells.
I freeze them in 6 egg chunks because that's the amount I use most frequently. I don't bake a lot of cakes, etc, anymore - but I make a lot of fritatas. And when I do it's usually in 6 egg increments. So really whatever works.

What to do with the shells? You can do any number of things. I dry them out, grind them up, and feed them back to my chickens. It's the best way for them to absorb calcium back into their systems, and that way we don't have to buy any other supplements for them.

They're also great in gardens. Many many plants do well with a calcium supplement (brassicas and tomatoes are probably the most famous...) and you can grind them up finely and sprinkle on top of the soil, or in the bottom of your transplant hole when putting in seedlings. Or you can grind them up more coarsely and sprinkle around the base of your plants to help deter slugs, cutworms, and a number of other garden pests that might not enjoy crawling over such a sharp surface.

Some people with more time and energy than I blow the eggs out and use the shells for crafts. (I wish I had the energy!).

Or toss 'em in the compost pile.

*If you freeze the whites and yolks separately, you do need to add a scant amount of salt or sugar to the yolks to keep them from coagulating. These two things may be related. My chemistry's not so good. And my copy of Harold McGee is in storage and I can't get to it. So. Again. If you know, let me know.


Ramona JapaneseRedneck said...

I usually just give the shells back to the hens.

But, will try them on my tomatoes this year.

thanks for the tips.

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