Three percent of U.S. homes have a chicken coop in the yard. Of course, I don’t know how many homes have yards but those with egg-laying birds are on the increase. Is this fad or economics?
Clearly, it is a bit of both. Reese Witherspoon tends her hens as do other celebrity types. Our local permaculture guild recently organized a tour of our entire metropolitan area so we could see backyard poultry coops and talk with hen keepers about the nuances of raising chickens and in some cases, ducks.
My conversations were focused on eggs. How many eggs were they getting? How many years did the hens lay? How messy a process is it? But some of these coop keepers also focused on raising chickens for eating. Since 20th century industrial production made it widely available, the consistent texture and mild flavor of chicken has created a canvas for many a chef but in some cultures, chickens are treated as sacred. In ancient Persia, a rooster’s crow indicated a turn in the universal battle between light and darkness. Ancient Romans took chickens into war and observed their feeding behavior in order to foretell the outcome of the battle. Globally, the observant eye of a clucking mother hen has been a symbol of care and fertility. Conversely, the robust rooster has been a symbol of prowess – hence, the cock.
Chickens do not appear in Christianity until the New Testament. In the book of Matthew, a passage likens Jesus to a hen tending her flock. One writer speculates on how religious art might be different had the image caught on. Envision the good shepherd replaced with the tending hen. The rooster played a critical role when Peter was told that he would deny Jesus three times “before the cock crows”. This translated to roosters being placed atop weather vanes on homes and churches as a reminder.
The thing I found the most fascinating on my tour was learning the differences between chicken and duck eggs. Clearly, the latter are much less popular yet apparently, their high protein content makes them excellent for baking while their higher fat content gives a richer flavor. The downside is that increased protein can cause the egg to be rubbery if overcooked and with both comes higher cholesterol. Duck eggs are larger than chicken eggs so have more of each vitamin but the “to be confirmed” fact that impressed me is that duck eggs are alkaline while chicken eggs are not. If true, those allergic to chicken eggs may be able to eat duck eggs and they can be wrapped into an alkaline diet which many people are attempting.
- 1 farm fresh egg
- 1 Tbs olive oil (can add butter if desired)
- sea salt
- black pepper
- finely chopped herbs if you like
Heat a cast skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil or olive oil mixed with butter if desired. Let it heat but not smoke. Crack your egg on a flat surface. Open into the skillet. (Egg shells make a great addition to compost). Turn heat down and cover for one minute. When a thin layer of white has formed over the yolk, flip with a metal spatula. Flip with courage. Then turn off the heat and let sit for 30 seconds or so. Serve on top of your favorite toasted bread or sauteed greens or stacked New Mexican enchiladas or … Can you tell I love them? The trick is to not over cook.
Do you eat eggs or raise poultry? How have you found the experience?