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Monday, January 17, 2011

Catalog Dreams

The new poultry catalogs started arriving in the mail this week and the chatter online has turned to baby chick orders. As I page through the catalogs I find I have a bad case of chick envy.

Aren't they just the cutest?

 I'm not planning on ordering any chicklets this spring, but as I look at all the cute pictures I'm really tempted. The more you learn about chickens and read about the marvelous varieties available, the more you want to try them all.  Chicken owners are much like gardeners with their new garden catalogs: each variety seems more promising and, like kids in a candy shop, we want them all!

The trouble with raising chickens in a suburban backyard is there's only so much room, so you're limited in how many chicks you can manage. I'm aware that plenty of backyard chicken owners start a whole new flock every year or two, but in order to do that you have to be willing to dispose of the original flock either by processing them (read: butchering) or giving them away. I'm not willing to go there with my girls. Hence, my options are limited.

Right now I've got four chickens who are laying like crazy in spite of the frigid weather. In fact, I can hardly keep up with all the eggs they're giving us, so I really don't need any more chickens. But I still can dream.  Someday I'd love to have Marans for their dark chocolate-colored eggs, striped Barred Rock for their plumage, or Silver Spangled Hamburgs for their regal look.  And of course I'd like to have Silkies just because they're so cute. These tiny bantam chickens with black skin and feathers as soft as fur don't take up much room at all. (Maybe......just maybe.....I could get a couple this year?)

If you're wondering which breeds of chickens would be best for you, they all have their own qualities. While I love the elegance and the unique blue and green colored eggs laid by the Easter Egg chicks, my plain brown egg-laying Rhode Island Red hen Ruby has laid more eggs than any hen I've ever owned. And my Silver Wyandotte Coco is not far behind.

Good luck on your own chick hunt and let me know what you're ordering. (I'll be jealous, but it's okay.)
As I mentioned, lately we've had almost more eggs than we can eat, so I've been eating an egg every day for lunch just to make room for the next day's collection. I usually throw together a salad and top it with a 4-minute cooked egg. The combination is perfect and oh so satisfying, especially when you know the hen that laid your egg.

Warm Winter Salad with Backyard Eggs and Sherry-Walnut Dressing
I vary the ingredients in the salad with whatever I happened to have in the refridgerator. I usually blanch any of the firm vegetables like broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, etc. and toss them warm into the salad. I also try to keep the eggs warm until I place them on the salad. 

1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup walnut oil

4 eggs
6 cups mixed salad greens
2 cups cut-up vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, blanched
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or crumbled blue or feta cheese
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted

Whisk sherry vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper together in small bowl; slowly whisk in walnut oil.

Place eggs in small saucepan; cover with hot water. Bring to a bare simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low or low and simmer 4 minutes (eggs should not bounce or rattle and the water should lazily bubble). Place in ice water until just cool enough to handle; peel.

Arrange salad ingredients except cheese and walnuts on plates; top with halved eggs; sprinkle with cheese and walnuts. Bring dressing to a bare simmer by heating in the microwave or in a saucepan. Drizzle the warm dressing over the salad. Sprinkle with additional pepper.

Serves 4


  1. I too am suffering chick envy. I am trying to figure out is this the year we mix up our flock again, or do all the ladies get a reprieve.

    Such a hard decision.

  2. Isn't that the truth! It's hard to mix the flock and go through all the anxiety and hard feelings. But, the Silky post on the Murray McMurray blog has got me thinking maybe it might be kind of fun to get a couple of bantams!



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