In addition to growing some of my own vegetables (or continually trying to) I have fabulous next door neighbors who own several chickens and are happy to share the eggs. They have several gorgeous species, each of which lays a different colored egg. Their birds are allowed to run around outside eating plants and insects like chickens are meant to do. As much as I would love to have a coop in my own yard, I am trying to learn too many other things right now and just don’t have the time to care for chickens.
Eggs have gotten a lot of bad press through the years. The bottom line is they’re one of the healthiest sources of protein we can eat. Egg protein is 100% bioavailable, meaning 100% of it is absorbed and used by the body. In addition, the yolks contain choline (a B vitamin necessary for cell membrane formation, proper nerve function, and methylation which prevents memory loss and cardiovascular disease), selenium (critical for reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis, and protection from oxidative damage and infection), lutein & zeaxanthin (carotenoids important for eye health) and Vitamin D. Studies have also shown that pasture-raised hens contain as much as 2-10 times more omega-3 fatty acids than eggs from caged hens. Pastured eggs are higher in B12 and folate. They also have higher levels of fat-soluble antioxidants like vitamin E and a denser concentration of vitamin A. Since most of us are vitamin D deficient, and many of us don’t eat the foods that are high in vitamin D (like anchovies and sardines), yolks are one of the few other options we have. In her book Eat the Yolks, Liz Wolfe, NTP, debunks all the myths surrounding eggs and explains why we should be eating them regularly.
My neighbor and I actually have a great system worked out. I send a text that asks, “Got eggs?” If the answer is “yes”, I hang a bag from my mailbox containing any empty egg cartons I may have and $4 per dozen eggs. In return I receive cartons of beautifully colored fresh eggs left in my mailbox. So many people are venturing into raising their own chickens that finding this type of situation for yourselves might not be so difficult, whether you live in the suburbs or a big city. The health benefits make it well worth your time to find a reliable supply. Talk to the owners. Ask about their “farming methods”, what they feed the hens, etc. I wish we could know this much about all of the food we eat.
Saturday I texted my neighbor to ask if it would be okay if I came to take pictures of the chickens to share with all of you. He responded with, “Sure! But Andy let them out of the coop by accident so they’re all up in the trees!” LOL! How many people can say they get their eggs from tree-dwelling chickens? It was a beautiful day, so I wandered through the woods to the coop to find that they had all returned to Earth. Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed. I would have loved to have seen a chicken sitting on a tree branch high off the ground. A few of the hens were very curious about my presence in their yard. Some wandered closer than others. None seemed to mind having their picture taken.
In addition to having healthy eggs to eat, I have also learned that the shells can be used in my garden to change the pH of the soil for healthier tomatoes and bell peppers. Now after I have used the eggs I rinse the shells, dry them on a tray in my toaster oven set at 170 degrees F, and then after they have cooled I grind them up in my coffee grinder. I am saving them in a jar this winter for use in next year’s garden. Their goodness never ends.