Why did we get chickens? Besides delivering the highest quality eggs possible (more on that later), they eat our pesky aphids, fertilize the soil and are very entertaining for guests.
Really, ever since we got our chickens, we've become a bit obsessed with them.
In the summer and fall they were eating everything from kale to figs in our garden, but now that the ground is frozen and covered with snow, we need to give them a bit more. We'll give them some of the usual wheatberries and organic feed but throw in some sprouted black eye peas and homemade suet and that's some gourmet din!
What is suet? Suet is a high energy formulation of animal fat and other ingredients for insect eating birds. It serves as a quick source of heat and energy for birds, who's metabolisms are set on fast forward, giving our chickens enough nutrients to produce delicious eggs for us! (Recipe below)
Why is knowing this important?
What our chickens eat in turn effects what we eat. Eating eggs that are pasture fed and free range pose for much healthier and nutrient dense eggs as well. The only way you can really get these REAL EGGS is to pick up some chickens of your own (!) or buy them from a local farm (us)! You can try to get organic eggs at the supermarket but sadly that only guarantees they aren't raised with antibiotics in their organic feed. They also cannot be caged but the regulation around 'free range' in the US is sad (only 2sq ft per chicken).
Eating pasture raised eggs will give you these added benefits:
- 1 ⁄ 3 less cholesterol
- 1 ⁄4 less saturated fat
- 2 ⁄3 more vitamin A
- 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
- 3 times more vitamin E
- 7 times more beta carotene
- 4 to 6 times more vitamin D
You will notice larger golden and sometimes orange yolks and often the eggs may contain a red spec (or blood spot) in the egg white. Eggs that have a blood spot may or may not be fertilized but either way these are completely OK to eat, won't taste any different and will not hatch into a chick! WE collect our eggs daily to prevent this from happening. Our hens are happy with their 2 roosters around and a happy hen lays a healthy egg!
Suet for Chickens
- 1 ½ cups melted tallow, lard, or meat drippings
- 1 cup unsalted sunflower seeds (in the shell)
- 1 cup dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, chopped apples, etc)
- 1 cup whole grains (scratch mix, whole wheat, or millet)
- Line a 9" x 5" loaf pan (or any similar sized pan) with parchment paper or foil. Mix the seeds, fruit, and grains together, and place in the pan.
- Cover the dry ingredients completely with the liquid fat. You may need to mash everything around with a fork to make sure there are no air bubbles.
- Allow the cake to harden completely. You can speed up this process by sticking it in the refrigerator for a while.
- Remove it from the pan by lifting up on the liner to pop it out. You can cut it into several pieces, or feed the whole thing at once by either tossing it in a feed pan.
recipe adapted from The Prairie Homestead