Cast and Crew

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Soft-Shelled Eggs and Raised Beds

While it may be early February, every now and then we get a nice day to spend outside. Yesterday and today are a couple of those marvelous days. The girls, pictured above, nearly trampled me to get out into the yard. They've done a good job weeding, eating bugs, scratching, aerating the soil, and removing the excess worms who wander to the surface after a hard rain. They'll be hard at work again today, so, while they scratch and peck, let's catch up on what's happened over the last couple of weeks.

Ingrid is now laying beautiful, white shelled eggs on a regular basis. We're collecting about 18 eggs per week from three hens, two browns to every one white. Her eggs are very normal now, but we took a few photos of the last soft-shelled egg, which also delighted (and creeped out) the neighbors. There's nothing like holding one of these in your hand. It's such an odd sensation. To better describe just what a soft-shelled egg is like, the following photos should provide some insight. This one is a day old, which accounts for its saggy nature. All eggs loose moisture through the shell over time, but a soft-shelled egg is far more susceptible.

Yep, I really did pick it up by pinching the shell. Ew. We later broke this one open and fed it to the dogs. I was a little too yucked out by it to eat it myself, and Aimee doesn't eat eggs. The shell was so thin and soft that it felt like a flower petal. I was amazed that something so delicate could hold all that yolk and white within.

In other egg news, we believe that either Ellen or Portia has begun to lay. We collected three eggs last week, and two of them were white. Though the pictures cannot do it justice, this new egg was very different than what Ingrid gives us. Its shell was perfectly egg-shaped, hard, and clean, and the color was golden.

The one in the middle came from Ellen or Portia, whose names can be meshed into "Portien," which sounds like portion. This one was laid Friday, February 5th, and we haven't seen a second one yet. For all the horrible things we've said over the past few months about our Hamburgs, at least we can now say they are laying. They still have a long way to go to redeem themselves. 

* Side note: Both Ellen and Portia now have their wings clipped. I'll post a little more about this later, but for now, everyone is grounded, and I am getting much less exercise.

Now that February is in full swing, our One Small Change for the month is also well on its way. If you didn't see our change for January, you can view that post here. The compost is coming along nicely, and I'll be turning it again later today. It should be ready for the garden in about three to four weeks. 

The next change we are taking on is to increase the amount of food we produce here on our own tiny plot of land. We want to be more self-sufficient. We want to eat salads from the front yard. We want to make potato salad from our own potatoes and onions. Ultimately, I think we can provide about 10 - 25% of our own food for an entire year, which isn't bad for a city dwelling couple. In that last picture you can see me assembling another raised bed. Aimee and I finished two beds yesterday, bringing our total to seven. The others are behind me, and one includes a cold frame made from an old window from the house. I'll be planting a very early crop of lettuce, salad onions, and snap peas in there later today. Cold frames give little plants a boost of warmth, which allows you to plant things outside as much as four weeks early. This year we'll be growing things early and late in that bed, which could extend our growing season by two to three months. The fescue and herbs I started last year have been hunkered down in the cold frame since early January, and they are ready to be transplanted.

Sunday, Aimee and I played hookie from work and went to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. We saw some great exhibition gardens, oohed and ahhed at the goats in the Seattle Tilth exhibit, and marveled at all the people interested in bringing chickens into their lives. Three of the exhibit gardens had chickens in them. While many of these gardens focus on contemporary design or urban loft style, some of them are more geared towards urban sustainability and recycling. There were water gardens, rooftop gardens, living walls, container veggies, and more. This year seemed very much aimed at what a small plot can produce, which seems appropriate during bad economic times. And, following this trend, our neighbor across the street now wants his own chickens. I'll keep you posted on this development.


  1. We get soft shells every once in a while. I can't eat them either.

  2. Oh good! I`m glad to hear our love of poultry is spreading to your neighbor!

    I find those soft-shelled and it eggs once in awhile myself. I usually just make sure the gals have lots of oyster shells to pick at free-choice and that seems to keep those pinchable eggs to a minimum. =)

  3. Hi! I will understand if you don't want to do this, but I tagged you on my blog today. I was bored and someone tagged me, so I thought I would give it a try. Have fun.

  4. While I have lots of chickens I have only heard of soft shelled eggs and now I have seen one. Thanks for the pictures. I make sure my hens get plenty of caluim, oyster shell and grit. I use Purina Layena Mash (It is Certified as Natural)for feed with some scratch. I also feed Steam rolled oats and my gals free range.

    I enjoyed my first visit to your blog.


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