Using a pressure cooker to hard boil young hen eggs

HARD BOILING YOUNG HEN EGGS

Hard-boiled fresh eggs can be hard to peel but eggs laid by young hens are almost impossible. This year I had to replace my entire flock. It was especially frustrating to discover that even when the fresh, young hen eggs were left for 7 rather than the normal 3 days before hard-boiling, they were still impossible to peel.

An egg has an inner and outer shell membrane. Since the egg shell is permeable, as the egg ages, carbon dioxide and moisture are lost through the shell. This causes the two membranes to separate and the air sac to expand. As a result, the older the egg is, the easier it is to peel. 

My normal method of hard boiling eggs was to place them in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. The cooking time depends on egg size. I wanted a quick method that would ensure that relatively fresh eggs could be hard boiled and easily peeled. My Internet search lead me to the prairie homestead page. Although they were not talking about the problems of hard-boiling young hen eggs, they did mention the idea of using a pressure cooker. I am a huge fan of pressure cookers and believe that no kitchen should be without one. I have a number of different sized cookers and use them all the time to make soups, stews, casseroles and other dishes in a fraction of the time. They can even be used to can tomatoes and other vegetables.

 

For the experiment, I chose four eggs that had been laid on consecutive days. The egg on the right labelled 1 day old was laid on the same day, the 2-day old one the day before, etc.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Put 1 cup (250ml) of water in a pressure cooker and bring it to the boil.

Place the eggs on a steamer and lower it into the pan.

Close the pressure cooker lid and bring it up to full power. Turn down the heat and leave it for 5 minutes.

At the end of the cooking time, if your pressure cooker has a quick release mechanism, quickly release the pressure by placing the pan under the running cold tap. Transfer the eggs to a bowl of cold water, running and change the water until the eggs are completely cool.

RESULTS:

I then peeled the eggs and these are shown in the photo below. The results are conclusive and show how the eggs are easy to peel, and even the freshest egg could be peeled with care.

 

Chicken Run 2

2016-07-12 20.14.25

This year I have put three of the hens in a pen in the bottom field. The idea was that this would be their final resting area but I’ve since changed my mind. Two of the hens are from the eggs that I incubated by crossing our hens with the neighbour’s rooster and I’ve become attached to them so they’ve been granted a wildcard to old age.

The white posts mark the borders of the pen and you can see two of the black hens together. The lines of vegetables to the right of the tractor are potatoes.

In their summer residence, they are protected by an electric fence surrounding a walnut tree and have free range of the first hen house that John built for them. Although they were reluctant to venture in at first, they are now happy to lay their eggs in one of the partitions. They tend to sleep, however, on some of the branches of the tree above it. This is good news and makes me happy. The other day on our morning walk to Marchalejo, we saw a pack of three foxes and then a single fox so it is good that we have the three types of fox-protection: electrocution, canine and flight.

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Peeling hard-boiled eggs

Peeling hard-boiled eggs using ice

peeling hard-boiled eggs using ice

Peeling hard-boiled eggs in ice

 

An eggshell is permeable to air and water. A newly laid egg is covered by a natural coating called the bloom. This prevents loss of moisture from the egg and bacteria getting in. In my opinion, it is better to take advantage of this and not wash the eggs. The eggs are protected naturally and so do not need to be kept in the fridge. You can then wash the eggs just before you use them.

There are two membranes inside the shell: the outer shell membrane which adheres to the eggshell and the inner shell membrane surrounding the egg white and yolk. As time goes by, air enters the egg through the pores and fills the gap between the two membranes and the egg cell expands. It is this gap between the two membranes which affects how easy it is to peel a hard-boiled egg.

I’ve read that in order to peel very fresh eggs, it helps to immerse them in cold water and ice cubes so I thought I would give it a try to see if it helps. For the purpose of the “eggsperiment” I used 15 eggs of varying sizes and laid between 0 and 3 days ago (0 being a couple of hours previously).

The eggs were cooked in boiling water for 10 minutes. Cold water was then run over them and they were they plunged into the iced cold water. I left them for 45 minutes.

I found that eggs laid the same or the previous day were very difficult to peel. Eggs that were two days old were OK. Eggs which were three days old or more were good. I also found that putting the eggs in ice made no difference whatsoever and is not worth doing.

 

Breaking broody hens

Breaking broody hens

breaking broody hens

Breaking broody hens

For the first time ever, one of the hens has gone broody. She is one of the two remaining hens that I incubated from eggs so she is now just over two years old. She was spending all the time in one of the laying boxes and as the number of eggs laid by the other hens had gone right down, I thought it best to get her out. I checked on Internet and various solutions are offered for breaking broody hens and these include hosing her with cold water or putting a bag of frozen peas in the nest box. Before using the cage, I first tried taking her out of the laying box and putting her outside a couple of days running but she would always go back .

Basically, hens go broody when they think they have a clutch of eggs to incubate and hatch. A broody hen will flatten herself out to cover the eggs and fluff out her feathers. She might also peck at you if you go near her or screech or she can even break eggs that other hens have lain.

Some breeds of chickens are more prone to going broody than others and if you want to hatch your own eggs then this is a distinct advantage. However, as I have the hens for eggs, I want to discourage this if at all possible.

The best way to break a broody hen is to place her in a wire cage. Broodiness is associated with a higher body temperature so it is important that the cage is raised off the floor so that cooler air can circulate around her. A dog crate or rabbit hutch is a good idea. You should supply her with food and water. Three days in the cage should be enough to break the broody cycle.

Chicken toy

home-made chicken toy

Chickens and chicken toy

To give the chickens something to play with and some sort of mental stimulus, I decided to make them a toy. I’d seen one on Amazon and thought it shouldn’t be that hard to copy. I got an old plastic bottle and punched about 10 square holes with the tip of a sharp knife. Obviously it is important not to make them too big. I then filled it with wheat and waited to see what they made of it.

It didn’t take them long to figure out what to do and the next day they were managing to roll it with their feet.

 

chicken-toy1

Egg update

seven eggs

A full house

On two days now the 7 hens have each laid an egg. The first time was 24th March 2014 and then they did it again on 26th March 2014.

7-eggs1

They adapted well to life in the new chicken coop. Although there were four eggs boxes attached to their sleeping quarters, they always laid their eggs in the same one diagonally opposite the door.

I was really pleased with the chicken coop I bought when we were back in the UK last November from EGGSHELL. The only modification I will make to it for next year is to attach some pieces of plastic to each section of the run. What’s been happening is that the hens kick out the straw and pigeons come and eat it. I’ve bought the plastic from IKEA (PRÖJS desk pad) and I’ll punch some holes in them and then attach them with cable ties to the inside.

7-eggs2

On 27th March, one of the older hens laid my first double yolker ever.

Is keeping chickens economically viable?

Chicken Coop

Chicken Coop

From the end of December to April, we are at the coast in a city. We keep the chickens in a coop with a hen house and run on the top terrace.The same system could be used by anyone with just a few metres of free space even in a city.

I thought it would be interesting to work out the viability of keeping a few free-range chickens and selling the surplus eggs to friends and family. We want to answer these 3 questions: 

How much does it cost? 
Is there any profit?
Is it worthwhile?  

Wooden Chicken Coop

Wooden Chicken Coop

Here are the results of our experiment:

Starting on 26th December 2013, we decided to sell our surplus eggs to friends. There are 7 chickens in a wooden henhouse and chicken run.

Details of experiment:
Duration: 52 days from 26th Dec 2013 -15th Feb 2014
Total eggs laid: 207

Expenses:
Chicken food:
14 euros for 25kg chicken food
7 euros for 14kg loose wheat
3 euros for a bale of straw
Total: 24 euros

Two chickens

Two chickens: these are two of this year’s newly hatched hens (with white ears)

Income:
The eggs were sold at slightly below the price of free range eggs in the supermarket.
The average price of the eggs was 1.30 euros for 6 medium eggs (54-63 grams), 1.50 euros for 6 large eggs (64-73 grams) and 1.70 euros for 6 extra large eggs (84-93 grams).
207 eggs were sold for 49 euros.

By now, all of the 4 new hens were laying medium-sized eggs and the older eggs were laying large-extra large eggs.

Profit: 25 euros
Profit per day: 48 cents

Infrastructure costs:
7 hens 56 euros. Three of the chickens were bought and four were raised from eggs. The cost of buying a laying hen is 8 euros per bird.

Chicken coop: 120 euros

The full infrastructure costs are 176 euros.

It would take an entire year to recoup the investment if the cost of the chickens and their coop is included.

Once the infrastructure costs have been covered, there would be a profit of 174 euros per year.

Conclusion:
Most people would not consider keeping chickens on a small scale to be economically viable if only the amount of work and the amount of financial gain is considered.

However, it seems to be worthwhile if you consider it to be a pleasant hobby.

There are other advantages which cannot be judged on financial terms and which override the purely commercial concerns and may explain why we continue to do it.

These are the following:
The taste and quality of the eggs is very high.
The chickens appear to be happy and much happier than commercially-reared birds.
A by-product of the chickens is highly nitrogenous  manure which is very useful on the garden.
Happy chickens are amusing to watch.
We like the sounds they make.
Eggs are very easy to sell and most people are very happy to buy them even though they are more expensive than supermarket eggs.
The packaging (egg boxes) can be reused.

Keeping chickens also has a some negative aspects.
These are the following:
A chicken coop does not smell very good albeit for only a fairly small radius.
It would be unfeasible to spend money on vet’s fees for a chickens. If a bird has a health problem such as a prolapsed vent, it would be necessary to kill it humanely. Someone must be willing to do this.
If you raise the chicken from eggs, the male birds must be killed. This could be distressing for vegetarians.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interesting facts about chickens

Facts about chickens

Facts about chickens

  1. A young chicken is called a chick.
  2. Males are called cocks (Br. Eng.) or roosters (Am. Eng.).
  3. Females are called hens.
  4. Males younger than 12 months are called cockerels.
  5. Females younger than twelve months are called pullets.
  6. Castrated males are called capons.
  7. There are more than 24 billion chickens in the world – more than any other bird species
  8. It takes 21 days for a chick to hatch from an egg.
  9. Chickens can live for between 5 and 10 years, depending on their breed.
  10. In the wild, chickens eat seeds, insects, lizards and small mice.
  11. The oldest hen on record lived until the age of 16.
  12. The fleshy crest on the head of a chicken is called a comb.
  13. The hanging flap of skin on each side under the beak is called a wattle (plural caruncles).
  14. Both males and females have wattles and combs but in most breeds they are more prominent in males.
  15. Chickens cannot fly long distances but can fly very short distances if they think they are in danger.
  16. The average hen lays 300 eggs a year.
  17. Chickens lay fewer but larger eggs as they grow older. An egg without a yolk is called a “dwarf”, “wind” or “fart” egg.

Chicken and eggs or Eggs and chickens

Information about eggs and chickens

Information about eggs and chickens

INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT EGG DEVELOPMENT:

  1. The egg-production process begins when light stimulates a photosensitive gland near the hen’s eyes: when the gland is stimulated an ova is released.
  2. Hens have one functional ovary.
  3. Hens generally lay an egg a day for six days and then rest for one day.
  4. Hens start laying eggs when they are 4 to 5 months old.
  5. The smallest ever egg laid by a hen weighed just 7.3g and was the size of coin.
  6. As hens grow older, they lay fewer eggs but the eggs become larger in size.
  7. The average hen lays on average 300 eggs a year.
  8. When female chicks hatch, they have 4000 tiny ova. As the hen matures, some of these will become yolks and then eggs.
  9. It takes around 25 hours for the egg to form.
  10. The process by which eggs are formed is like a conveyor belt in a factory: at any one time, there are a number of yolks at different stages of development
  11. Eggs can have multiple yolks. The record for the number of yolks found in one egg is nine.
  12. An egg without a yolk is called a “wind”, “dwarf” or “fart” egg.
  13. The largest ever hen egg was laid in 1896. It had five yolks and weighed 340g.
  14. It is possible for a hen to lay an egg with a fully formed egg inside it.

THE EGG-PRODUCTION PROCESS:

  1. The ova goes from the ovary and to the funnel-like structure called the INFUNDIBULUM where it is fertilised by the rooster. This part of the process takes about 15 minutes.
  2. The yolk then moves down into the MAGNUM where the inner and outer shell, membranes, vitamins and mineral salts are added. This process takes 3 hours.
  3. The yolk then continues on to the ISTHMUS where the egg yolk is wrapped in egg white (albumen). This process takes an hour.
  4. The yolk and white then move on to the UTERUS or SHELL GLAND where they are covered with a shell. Water is first added to thin the outside of the albumen layer, then shell material (mostly calcium carbonate) and finally pigments are applied. This process takes about 21 hours.
  5. The egg then passes through to the vagina and is laid. This process takes 1 minute.
  6. The shell formation process begins in the afternoon/early evening so it is important not to disturb them at this time.
  7. Any thin points or cracks in the eggshell can be repaired before the egg is laid.