Chickens in the Backyard and Food Safety
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Well, in my family’s case, the chickens definitely came first. Call it trendy, but my family has enjoyed urban chicken farming for the past year and a half. We live on a peninsula of Florida, so this is as close to farming as I can get while my children are young. Many people ask us if we bought the coop and chickens for “the meat” or for the eggs. My heart always sinks a bit—would you eat your pet? Yes, they really have turned into additions to our family, even though we started out raising chickens so we could enjoy the daily eggs.
Here I go on my pedestal: eggs are an amazing source of nutrition for children, pregnant ladies and adults. Eat that yolk, people! The yolk is where the vitamins, choline, ‘healthy fat’ and a bit of protein are hidden, and the white is mostly protein. The darker the yellow yolk, the higher the nutrition. The yellow yolk is based on what the chicken is fed. In my house that means an omega-3 grade chicken feed plus leftover greens, fruits, vegetables and grains that my family saves as treats for our chicken family. Here’s a fun trivia for you: what will chickens eat first as a treat: pasta, cooked pork or corn on the cob? The chicken ladies love their carbs just like humans do, then the protein, then the produce. I think we have more in common with birds than we think!
Now after the chickens lay their eggs… by the way each day they may lay one or more. And one chicken may lay up to 160 or more each year. You do the math. That means you better have more than one chicken if you want to eat eggs every day from your chickens! Now after they lay the eggs, what do we do? After doing my own research with egg farmers, the bottom line for the home-chicken egg layer is to chill eggs to less than 45 degrees Fahrenheit within 36 hours of laying. In Florida, we honor this policy since we want our eggs to stay fresh as long as possible. What about the eggs we buy in the store?
Honor the sell-by date, place the eggs in the main part of the fridge, keep them in their original container and throw out any eggs that have been cracked. They could have been contaminated with something else. Lastly, we wash our hands after handling raw eggs from the store or our coop before touching cooked food.
The bottom line: After touching any animal or animal product, washing hands before eating is a good idea. My favorite sign at a zoo from the employees is: Wash your hands after petting the animals. We do. Enjoy cooking those eggs!