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Pets make a great addition to family life, and in recent years, people have been moving away from the traditional companions such as dogs, cats, and goldfish, to embrace animals usually found on a farmyard.

The popularity of poultry keeping comes as no surprise to us. After all, they’re fantastic company, and who wouldn’t want fresh eggs for breakfast everyday?

If you’re considering welcoming some feathered friends to your outdoor space, here are some reasons we think you’ll be making an egg-cellent choice:

Eggs, eggs, and more eggs

The most obvious benefit of keeping chickens is the eggs. As part of a healthy diet, eggs contribute to strong muscles, brain health, energy production, and a healthy immune system.

Eggs are easy to turn into quick and delicious meals, so are the ideal ingredient to get budding chefs into the kitchen.

Finally, let’s not forget that eggs are also a key component of cake

eggs

Children learn responsibility and empathy

Having animals at home helps to teach children fantastic life skills such as taking responsibility and having empathy for others.

Smaller children can fill feed bowls, collect eggs, and check that the water is clean. Older children can really get stuck in with hands-on chicken care by cleaning out the hen house and shutting the hens up at night before they get ready for bed themselves.

Teaching children how to handle chickens safely builds their understanding of empathy and encourages discussions about emotions and behaviour. Chickens may not speak but their body language and vocalisations ensure they make themselves understood!

There are brilliant breeds to choose from

There are so many breeds of chicken that you’re sure to find one that appeals to your family.

Silkies, Buff Orpingtons, Polish, Wyandottes, and Warrens are all breeds which are popular to keep as family pets.

Chickens also lay a variety of different coloured eggs. If you’d like something more unusual than the eggs you find in the supermarket, consider a breed such as the Araucana, who lay blue eggs, or the Black Copper Maran, who lay chocolate brown eggs.

Chickens offer many opportunities for education

As well as the practical and emotional skills children can learn from chicken keeping, you can also incorporate more academic subjects into chicken care.

Children can develop their mathematical ability by counting eggs and chickens or working out how many days a bag of food will last.

Allowing your children to name the chickens will spark their imagination and they can learn to spell the names they’ve given their new pets.

Chickens are the ideal way to spark conversation about where our food comes from, animal welfare, and the environment.

chicken maths

Pets are good for mental health

Studies have shown that when we stroke or cuddle a pet our bodies release the “feel good” hormone Oxytocin.

With time and patience chickens can become very friendly and will come running when they hear their names called (or they know you have treats!)

Many families who keep chickens report that their poultry are firm favourites and often find their child cuddling their preferred hen and sharing tales of their day.

When people first start keeping chickens they usually choose breeds that they can easily source and are fairly cheap to buy. Hybrid breeds are a popular choice and often people will pick the same breed as the person who inspired them to keep chickens in the first place has.

However, as any poultry keeper will tell you, chicken keeping is an addictive hobby and it probably won’t be long before you’re looking to add to your flock!

Your average breed of chicken will lay brown eggs, ranging from a pale tan right through to a dark brown. But there are many other colours, in fact depending on the breeds you keep you could have a whole rainbow of eggs.

So, here are the best breeds of chicken if you want coloured eggs:

Ameraucana – blue eggs

You can now get the brilliant blue eggs that this bird lays in your local Tesco, but where’s the fun in that?

The Ameraucana is one of only three breeds that lay blue eggs (Cream Legbar and Araucana are the others) but blue egg laying chickens are reasonably popular so you shouldn’t have trouble finding them.

The breed was first developed in the 1970s in America and is an attractive breed with a “beard”. They’ll lay around 250 eggs per year so you’ll never run out of blue eggs!

ameraucana chicken eggs

Andalusian – white eggs

If you’re looking for pearly white eggs then the striking looking Andalusian is the breed for you.

Originating from Spain this breed is calm and active, so they prefer to free range and are good foragers.

They’ll lay around 160 eggs per year and usually continue to lay through the winter and blue-bred White hens are said to lay the biggest eggs.

Andalusian chicken eggs

Olive Egger – green eggs

This is more of a variety of chicken than a breed that were developed when birds containing the “blue egg gene” were crossed with a “brown egg gene” bird.

Olive Eggers produce green eggs that can range from having more of a blue tinge to more of a brown tinge as a result of the crossed colours. The birds themselves are bearded and don’t look dissimilar to the Araucana, Ameraucana, and Easter Egger which has led to some confusion among even the most expert chicken keepers.

olive egger chicken eggs

Black Copper Maran – chocolate brown eggs

For a truly dark brown egg the Black Copper Maran is an ideal choice.

The breed is active, likes to forage, and prefers to free range or have a larger enclosure. They are also good in colder climates and a hardy breed so they’re perfect if you’re new to keeping chickens.

Their chocolate brown eggs are so popular that some unscrupulous breeders will sell birds called “Black Copper Marans” but if they don’t produce dark brown eggs they aren’t from a pure strain of the breed.

black copper maran chicken eggs

Plymouth Rock – pink eggs

If you want a hen that will lay you eggs with a pinky tinge then the Plymouth Rock is a great bird.

They’re one of the oldest and most popular breeds of chicken so you shouldn’t find it hard to purchase a few. They come in a variety of colours and should continue to lay throughout the winter, although produce will slow down.

plymouth rock chicken egg

Posted on 13 February 2018 in Egg Recipes and tagged under , , , ,

How could we let Pancake Day go by without giving you a delicious pancake recipe?

This simple recipe is foolproof and should ensure you get perfect pancakes every time.

Ingredients

100g plain flour
2 eggs (your own or free range)
300ml milk
1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
Lemon wedges and caster sugar to serve (this is our favourite way but you can put whatever you like on your pancakes)

Method

1. Put the flour, eggs, milk, and oil into a large bowl
2. Season with a pinch of salt
3. Whisk until you have a smooth batter
4. Set aside for 30 minutes or more for every better results
5. Wipe a frying pan with oiled kitchen paper and set over a medium heat
6. Cook your pancakes for a minute on each side. Use a spatula or fish slice to turn them – or flip if you dare!
7. Serve with lemon wedges and sugar. We also enjoy chocolate spread and strawberries for an even more decadent treat.

Posted on 13 April 2017 in Egg Recipes and tagged under , , , ,

Chocolate and Spice Hot Cross Buns

If you’re considering doing a spot of baking this Bank Holiday weekend how about a modern twist on a traditional Easter snack?

These delicious Hot Cross Buns make an “eggstra-special” Easter treat for young and old a like!

Chocolate and Spice Hot Cross Buns

hot cross buns

Recipe from BBC Good Food:

Ingredients

zest and juice 1 large orange
sunflower oil, for greasing
FOR THE DOUGH AND CROSSES
225ml semi-skimmed milk
50g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
1 large free range egg
450g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp fast-action yeast
50g golden caster sugar
FOR THE FLAVOURING AND GLAZE
140g raisins
100g chocolate, 70% cocoa solids
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tbsp golden caster sugar
100g plain flour

Method

1. Make the dough first. Heat the milk in a pan until steaming. Remove from the heat, and drop in the butter. After a couple of mins, beat in the egg and half the orange zest. The liquid should be just warm for step 2.

2. Mix the strong flour, yeast, 1 tsp salt and the sugar in a large bowl, then tip in the liquid and stir to make a soft dough without dry patches. Flour the work surface and your hands, then knead the dough for 5-10 mins until smooth and elastic. Use a stand mixer or processor if you like. Oil a large bowl, sit the dough inside it, then cover with oiled cling film. Rise in a warm place for about 1 hr or until doubled in size.

3. Put the raisins and half the orange juice in a small pan or covered bowl, and either simmer for a few mins or microwave on High for 1 min until hot. Cool completely. Break the chocolate into a food processor with the cinnamon and 2 tbsp sugar, then pulse until very finely chopped. Mix in the rest of the zest. If you don’t have a processor, chop it by hand or grate it, then mix with the other ingredients.

4. Turn the risen dough onto a floured surface and press it out to a large rectangle, a little bigger than A4 paper. Scatter it evenly with the chocolate mix and the raisins, which should have absorbed all of the juice (drain them if not). Roll the dough up around the filling, then knead it well for a few mins until the chocolate and fruit are evenly spread. Some raisins and chocolate will try to escape, but keep kneading them back in.

5. Grease then line a large baking sheet with baking parchment. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape into buns by pinching each ball of dough into a purse shape, concentrating on making the underneath of the ball (which will be the top) as smooth as you can. Put the buns, smooth-side up, onto the baking sheet, leaving room for rising. Cover loosely with oiled cling film and prove in a warm place for 30-45 mins or until the dough has risen and doesn’t spring back quickly when prodded gently.

6. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. To make the paste for the crosses, gradually stir 6-7 tbsp water into the plain flour to make a smooth, thick paste, then put in a food bag and snip off the end to about 5mm. Pipe the crosses, then bake for 20-25 mins until the buns are risen and dark golden brown.

7. Mix the rest of the orange juice with the remaining sugar and let it dissolve. Brush the syrup over the buns while they are hot, then leave to cool. Eat on the day of baking, or toast the next day.

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