Sometimes I see my friend’s photos online and wonder, “How on earth do you do it?” How do you fit in X or Y? What does your day REALLY look like?
One such friend is Bianca of The Pierogie Mama. We first met ten years ago during our barista years and have since both married and started families. We live about two hours apart now so don’t see each other often, but when we do, our conversations are always fun and fulfilling. Bianca and I mother similarly in many ways, but one thing that has always amazed me about Bianca is her ability to incorporate urban homesteading into her family’s life.
In my mind, I’ve dubbed Bianca as “The Chicken Mama.” She shares the prettiest photos of her backyard eggs, great recipes and all those chicken things you wonder about. So, it only seemed natural to conduct a full Q&A about her life as a chicken mama …
What made you decide to add chickens to your family?
I’ve dreamed about having backyard chickens since we became homeowners when I saw a very darling coop that was almost like a tree fort for chickens! I actually changed my walking route with my dogs so that I could walk past it every day. Finally, when we moved into our second home and the property already had an existing coop – even my husband knew that it would only be a matter of time.
The draw of backyard chickens to me has always been the “farm” fresh eggs. You really can’t beat the pride that comes from baking a batch of blueberry muffins that is made from your chickens’ eggs and blueberries that you picked yourself! The nutritional value in an egg that comes from a pastured chicken is unequivocal. Chickens know how to forage for foods that are best for them and investing in quality feed will yield delicious eggs. Many people are shocked at the bright orange yolk that comes from a backyard chicken in comparison to the yellowish yolk from commerical eggs. That’s because the backyard chicken has been fed not only a balanced diet in its feed, but also that it has free ranged and picked up bugs, random weeds and other sources of nutrition that make their eggs a nutritional powerhouse.
It’s been on my heart for several years that I want to make an effort in purchasing foods for my family that are ethically grown and raised. I’ve watched a few documentaries on American food and it doesn’t sit well with me on how much of our food just isn’t treated well. Backyard chickens were a “gateway drug” for me in dreaming about a homestead where we can grow some of our own food in the garden and raise chickens for eggs and meat.
How many do you have? What kinds are they? And what are their names?
Chickens are a “gateway drug,” as I mentioned before. I started with a flock of five girls that I bought from a neighbor. They were about a year old and already established layers. Eventually “chicken math” struck. Chicken math is an inside joke among backyard chicken keepers – you really can’t stop with just a few. Kind of like me and Cadbury Creme Eggs. So we had our original five for a year and this spring I added 4 more girls – now I have a total of 9! Our flock is a mix of Rhode Island Reds, Black Sexlinks, a Buff Orpington, two Easter Eggers and two Cinnamon Queens. That comes out to about 6-8 eggs per day!
My toddler, Penny, chose all of their names. They go something like this: Brown Fluffy, Brownie, Puffy, Baby, Bazinga (yup), Sugar Cube, Stick Stick, Miss Pretty and Broken Toes. Broken Toes was kind of mostly my idea, because she was another chicken that we got that was already laying and at some point in her adolescence she had fallen from a roost and broken her toes. The previous owner didn’t splint them, so the toes are kind of catywompus and all over the place. But she walks just fine and is as happy as can be.
What does your daily routine look like with chickens around?
It’s very easy going because I’m all about the least amount of fuss. After breakfast, I bring our table scraps and throw them into the run and bring over their feed from our garden shed. For the rest of the morning the girls and I listen for the tell-tale “egg song” that the chickens sing when they lay their eggs. They seem to divide their laying into two shifts so I like to collect in the morning and afternoon. If it’s a nice afternoon I’ll let them out of their run and they get to free range in my backyard. After dinner I run table scraps out again and close them up for the night.
How do your kids help?
Penny and Ruby both love to check for eggs. The chickens also love weeds so about once a week we walk around the property and pull up weeds for the chickens to munch on if I don’t plan on letting them free range that day. As Penny gets older I would like to give her the responsibility of running the food scraps out and giving them their daily feed ration.
How have chickens provided a new theme of learning for your kids? What is something they’ve really held on to?
Being mindful and thankful for the food that we get to eat is a big lesson that I want to teach my children. Egg laying is actually a very energy consuming process for a chicken – after all, they ovulate every 26 hours. Now you know why they have an egg song – I’d be singing to the high heavens and letting all the neighbors know if I essentially gave birth every day! There are many benefits of keeping backyard chickens with children, and being thankful and aware of where their food comes from is just the tip of the iceberg.
What are some of your favorite egg recipes?
Now that I have a renewable resource in eggs, I have begun to experiment with them in all sorts of ways. My favorite breakfast omelette is with avocado, cream cheese and shrimp. For lunch I like to add an egg over easy to my lemon pepper tuna BLT. And if I’m feeling particularly sinful I’ll make pasta carbonara for dinner. My next plan is to learn how to make creme brulee (just to make sure that I’m getting my money’s worth at the Y).
Keep in touch with Bianca’s chicken life on Facebook and Instagram. I’ve learned such fun things about life with chickens and completely admire her dedication to caring for her family and her farm. You will too!