I Love Chickens

  By Chef Lauren Mahlke

As a chef and a mother having fresh organic delicious food is so important for me and my family. That’s why having backyard chickens was the perfect addition for our home.

My husband and I  recently purchased a home in Concord, CA and I knew my one and a half-year-old daughter, Athena, would love the experience of raising chickens.

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Personally I try to eat organic free range chickens and eggs to honor the animal living a happier life, to eat a healthier and more sustainable protein as well as choosing food that is fresh and has more flavor.

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The chickens at their previous home were mainly in the coop for the majority of the day and grain fed for most of their diet.

Their transition to our home has gone smoothly. They roam around half of our large yard eating the grass, bugs and whatever weeds that they can find. We are raising them free-range which adds more health benefits and flavor to their eggs.

Each day the chickens wake up at seven in the morning when the sun rises. I let them out of their coop that they are locked in for the night to protect them from predators.

It takes me about five minutes to clean out whatever manure they have in their coop, make sure their water is fresh, and see if they have feed in their feeder. Throughout the day I feed them our leftovers of apple and pear cores, any leftover veggies and any crackers or bread left over from the day. I save their manure for my compost pile which adds nutrients to our soil for my raised vegetable beds. 

During the day I can hear them in their little coop laying their eggs each one makes a different noise when they lay their eggs and each hen lays a different color egg. At night at sundown the hens happily walk into their coop and get ready for bed.

The hens have gotten to be more comfortable in their new home and they now run up to us and want us to pet their feathers on their back.

We can easily pick them up by holding onto their chest and if you put them upside down so their bellies face the sky they immediately relax and in some cases it’s called chicken hypnotizing.

I usually get about three eggs a day since it’s winter but now that the weather is starting to warm up a little bit I’m getting four eggs a day, one egg from each hen.

You’ll notice that the left egg is from Monday from the same hen and the right egg was laid Friday during the first week at our home. The color of the yoke is so different from the few days being free range. We have enjoyed having the hens so much in our backyard. They require minimal work and have been a lot of fun to play with.

My husband and I love to make fresh pasta with the eggs and our favorite recipe is Pasta Carbonara. This recipe is so simple that it is important to use high quality eggs that are free range and organic and high quality bacon. We used black forest bacon as well as homemade pasta but store bought pasta can be used for a similar delicious result.

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Pasta Carbonara

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add salt and spaghetti, and cook until al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup cooking water; drain. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cooked bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add garlic, and cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Turn off heat. Beat the egg yolks, milk, and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese in a medium bowl until combined. Add drained hot pasta and bacon to skillet, and pour the egg mixture over. If pasta seems dry, add enough of the reserved cooking water to moisten. Season liberally with black pepper. Serve garnished chopped chives.

Ingredients

  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 ounces slab bacon or pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish if desired
  • Chopped Chive for garnish

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