Too Many Eggs? Make Homestead Deviled Eggs

At our peak, we had 34 chickens here at our Idaho homestead — Cuckoo Marans, Rhode Island Reds, Black Sex Links, Red Sex Links, Easter Eggers, bantams of all sorts, a big awesome rooster named Alice, and one super cute silver spangled Hamburg hen. Needless to say, it meant we often ended up with extra eggs since it’s just the two of us here.

Most frequently, I use the extra eggs to make “egg thing” — I guess it’s a crustless quiche? Frittata? Egg casserole? So, yeah, this is why we just call it “egg thing” and throw in whatever veggies we have in the house. We also frequently make hard-boiled eggs for snacks.

Hardboiled eggs

But our favorite thing to do with all those eggs? Deviled eggs. They are one of Winslow’s favorite foods ever and they’re not very hard to make (as long as you don’t want to get fancy and use a pastry piper, which as people with busy lives and lots of chores, we don’t — we just make little hatch marks with the fork).

Deviled eggs are also easy to change up and personalize to your tastes or just to have a different taste from batch to batch. So if you find you’ve got too many eggs floating around, give deviled eggs a try.

Easy Homestead Deviled Eggs

Ingredients:

  • 12 eggs
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon yellow or Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Paprika, for garnish

Note: For the mayonnaise you can use store-bought mayonnaise or make your own paleo mayonnaise. When I buy mayo, I buy the Just Mayo brand. While it does contain canola, it does not contain soy, which we personally find more offensive.

Deviled Egg IngredientsDirections:

  1. Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan and add enough water so the water is an inch or so above the eggs.
  2. Heat on high until water begins to boil.
  3. Cover and turn heat to low. Cook for 1 minute.
  4. Remove from heat and leave covered for 15-20 minutes, then rinse under cold water.
  5. Let cool completely.
  6. Crack shells and peel.
  7. Gently dry the eggs.
  8. Slice eggs in half lengthwise.
  9. Remove yolks and place in bowl. Set whites on a plate or in a serving dish.
  10. Mash yolks with fork.
  11. Add mayo, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
  12. Spoon the yolk mixture back into the egg whites. If you want to get fancy, you can use a piping tool or poke cool fork patterns into the yolks once you’ve spooned in the filling. Our homestead is not that fancy. We’re hungry.
  13. Sprinkle with paprika and serve.

Hardboiled eggsIdeas for spicing it up:

  • Use chipotle or sriracha mayo instead of regular mayo. Just use more mayo and no mustard, if you try this.
  • Use horseradish instead of mustard.
  • Swap out half the mayo for some super ripe avocado.
  • Mince 1 stalk of celery and add it to the filling for some texture.

And no, Pixel, you cannot have any of the deviled eggs…

Hangry Pixel

Rabbit or Chicken Navy Bean Soup

Rabbit or Chicken Navy Bean Soup

Rabbit meat might not be your thing—although if you like chicken, you should know that good rabbit is like the best chicken white meat you’ve ever had—but this soup works well for both rabbit and chicken meat.

If you’ve roasted a chicken lately and want to do something different with it or have leftover meat in the fridge, this soup is easy, quick, and guaranteed to be filling thanks to the lovely navy beans.

I like to soak our beans as I think it cuts down on some of the bean…effect. But it’s up to you whether or not you want to do that step. Some people like their beans firmer than we do—we tend to like all our veggies and beans pretty mushy.

Whatever you do, don’t wimp out on the red pepper flakes. They add a subtle kick and a lot of depth to this rabbit or chicken navy bean soup.

Rabbit or Chicken Navy Bean Soup

Serves: 6-8

Prep Time: 30 minutes (not including bean soak time)

Cook Time: 3-4 hours

Ingredients:

  • 16oz dried navy beans
  • Enough water to submerge beans
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 5oz can diced tomatoes (with juices)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2-3 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 3 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1-1.5 pounds cooked and shredded chicken or rabbit

Directions:

  1. Soak beans for 4 hours and then rinse thoroughly. Soak for another 4 hours and rinse again.
  2. Combine beans, 4 cups broth, tomatoes, onion, celery, carrots, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, garlic, bay leaves, salt, and pepper in a stock pot.
  3. Cover and bring to a boil.
  4. Lower heat and simmer for two hours.
  5. Add additional 3 cups water, corn, red pepper flakes, and meat. Simmer for an additional one to two hours.

Integrating Chickens and Rabbits on the Homestead

In our previous “homestead,” which was really a house with a tiny yard in a suburb, we tried very hard to raise our own food—much to the entertainment of one of our neighbors and the ire of the other. In our little yard, we had both chickens and rabbits, and while we wanted to free-range both of them, it didn’t work out.

The chickens demolished all the grass (and my tulips) in about thirty seconds flat and the rabbits broke out of the backyard and escaped the property repeatedly. Eventually, we expanded our chicken run (although it was still smaller than we would have preferred) and kept the birds inside it. And…well…we ate all the rabbits.

The Port Townsend Hens.

The Port Townsend Hens.

In our new homestead, which we are calling “Blackcap” due to the plethora of chickadees everywhere here, we want it to be a more ideal life not just for ourselves, but also for our animals. So, while the chickens are in an fenced-in run at present, it is very large, and when spring comes they will probably free-range (we don’t want to risk them free-ranging in winter when predators are hungrier and braver) or at the very least we will rotate them through different paddocks allowing the grasses to regrow, the dirt to be exposed to different manure, etc.

Rabbits kept in small cages don’t seem very happy to us either. When we keep our rabbits in cages, they are very anxious and afraid of us when we come near. In a free-range scenario, they hop right up to our feet and let us touch them and literally spend their day alternating between frolicking and napping (sounds hard, right?).

Ridiculously cute rabbit is ridiculously cute.

Ridiculously cute rabbit is ridiculously cute.

Plus, keeping animals in a smaller pen inherently calls for more work. They can’t feed themselves, they make a mess that no one can escape, they don’t get exercise, and you end up having to feed and water them twice a day (automatic waterers sound great, but don’t work so well in sub-zero weather). This prohibits us from going on hunting, fishing, and trapping excursions. In other words, it all takes the fun out of things for both the rabbits and us.

As a solution to this, at present we are experimenting with integrating the rabbits and chickens in one big run. Come spring, we plan to do similarly with more rabbits, turkeys, ducks, etc. Our dream is to allow the birds to go broody on their own and sit on their chicks so we don’t have to incubate. And for the rabbits to naturally propagate and raise their kits, as well. While we do light the chickens during the winter, we don’t plan to light the rabbits as it’s just too complicated (and energetically expensive—we are off-grid, after all) in the run compared to the cages.

I did some research online about integrating rabbits and chickens before we released the rabbits, and everyone I found had great results. One rooster even adopted the rabbits into his flock and tried to herd them into the chicken coop each night. Some rabbits even slept right in the coop!

Winslow came up with the great idea of using the space under our chicken coop as the rabbit warren. He mostly blocked it off except for a small “door.” The rabbits took to it immediately. The chickens were dubious about the whole affair at first, while the rabbits remained oblivious. After a day or two, everyone settled in just fine—except for when it came to the chicken food.

Chickens and Rabbits

Dopey-Bunny is one of the “pardoned” rabbits, although we’ll see if that lasts.

Chickens and Rabbits

Okay, seriously, Dopey. That’s not cool.

Rabbits, more than any other animal we’ve raised (and we’ve raised a few at this point), love to be in the food dish. And, as it turns out, rabbits also love chicken food. And, on top of that, our chickens aren’t very assertive and so they weren’t getting any food to eat because the rabbits were hogging it all even when we threw piles of alfalfa into the run.

So my DIY homestead project this weekend was to bunny-proof the chicken food.

Chickens and Rabbits

My husband showed me how to drill holes in the metal pan and we shaped some extra fencing over the top. If there’s anything we’ve learned in our short time homesteading in the middle-of-nowhere it’s that YOU THROW NOTHING OUT. EVER.

Chickens and Rabbits

It keeps rabbits out, but lets chickens in. P.S. Chickens LOVE back oil sunflower seeds.

Chickens and Rabbits

Alice the Rooster keeps watch while Ms. Cranky and Raven eat uninterrupted. We set the dish on 4×4 wood blocks to make the food unreachable even if the rabbits could squish their faces in.

Note: The initial design was not a total deterrent. We had to also screw the dish to the 4×4 blocks as after a few hours two of the rabbits conspired together and figured out how to drag the dish six feet and flip it over. Whatever!

 

The Easy Way to Cure a Broody Hen

There’s nothing quite like having your own crew of chicken-mothers in your backyard. Whether you’re a backyard farmer or a full-on farmer, chickens are downright entertaining and productive. Our flock of eight pumped out roughly 4.5 eggs per hen per week…until spring hit, the weather warmed up, and they started taking turns going broody.

Note: “Going broody” means your hen decides it’s time to stop laying eggs and time to start sitting on them. This not only means you garner fewer eggs from your flock, but it also means your hen can be at risk of not feeding and caring for herself properly. Unless you have fertilized eggs or a rooster and plan to raise chicks, a girl gone broody is not a great situation.

backyard chickens

Suspicious chickens are suspicious.

What Doesn’t Work With a Broody Hen

I had heard that certain breeds were more likely to go broody. And I had heard that Orpingtons were among those. So it was no surprise that the first two of my girls to go were my two Buff Orps. Then, lo and behold, my Australorp went broody, too. Thankfully I never had more than one stop laying at a time. They were kind enough to take turns!

When I first realized what was happening, I did a lot of Internet reading to find the best and easiest way to return my girls to normal. I tried a lot of things – much to the chagrin of my hens. They did not appreciate getting poked and prodded out of the hen house every hour. And they definitely did not appreciate the cold dunk tank tactic or the cold hosing, and none of those approaches had any impact anyway. In fact, nothing except what I’m about to explain did any good at all – and it was the easiest strategy to implement.

If you’ve got a broody hen, save yourself and your girls the trauma of methods that don’t work, and give this a shot.

broody hen chicken

Crow the Australorp in “solitary” confinement.

The Easy Way to Cure a Broody Hen

Equipment needed:

  1. Small cage (a dog crate or rabbit cage works well)
  2. Bin to set the cage on top of
  3. A small dowel, stick, or piece of wood
  4. Water dispenser
  5. Food dispenser
  6. Towel and/or wood planks

The thing to remember when curing your hen is that you need to change her body temperature. When the weather heats up, your hens heat up, and they think it’s time for spring chicks (you know that awesome time of year when all the farm stores fill up with those ridiculous fluff balls – your hens love that time of year (and the time leading up to it) even more than you).

Note: If you put a heat-lamp in your hen house for the winter, you may want to swap it out for a regular bulb come spring. You don’t need the timed lights by that point and the extra heat will only thwart your egg-laying by getting your girls all hot and bothered.

While some websites suggest varying types of hourly poking and cold-water torture to cool down a hen, the best and simplest way is a cool breeze. This means you need to get your hen up off the ground and get a good draft flowing around her. Thankfully, from our rabbit raising days, we still have some cages leftover that are perfect for a solitary chicken. In fact, that’s what we call it – putting one of the girls in “solitary.” (And they’re about as pleased about this as a convict would be, as well.)

I put the cage over a rubber bin to make clean-up easy and to make it safe for the hen to be up off the ground. You can try things like wooden horses and what-not, but a rubber bin is super stable and catches any…uh…chicken byproducts.

I found my girls to be less fussy when I also provided them with a little roost. This had the added benefit of not allowing the hen to fluff herself out and try to remain broody despite the breeze and elevation (my Australorp was seriously determined to stay hot and would squat and fluff no matter what surface I put her on).

You also want to have food and water on hand for your lady, though don’t put too much out at a time, as broody hens are also generally cranky hens who like to knock over their feeders and display rude manners. So give her a little food and water at a time, but make sure she has something available regularly. I try to give my broody hens special treats to encourage them to eat, as they are not good at feeding themselves when they’re all wound up.

broody chicken

Abby the Buff Orp in her cage.

Other Tips for Dealing With Ms. Broody Hen

Whether to keep my broody hen near the other hens was a bit of a trial and error. I didn’t want her to feel left out or lonely, as chickens are not generally happy as solitary birds, but I also didn’t want her to stress out about not being with the rest of the flock and having their free-wheeling ways flaunted in front fo her. Some people recommend you put the solitary cage in the regular chicken run, but I kept it outside but within view.

What I learned was that no matter what order you feed them in and what you feed them, the hen in solitary will always freak out that the other girls are getting better food. You may want to block her view of the general population during feeding times for your own sanity.

Similarly, if Ms. Broody Hen is being consistently dramatic for no apparent reason (at least to humans), having a blanket you can cover the cage with will work wonders at calming her down. It will not only help your nerves, but be healthier and less stressful for her, as well.

How Long in Solitary?

Some site recommend that the time in solitary needs to equal the time the hen has been broody. Personally, I can’t make sense of that. By the time I realize a hen is broody, she’s been that way for a bit, so there’s no actual way to determine how long she’s been in her funk. I put my girls in solitary for three days – a solid 72 hours – and it has worked every single time. So that’s what I suggest. No sooner, but later won’t do any harm.

So that’s it – have the right equipment, give her 72 hours, keep her fed and watered, and she’ll be back laying within a few days of rejoining the general population. It’s that’s easy! And, as a bonus, a broody hen is the easiest hen to catch and cage, as all you have to do is grab her out of the hen house!

Whether you have backyard chickens, an urban homestead, or a full-on farm, I suggest you give this cure for the broody hen a shot. You, and Ms. Broody will be happier for it! Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!