The Eggstractor Homemade Autonomous Egg Collector

One of the problems with having chickens is what to do if you want to go on holiday.  Water and food are fairly easy to solve but collecting the eggs is more difficult.

Sarah designed the Eggstractor which is basically just a crate with a way of decelerating the eggs so that they don’t smash. We have been using this system for almost 3 years and it works perfectly. As far as I know it is not possible to buy one or even buy a similar product which would solve the same problem. 

Being able to see the chickens over the internet is a good idea. One time we were in a storm crossing the Bay of Biscay in a ferry and we were able to watch the chickens getting onto their perches. 

 

Using a pressure cooker to hard boil young hen eggs

HARD BOILING YOUNG HEN EGGS

Hard-boiled fresh eggs can be hard to peel but eggs laid by young hens are almost impossible. This year I had to replace my entire flock. It was especially frustrating to discover that even when the fresh, young hen eggs were left for 7 rather than the normal 3 days before hard-boiling, they were still impossible to peel.

An egg has an inner and outer shell membrane. Since the egg shell is permeable, as the egg ages, carbon dioxide and moisture are lost through the shell. This causes the two membranes to separate and the air sac to expand. As a result, the older the egg is, the easier it is to peel. 

My normal method of hard boiling eggs was to place them in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. The cooking time depends on egg size. I wanted a quick method that would ensure that relatively fresh eggs could be hard boiled and easily peeled. My Internet search lead me to the prairie homestead page. Although they were not talking about the problems of hard-boiling young hen eggs, they did mention the idea of using a pressure cooker. I am a huge fan of pressure cookers and believe that no kitchen should be without one. I have a number of different sized cookers and use them all the time to make soups, stews, casseroles and other dishes in a fraction of the time. They can even be used to can tomatoes and other vegetables.

 

For the experiment, I chose four eggs that had been laid on consecutive days. The egg on the right labelled 1 day old was laid on the same day, the 2-day old one the day before, etc.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Put 1 cup (250ml) of water in a pressure cooker and bring it to the boil.

Place the eggs on a steamer and lower it into the pan.

Close the pressure cooker lid and bring it up to full power. Turn down the heat and leave it for 5 minutes.

At the end of the cooking time, if your pressure cooker has a quick release mechanism, quickly release the pressure by placing the pan under the running cold tap. Transfer the eggs to a bowl of cold water, running and change the water until the eggs are completely cool.

RESULTS:

I then peeled the eggs and these are shown in the photo below. The results are conclusive and show how the eggs are easy to peel, and even the freshest egg could be peeled with care.

 

Chicken Run 2

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This year I have put three of the hens in a pen in the bottom field. The idea was that this would be their final resting area but I’ve since changed my mind. Two of the hens are from the eggs that I incubated by crossing our hens with the neighbour’s rooster and I’ve become attached to them so they’ve been granted a wildcard to old age.

The white posts mark the borders of the pen and you can see two of the black hens together. The lines of vegetables to the right of the tractor are potatoes.

In their summer residence, they are protected by an electric fence surrounding a walnut tree and have free range of the first hen house that John built for them. Although they were reluctant to venture in at first, they are now happy to lay their eggs in one of the partitions. They tend to sleep, however, on some of the branches of the tree above it. This is good news and makes me happy. The other day on our morning walk to Marchalejo, we saw a pack of three foxes and then a single fox so it is good that we have the three types of fox-protection: electrocution, canine and flight.

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Peeling hard-boiled eggs

Peeling hard-boiled eggs using ice

peeling hard-boiled eggs using ice

Peeling hard-boiled eggs in ice

 

An eggshell is permeable to air and water. A newly laid egg is covered by a natural coating called the bloom. This prevents loss of moisture from the egg and bacteria getting in. In my opinion, it is better to take advantage of this and not wash the eggs. The eggs are protected naturally and so do not need to be kept in the fridge. You can then wash the eggs just before you use them.

There are two membranes inside the shell: the outer shell membrane which adheres to the eggshell and the inner shell membrane surrounding the egg white and yolk. As time goes by, air enters the egg through the pores and fills the gap between the two membranes and the egg cell expands. It is this gap between the two membranes which affects how easy it is to peel a hard-boiled egg.

I’ve read that in order to peel very fresh eggs, it helps to immerse them in cold water and ice cubes so I thought I would give it a try to see if it helps. For the purpose of the “eggsperiment” I used 15 eggs of varying sizes and laid between 0 and 3 days ago (0 being a couple of hours previously).

The eggs were cooked in boiling water for 10 minutes. Cold water was then run over them and they were they plunged into the iced cold water. I left them for 45 minutes.

I found that eggs laid the same or the previous day were very difficult to peel. Eggs that were two days old were OK. Eggs which were three days old or more were good. I also found that putting the eggs in ice made no difference whatsoever and is not worth doing.

 

Breaking broody hens

Breaking broody hens

breaking broody hens

Breaking broody hens

For the first time ever, one of the hens has gone broody. She is one of the two remaining hens that I incubated from eggs so she is now just over two years old. She was spending all the time in one of the laying boxes and as the number of eggs laid by the other hens had gone right down, I thought it best to get her out. I checked on Internet and various solutions are offered for breaking broody hens and these include hosing her with cold water or putting a bag of frozen peas in the nest box. Before using the cage, I first tried taking her out of the laying box and putting her outside a couple of days running but she would always go back .

Basically, hens go broody when they think they have a clutch of eggs to incubate and hatch. A broody hen will flatten herself out to cover the eggs and fluff out her feathers. She might also peck at you if you go near her or screech or she can even break eggs that other hens have lain.

Some breeds of chickens are more prone to going broody than others and if you want to hatch your own eggs then this is a distinct advantage. However, as I have the hens for eggs, I want to discourage this if at all possible.

The best way to break a broody hen is to place her in a wire cage. Broodiness is associated with a higher body temperature so it is important that the cage is raised off the floor so that cooler air can circulate around her. A dog crate or rabbit hutch is a good idea. You should supply her with food and water. Three days in the cage should be enough to break the broody cycle.