Keeping a flock of chickens in your backyard is a great step towards self-sufficiency. A supply of fresh, organically-produced, free-range eggs is a big plus…but what if you get too many at once? Sure, you can boil, poach, fry, and scramble- but what else can you do to make the most of your eggs? Here’s our ultimate guide to the best ways to use up eggs.
Those of you with heritage-breed chickens know it can literally be feast or famine when it comes to egg supply. An entire flock can go months without laying a single egg: but when they start laying again, the quantity can quickly become overwhelming.
If you’re new to chickens or not sure how that works, here’s the deal. Heritage chicken breeds (as opposed to modern hybrids like isa browns who lay year-round) are descendants of jungle fowl, so they have a survival-focused reproductive cycle. This means that they’re wired to produce eggs during the warmers months, when the chance of chick survival is highest.
Hens ovulation, and therefore egg laying, is directly stimulated by the length of the day. During summer, when daylight hours are at their longest, egg production will be at its peak. But as temperatures cool and the days shorten, egg laying slows down then usually grinds to a halt. This will happen once there is less than 12 hours of daylight per day. This is essentially a natural rest period for the hens’ reproductive systems. At this time they’ll also moult for several weeks, and can look pretty awful. They’ll drop a lot of feathers, appear scrawny & develop pale combs. Then once the winter solstice has passed, as if by magic, they will grow new feathers and start laying again. And laying. And laying.
So, what to do with all those eggs? Essentially, you can either use them or preserve them somehow, and there are numerous ways of doing both.
Be mindful of local laws if you’re thinking of sharing, swapping or giving away eggs; it may not be allowed. In Queensland, for example, you need to be licenced to do any of the aforementioned.
Eggs are a good source of protein for chickens- just don’t let them eat raw eggs (in case they break one by accident and turn into an egg eater). It’s quite acceptable to scramble surplus eggs and feed them to your chickens. To give them an even bigger protein hit, you can boil eggs then mash them with the shells on, and add some tinned tuna. Other animals like horses, dogs and pigs will also enjoy eating eggs.
There are lots of basic recipes that allow you to use up eggs. Quiches & savoury pies (shown above), zucchini slice and omelettes can all be made in bulk and frozen for later. There’s a lot to be said for the classic egg and lettuce sandwich, too. Grate 10 hard boiled eggs and mix with mayonnaise, salt & pepper to make an egg spread that’s perfect for work & school lunches. To vary it up, mix in some chopped fresh herbs for extra zest.
Eggs can make for a fantastic casserole topping. Beat 12 eggs and pour gently over a cooked casserole, then sprinkle with cheese and bake for 30 minutes.
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, try making fresh egg pasta, custard, scotch eggs, egg nog, egg curry, ice cream, mayonnaise, semifreddo, pound cake, bread & butter pudding, pavlova, meringue, baked custard, shakshuka or candied egg yolks.
Preserving eggs does require a little effort, but allows you to add interesting flavours plus ensures egg supply during the lean months.
Freezing. Yep, you totally can- and it’s easy. Eggs freeze perfectly well, and keep for up to a year. All you need do is crack them into a sandwich bag, squeeze the air out and seal the bag.
Freeze drying is another fantastic method of preserving eggs for later use, if you’re lucky enough to own a freeze dryer.
Pickling eggs is easy to do at home, and you can incorporate a variety of other flavours. Check out our pickled eggs with malabar berries for an unusual twist on this British classic.
Water glassing is a traditional method of preserving home-laid eggs which has lately come back into fashion. It involves submerging clean, unwashed, eggs in a pickling lime and water solution to seal off the shell. The result is perfectly fresh, unspoiled eggs that will keep for 12-18 months.