As a Chicken Tender, I raise some of the happiest chickens on the planet. And as an analytical data tender, I like to track how many eggs have been laid and by whom.
People ask me how many eggs I collect in a week, and I’m a nut about calculating costs too. So I will share monthly updates on how many eggs were gathered and the average cost per dozen. Figuring out these numbers is satisfying. It’ll be interesting to see how the egg count and cost per dozen changes as we approach June where the longer daylight results in more egg laying, and then tapers down as we approach winter solstice.
I currently raise 6 layer hens. They eat organic chicken feed and garden greens, range freely, and slurp up tasty worms like noodles.
Here’s our monthly Egg Count for January and February 2023:
Eggs per Day (avg)
Eggs per Week
Dozens per Week
Eggs per Month
Dozens per Month
Cost per Dozen
– Two of the reinas (2+ year old hens) resumed laying when they finished their winter molt (feather shedding and regrowth) in late Jan and early Feb. This increased the Feb egg count. – The three bebitas (1 year old hens) laid daily last summer, but this tapered down to a rate of 0.8 per hen (or 4 eggs every 5 days) in January. This is to be expected due to short daylight.
Here’s a recipe for a less-sweet gingerbread with bare-bones spices and minimal dishes to wash. Add whatever nuts, chocolate chips, or fruit toppings you fancy. I’ve tried: Cranberries studded on top, chopped walnuts, peanuts (strong flavor; walnuts are better), and chocolate chips. I didn’t include allspice or nutmeg, typically in gingerbread recipes, as I don’t find those necessary.
Yield: About 8 slices, from a 9-inch round pan
200g flour (all-purpose or whole wheat OK)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2.5 teaspoon ground ginger (add more if you like spicy)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
half stick (or 55g) unsalted butter, melted
120mL molasses, dark unsulfured
160mL boiling water
Toppings: chocolate chips, chopped walnuts, fruit
Mix Sweet + Wet ingredients First, then add in Dry.
Pour 55g sugar and 120mL molasses into mixing boil.
Melt butter in a microwave-safe cup for about 20 seconds
Pour butter into mixing boil, then pour boiling water into the cup to clean it out.
Whisk items in bowl. When warm (cooled down), add eggs and whisk.
Whisk 200g flour, 1 teasp baking soda, 1/2 teasp salt, 2.5 teasp ginger, 1 teasp cinnamon into the wet ingredients.
Add semi-sweet chocolate chips and any toppings. Whisk till combined, no lumps.
Last year, I received a bread machine from a neighbor who had previously received it from another neighbor. It sat unused for years at her home so she passed it on. Alas, the tradition continued as it sat on my shelf for many months, yearning for yeast and flour.
I resolved that 2023 was going to be different. I would awaken this bread machine from its deep slumber.
Also, I jogged with a friend along the lake, and we chatted about schmalzkuchen (German beignets), sourdough, and this bread machine. Thank you to this friend for sharing the joy of running and making bread!
Here is a 1 pound loaf, which is the smallest size possible with this machine. The machine kneaded away my fears with its automatic mixing, gentle heat application as the dough rose (proofing), and finally the actual baking. It took 2.5 hours from start to finish with very little hands on and cleaning effort. This cube loaf is chewy and tastes like normal bread! The crust is a little tougher through than store-bought loaves, but I will eventually figure out how to amend this. The yield is a perfect amount for me to enjoy in one week, 1 to 2 half slices per day as part of breakfast or a snack with vegan butter and homemade invasive blackberry jam.
Also: The proofed dough is an exquisite texture that I highly recommend patting. Far better than a baby’s bum!
I was curious… How much did this 1 pound loaf of homemade bread cost?
Grams in package
Cost of package
Grams in loaf
Cost for loaf
240g (1 cup)
Olive Oil (organic)
Honey (organic, raw)
All-Purpose Flour (organic, 5 lb bag)
Active Yeast (2 lb)
4.2g 1.5 teaspoons
Sunflower Seeds, Toasted, Unsalted, Shelled
1 Loaf Total
670.2g (about 1 lb)
Note: All ingredients were from Costco except for the flour (Grocery Outlet) and Sunflower Seeds (Trader Joe’s).
So I made 1 week’s worth of organic bread for just 147 cents! Definitely a tasty and inexpensively repeatable activity. Next time I will mix sunflower seeds into the dough (I love seed-rich, “bird food” bread) and maybe use a third or half whole wheat flour for more nuttiness.
*Update February 19, 2023* I’ve now made this recipe 4 times. By happy accident, I discovered that doubling the honey from 15g to 30g somehow produced a softer, chewier bread (did not dry out as quickly) without noticeable sweetness. I also add 60g of sunflower seeds which gets mixed into the dough and gives nice texture. Trader Joe’s has the best value on these. The final bread weight is lighter than adding all the raw ingredients due to water evaporating as it bakes.
If you have a bread machine, you can follow the Ingredient + Grams in Loaf columns to get the recipe. I poured the ingredients in this order (top to bottom) in the Breadman Plus machine.
If you asked me who am I, as in my role, title or vocation, I would tell you:
My name is Michu, Chicken Tender and a Hemmer.
I recently went to a sewing class at Cultivate South Park (an art studio above Resistencia Coffee) and the teacher, Emily, helped me remember how to use a sewing machine. I had once learned over 4 years ago. I emerged from the first class with a pair of hemmed hiking pants. After the second class I could confidently wind a bobbin and had repaired a shopping bag with button thread, now ready for another thousand grocery hauls.
There are miscellaneous projects at my home that require the precision, speed, and secure stitching of a sewing machine and not hand-sewing. One of these is a pair of curtains. They drape lightly against the floor and have visibly rough edges that were pasted with some kind of glue. My first home sewing challenge! This waited a few weeks as I didn’t have any pins. I followed the Uber Frugal Month’s recommendation to wait 72 hours before buying non-necessities…lo and behold, a few weeks later I found a mysterious tomato pin cushion deep in my sewing box. I don’t know how I have this; the pin cushion I remember from 4 years ago are at my parent’s place, and this one is different. Once I discovered this tomato I threaded up the machine, pinned the curtain hem, and pushed the foot pedal.
I’m pleased because the finished curtain hem is barely noticeable. It wouldn’t catch your eye because it looks factory-made. Which for someone with little sewing experience, is a pleasing achievement!
After that second sewing class, I felt ready to have my own machine. I scoured the used marketplace and found one from an alterations store that was closing (congrats to the owner who is retiring to a farming community on Camano Island!). I like that this Brother is mechanical and not digital (less maintenance complications) but still has a sleek and sturdy design.
It feels good to have acquired a machine for the same price I sold mine for 4 years ago. It feels satisfying to fix things and do little improvements for my cozy home. It feels right to buy useful, thoughtfully-planned things that are within my means (this was part of my monthly $200 ‘homestead garden’ budget).
Come on over if you have anything that needs a-hemmin’!
The difference between serving tea made from herbs you grow yourself and herb tea from a bag “is like the difference between serving your guests a good vintage wine instead of some cheap plonk,” says Conrad Richter, president of Richters Herbs in Goodwood, Ont. “Herbal teas packed in bags are usually powdered,” he explains, so they’re “almost never as flavourful as whole herbs.”
I’ve been drying herbs for tea lately. It’s hard work. Plucking early, before the sun wilts the leaves, washing several times to remove bugs or hoping they won’t be noticeable if served to guests. Then drying them in a dehydrator, trial-and-error for what temperature and time to set. Then stripping the leaves or flower buds off from the stems, and scattering the fragrant stems in the chicken nest-box. Making a little jar of mint or lavender takes hours of processing. At one point I thought, “I hate this. I’m spending hours working with my hands for something that costs $1.99 at the store and I’m not sure if it’ll even taste good.” I used to not disagree with those who criticized processed food. But now I realized, processed food = professionally processed food. And if it doesn’t come processed (straight from the garden), then it will ultimately still be processed…by me, instead of professionals.
I suppose there’s some upside. When I process myself, I *know* that the herbs are organic and pure, that I shook off most of the bugs, and didn’t add anything unsavory. I enjoy the labor but will admit it is extraordinarily time-consuming and perhaps not cost effective. My hope that this was worthwhile is if it has better flavor that what’s offered at the store.
One morning I added a few pinches of lavender buds to my breakfast tea. It was full of flavor, a complex spiced kick! At least there’s promise that the food processing was worth it.
Nuggo is my largest hen, an Ameraucana or Easter Egger queen on henopause. She is rotund. Her thick neck, hips and feet waddle from side to side when she walks. She prefers processed chicken feed over digging for live bugs and unabashedly gorges on young layer-hen mash (aka baby chick food).
Nuggo’s derriere, as of late, has been dirty. Crusty, in fact. A crusty bum with caked-on remnants of yesterday’s mash. This may be an indicator of digestive or dietary problems and is unsanitary. Something has to be done.
My helper and I hatched a plan. Catch Nuggo, hold her gently, and moisten her bum with a wet wipe. We repeated this but alas the crust did not wipe off. It was caked onto soft fruffles and wiping them vigorously could cause feathers to be plucked out.
We hatched another plan: Place her gently in a warm bath, use soap-free Summer’s Eve to rinse the affected area (soap-free is key, to avoid removing the necessary natural oils from the feathers). I used scissors to trim off a few crusty feathers for which there was no hope. We were inspired by how dog groomers begin by shaving the fur around the canine’s bum.
This multi-pronged rinse and shave procedure worked! It’s been four days and Nuggo’s bum is streak-free and squeaky clean. Her rear is like a clean clamshell of feathers. Today, she approached me and softly pecked my shoes as I watched the garden. I sense an intimacy that wasn’t there before. The bum bath brought us closer and her tush feels fresher.
I’ve been working on a new project to collect rainwater. Call me crazy, but getting huge plastic tanks for this is a long-time dream come true. Here’s what I did:
Identify an appropriate spot for a 300-gallon IBC tote (a cube container with 3.5-feet long sides). It should be under a rain gutter downspout that gets good flow, and somewhat out of view to reduce the eyesore (ie do not block windows).
Obtain two IBC totes from Craigslist. Request delivery (these won’t fit in an SUV). Make sure they are food-grade/food-safe and did not formerly contain toxic chemicals. Water collected in these totes will be used to irrigate vegetable gardens and provide drinking water for chickens. Seller confirmed they are from a dishwashing business and are safe to use.
Clean the inside of an IBC tote (or ask seller to do so) with a pressure washer. Empty out the water. Make sure the spout works.
Obtain & use a T30 star driver bit to unscrew and remove the top two metal bars of the cage. DeWalt bits are good quality. T30 star bolts are standard on IBC totes. You can look for the letter “T” on the bolt to check.
Remove plastic tote from the metal cage.
Set newspaper or cardboard under the plastic tote. Wear a mask to reduce inhalation of paint fumes. Paint the plastic tote so that it is opaque, which will inhibit algae growth. Look for lighter areas & thoroughly coat with paint until light doesn’t shine through. Using “Rustoleum Comfort Grip” or a similar product is optional but makes extended spray paint sessions significantly more comfortable for the hands.
I used 3 spray paint cans of “Rustoleum 2x Satin Finish” in color Colonial Red to fully coat one tote, and the red color will make the tote blend in slightly with the red brick of the house. I also got the same spray paint in “Claret Wine” (a slightly darker, purpler tone) for the second tote. This one requires 5 cans to fully coat. Who knew some colors take more quantity to cover a surface than others.
Let the opaque painted tote cure and dry under a covered, sheltered area for 3-4 days. The longer the better.
Set up cinder blocks around the base of the IBC tote’s designated location. 6 blocks set edgewise (so holes are facing up, not the sides) sufficiently form the perimeter. The IBC tote spout is very low so raising it up on blocks will give height clearance to fill a jug and let water flow down hose by gravity better.
Insert plastic tote inside of tote cage. Set up tote on top of cinder blocks. Even with 2 people, the tote is heavy!
Cut wire mesh screen (the kind used for window screens) and place over the top opening of the tote. Cut a little bigger than needed. Secure with the ring-lid or bands. This screen is fine enough for most debris, and mosquitos cannot enter through the holes and lay eggs in the collected water. (The biggest enemy will be algae. An occasional pressure wash inside will help).
Set up rain gutter downspout to flow into the tank through the screen. Pour a jug of water down the spout to test that the downspout is positioned well, secure, and water flows into the screen.
Set up an overflow system in case the tote fills up. For example, drill a ~1″ hole on the side, near the top, with a hose through this hole that goes out several feet away from the home and foundation.
The IBC spigot is very large and does not fit standard hoses. Set up a coupler and standard hose-size brass spigot.
Enjoy collecting and using rainwater! It’s better than city-treated water for watering plants because it has dissolved oxygen and is not treated with chemicals like chlorine and fluoride. This is better for the garden. Total cost including tools was about ~$336 and there are city rebates available. After the initial set up, it also means a free supply of water!
“One of my favorite unexpected perks in keeping chickens is the daily lessons they offer in mindfulness.
Chickens live in the moment, thrilling in the conquest of a wriggling grub, squawking in triumph at the delivery of an egg, resting contentedly in a dust bath. They don’t worry about whether they spent too much time in that dust bath, or if they squawked too loudly about that egg, or if they ought to have squirreled away that grub for another day.
They rise with the sun and get to the business of living with a vivaciousness, curiosity, and deliberation we could all learn from. While you may be setting out on your own chicken-raising adventure seeking nourishment for your body, I predict you just might find some for your soul, too.”
from “Keeping Chickens” by Ashley English
This expresses well why I feel content digging trenches and unearthing worms these days!
Last night I watched Life Below Zero, where subsistence fishers and hunters carve out life in Alaska. Just one episode makes my upcoming project of building an enclosed, walk-in chicken run and secured coop seem much less daunting than it did two days ago. This coop run in this video is my model. I call this project “Fort Knox Chicken Box”.
A pigeon-sized hawk attacked my littlest hen last week and severed her neck. I grieved, then resolved to secure the roofless chicken run. I’m chipping away at the daunting fear with the passage of time, research, watching run build videos, procuring tools, and exploring our premises to see what tools and scrap wood the previous resident left behind. I’m one shovel and YouTube video in. Measurement and wood to come. 50-foot hardware cloth roll and pneumatic staple gun on the way.
I noticed that people with an unenclosed, open-air (roofless) chicken run: i) often have a dog trained to guard the chickens during the day from hawks, weasels, etc. ii) accept a non-zero mortality rate of their flock. One book says 5% each year.
In the mean time, I am that guard dog, supervising the hens’ free ranging until it’s their bed time.
This is an ambitious project, but I want the hens to roam safely, and to learn construction along the way rather than getting on Carolina Coop’s 4-month-long wait list for someone else to do this.
Steps I will take:
Measure desired perimeter of enclosed run. Divide border into about 6-8 sections. Mark corners with stones or upright sticks. Mark where door will be positioned.
Measure each section length. These will determine the lengths needed for 2×4 horizontal beams to go about 3-feet up the side and around the top (to hold the roof).
Set up string line around border, anchored beyond stone markers so they don’t interfere when digging holes at the markers. Use extra cotton twine on hand. (Optional: Use leveler to ensure string line is flat.)
Obtain wooden posts. 4″x4″, about 7 feet tall. They will be buried 1 feet and make a 6 foot walk-in height. Obtain “quick mix” concrete and a large tray for mixing.
Obtain or find 2×4″ wood pieces around the premises, and cut to correct length in step 2.
Mark depth on wooden posts that they will be buried.
Apply waterproof stain or primer + stain/paint to all wooden posts and side pieces.
Dig holes where there are markers.
Set posts into holes. Check that horizontal section length still matches step 2.
Mix concrete in tub. Can use rake.
Shovel/scoop concrete into holes. Line up posts against the string line.
Check vertical alignment with a leveler.
Use string line and visually check that they are aligned.
Let the concrete dry and set according to instructions.
Install horizontal wood mounts on the posts along top and middle. Mount on corner sides for the corner posts, and on opposite sides for the side posts.
Next steps will involve hardware cloth on the walls and along the floor, choosing roof type and installation, and the entry door. Stay tuned.