Sometimes an idea for an article falls right in front of you. I ask myself, “How anyone can resist, this close to Easter-egg time, an article about green eggs?” Not me. I was attending the Niceville Farmers Market, which is open every first Saturday of the month at 120 Partin Drive, and what to my wondering eyes should appear? Natural green eggs by the dozens.
I was fascinated to find they really are popped out from your ordinary Ameraucana chicken — already a soft light green, light blue or even pink sometimes. I naturally sought out the source, which as it turned out wasn’t all that far from Destin.
After seeing these colorful eggs, I call Jennifer Bearden, our extension agent with Okaloosa County, and asked permission to visit her farm in the Dorcas community outside of Crestview. I thought we all might want to see one of these Ameraucanas to verify they really do exist; I don’t want to lead my readers on a galloping unicorn chase.
After Lori Burkhart, of Destin, and I travel many wooded miles, we see the white barn markers Jennifer gave us and yes, the horses in the pasture. Pulling up to the closed gate, we were greeted by free roaming horses. Lori jumps out to open the entrance gate to get us in. Tebo, a light buckskin pony, takes an immediate liking to Lori and follows us all over the farm.
Jennifer has free roaming Ameraucanas with a fenced coop to provide safety. I was instantly mesmerized by the beautiful markings of the birds’ feathers, which can be black to wheaten blue, silver and even white. I whip out my camera to get a few easy, interesting shots. Boy oh boy, what a frantic, free ranging, back and forth photo effort this turns out to be.
I once heard someone refer to chickens as flutternutters! Now I know why.
The chickens move so fast and turn so quick, Lori and I are both laughing like banshees. I have pictures of Lori’s feet, the rear end of the chicken, chicken with no head and blurred shots of chickens racing by. Finally I get so frustrated, I tell Jennifer to catch one of those little boogers and hold her in a “hammerlock” so I can get a picture. Thank God for digital cameras.
There is a proud, strutting Rhode Island Red guarding this flock. Most roosters instinctively look out for their hens. Hens stay near him as he keeps an eye out for predators such as hawks, owls, coyotes or foxes. Jennifer said her hens need to be six to nine months of age before they start laying. On the average, they each produce 255 eggs a year.
Interesting fact, you need to have a rooster around doing his job fertilizing the eggs if you want to produce more chickens; but, you don’t need this loud “cockadoodle do” guy if you just want to have eggs for the table.
These naturally produced eggs in lovely, soft, springtime colors have an interesting history that comes along with them. Ameraucanas are a relatively new breed of bird and were developed in the 1970s in the United States. The appearance of the Ameraucana is generally multi-colored being primarily tan and brown feathered. No two look exactly the same so if you have a bad one in the bunch, you can keep your eye on it.
Chicken personalities vary as much as their colors. They can be gregarious, affectionate or shy; some can be held and even fit in well with other pets.
Egg shell colors depend on genetics due to the breed of the hen. Shells are composed mostly of calcium carbonate which is white. However, different breeds deposit a pigment called oocyanin causing the green tint to the shell. I have read that eggshells contain calcium, which helps boost plant cells. You can add crushed eggshells to your compost pile to improve its nutrient levels.
Many gardeners add finely ground shells to the soil before planting tomatoes to discourage blossom-end rot, which is triggered by calcium deficiency and improper watering. A thick layer of slightly crushed shells around plants may also deter snails and slugs.
Back to the barn with Jennifer, I realize more what farm life is all about and how nature provides lovely pastel colored eggs. A magnificent Arabian horse, ears cocked forward looks with royal disdain at us two humans. Rafter the cat, found in the rafters of the barn, suns himself in a ball of contentment. A soft rolling whinny (horse talk) from across the pasture wraps my senses into a peaceful lull and makes me want to snooze in the sun. Ahhh…..
Suddenly I snap to and realize that the grandkids will soon be in Destin wanting to have an Easter egg hunt. Somehow, the plastic put-together eggs don’t seem nearly as pleasing as in year’s past.
Laura Hall is a longtime gardener and Destin resident. She explores area gardens and other local topics with her cavalier spaniel Annie. If you would like to show off your garden or be profiled in a future column, contact Laura at email@example.com.