But also, having the chickens is just fun. Chickens are quirky and funny, and anyone who tells you that they don't have personalities hasn't been around chickens very much. Each of my chickens has her own little personality, likes and dislikes, and habits.
The only problem with them is that they aren't very consistent when it comes to providing a steady food source. During the summer, they are egg-laying fiends. We have 16 laying hens who are six months to 8 years in age. The younger chickens lay pretty consistently every day. The older hens, not so much. We have one very old girl, who is blind in one eye, but still manages to find her way out of the coop regularly. I found her stealing tomatoes from my garden last year. She is the only one who lays white eggs. We get a white egg once a week, or so.
All total, we are collecting 5 to 8 eggs per day, which means there are a LOT of eggs in our refrigerator at any given time. During the summer, we will have three dozen eggs in our refrigerator, consistently.
Sometime around October, when the days are shorter and cooler, the chickens start to slow down on the number of eggs they give us per day. By December, we'll be lucky if the three youngest hens are laying every day, and in February, we might find 5 eggs a week.
That's just how it is, and it's not the cold, but rather the light. Some people will provide heat and light to their chickens. We don't. We like to keep things as close to their natural rhythms, as possible.
Which means we either gorge ourselves on eggs all summer long, or we find ways to preserve them to use over winter.
I've seen some suggestions for preserving eggs, like salting them, or dipping them in a lye solution. I haven't tried those sorts of preservation methods, mostly, because I am not certain of how I would use eggs preserved in such a fashion.
But I do have some ways that I have preserved my eggs for use during the winter.
Boiled, Chopped, and Frozen
When I was a poor college student, I worked at a quick-service to pay my bills. One of the restaurant's menu items was a seafood salad which was made with shrimp, imitation crab, celery, chopped eggs, a special seasoning, and "Special T" sauce, which was basically mayonnaise. The eggs were boiled and chopped up, and then frozen. When we used them, we added them to the salad mix frozen, and they thawed before they were served to the customer.
I don't use this preservation method as much as some other way, but this would be a good way to save the eggs to use later as egg salad on a sandwich, or something similar.
Cracked open, whisked, and frozen
I've used this method a few times. Basically, we crack the eggs into a muffin tin - one egg per hole. Each egg is about a quarter cup. Then, we put the tin in the freezer. When the eggs are frozen, we take them out of the tin, and put them in a freezer storage container for longer term storage.
To use, take them out of the freezer and allow them to thaw. The best way to use these eggs is in baked goods.
And speaking of:
Bake into breads, cakes, and muffins and freeze
One of the only reasons I want eggs during the winter - other than a quick and easy breakfast for Deus Ex Machina - is so that I can bake bread and cakes. It's taken me a lot of years to realize that autumn is the best time to bake these confections and then freeze them for use during the winter.
Over the past several weeks, I have been baking a cake every Monday and Wednesday, and occasionally adding some bread and muffins to the oven. Any pieces left from Monday's cake on Wednesday, end up in the freezer. By full winter when there is snow on the ground, we will enjoy being able to reach into the freezer for a blueberry muffin, a piece of cake, or a loaf of bread.
I have to admit that my favorite way to preserve eggs is through pickling. I boil a dozen or so eggs, peel them, and then, add them to a half gallon sized jar with bite-sized sausage pieces (like Kielbasa, Chorizo, or Andouille). I mix up a very simple vinegar-based pickling brine. Basically, 1:1 vinegar and water, and 1:1 salt and sugar. For a half gallon sized jar, I mix 2 cups each of vinegar and water, and 2 tablespoons each salt and sugar, bring it to a boil, pour it over the eggs and sausage in the jar. Allow to cool, and put in the refrigerator. After about three days, the eggs are pickled enough to enjoy. The longer they stay in the brine, the more "pickled" they become.
I also like to pickle the eggs with jalapeno slices. I love pickled jalapenos and I LOVE eggs pickled with jalapenos, but I like it spicy.
In a powered down situation, I could preserve my pickled eggs by pressure canning them, but at the moment, I don't do that.
I have also, in the past, canned pumpkin bread, which seemed to do okay, but it must be made to very strict specifications, and the use of a preservative, like that found in Crisco shortening, is recommended to prevent botulism. Since I don't use Crisco oil, freezing is the way I preserve bread, at the moment.
How do you preserve eggs?
As a note, when I was in college, I was fortunate to be eligible for the WIC program, because I was both a young, poor college student and a young mother with very young children (my two oldest were born while I was still an undergraduate student). Part of the WIC offerings included a dozen eggs per week. I didn't use that many eggs at that time, and so I had to figure out what to do with all of those eggs. I didn't preserve them, because I didn't know how back in those days, but I did have this fabulous cook book - 100 ways to Cook Eggs. It's been long lost in the decades since I was a college student, and I wish I could find another copy. Alas!
I learned about making quiche from that cookbook, and indeed, one of the prepared, cooked foods, that I still make and freeze from my excess of eggs is quiche.
I just mention it, because having a glut of eggs isn't just a result of having backyard chickens. In fact, sometimes when eggs are on sale, for those who buy eggs, getting some extra and making a few cakes for the freezer isn't a bad idea.