Tales from the Coop

Weather, busy schedules, a bi-weekly pick up at an unfamiliar location and a more than supermarket price didn’t keep people away from joining the Poultry Research Centre’s (PRC) Adopt a Heritage Chicken pilot program. It was over-subscribed. The 200 participants adopted a hen (mine was a Barred Plymouth Rock I named Amy) and paid for the dozen eggs we picked up every two weeks. The pilot ended in late August; the new larger program will roll out in November.

Agnes (aka Eggness) Kulinksi is the business director of the PRC.

There were some hiccups in the beginning.

“I was trying to accommodate every request. If someone missed the pick-up (and wanted their eggs the next time) it would stress me out, will we have enough eggs? But actually we always had enough eggs; we could keep everybody happy.

“It looks like we will be successful in preserving these endangered breeds. We now have a way to maintain and support the program of preserving genetic variation and heritage poultry lines at the PRC. We established a market for their eggs and even for the chickens* at the end of their life span. With this program, we have developed a sustainable plan to preserve the heritage lines in case they are needed in the future to regenerate commercial lines.”

What’s next for the program?

“We’re researching the history of other lines and possibly looking at other endangered breeds not currently in the program.”

Interested in delicious fresh eggs and helping a vital program thrive? Visit heritagechickens.ca to register.

“I called and registered the very day I read about it, and it’s been so much fun,” says Marjorie Philips. “You receive 12 wonderful eggs. They’re beautiful mixed eggs. It’s like a box of jewels.

“I pick mine up on the Saturday. We go to the Strathcona Market, then the Upper Crust, then pick up our eggs. We’re out anyway.

“We had gotten out of eating eggs, it wasn’t habit anymore. You know, for so long we weren’t supposed to eat many eggs. We usually fry or scramble, and I’ve made three orange chiffon cakes to use up eggs. The recipe is probably from an old cookbook from my friend Wendy’s mum.

“Yes, we’ll be continuing with the program. It’s been an excellent experience. It’s a worthwhile cause to preserve breed lines. It’s truly important; we do need these breeds. It really has nothing to do with receiving eggs, that’s the happy offshoot.”

Recipe: Marjorie’s orange chiffon cake

Linda Johnson, her husband Troy and children Tomiko, Maxam and Lazarus adopted a hen they named Camille.

“Our number one reason is the value in preserving these breeds. Our number two is that we would love to have our own hens, but we can’t yet in the city.

“The kids always want to come, nobody wants to wait in the car. We love going to the university farm — you are on a working farm and you’re picking up fresh eggs, such a different experience than going to the grocery store.

“It has fostered a connection. My kids are embracing cooking because of the eggs. They are so soft and delicate tasting. My 12-year-old daughter likes boiled eggs and my 10-year-old son has learned to make omelettes, which has counted toward his Scout cooking badge.

“I will absolutely be signing up
for the next run and increasing
our order.”

What does Michael Caley think of the program?

“It’s been great! I’ve had a blast; it’s been more fun than a picnic. I’m a big egg fan, and I really enjoy these eggs — they have flavour. It took some getting used to going to the research centre to pick up the eggs; we got lost a few times.”

Michael likes to cook and shares his take on a frittata.

Recipe: Michael’s eggs Japonais

Mark Fedorak’s family adopted a Barred Plymouth Rock.

“I’ve had the opportunity to go into the barns to see the chickens,” says Mark. “There is a lot of value in keeping the heritage lines alive. This program facilitates that.

“It’s an excellent pilot project, well-run; it’s getting the information about heritage lines out there.

“Yes, the pick-up can be a bit awkward. Saturdays are too busy, so I try to find some way to be in the area on Tuesdays. We intend to carry on, maybe get more eggs. We eat them the way we eat any egg: scrambled, fried.”

“I read about the program in the Tomato,” says Carol Moore.

“I was just so enthusiastic after I read about it. We’re going to save a species or three? That’s a lot of biodiversity.

“When I signed up I said, ‘if you need some help give me a call.’ I’m going over tomorrow morning to help Agnes grade and package up the eggs. I go whenever they need help and I’m available.

“I pick up four dozen for me and for my daughter and her two boys, I like them anyway but fried — hard-boiled, poached.

“I’m the one who instigated everybody in our family getting eggs to save the program so they would know about biodiversity.

“The two boys thought they were getting a rooster. They named their chickens James and Billy.

“I love chickens because they talk; it’s as if they are discussing different topics. It’s very relaxing, like listening to the ocean. I would have backyard chickens. I was in the first master gardening program in Stony Plain, and learned that chickens are wonderful in gardens; they eat all the bugs.

“These little girls are really sweet.”

*The Local Omnivore food truck will be making chicken potpies. Visit heritagechickens.ca for more information.