I understand from yesterday's Sunday Telegraph that do the high profile campaign by Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley Whittonstall against battery chickens, houses where chickens can be kept are becoming more popular.
I have kept hens and ducks for about ten years now. The difference in egg quality is astonishing. Hens who are able to roam have far darker yolks. Nothing beats a freshly laid egg gently poached. Supermarket eggs are a watery pale yellow yolk and don't really taste of anything.
I noticed that the latest Waitrose magazine was offering duck egg recipes. Hooray say I. Other people are realising that duck eggs are good to eat. They suffered in reputation after the war because ducks were fed on fish meal and surprise, surprise the eggs tasted of fish. Feed ducks on corn and poultry layer pellets, and the eggs taste great.
Duck eggs do not keep as long as hen eggs by the way. You want to use them within 2 weeks, where as hen eggs will keep for about 3. Both are best eaten within a few days of being laid.
Mostly you can substitute duck eggs and hen eggs. But scrambled duck eggs tend to be rubbery. Poached duck eggs are wonderful though and they have several recipes for baked duck eggs including one for duck eggs baked in a tomato with a dash of Tabasco.
So are hens and ducks easy to keep? Yes but you have not mind the cleaning out of the houses once a week. The manure is good for the garden. Because my hens and ducks are free range, I have made sure that the vegetable patch is fenced off, and during the summer, we do put netting up to prevent any rogue attacks on the vegetables.
We also have a large enough garden that they do not seem to do any real and lasting damage. They do add character to the undergrowth and I have not seen a slug in years. they are fed twice a day -- poultry layer pellets in the morning and mixed corn in the afternoon. Eggs are collected once a day. Hens by in large are creatures of habit and do lay in the hen house...although I do have to go searching on occasion. Ducks tend to drop their eggs where ever unless they are broody.
Currently I am hoping we will not have ducklings...it is getting to be that time of year...
But hooray that more people are coming to realise the value of keeping poultry.