Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Well here at Moy River it was the chicken but way back in agricultural history, it was probably the egg!
I have been keeping hen for over 25 years now. It all was inspired by a trip to the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh in Northern Ireland. There, rare breed hens and chickens wandered around the park in a very traditional way taking the visitor back in time to a simpler and more practical time. Couple to this the fact that I was born and raised on a farm and also the fact that a grand aunt of mine was a poultry expert who ran a Poultry Station in the Ireland of the 1940’s.
Hens (or chickens if you live in the US) are simple beasts but very productive. There is not a culture on earth – poor or wealthy – that does not depend upon and enjoy the value of eggs. Most hens reach maturity at six months and begin to lay shortly after. Most hens will lay 500 eggs in a lifetime.
Chickens, as we know them today, originated in Southeast Asia. They were domesticated from the wild jungle fowl of that region, tamed and bred for their egg-laying and meat producing traits. They soon became an indispensable part of village life; their ability to turn grain and waste food back into food for humans being unrivalled for speed and efficiency.
Over the intervening centuries, chickens formed a major part of agricultural production. Their eggs and meat could always be counted upon even for communities on the move; nomads and sailors alike. Over the last 150 years, they developed into two distinct groups; the light Mediterranean breeds who were best known for egg production and not being broody and the heavier Asian breeds best suited for broodiness and meat production. In the past 80 years, hybrid chickens have been created to meet the needs of modern egg and meat production. The female hybrid egg layer will still only lay 500 eggs but she will pop them out over a two-year period (as opposed to 5 years for the traditional breed). The hybrid broiler, for meat production, reaches maturity in as little as 10 weeks!
Here at Moy River we have a mix of old breeds and hybrid hens whose job it is to provide us with enough eggs for our guests at breakfast time. Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon are a favourite while pancakes topped with maple syrup and berries are a sweet alternative. And over breakfast every morning, our guests can enjoy watching the hens begin another day of doing what hens do in the garden.
“Oh, God above, if heaven has a taste it must be an egg with butter and salt, and after the egg is there anything in the world lovelier than fresh warm bread and a mug of sweet golden tea?” – Frank McCourt
Pat and the gals – Moy River.