The surest way to avoid all future salmonella recalls is to simply cut eggs out of your diet. Or, should you happen to really like chocolate soufflé, you could always raise your own hens. For that, we recommend Minnie Rose Lovgreen's highly entertaining 30-page book (really more of a pamphlet), Recipe for Raising Chickens (transcribed and edited by Nancy Rekow and Chaya Siegelbaum). It was first published a few months prior to her death in 1975 at the age of 86, and has sold more than 20,000 copies — an astounding number for a self-published book. Long out of print, Rekow published the third edition last year (this summer she also released a memoir of Lovgreen's life, Far as I Can Remember, through her publishing company, NW Trillium Press).
Lovgreen was born in England, one of nineteen children (hence the need for affordable eggs), and immigrated to Canada before WWI. She worked as a cook and maid by day and raised chickens for her side business in the egg trade by night. In the 1920s, she moved to Bainbridge Island, Washington, where she lived and farmed chickens for more than fifty years.
In the book, Lovgreen provides tips for raising the birds as well as handy English translations of their clucks and dirt scratches for those who don't speak chicken. And so we offer up a Top 10 list of Lovgreen's domestic fowl observances from 35 years ago that seemed to have particular resonance today. Turn the page.
10. Lovgreen on privacy. “If you peek in at a setting [nesting] hen, and she says, 'Kwark, kwark, kwark,' in a deep, ugly voice, [she means] to say, 'Don't bother me.'”
9. On modesty. “I hang a strip of burlap all the way along their nest boxes. Split it up, so it's like little panel curtains. That way each hen can lay her egg in her box and duck out her little curtain. They like privacy when they lay.”
8. On stress management. When a mother hen “says, in a deep tone, 'Crrrk, crrrk, crrk,' [it's] as much as saying, 'Hush, everything will be all right.'”
7. On civil disobedience. “When two hens start fighting, the rooster will go between them and settle the fight. Then if they're not satisfied and start fighting again, he'll go back over and talk to them again, to say, 'Shame on you,' and they quit.”
6. On avoiding natural disasters. “It's really better to take the first-hatched chicks into your house for a while as soon as they've dried off under the hen… if you don't take them in, quite often she'll get excited over some of them and mash them, you see, so you'll find a few dead ones.”
5. On a healthy diet. “In the bug line, [chickens] like beetles and earwigs and small worms. Earwigs especially.”
4. On bathing. “I like to have a place under the chicken house with soft soil for dust baths. Chickens like to take a dust bath every day.”
3. On adoption. “If you like, you can buy more chicks to put under [the hen.]… you have to sneak them under the hen when it's dark at night.”
2. On sex. “Of course, you always need to keep a rooster with the hens, if you want to have fertile eggs. You need one rooster to 'service' fifteen hens.”
1. On the morning after. “It's perfectly all right to eat fertile eggs, or non-fertile eggs. They taste the same. Sometimes people wonder about that.”