Adventures with Eggs

MyPanera® member Hewmun Lau shares how backyard chickens have helped her make community connections and discover the joy of raising her own food.

Hewmun Lau was a little girl living in Malaysia when she was first exposed to the concept of backyard chickens. “It was very common for people there to raise chickens, primarily for the dinner table. My parents did it for a while, and my aunt did too,” she says. Her aunt remains a chicken enthusiast today. “She and my parents still live in Malaysia,” says Hewmun. “When my parents came to visit recently, my aunt sent a special message asking about the chickens. She had seen some of the chicken pictures that I’d posted on Facebook and was absolutely enamored by them.”

Hewmun now admits she is something of a chicken enthusiast herself, though she raises them for eggs and views them more as pets than livestock. “Before a few years ago, I had never even remotely thought about having chickens,” she says. “It kind of started out as a joke, really.” Today, though, she says that her chickens—Punky, Reddy, Blacky, and Buffy—have provided her and her boyfriend, John, with benefits that reach far beyond a few eggs.

Becoming a mother hen

“My boyfriend and I were watching the news and discussing where our food comes from, and he joked, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have our own chickens?’ It was not something that was on my radar before that, but I thought, ‘That would be cool!’”

Getting “cooped up”

“We ordered the chicks and coop online. You can find free blueprints online if you are more adventurous and want to make your own coop. I also called the city to find out if it allowed chickens. Then I talked to the neighbors to make sure it would be OK with them.”

Peep factor

“We only have hens. Hens are pretty quiet, but sometimes after they lay an egg, they call out. It’s like an announcement! Sometimes they do that at 7 a.m., and we run downstairs and give them some food or open the coop and let them out so they quiet down and don’t wake the neighbors. They’re easily distracted.”

Chicken feed

“Since we have chickens, we throw away a lot less food. They love fruit waste. Some of our chickens would kill for a mushy tomato. It’s neat; it sort of closes the loop. We give them food, and they convert that into eggs for us and fertilizer for growing more tomatoes.”

Chicken care

“On a day-to-day level, you just need to change the water and check if they have enough food. We let them out into the yard so they can scratch. And once every four weeks, we change the wood-chip bedding in the coop. We just throw it into the compost pile and use it as fertilizer. It helps our vegetables grow really big!”

Surprise benefits

“Our hens are pretty entertaining to watch. Also, because of them, we have connected with members of our community who have chickens. Sometimes neighbors will walk by and ask for a tour of the coop. Making those connections was an unexpected benefit.”

Finding chicken-sitters

“If you want to go on a trip, you have to ask someone to keep an eye on the chickens. Unlike with other pets, though, you can say, ‘Well, if you do this for me, you can have the eggs.’ People usually like that. There’s a little reward for them.”

The joy of raising your own food

“Before we had chickens, I wasn’t really a big gardening person. But having the eggs made me think, ‘If I’m going to raise chickens to have my own eggs, I can grow my own tomatoes.’ There’s an emotional satisfaction to know that you have more control over your own food source—that you grew something from a seed or seedling, which is fun and rewarding.”

Separating eggs easily

“I have a fast and foolproof and extremely low-tech method: I just use my fingers. Basically if you crack an egg and pour the whole egg in your cupped hand right on your fingers, the egg white will go through the little bit of space between your fingers, and you’re left with the yolk in your palm.”

Favorite egg recipes

“One of the things that I really like to make is scrambled eggs with chives. I’ll scramble some eggs, put some milk in, and add some salt, pepper, and chopped chives. If I want to make the eggs a little richer, I’ll add some cream. Other recipes I enjoy making with fresh eggs are egg custard, flan, or crème caramel.”

Favorite Panera Bread® menu items

“I definitely like to serve the Whole Grain Bread with my eggs, but if you ask what my favorite item at Panera is, it’s the Bear Claw! It’s probably not the healthiest thing on the menu, but everything in moderation, right?”