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Showing posts with label hens. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hens. Show all posts

Monday, December 14, 2009

Think Tiger Has Too Many Chicks?

Mr J and I have neared divorce over his chicks!  It's not that he has the chicks, or really even how many he has...  It's that he's let them run wild around here!  Imagine the grief it would bring to Elin  (and my heart truly goes out to her) if Tiger let his chicks run wild around the mansion, like Mr J or this guy...

OK, maybe it's not the same, but I've also experienced tremendous grief.  Just take a look at the destruction Mr J's chicks have caused in my territory!  (click to enlarge any photo)

  I had started some young plants here to fill in the open space.  They're gone now.  The border and decorative rocks are all but buried in the mulch, while the barrier that's suppose to be buried has been pulled to the surface by the nasty birds' scratching.

Let me interject here that I do not like chickens.  As much as I love animals, I do not consider chickens in the same catagory.  I do not like chickens.  I love fresh eggs.  I like chicken.  I do not like chickens... plural...  as in alive and running around outside my house!

See the big hole right smack-dab (whatever that means) in the middle of my lemon thyme?

No, I didn't put the hole there as an architectural element.  Those dad-blame (whatever that means) birds did it!  They dug holes in the centers of most of my plants. 

My red sedum has suffered the most damage.  Just look at this...  

See the big bare spots?  ...the chunks of bark laying about?  This sedum is much more prone to breakage than the thyme or other plants.  Here, the chickens have removed every bit of it that was above ground.  Fortunately, it is hardy and will probably grow back. I'm really hoping the white spots are just some left over snow flurries that managed to snuggle into some shadowy crevices.

In this corner of the sidewalk and driveway, I had a nice clump of Japanese blood grass... had being the operative word here.
Notice again the revealed weed blocker, and the way the mulch is scattered over the jelly pebbles.  The mulch used to be just around the grass and on the other side of the border rocks.

Now that I've told you what my garden used to look like, let me tell you what the chickens used to enjoy... running free.  They are still free-range.  It's just that their range is smaller than it used to be.

Here is what they used to have...

The big hen house is in the foreground.  The north end of their pen runs between the little red house and the horse trailer.  (That's Benji coming up the drive.)

In this photo, you can see a distinctive line in front of the hen house, but behind the waterer that is sitting on the pile of bricks.  (keeps the water cleaner)

 That is where the fence used to be.  We extended their area up almost to the barn, as seen in this next shot...

Their area actually goes past the side of the barn.  Mr J has a compost pile over there.   It is like a five-star restaurant to the chickens.  So now they have free access to it.  It's full of little critters they eat.

On a sad note, Mr J has lost one of his hens.  She was a beautiful golden lace.  We don't have a clue why she died.  Mr J wonders if she got into something there in the tall grass by the barn.  FIL has dropped a lot of nails around there and Mr J found some broken glass. 

Here is a close-up of the feathers on another golden lace hen...

He will miss her...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Eggszact Science

It's been almost six years since we moved onto this farm.  It's been a lot of hard work to turn it from an abandoned, overgrown corn field into a productive farm.  It's still a work in progress, but we're now reaping the rewards.  And even though we've had a lot of experiences over these six years, we're still learning everyday... especially about chickens and eggs!

A lot of you comment about the rich color of our egg yolks.  DJan, believe it or not, your store-bought eggs started out like these.  Yeah, a long time ago!  That's the problem.  The cooked eggs I'm showing you are usually around a week old.  The ones you get in the store?  Who knows.  Eggs, properly handled, do keep a very long time!  But, like anything else, over time they loose nutritional value and taste.  That's the big difference.  It takes time to go from the nest to the grocery shelf.  So, for the same reason we seek out fresh veggies from the farm markets, you should be buying your eggs fresh from the farm.

Most of the comments we get about our eggs are about the taste and the colors.  You've seen in previous posts how the brown eggs range from almost white to deep brown, some even almost mauve!  Then there are the green ones... some mint green, some sage, some olive, some aqua.  They look lovely on a tray.  Not only do they vary greatly in color, they also vary in size.

I've posted pics of the extremes, from the tiny egg I had for lunch to the one that had to hurt!  Aside from those, our eggs range from small to jumbo.  We don't separate our eggs by size the way you find them in the stores, so when we box them up, we try to mix the sizes so that each cartoon contains about the same amount.  We do, however, try to keep out the small eggs and the jumbos.  Customers really don't want the small ones.  When they open the carton, they want to see big eggs.  That's fine with us... the small ones are our favorites!

We've discovered that the ratio of white to yolk is not the same for the smaller eggs.  The yolk is a much bigger percentage in the small eggs!  When I had a friend tell me she prefers more white, I was astounded!  I thought everyone like the yolks the best!  Is there anything tastier than egg yolk sopped up with rye bread?

And the jumbos?  Well, most of them are double-yolk, and well...  you know.  Lots of yolk!  Actually, we wouldn't mind putting them in the cartons to sell, too.  Problem is, the lids won't shut!  Yeah, jumbo eggs take a larger sized carton, so we set those aside for our own use.

We've just learned there is a down-side to fresh eggs (...aside from the cost, the filth, the work, etc.)  You can't boil them!  I don't eat a lot of boiled eggs, so if Mr J or FIL have boiled any of our fresh eggs before, I don't know how they turned out.  Last week Mr J decided he wanted some hard-boiled eggs.  After the determined time had passed, we cooled the eggs down.  I always remove the shell before putting them in the fridge, so I thought I'd be sweet and remove the shells from Mr J's eggs.   OMG!  What a mess!  The shells wouldn't come off.  They stuck and pulled chunks of egg off with them.

We found out what went wrong from the resident chef at the Bengal Barn.  Something about the membrane not yet being detached from the shell.  An egg must age two to three weeks to allow air to enter and the membrane to detach.  Otherwise, you'll never get the shell off without practically destroying the egg!  So did ya ever think an egg could be too fresh?

Now Mr J has two dozen eggs set aside for Thanksgiving.  He wants some hard-boiled and some deviled eggs for the big dinner.  I've decided to split the hard-boiled eggs and lay them out on a tray like deviled eggs to show off their beautiful innards!  I'm thinking about using the double yolks for the hard-boiled.  Yum!

I mentioned proper handling...  Egg shells are porous and chickens poop alot.  These two facts combined spell trouble.  It is important to clean any poop off the eggs before storing them, but you have to be cautious in how you clean them.  If you scrub the eggs wrong, you can actually push the contaminates (nicer word than poop) through the shell!  You can't soak the eggs in water, nor can you let them sit to dry.  The water will soak into the egg.  I won't share all the details.  If you have chickens and want to know, just ask me...

Here's a cute tidbit to tie up this post...  If you feed your chickens garlic or onion, you can get flavored eggs!

Now, don't you feel eggstremely eggducated?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Yummy Eggsplanation

Thanks to the digital camera era, I can take as many pictures as I want to make sure I get a good shot...

...that is, when I remember.

Do you remember my tiny egg?

I promised pictures when I cracked it open. 
I decided to have eggs for lunch today.
I didn't expect a yolk, but it had a teeny bit of yellow inside.

It actually looks bigger in the skillet than I thought it would; although it is just a 6" skillet.
The other egg was twins.  I love double-yolks!

Yeah, I know it's a lot of butter.  Doesn't the little one at the top look cute? 
Well, not as cute as a baby chick, perhaps... but still kinda cute.

OK, I promised you an eggsplanation.  To make a short story long...

We had four hens to start with.  Once they started laying we had four eggs everyday.  Then we got the babies.  (Check some of my April/May posts.)  This fall, they began laying.  But we only get around thirty eggs a day, with almost fifty hens.  I thought maybe lots weren't laying daily, but intermittently.

A friend was over last night and offered his theory.  Some of our hens probably hadn't started laying yet, and this was most likely a first egg for one of them.  He hadn't seen one quite that small, but said that a lot of times the first egg will be a lot smaller than the others.  That's a relief!  If they all started laying these Cadbury sized eggs, Mr J would starve!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Cris, you wanted to know if they provided an answer...

Could it be that they were 'egged on' by their feathered friends?

Perhaps a better question is...

...why didn't the chickens cross the road?
Should I tell them the car is parked?
Do we need a chicken crossing light?

Sadie doesn't seem to care about the hens running loose.  They're starting to ignore her, too.  And yes, DJan, these are the same chickens that wouldn't go out the door!

As for who cut the hole in the fence?  Mr J himself.  (Lille, he says the J stands for Jenius,too!)  The chickens have scratched their area so much that a lot of the grass is gone.  Even though they walk around in their own poop, it seems chickens do not like mud!  We let them out to give them plenty of roaming space.  They return to their coop at night, like always.

Mr J was worried about Sadie and the cats...  What would they do to his chickens?  I laughed!  "Don't you mean, what will the chickens do to Sadie and the cats?"   Sadie does occasionally leap just to make them scatter.  She does that to the cats sometimes too.  She thinks it's funny.

The cats...  Well, the chickens aren't small anymore.  Benji is our best hunter.  She's responsible for the headless bunnies that show up in the barn.  We watched her sneak up on a couple of the hens yesterday.  She got within three feet of them...  They let out a squawk and flapped their wings at her.  She shot off into the woods!  I have a video of Squeaky walking up the lane as a hen is walking down.  They passed each other without turning their heads! 

I guess there's enough room for all.  Maybe we should all learn a lesson from them.  And the lion shall lie down with the lamb.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Escape from the Pen

Wait a minute!  Where are all the chickens?  There's only a few in there...

Hey!  There's a hole in the fence!  Looks like someone cut it.

Look Dad!  The chickens are out!

They're headed for the woods!

They're even in the horses' round pen!

They're running down the driveway!

No wonder they want out here...  There's some neat stuff in this dirt!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Living with Mr J and the Chickens!

I just have to share this story with you...

Many of you know that last week Lille Diane stopped by our farm to visit on her way home from KY.  While she was in KY, we e-mailed a bit back and forth making plans for her visit.  At one point she mentioned Superman...

Later, in a conversation with Hubby, I mentioned that Superman had a really cool name!  It made Hubby sound so ordinary.  I suggested that we should find an exciting name for Hubby, to which he responded, "How about 'The Jerk'?"  We looked at each other and started LOBO!    Yeah, The Jerk is right up there with Superman!  It amazes me how his mind works.

I told Lille about it and we shared a laugh.  So when she finally made it to the farm, we had fun calling Hubby The Jerk.  Since then, it has come up a few times in our e-mails.  Today, Lille gave me a message to pass on to Mr. J.  I kinda like that one!

So, if you happen to read a future post that mentions Mr. J, you'll know right away...

... who I'm talkin' 'bout!

Well, since I'm here, I might as well share a bit o' chicken farming life with y'all...
Last week, when I was snapping all the potential shots  for the 'chicken wall', I shot a few inside the main chicken house.  Hubby has done a little redecorating in there...

These roosts were here before, but I just like them.
They are recycled from an old swing/play set.

I didn't notice her until I turned to leave.  Hope we didn't disturb her.  The recycled milk crates make great nests.

So do five-gallon buckets!  Hubby is experimenting with different ways to keep the nests cleaner.  The bucket keeps other chickens from roosting above the nesting material.  They tend to roost on the sides of the milk crates.  Not good...

Another design idea to keep them from roosting above the nests.

The chickens still aren't in full production.  We hope to soon get around four dozen a day.  Here is today's round-up so far...

Do you see why Lille Diane called them rainbow eggs?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Murder at Hedgeapple Creek

...or was it?


1. Law. the killing of another human being under conditions specifically covered in law. In the U.S., special statutory definitions include murder committed with malice aforethought, characterized by deliberation or premeditation or occurring during the commission of another serious crime, as robbery or arson (first-degree murder), and murder by intent but without deliberation or premeditation (second-degree murder).
2. Slang. something extremely difficult or perilous: That final exam was murder!
3. a group or flock of crows.
–verb (used with object)
4. Law. to kill by an act constituting murder.
5. to kill or slaughter inhumanly or barbarously.

Depends on how much you want to stretch the definition. OK, it wasn't a human being, but it was calculated, and it was extremely difficult. Well, no... it was physically easy; but it was mentally difficult. It's always difficult, but it's part of life on a farm. It was not a flock of crows. Yet, it was definitely not inhumane or barbarous!

If you don't want to read about the downside of life with farm animals, then stop here; but if you've ever fancied having a mini-farm with a few chickens, then you might as well be prepared.

'Angel Wings' is what I called the chick. She was so beautiful - light red changing to brilliant white. When her wings were spread in the sunlight, she looked as though she was ready to soar through the heavens. If ever a chicken was beautiful, it was Angel Wings. (dirty, nasty birds)
She was one of the tamer birds. Angel Wings stood out from the others, as she grew more beautiful every day. She stood out in another way though, that wasn't a good thing...

Hubby was out gathering eggs when we heard a ruckus. One of the black hens was screeching. Hubby looked to see Angel Wings' rear sticking up from a nest. She sat up and looked at him with egg dripping from her beak. She was eating the egg. She had already acquired the taste. According to the books Hubby has studied, once a hen acquires the taste for eggs, there's no turning back. It must be destroyed. I'm not going to tell about that.

Reality isn't always pretty on a farm. You must keep in mind the purpose of raising chicks. If you want them as pets, then have them. Fine. On the other hand, if you want them for eggs, then it's a whole different thing. Luckily, I'm not fond of birds. Oh sure, the finches at the feeder are pretty and fun to watch; but as pets?

My mom has parakeets. They're nasty. When I'm over there, I do let them hop onto my finger and I talk to them. I'm not an animal hater... but I would never have them in my house. If something happens to Mom, someone else better take the birds. OK, I've gotten off track...

We have a lot invested in the chickens. Selling eggs will never pay for it all. (Hubby went a little overboard on the chicken house. He tends to do that.) We do hope that selling the extra eggs will pay for the daily expense of keeping the chickens. We prefer to eat things that are not tainted with hormones and pesticides. Aside from dusting for mites, our chickens are all natural and cage free. That's the ironic part...

Chances are, if our birds were caged on a big poultry farm, Angel Wings would have never had the chance to taste an egg. She wouldn't have access to them. I imagine there is a mechanism to roll the eggs away from the cage as soon as it is laid. Nobody's going to reach under thousands of chickens all day long checking for eggs!

With free range chickens, they share nests. Even with empty nests available, we've watched one hen wait until the other hen is finished and vacates the nest; then she jumps in for her turn. Then go in and out as they please. They roam the fenced area looking for bugs in the ground and whatever else chickens do. We feel they must be satisfied with the size of the area, since we know they can fly out anytime they please. (No, we haven't clipped their wings.) The entire area under the ten-by-twenty house is elevated and open, so they can go under for shade or to get out of the rain without having to go back inside. We feel our chickens have it pretty good; but like I said, in a caged environment, Angel Wings would still be with us.

So, if you've thought about raising a few chickens in order to enjoy your own fresh eggs, does this make you reconsider?

On a much happier note... Hubby's final count on the corn: 250 ears in the freezer!