Posts Tagged ‘Backyard Chickens’

Broody or Sicky?

For the past week, this is the scene confronting me each visit to the coop: Silkie sitting.

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Yes, I know that Silkies are notorious setters, so we had a few chuckles about Silkie and I simultaneously deciding it was time to brood our respective eggs. However, as the week has progressed, I’m getting concerned because other than sitting burning hot, she’s not showing other typical brooding behavior. For example,she’s not  at all miffed when I retrieve eggs from under her and unceremoniously remove her from the nesting box several times a day. Not even a hiss or peck or indignant fluffing of feathers in my general direction! Docile as a doll. When placed on the cool ground, she just sits there dazedly for a few minutes before wandering off.

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Sometimes I can get her to eat and drink. Other times, it’s just back to the coop. She’s not visibily missing any feathers and I’ve done a thorough search of the area for plucked feathers just in case. She also feels like she’s a healthy weight and I can’t detect any signs of an egg bound hen.

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What’s your guess: Is she broody or sick? Let’s hope for broody because she’s the best-natured broody hen I’ve ever encountered!

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The Birds and the Bees and the Chickens

Dear Chickens,

Girls, I should say Ladies, it’s high time we had The Talk.  Mommy doesn’t know where the time has gone and it seems like yesterday when you were using your little chirping voices to tell me how much you liked your bugs.  Nevertheless, time has passed and I’ve neglected this part of your education, thinking I could keep you safe from the world with farmer-enforced celibacy, safe inside your chicken nunnery.  You’ve matured, as evidenced by the tasty eggs you leave our family each morning.  It’s important to know the potential consequences of being a grown up chicken.  Because, you see, when boy chickens and girl chickens get together they can have baby chickens.  These are the wonders of unprotected chicken sex.

Mommies and daddies can make babies, too.  Mommy took a special test this morning and it turns out she is going to have a baby.  You are going to have another human brother or sister!  Silkie, thank you for offering to go broody (again) to help me out, but I assure you there is no need to pull out any more feathers for the nest.

I hope, my dear girls, that one day you find a special rooster so you, too, can have little chicks.  I would dearly love to have grandchicks, but it is best to wait until you are ready.  Having babies is lovely, but can be challenging.  I heard that chickens don’t have morning sickness.  Mommy would love to know your secret.

Love,

Mommy

Rhubarb Compote with Honey, Maple Syrup, and Tarragon

Wandering the garden shortly after dawn with the chickens is perhaps an unusual way to start the weekend in suburbia and one that might receive some grumblings at that, but for me it’s heaven. It’s also a way to peruse the breakfast buffet. Hmm, I think I’ll choose some rhubarb. The chickens choose the leaf hoppers escaping off the rhubarb. We’re all happy.

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On the way inside, I eye the tarragon that overwintered in a pot by the door. Wouldn’t that be a nice combination? The tart from the rhubarb and delicate anise-like flavor of the tarragon in a naturally sweetened compote. Rhubarb is our only local “fruit” this time of year and will be perfect over our homemade breakfasts of yogurt, pancakes, or waffles.

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Rhubarb Compote with Honey, Maple Syrup, and Tarragon
  • Rhubarb stems, cut into 1/2-1″ slices, enough to fill a medium saucepan approximately 3/4 full
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup honey (or more to taste)
  • tarragon sprig (Optional)

Add the rhubarb and maple syrup to a medium saucepan.

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Bring rhubarb and maple syrup to a gentle simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the honey and tarragon.

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Allow to the compote to stand until just warm and serve over pancakes, waffles, or ice-cream or cool completely and serve over yogurt or spread on toast like jam. Store unused compote in the refrigerator. It will thicken when cooled. Remove tarragon sprig before serving.

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Incubation Day #1

Hurrah! The Faverolles and assorted bantams have arrived! The next 21 days will see them gently rotating at 100F in a third grade classroom at a local school. I heard that the children are very excited, but then again, so am I! Here they are getting settled in their new home.

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There are 12 Faverolles eggs that will be the start of my breeding flock. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy lists this breed as “threatened” and we hope to help in our small way. I purchased the bantams because I thought the kids would get a kick out of the tiny eggs and chicks. It was hatchery’s choice and they chose: 6 Quail Belgian Bearded D’Anvers, 2 Porcelain Belgian Bearded D’Uccles, 2 Golden Sebrights, and 2 Silver Sebrights.

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We’ll keep you updated with what hatches. If you want to see the story behind the eggs, visit our Letters to Chickens post.

Welcome Your Sisters and Brothers

Dear Chickens,

Congratulations, my dear girls, for you are going to be big sisters!  You must feel so grown up.  The fertile hatching eggs of our newest flock members arrived in the mail yesterday.   They were snuggly wrapped in paper towels and expertly cushioned for the journey. My lovely chickens, do you remember being shipped as day-old chicks?  I remember your arrival.  You were curious and pecking at every new thing, much like you do now.

Let me tell you about your new sisters and brothers.  The twelve Faverolles eggs came as promised as did a hatchery selection of twelve bantams:  6 Quail Belgian Bearded D’Anvers, 2 Porcelain Belgian Bearded D’Uccles, 2 Golden Sebrights, and 2 Silver Sebrights.  I admit I had a momentary twang of disappointment.  These were not the breeds I was hoping for!  Where were the Silkies with their funny feather poofs? The Barnvelders with eggs the color of dark chocolate? Why did I have to get these birds out of all the possible breeds that the hatchery carried?  Mommy was sad because she had read that the pretty Sebrights can be standoffish and flighty; Quail D’Anvers sweet, but plain.  Does this mean I’m a bad mommy?  Then I thought that perhaps this was a cosmic lesson in acceptance and love.  I pushed that disappointment away and made a promise:  I am your mommy and I will love you no matter what.

Daddy was a little distressed by the twenty-four new eggs now that they have arrived.  He said that was a lot of chickens.  I think he is concerned that mommy won’t have the courage to chop off their heads and eat them.  Gosh, I guess when I write it like that it does seem a little drastic.  No wonder daddy is uneasy, but I promise to be brave and follow through in my decision to participate in the rooster culling necessary to a small heritage flock.

My darling girls, I know you are curious to meet our new family members.  They will be home with us soon enough.  I delivered your new sisters and brothers to that nice teacher and his class this morning.  They will incubate them for 21 days and welcome them with love and affection into this world.  I hope the children enjoy learning about chickens and farming and the miracles that are you.  I hope they feel special because they are contributing to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy’s mission to rescue beautiful breeds from extinction.  I find helping is a dualistic action:  Simultaneously altruistic and selfish.  That feeling that you receive more than you give.  Mommy is very grateful to you, dear chickens, for all that you give in exchange for simple grain and grass.

Love,

Mommy

 

Fresh Poached Eggs

If you’ve never had a poached egg before, please try them! They are especially successful if you have access to fresh eggs because they hold their shape and taste exquisite. When they are that fresh, they are actually easier to cook and you certainly won’t need any specialty cookware. All you really need are eggs, barely simmering water and a spoon.   A slotted spoon is preferable and a small bowl can be helpful, too.  Have everything ready because it’s quick process.

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Crack your eggs one at a time either directly into the water or (easier method) into a small bowl and then gently ease the egg into the water.

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The poaching eggs remind me of wispy ghosts.  Prior to adding the eggs to the water, some people add a splash of vinegar to help firm up the eggs, but I don’t think it’s necessary when using farm fresh.

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If you’re cooking multiples, quickly add them to the simmering water and leave them enough room to poach.

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When they are cooked to your liking, remove them with a slotted spoon.

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How long is to “your liking?” I’m a fan of the 3-minute egg.  In the example below, you can see that the white is completely set, but the yolk is still runny.

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Welcome to Our Chicken Coop & Run

With more chickens arriving this spring, I’ve been reassessing our current housing. Prior to blogging about our mini farming adventures, we purchased a chicken coop advertised to hold 16 birds and built a run accordingly with 20 square feet per chicken (8’x40′) so they would have plenty of room to be happy chickens when they aren’t free ranging. We are quite proud of the run. It is a sturdy construction, fully enclosed in hardware cloth, which is also partially buried underground. Needless to say, we’ve never had a predator problem inside the run. It’s a Fort Knox. My husband even installed a corrugated roof over the coop and food so the ladies and I would have a dry spot while doing our daily chores.

And then there is the coop itself. It was purchased online cheap, site unseen, in kit form. All I can say is that we got what we paid for and I regret not making a better investment or building it ourselves. On the positive side, the chickens love the nesting boxes and will even come back from free ranging to lay eggs inside them. On the negative side, the chickens hate the coop. “Really,” you say, “How can nice chickens hate a nice coop.” “Well,” I reply, “They refuse to use it.” What??? Since introducing them to the coop and allowing them to come home to roost, they have chosen instead not to roost on the roosts. Instead, they sleep on top of the roof. The roof???  Yup, they clumsily fly up to the A-frame roof and sleep like ducks in a row. Fortunately, we had an extremely mild winter, but I am concerned for what next year brings. So below are some photos of what works and what needs improvement.

Here’s our chicken run and coop.  It’s situated to be sunny in the winter and shaded in the summer and so we can watch the chicken antics from the house.  The run measures 8′ wide because that was the width of the hardware cloth.  There’s plenty of room and plenty of room makes for chickens that are nicer to each to other.

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This is a closer look at the corrugated roof that my husband added after our birdbrains decided to sleep under the stars.  As an added bonus, it is a real plus for making chores easier when it’s raining or snowing.  We sometimes in poor taste jokingly refer to it as the “favelas” in reference to the poor shantytowns of Brazil.  My Portuguese-American husband tells me that the word “favela” is actually derived from the Portuguese word for fable or fairytale so I’d like to think our set-up is closer to the latter meaning.

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Underneath the corrugated roof we have the food, water, free-choice calcium, and a galvanized metal can with lid for storing extra food and supplies.

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Ahh, here’s the most convenient part of our arrangement:  Running water from a frost-proof hydrant. This is also doubles as the water source for my mini farm plot.

Why my chickens hate the coop:  I think the roosts are too close to the ground and they prefer to be higher up.

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Yet perhaps I should be grateful the chickens prefer to sleep outdoors?  One evening after sweeping, the roof is again covered in chicken poop.  Backyard Poultry magazine had an interesting article about how fresh air is so much healthier and this arrangement certainly fits that description.

Why I hate the coop:  It started falling apart shortly after assembly.  The nesting boxes are precariously drooping and the walls are coming undone.  Because it is constructed of such poor quality materials, it is resisting our preservation efforts.

I thought the removable floor trays were a grand idea, but in practice they get jammed with litter.  So I must remove all the litter through the little pop hole prior to removing the trays for washing.  Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?  Once this coop does finally fall apart, I think I want to build a coop that employs the deep liter method.

Fortunately, the ladies do love their nesting boxes!

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Roughly in order of the pecking order, our mixed flock has a treat inside the run.

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