Forecast – Eggs and Rain

The time of year we have been waiting for has arrived – the hens are laying more and more eggs. Now I just find myself longing for drier days. It has been so wet and the forecast calls for weeks of more wet weather. The hens don’t seem to dislike it as much as I do. I think they have had enough rain to finally start sleeping in their coop instead of out under the stars, in a tree or on a railing.

I honestly don’t know exactly how many hens we have but it is somewhere around 18-20. I stopped keeping the exact total last year sometime when our neighbor’s dog started killing our chickens and being set free more and more to terrorizing the whole neighborhood. This issue is finally resolved though it came about due to the death of our neighbor, which is sad, but at the same time the whole neighborhood seems more peaceful as a result.

We currently have 2 roosters and I really should get rid of one but it is tough choosing who stays, esp. after so much loss this year (chickens, family, etc.). Online articles can tell you that you may only need 8 hens to 1 rooster. But in reality you may need alot more to prevent injury due to over mating. And even if you do have 20 to 1 a rooster may still pick a favorite. Last year our favorite blue layer was the chosen favorite. All year she had to wear a chicken saddle due to severe feather loss. She is all better now and that rooster is no longer tormenting her 😉

So why do we keep a rooster around at all? Well, roosters can help keep hens safe and out of trouble. Some even protect the hens from predators (others run, lol). Although, roosters aren’t needed in order to have eggs, they are mandatory if you are to raise your own chickens. So those are just some reasons why we keep 1-2 around.

In the end this means – we end up with alot more eggs at times than we really need!! With spring just around the corner it will become even harder to keep walking past the baby chicks at the feed store or to pull the broody hen off her nest or to tell a loved one that we have enough hens. But with that said, a hen only lays well for 2-3 years so every year we do get more chickens. We get more than we need as you never know who will lay or who will be a rooster, who will make it or who might not.

Recently, I have lost much of my anger and resentment over the dog killing so many hens (and being a terror in other ways). We lost some really good ones; some breeds we may never be able to get locally. But in other many ways I am relieved. I am glad I didn’t have to choose which hen stays and who goes. I had enough of that when we ended up with half a dozen roosters. I am thankful for the ones we do have…. even if that means I am left with another problem – what to do with all the eggs?!?

Nothing left after making quiches, custards, breads, etc. except to sell them!

Eggs For Sale

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Bronze Egg

Our first “Bronze Egg”

Welsummer and Bronze
Eggs from 9/27 ordered by size. Larger ones on left, smaller on the right. The speckled one is a Welsummer egg and the one beside it looks bronze. It’s the first one we have had!

I don’t know if they call this an olive egg in the chicken world or not. I know many folks try to breed olive eggers. I don’t even know who laid it but hope we continue to get more of these unique eggs!Welsummer and Bronze

Persimmons

It’s the end of summer, which means Persimmons!

We love fresh persimmons but this year we have found a new love – Persimmon Bread. YUM!

Mini Persimmon Bread Loaves
Mini Persimmon Bread Loaves

This bread is amazing! It’s dense and spicy and could even be frosted (cream cheese or vanilla) for cupcakes.

Persimmon Muffins
Persimmon Muffins or Cupcakes

Persimmon Bread Recipe –

1 ½ cup All Purpose Flour or Bob’s Mill Gluten Free 1to1 Flour Blend

½ tsp Salt

1 tsp. Baking Soda

½ tsp Nutmeg

½ tsp Ground Ginger

1 tsp. Cinnamon

Just under 1 cup Sugar

1 drop (about ¼ tsp.) Blackstrap Molasses

1 ¼ cup Persimmon Pulp (can be made from previously frozen persimmons too)

¼ cup Oil

2 Eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  I like to throw the dry stuff together and mix, then add the wet stuff and mix everything together.

Batter is thick. Spoon batter into greased pans. Cook until toothpick comes clean. Can be around 20 minutes for muffins and up to an hour for a full loaf.

Persimmon Pulp/Puree
Persimmon Pulp/Puree

Persimmon pulp can be made using a food mill, or picking the seeds out by hand then blending.

 

 

Baby Bunnies

Hello Bunnies!

We have been so busy caring for all the babies and soon-to-be-babies we forgot to post photos of mama bunny and her babies! The babies are around 6 weeks old now.

This mama is a keeper! She nursed her 8 babies and 1 “foster” from another mama that didn’t make it (childbirth is hard on moms!).

It is hard to tell the runt apart from the other babies is but he is more grey than the other babies and has a white streak on his head. He is so sweet too!

Here are the girls with mama and the boys playing in the neighboring ‘room’ behind the girls. Mama, the girls and boys - in hutch

We have 5 baby girls and 4 baby boys –

The girls are waving – buh bye for now!

Teeny Eggs!

Our hens that were hatched in March are starting to lay! Everyone is so excited!!

The eggs are so teeny tiny (and cute) but they will get bigger over time. Only time will tell if the hen will lay small, medium, or large eggs.

Most of the eggs were hidden under the roost in the poopy mulch. New layers don’t always know where they should lay and try to make their own nests, lol. Thankfully the Buff Orpington laid her egg in the nestbox this morning. Hopefully the others will follow after her and learn sooner, rather than later.

21 Days

20 days flew by!

Today is the 21st day of the hen sitting on her eggs. Which means – the babies are on their way!

This morning we already have 2 baby chicks! Several other eggs have peeped (meaning you can hear them chirping inside) and others have pipped (meaning they poked a hole through the shell). We are am just waiting for them to unzip – cut a line all the way around their shell.  This is where things get tricky sometimes and they need help. But you must not help too soon or too late. So today and tomorrow we are all on egg duty.

Broody Hen – again

We have a broody hen – again!

So what does that mean? Well, for us it means we have one less hen laying eggs. Sometimes farmers will try to break their hen of being broody because all broody hens do is sit – almost all day. They barely eat or drink. They just sit in the nesting box (where other hens want to lay!) and squawk at intruders. But we rejoice when a hen is broody and use her broodiness to our advantage by sticking eggs under her. Then we cross our fingers and hope for more baby chickens!! There’s nothing more cute than a fuzzy baby, whether it be a puppy, kitten, or chicken.

I also love the fact the new chicks are essentially free, and taken care of (for the most part) by the hen, instead of me. Baby chicks are cute, but they are needy! They need to stay warm. If raised by a human, they are often put under heat lamps or heat mats. Lamps are cheap and cover a large area compared to a heat mat. They cost more to run and are more of a fire danger. Yet it is something people have used for decades. Elevated heat “mats” are new, and cost more up front, plus they only cover a small area. So the more chickens you have, the more you need. Plus they will get poopy. Baby chicks poop all the time, but they also start hopping on things pretty quickly – thus everything gets pooopy – the waterer, in the water, in the food, and on the mat if you buy one. And poop sticks – bad! And of course it stinks, so a mat, while it has some advantages, also has some downsides. But a good mama hen, only needs food and water. She will keep her babies warm. She will teach them what to eat, how to forage, etc. And this hen was a good one last time. She abandoned her babies a little early last time, but she did most of the work for us.

The hard part is waiting and learning what to do. Thankfully we have the internet to research but sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know, until something goes wrong. We are hoping we learned from our mistakes last time and have a higher hatch rate, but only time will tell and waiting is just so hard!

 

 

Berries

It’s the beginning of berry picking time. That means fresh, yummy berries always on hand for snacking, muffins, cobblers, etc.

baking with blueberries

Planting and tending doesn’t take alot for blueberries or blackberries but strawberries and raspberries are more tricky plus they have more pests/diseases.

Picking the berries means contending with the heat/humidity during the day or the mosquitoes in the mornings or evenings.

blueberries and mint..

It also means the berries need to be picked every day, sometimes twice a day, and sometimes you can get away with every 2 days.

You must be vigilant to pick only ripe berries and not get stuck with thorns (blackberries & raspberries) or stung by a wasp or bee because bugs and birds love berries too!

blueberry cheesecake

The chickens love their fresh treats and eagerly crowd around hoping to be fed the overripe or partially bug-eaten berries too.

It’s work from beginning to end, but the rewards of farm fresh, pesticide-free berries are worth the work!

Save

Save

Growing

The chickens and “grow bed” plants are growing!

Mama hen keeping her babies safe, even from me, by running into the the open, but short pen. On the other side of the pen are the “teenage” chicks that were trying to eat but when mama came – they ran! They know who the boss is.

The hope is that some of the plants will grow into the chicken area, but not be decimated by the voracious chickens.

 

 

 

2 More baby Chicks!

Who knew hatching was so hard?!

Via various online sources and trial and error we have learned about broody “mama” hens and hatching eggs. Unfortunately, we lost several babies while still in the egg but we were able to help 2 babies hatch. That makes a total of 3 baby chicks born on the farm! 1 little one appeared to have a bigger body and feathers like a rooster, but time will tell.

For now Mama Hen has been busy taking care of her babies too. She lets them climb over and under her anytime they are cold, scared or wanting to play. She shows them where the food and water is and even how to dig for food that has spilled out of the feeder. She does a great job keeping her babies safe from the other chicks that are 1-2 months older too.

It’s been very rewarding but emotionally exhausting!

Baby Chick Arrives!

new baby chick

We have a new baby chick!

He/She arrived on 4/25/17. You can still see her little egg tooth on her beak as she is barely a day old in this photo, just learning to walk and eat. She is a mix between a Cuckoo Maran Rooster and a Buff Orpington hen. It is hard to work or do school with a cutie like this just outside! But her “mama” that hatched her is very protective and makes sure she is safe from us and the other little chickens that are about 2 months old.

Baby and the broody “mama” hen that hatched her are picture below. The broody hen is a 1 yr old Speckled Sussex and this is her first hatchling. We are waiting on the other 4 eggs that are under her to see if they hatch.

New baby chick 1

Here’s proud “papa” checking on his baby (and trying to figure out what I am doing!). The golden hen is a Buff Orpington, but since we have 4 we don’t know who the biological mother is.

buff and roo

 

Change of Fate?

The “egg eater” laid an egg and she didn’t eat it?! (it was a bit dirty but I didn’t give her a box, just a big crate and a roost)

Did we accuse the wrong hen? Does she only eat the other eggs? Does she only eat them occasionally? So many questions…

~Life on a farm is never without surprises! 🙂

For now, she will stay in her grassy patch away from the other eggs. If we still have problems then I will suspect another hen eats them too. I sure hope it was only her though. And we have a plan to offer her, with full disclosure, to a neighbor. The neighbor has younger chicks and she thinks she has 5 roosters! This would give her at least 1 laying hen. If she starts eating her eggs, or others later on, we could give her a lesson on animal husbandry, if desired. No matter what shakes out, she will not be dinner tonight.

UPDATE – The family loves their new hen! (and she has even laid a few eggs for them 🙂 )

 

 

3 Eggs

Yesterday we got 3 eggs. Just 3 from 16 hens! The last 2 weeks we have been getting less and less. A few factors to consider – weather, reintroducing the rooster, a broody chicken (we may have more babies soon!), and I suspected we had an egg eater!  Out of the three eggs we did get, 1 was pecked and all were splattered with egg goo. I also found some eggshell pieces. I was on a mission to figure out what was happening.

Today we spent much of the day protecting the broody chicken eggs, making the last 2 curtains for the nesting boxes, watching the 4-5 week old chicks that are fenced off in a separate part of the yard, and running outside to collect eggs anytime a hen made the “egg song” noise.  There were many false alarms because hens have favorite boxes and they aren’t always patience waiting for their box. So they, in their own way, sing (yell) their egg song at the hen in the box in an attempt to hurrying things along. They also sing this same song, after they lay.

On one visit out to check for eggs, we noticed the broody hen was out of her box. She spent a longer time than normal stretching her legs, getting a dust bath, eating fresh greens, and getting water while we faithfully protected her nest. We wanted to make sure the eggs weren’t crushed or eaten, or that she didn’t refuse to get back in her nesting box. In the process of protecting the nest, we noticed one hen that was was stalking her nest and others. She relentless, which was a bit odd. Since we had so many hens to keep out of the box, we decided to take a chance and put her in with the babies. She didn’t attack them but was clearly on edge and just wanted back out. She attempted flying out, so we pinned her into the babies’ house, which meant the babies were stuck out in their yard (which is still a bit scary to them and not 100% protected from hawks). I didn’t like throwing them out in the yard, but while she was locked up, 5 hens laid without us hearing them. Four eggs were laid in the favorite box and guess what? Not one was broken! No eggs shells or goo left behind.That was great news for the eggs, but not for the suspect.

At this point I knew I already knew the hen that was locked up was either a poor layer or has never laid. Her pubic bones are not as far apart as the other birds, which indicates she either hasn’t laid or doesn’t lay often. I am a sucker for giving birds a chance, but the fact she may also be an egg eater wasn’t good. So, we took one pecked, but not leaking, egg from yesterday and placed it pecked side down in the babies’ nesting box, with the suspect. I put the hen up near the nesting box so that she could see the egg and she immediately ran and pecked the egg until it broke and she began eating it.

Now I don’t know why she never matured to lay eggs, nor do I know why she started eating them, but from what I have read, you can’t really break them from that habit. She has lived a better and longer life than most chickens with room to run and even fly. She had bugs, grass, and treats to eat. I figured out when she will go but it will be as peaceful as possible, with a prayer said on her behalf. (Doing the deed is never easy emotionally, spiritually or physically). In the meantime she is getting to eat all the grass she wants, without having to fight another hen for it.

 

On a positive note – we got 12 eggs today including my favorite – a pretty blue one!! Hopefully we will be getting more clean, unbroken eggs to share with others.

 

The story of our Hens

Our love of poultry (and FRESH eggs!) got started by accident. It started with a love of gardening and totes of chicken manure.

Most of us eat chicken but few understand how chickens are raised. In the commercial chicken world, once the chickens are hauled off to be processed, the huge chicken coop has to be cleaned of all the chicken waste (shavings, poo, etc.) and the rejected chickens.

We took a few loads of manure to our garden but my heart broke knowing runts were left behind (to die). So we put some in our totes and took them to their new home. The hens at 2 months old were still bigger than our full size heritage breeds. Many people assume it is due to GMO feed or steroids but it is just due to breeding. They were bred to be bigger, faster. The meat is more tender and juicy but it also cheaper this way.

These “rescued” runts got us curious about “real”chickens. So we started buying various chickens trying to find which breeds we liked best for size, personality, egg laying frequency, coloring (of bird and egg), ability to forage, temperament, etc.

In our quest to find, and even breed, our favorites, we have had more eggs (and chickens) than we knew what to do with at times – all because you Must buy more chickens than you want to have in the end. You never know how many will be roosters (even if they promise hens). Nor do you know how many just won’t make it, for whatever reason. You also never know when a hen will start laying. It can be as early as 4 months, but some can take 10 months. Hens won’t lay well if it is too hot, if they get startled, if it is winter (due to lack of sunshine), etc. Hens stop laying and go broody too. Even when they do lay you never know if they will lay small eggs forever, or if they will get bigger as the bird ages. Getting eggs isn’t as simple as it seems.

Ultimately, I don’t know that we could ever go back to store bought eggs again, therefore we will continue raising our chickens and sharing the excess as long as we can.