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!

 

 

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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!

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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.