Monday, February 8, 2010

They're Back!

A friend is enamored with a special breed of chicken, the Sicilian Buttercup, and the only way she could get these chicks was by mail ordering them. When you mail order chicks, you have to buy 25 at a time so the chicks stay warm in transit. I agreed to take some of the birds since Maryann did not want so many babies. Maryann ordered a random assortment of chickens along with four Sicilian Buttercups, two for me and two for her.

When the postal clerk delivered the box on Friday, one bird, a Sicilian Buttercup no less, was dead. That left us with 22 birds because the company sent us only 23 birds. I took 11 chicks as I will be raising two for Joe, our beekeeping friend. I took the weakest looking Sicilian Buttercup and despite my valiant efforts, the sweet thing died last night.
Concord Feed, our local animal food store, will receive their first shipment of chicks next week so I will pick up another bird for Joe. He wants a white and black one so I will get him the "Elvis" breed, the Light Brahma. I will give Joe his chicks as soon as this flock is ready to move outside.

Below is a photo of my birds. The Sicilian Buttercup is in the right hand corner. I will be raising two Silver Lace Wyandottes, a Rhode Island Red, two Buff Orphingtons, a brown leghorn, two Ameraucanas (these lay the green/blue eggs) and a barred rock.

During the past few weeks I have been planting bushes and vines to reduce the noise and visibility of the chicken yard. I am very excited about being a chicken mother again! I have been telling my old girls about these new babies so that they will be ready for them in a couple of months!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Easter Egg Hunt

It is a bit early to be celebrating Easter, but Brant is a kid at heart and he loves Easter Egg hunts. I didn't think he would find any eggs as I had already collected six earlier in the afternoon. Brant wanted to check things out so I told him to have at it.

And guess what he found? An egg! And there was not just one, it turns out, but two!

This is Polly's egg because it is white and only one bird in my flock lays white eggs.

Here is a Plymouth Rock checking out the hen house in the middle of the afternoon.

Photo Op

Dave's profound statement when he viewed the photos that Paula took of Brant and me during their recent visit to the chicken pen: "It is okay to pick chicken up with your fingers."

Here is Brant holding an Ameraucana.

Here is a Production Red prancing up the hill to join us.

This is what she saw - our fearless cat, Mr. Darcy.

Paula and Brant know how to ingratiate themselves with the chickens. They bring leftovers and the great thing about my ladies is that they seldom turn their beaks up at anything that is offered to them. This Ameraucana is enjoying leftover pumpkin bread pudding. As Paula points out in her food blog (, this was not one of her favorite recipes.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Extra Extra Extra Large

Check out this humongous egg! It is so huge that the extra large chicken carton I put it in will not close properly. I told Paula that this egg counts for two.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Never Enough Fence

After the 3.5 inches of rain we got last Tuesday, I noticed tons of new plants growing on the hill. Dave and I felt sure that the chickens had eaten every seed and we were quite concerned that the winter rains would cause a mud slide. Dave actually called several local government agencies to find out if we were eligible for free grass seed.

Since there is life in 'them thar hills', we decided that it would be prudent for us to fence off the area to allow the vegetation to grow. Of course, this means more fencing. We had most of materials on hand so Dave tackled the project Saturday afternoon. He needs to borrow a come-a-long and rope to stretch the fence tight so he will finish the job this Thursday when he has a break from work. The chickens will not be pleased but the new trees we planted last week and the baby weeds and grass will get a break from their pecking. Eventually we will let the chickens roam this area again but we will manage the amount of 'grazing' they do.

The following photo may look familiar as I included many of Dave setting up the original fence in earlier blog entries.

The tree above the word hill in the photo below is our new lemon tree. We plan to cover the hill with other fruit trees this fall. So far we have a pomegranate, a lemon, a fig, and a white peach tree. The hill is composed of shale so we are not sure how well these plants will grow. I guess time will tell!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How Long Will These Eggs Stay Fresh?

"How long are these eggs good for?" is one of the most frequent questions I am asked when I offer eggs to friends. In this post I will attempt to answer that question while also explaining why some hard boiled eggs are easier to peel than others. My source of information is the Chicken Keeping Secrets newsletter at

When an egg is formed, the yolk and whites are enclosed within a thin membrane. A second membrane lies just inside the egg’s shell. In a fresh egg, the two membranes lie against each other. In an older egg, evaporation has had a chance to occur within the egg because of the porous egg shell resulting in more space between the two membranes. When you boil a fresh egg, the two membranes lie so closely together that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to peel the egg. Use for old eggs for making boiled eggs.

You can use a “float test” to give you an idea how fresh your eggs are. The older the eggs, the larger the air pockets between the two membranes. The more air the eggs contain, the more they will float.

Fill a bowl with cool water. Gently place your eggs in the bowl.

(1) If the eggs lie flat on the bottom of the bowl, they are very fresh. These are the best eggs for eating alone.
(2) If the eggs stay in contact with the bottom of the bowl but one end starts to rise, these eggs are still fresh, just not quite as fresh as the one that lies flat.

(3) If the eggs stand on end but still stay in contact with the bottom of the bowl, they are still perfectly safe to eat but they are better used for baking or cooking. These are the eggs to use for boiling, since the air pocket between the two membranes is large enough to prevent sticking when peeling the shell away from the egg.
(4) If the eggs do not stay in contact with the bottom of the bowl, throw them away as they are not good for eating.

In the following photo, the brown egg is one day old. The white egg is a Safeway 'special' with a "sell by" date of October 30. As you can see, the white egg is already beginning to tilt upwards.

The reason store bought eggs usually peel so easily is because they are not very fresh. You may not realize this, but eggs can be more than 45 days old before you buy them. I do not know how long the “farm” has to package their eggs for sale once it has been laid. But at the time of packaging, the “sell by” date is 45 days later! In short, most of the eggs that you scramble for breakfast are likely 2 months old!

If your are lucky enough to get really fresh eggs, enjoy them as they are very special.

First Rain of the Season

Our rainy season begins in late October and continues through April or May. Yesterday we got our first serious rain and I was curious to see how the chickens would react to it as they have never seen rain. As I expected, the ladies were not very happy. Like us, they do not like to get wet. As the torrential rains hammered their playground, they stayed underneath the hen house, the only dry area available to them. I checked on them several times and they were extremely delighted to see me. I felt sorry for them so I made them macaroni and cheese. Needless to say, they polished off this comfort food in no time at all. I added flax meal to the cheese mixture to boost the nutritional quality of their eggs.

The rain finally abated around 4:30 PM. The chickens cautiously made their way around the yard and scratched at the damp soil. I was glad that they had some play time before retiring for the night at 6:45 PM. Withthe days get shorter, the birds head back to the hen house earlier and earlier in the evenings.

Here you can see the tail feathers of an Ameraucana being fluffed by the wind.