Friday, December 16, 2011

New Quail babies are here!

Things have been extremely busy around here since I started college and then the holidays crept up on me!  Matter of fact, I have been so busy that I actually forgot I had 6 quail eggs sitting in the incubator until the exact day they should have hatched.  Realizing I had not prepared for the quail to hatch ( I forgot to add water to the incubator to up the humidity, and forgot to turn off the automatic turner too!) I was not expecting for any to hatch.  However,  just in case, I added water, turned off the auto- turner and locked the incubator down with every intention of tossing out the eggs two days later.

24 hours later and we have 6 of the cutest, tiniest valley quail chicks I ever saw.  Doesn't matter that they are the first valley quail chicks I ever saw either, I am convinced they are the cutest!  All of them are smaller than my thumb!  I can't wait to watch them grow into beautiful, mature birds.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Get connected!

In case you didn't know, people who raise chickens are some of the nicest people on earth! 
Whether just starting out, or doing it a while- there are tons of places to meet others who have chickens.

Recently Beth Gollihue started a facebook page Called Chicken Swap of Florida.  It was so successful, she then started Chicken Swap of Georgia.  You can find it here:  Chicken Swap of Georgia

 As members started adding up, she started getting request from different places and recently made one for right here in South Carolina!  Go ahead, and get connected!
Chicken Swap of South Carolina

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My First Time Processing Chickens and the things I learned ( No graphic pictures)

 As nature would have it, we ended up with more roosters than hens this summer.  Having chosen the ones that will be my breeders for next year, that left the others to cull.  Though the Cochin don't have much meat on them at this age, I hate to waste anything.  So this morning I went outside and caught five to put into the freezer.  I figured women have been killing, plucking, and gutting chickens for hundreds of years - how hard could it possibly be?  I even watched a couple of videos on the computer showing how to do it.  Piece of cake!, I thought.
  I gathered my knives, got a pot of water heated for scalding,  my glass picnic table ready with a trash can-  I was set.  

Step 1- Hang chicken by feet and cut it's throat and let the blood drain out.  

Hanging the chicken by its feet was easy enough.  I grabbed the knife in one hand and held his head in the other and with one swift motion... nothing.....  the knife would not cut.  I thought maybe it was because of the feathers so made sure the blade was against the skin.
Confidence in Free Fall
With a deep breath and one swift motion... nothing.  Not even a scratch!   ( Big Sigh....) The same knife I had tested the night before- on a soft tomato and it slid right through it like it was  butter- was  not  cutting the skin of the chicken.    The confidence I had for this adventure suddenly took a nose dive.

Weapon of mass destruction

Determined not to give up, I was able to find an old mop.    Laying it on the ground,  I put the chicken's neck underneath the handle while placing a foot on either side of it's head.  Holding the chicken by the feet, one quick jerk upwards and it was all over, the neck was broken. Some of my confidence restored, I moved on to the next step.

Scalding pot
I needed a large pot of water approximately 145-148 degrees. Having  grabbed my largest pot  it was sitting on the fish cooker, warming up.  Earlier the temperature of the water had been 160 and short of turning off the gas altogether, that was the lowest I could get it.   Figuring I could  compensate by not leaving the chicken in the water very  long, I reached over and lowered it down into the pot-  Well most of it anyway.  Apparently the pot wasn't quite as big as I thought it was.  The chicken fit, if I forced it, but just barely.   After, swirling the chicken left and right, then lifting him up and down a few times I was able to easily pull out a wing feather.  Hey, this wasn't so bad!

Pulling the chicken out of the water, I hung it by the feet again and called my 14 year old son to come pluck feathers so I could move on to the next rooster.   Now,  my son is a little taller than me and can be quite mature at times.  This was not one of those times.  One look at the soaking wet chicken and he scrunched up his face and started saying " Ewwwww!"   And he didn't stop saying it the entire time he plucked  the front of the chicken.
Uncool Cooler
By the time he got the front of the first chicken done, I had the second chicken scalded, plucked  and was ready to drop it into the first cooler of ice.
Opening the lid, I realized that the ice was still in the bag, and I needed to add water. ( DOH!)  Helpful Hint : It is  a lot easier to add chicken to a cooler that already has ice free floating in water, than trying to hold a naked chicken in one hand, while trying to open a 20 pound bag of ice, dump it in the cooler then add water using the hose with the other hand.
Once the plucking was finished, it was time to remove the insides of the birds.  Surprisingly, this was pretty simple and straight forward.
After gutting, I went on and  cut the chicken into pieces.  While doing so, I noticed the outside of the breast meat had turned white from being slightly cooked  while scalding.   Oh well, it's all going to be chicken 'n dumplings anyway.   Because of this experience, it will go better next time.  Especially since I now know what not to do.
One small cut up chicken

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Something new in the Chicken kingdom

     I am always looking for things that are sustainable and  renewable, especially when it comes to feeding the chickens and now quail.  Enter the meal worm. Though not actually a 'worm' , it is instead  the larval stage of the Darkling beetle.
High in protein and low in fat they are a wonderful
treat to feed to the birds.  I had bought some freeze
dried ones before and my birds loved them.
However, buying them freeze dried is a bit expensive.  So, after a little research and preparing I placed my order online and got 2,200 of them two days later.

What do they need at a glance: 
* Stable Temperatures.  Warmer temps for growth, 45-50 to slow down metabolism if needed.
* Smooth sided bin, either glass or plastic, deeper is better.
*Wheat bran for bedding about 3 inches or so deep.  They also use this for food.
*Something for moisture like a slice of apple, carrot or potato

What will you see happening: 
* Upon setting up and getting your worms, they will eat and shed their exoskeletons as they grow.
*Once they are grown, they will become small white pupa that will  become beetles.
*Once the beetles are grown, they will run around mating and laying eggs in the wheat bran which will hatch   as teeny tiny baby worms and the cycle begins again.

  Starting a colony  is so very simple and you can easily do this yourselves.  All you need is a cheap plastic bin with deep, smooth sides ( to prevent escape).  You can get these at the dollar store or walmart  very inexpensively.  If you use a bin with a lid, then you will need to add a lot of holes for air circulation or you could simply make a top out of screen.  I saw where someone had used a 10 gallon aquarium and  bought a ready made screen lid that fit it perfectly.    Once you get your container, then  add wheat bran for the bedding which is also what they eat. You can find this at  most health food stores, or grocery stores, even feed and seed stores carry it.  For moisture, a slice of apple, carrot,  potato,  or similar item is placed inside.  I put mine on a small plastic lid to keep from getting the bran moldy, as moisture in the bran will cause mold and  is a bad thing.  Toss in a couple pieces of newspaper and you are set to start your  meal worm farm.  

I have mine inside to keep the temperatures warm as I want to be able to feed them year round, especially in the winter when there aren't any bugs  to be found and all my chickens will have is feed.    Should I ever have too many,(doubtful- have you seen my chickens eat?!) I can then place some wheat bran in a dish, place them inside and cover with lid and put them in the refrigerator for  weeks at a time.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Then and Now Bo Blue

It is that time of year for us.  Time to decide who gets to stay and raise the next generation of Chicken Super Stars and who gets to stay...for dinner.   We will be processing our roosters in the next couple of weeks and getting the pens ready for this coming spring breeding season.   Funny enough, my first instinct when they were little is still who I am going with now that they have begun to get some size to them.   
Here is Bo Blue at 2 months.  Hard to believe he started out completely blue, but soon he started to show some buff feathers on his chest, then wings then it just kept going....
Here is Bo blue at 6 months.  Amazing what a change in only 4 months makes!  He has the  most amazing feathering on his legs and feet and I can't wait to see what kind of babies we get from him.

Friday, September 2, 2011

OH MY Quail!!!

I know, I know it's a chicken blog, but.. we got Quail!!!! 
We decided to start our adventure with the Georgia Giant Bobwhite quail.  Four males, the ones with the white stripes on the head, and 8 females are all together in the cage I brought them home in.  Jeff will have the outside pen finished for them tonight and then they will have a lot more room. 
Having just bought them last night, they have been sitting on my dining room table ( O.O  a foreshadowing of things to come!! Shhhhhh!)  making the sweetest sounds!

Georgia Giant Bobwhite

Of course, my adventure didn't stop there.  As I was happily walking back to my truck, I happened to see a different kind of quail.  (At this point, my chicken friends are nodding knowingly.  For everyone else, well let me just say birds are like potatoe chips...  you can't have just one, or two, or three...)

Valley  quail have absolutely beautiful grey and blue plumage.  The breeder had two pair and I was able to talk him out of one.  As they pair have recently gone through a molt, I can't wait to see them in another couple of week with all new feathers!
Mountain Quail

Friday, August 19, 2011

One of these is Not like the Others...

  As you can see, the Mille Fleur D'uccle chicks have grown quite a bit in the past couple of months.  However, today when I went to feed and water, something just struck me as odd.  Can you see it?
This is actually one of two chicks that hatched last month.  Obviously too small to put in with the big chickens, he fits in quite well with these guys!  I don't think he realizes he is different than the others, and I have decided not to tell him :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

It's the Simple Joys in Life...

No matter how focused I become on life's big projects, some things always bring a smile to face no matter how many times I see or participate in them. Feeding the chickens for example:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Nest box Give away!

All my hens are Egg-cited at the chance to win a brand new 2 hole  nest box from Hen Pals nest boxes made in the wonderful state of Georgia.  That's practically local!  Matter of fact, my girls are coming up on 5 months of age and will be needing those boxes soon!   We don't mind telling everyone how nice it would be to have one, especially since spreading the word gets us 3 more entries into the drawing.  You can check them out yourself here----->     Hen Pals Nest Boxes

Remember a while back I was dreaming about incubators?  Well I stumbled across a deal this past week and actually ended up with one very close to the one I dreamed of.  Actually, I ended up with two, the one on the right doubles as a brooder! 
Sarcastically, Jeff tabulated the amount of eggs I could hatch at one time with the 3 incubators at almost 100.  Oh how the little evil genius on my shoulder laughed with glee at the thought!  THEN, Jeff mentioned he would like to raise quail.  Oh My Quail!   Well how can I possibly refuse?!   The search begins.... 

Brinsea Incubators        Go Big Red!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Passing of a Legend

Big Daddy Roo, the famous morning show crooner who was said to have been enjoying his recent retirement, was found late last week lying outside his garden home, too weak to walk.  Sources say he was immediately transported to a critical care unit on the east coast where caretakers tirelessly worked around the clock for three days treating  him.  Causes for his swift decline are unknown at this point, though heat stroke seems to be a likely culprit.  Big Daddy Roo was surrounded by family when he passed away this morning.  He will be missed.  A small private funeral service is to be held for family and friends later today.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Bird in the Hand is Worth...

*Where is the Rooster Report, you ask? 
*What happened to  Big  Daddy Roo?
* Why aren't there new pictures of the baby chicks!?  
* What is going on with ( insert name of favorite chicken here)?

My schedule has been a bit hectic of late.  Who knew that returning to college would cause other projects to suddenly appear and take up previously plentiful amounts of time?   Below you will find one of the more enjoyable projects, although it does indeed, take up quite a bit of time.  :o)

 This Mille Fleur bantam chick has been named Calypso.   A Greek name meaning, 
" hidden or covered with a veil", it fits her well  as she is rarely happy, quiet, or sleeping unless being held in my hand while covered with a towel, shirt or my other hand.  I had thought at first that she may not like the bright light of the lightbulb being used for heat, but in this family of chicken stars, she might as well get used to it.  Though she will tolerate being placed back into the brooder to eat and drink and hang out with the other chick, if she catches a glimpse of me walking by she will began to loudly, and I do mean LOUDLY, demand that she be picked up and appropriately snuggled.

Hatched less than 24 hours apart, as a bantam, Calypso is only half the size of the other chick, a standard size Cochin cross.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Perfect, Easy Peel Hard Boiled Eggs Every Time

I love summer cook outs and picnics!   Every other weekend we participate in a cookout that features hot dogs as the main event.  I always bring deviled eggs and they are one of the first things gone.  I thought I would share the secret of easily peeled hard boiled eggs, every time.  I can not guarantee you will never again have a hard to peel egg, but I can promise they will be few and far in between.

           Let's get boiling!  When do you put your eggs in the water?    I wait until right before the water begins to boil and then set the eggs in gently, using a large spoon.  I set the  timer for 17 minutes to keep from over cooking, causing the yolks to get that greenish color on the outside. 

When I get down to the last 5 minutes of boiling, I fill a large bowl half way with ice, then add water until it is three-fourths of the way full.  Once the timer goes off, I spoon the eggs out of the boiling water and immediately submerge them in the bowl of ice water.  This does a couple of important things: 1- It stops the cooking process instantly.  And 2- it causes steam on the inside of the egg, making the membrane separate from the egg.   This is what makes them easy to peel!  I generally let them sit in the ice bath for 5-10 minutes before I start cracking and peeling.  I have even put them in the fridge and peeled them the next day and they were just as easy to peel.  This has been the easiest method I have found regardless of how fresh or not so fresh the eggs are.

Mmm Mmm Good!!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

New Life

There it is!  The first sign of life!!  After 3 weeks of  carefully calibrating  temperature and humidity,  gently turning each egg  3 times a day, and a lot of patient watching,  we had a pip!  A pip is when the baby chick makes it's first hole in the egg as it prepares to break out.   Here, on the left side of the egg you can see where it started.   

 It was hard to stop pressing my face against the tiny window of the incubator so I could watch nature's drama unfold and enjoy the beginning of a new little life, but  my breath kept fogging up the plastic and I decided I should get a picture or two anyway.  This picture is the next phase called the "zip".  The chick makes a crack all the way around the egg so that it can emerge and hatch.  Between each stage the chick takes a break and rests.  It's hard work being born!

                                                                                     Success!!!  Happy Birthday Chick #1!!!!

                                                                                     And then, Almost 24 hours later............................ .Happy Birthday Chick #2!!!!!!!!!!!!

We are waiting to see if the other two eggs will hatch in the next 24 hours.  We will keep you updated!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

New Chicken Recipe

I experimented with a new chicken dish tonight and it was a huge hit!  So I thought I would share and hopefully your family will enjoy it as much as mine did. 

Chicken breast butterflied and pounded flat

First,  preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  I started with a package of chicken breast, though you could use thighs too.  With a sharp knife I butterflied each breast and wrapped it in plastic wrap.   Then, I pounded them flat with a mallet, my favorite part!

Seasoned and covered!

  Once flattened, I seasoned with garlic, spicy cajun seasoning, and pepper.   Then, using  our favorite spaghetti sauce,  I spooned 3 tablespoons over each piece and broke up some Swiss cheese to scatter over the top.

Begin tightly rolling

Starting from smallest side, I tightly rolled it towards the bigger side.  The plastic wrap really helps keep it from coming apart. 

All rolled up and only one place to go!

Keep rolling until you get to the end.  If it tries to unroll on you, secure the ends with a couple of toothpicks.  You will take them out in a few minutes , but it's a great trick to use if you need to.

Just quickly browning, not cooking,

 In a hot pan, brown the sides.  This happens pretty quick, so be prepared to roll it  to keep the browning even.  If you used the toothpicks, they will help hold it together during this step.

Nice and browned, waiting for some sauce!

Once the breast are browned, place them in a casserole dish and  remove the toothpicks.  Then spoon some of your favorite spaghetti sauce over the top of each and place uncovered into a 350 degree  oven for an hour.

So Good, your tongue will slap you in the face trying to get to it!

Once I pulled the chicken out of the oven, I let it sit and rest while boiling my noodles and warming up the rest of the jar of spaghetti sauce. 

I hope you get a chance to try it, and if you do, drop me a line and let me know how it turned out!

Monday, July 4, 2011

4th of July!!!!

           As one of the most looked forward to  high points
           of summer,  4th of July celebrations kicked off     
           everywhere this weekend. 
           Here was no different as dozens of friends 'flocked'
           together to enjoy good company and good food!  

Big Daddy Roo entertained the crowd with his humorous impression of " Running around like a chicken with it's head cut off" before joining in with the Orpington Twins singing The Egg Song.

Here are a few more pictures from the feasting....

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rooster Report 6.25.2011

Events are quickly developing for Big Daddy Roo.    Rumors are  swirling about that he is being forced to retire this week amid controversy over results that stemmed from a random fertility test.   Insiders state that despite free health care and palatial living quarters the big red rooster is no longer able to secure the development of future generations and replacements are already being considered.   Fans of the early morning crooner are insisting he be allowed to spend his remaining years in the art field, or in this case- being art in the field. ( AKA yard art)  Critics, however,  are suggesting he would be better adapted at entering the  kitchen  and trying his luck at a savory pot of chicken and dumplings.  We will keep you updated as this story progresses.

 In other news, the Orpington twins were spotted networking and eating with members of the Fowl Weather Friends Society. The FWFS  recently hosted an exclusive" by invitation only"  styled benefit.  The proceeds of which  go to support the expansion of research and development of leading pig farmers as well as marketing strategies.   A spokesperson  for the group stated  that," with  the economy forcing people to eat out less and cook at home more, it was important that- pork, the  other white meat- be kept in the forefront of the public's mind."


In our next report we will interview an up and
coming financial analyzer named Ruckus, the author of How to feather your nest while working for chicken scratch.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The 21 Day Countdown

Brinsea Octogon 20 EX package
I like the idea of sustainable resources.  The more I think about it, the more I like the idea that with a little investment and some time you can get a continual return on something.  ( After having four kids I would really like to use them as an analogy for sustainable sarcasm, but I figure that is mostly genetic and  this is a blog about chickens!)    So, it was only natural, as my ideas evolved, I would start searching for the perfect incubator!    Here is my dream incubator, the Brinsea octagon 20 EX.  It is completely digital, completely automatic, completely out of my price range even on sale at $399.    Brinsea makes some awesome incubators and always get rave reviews, and they do have less expensive models.  I just figure I would share the one   I would buy if I had  unlimited funds.  You can check out more information on their incubators here -  Brinsea

Even after checking out the classifieds a used incubator was hard to find and the prices ran from $50 to $120.   After a couple months of searching I found one for $10 !!  Once I got home, I washed it with soap and water and plugged it in to test it out.  It took a few days of playing with it to get it stay at 100 degrees, but once it was set I couldn't wait to start collecting eggs to put in it.   Having gathered some eggs from our Rhode island reds and a few from the mille fleur d'uccles,
I grabbed a color pencil and put X's on one side and O's on the other so I could keep track while turning them 3 times a day for the next 21 days.   I was so excited to put them in the incubator I dropped one, breaking it and cracking another!  GAAHHH!!!     I did eventually get 12 eggs safely inside, resting at a warm tropical 100 degrees.   After getting everything done I sat down and pulled out my calendar to calculate when they should begin to hatch.  Funny, the date is July 4th- Independence Day .   I'll take pictures and keep you updated as the hatch progresses!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Chicken Fashionistas

Bald back caused by over breeding by rooster
Breeding season has been in full swing for quite some time now and as I surveyed my chicken kingdom I noticed  that a couple of the hens are starting to look worse for wear thanks to some over active roosters.
When there is a low hen to rooster ratio, roosters can begin to over breed the hens, causing all kinds of damage to the feathers from breakage to loss.
 Eventually the hen can end up with bald patches on their backs and shoulders.  Though this is cosmetic and causes a less than attractive looking chicken, other problems can arise such as sunburn or skin infections from scratches or pecking.

Tools of the designer clothing trade- OK-, stuff from my sewing room

So what's a girl to do?  After all, it's early summer and there are parties to plan, gala's to be invited to and premiers to be seen at!  A girl can't go out without well dressed feathers!    No, she can't.  So being the responsible purveyor of all things good in my chicken kingdom, I sent the girls to a designer to get that special something that no girl should be without for the summer festivities!

A measurement here, a snip and stitch there, some elastic for comfort and a little applique for that special sparkle and a wave of Cinderellas' god mother's wand and.....   TADA!

                                               You look MAH - VA- LUS  Darling!

                                  Fresh off the sewing machine- I mean runway in Paris! 

                              All the girls want one and try to find out how to get their own!!

These are super easy to make, I am going to start making and selling them. If you have a special girl who needs an outfit for protection from marauding roosters or something spectacular for that special event let me know!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Meet Mr. Boots

Mr. Boots

 It wasn't that  long ago when the hen house received their first leading man, Big Daddy Roo.  However, due to differing opinions on courtship, favoritism and manners Big Daddy Roo was rejected and sent packing.  For the next couple of weeks the hens settled into a  quiet routine awaiting the Bird of their dreams.    Today, the  hen house is all aflutter with excitement !  Early this morning the hens flocked to the fencing, eagerly  pressing  against one another to get a look at their new leading man, Mr. Boots, a gorgeous Standard Buff Cochin.

Unlike his previous predecessor who ruled with an iron first, Mr. Boots calmly stepped into the middle of the pen and began a sweet gentle conversation with each of the girls.  Quickly the hens gave in to his soft spoken demeanor and gathered around, stars in their eyes.  In less than five minutes he had gained their attention, and captured their hearts with his display of fancy footwork and courting abilities.  While  all the hens sighed with delight, I left to give them some privacy as two of the hens threw themselves at his feet in surrender.

 Look out-
There is a young, new rooster in town and his name is Mr. Boots!