Posts Tagged ‘free range chickens’

Cacophony

April 1, 2010

From dictionary.com

ca·coph·o·ny   [kuh-kof-uh-nee]
–noun,plural-nies.
1. harsh discordance of sound; dissonance: a cacophony of hoots, cackles, and wails.
2. a discordant and meaningless mixture of sounds: the cacophony produced by city traffic at midday.
3. Music. frequent use of discords of a harshness and relationship difficult to understand.

I’d like to add another definition:

4. The sound a flock of chickens make early in the morning when they sense a predator, whether real or perceived.

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Homemade food

September 11, 2009

We’ve gone to several carnivals and fairs this summer. The latest was in the small town closest to us. The kids love to get lemon shake-ups, which is basically lemonade that is shaken, I guess. I suspect these are made with corn syrup, but I am not sure. It’s some kind of sugary water with ice, squeezed lemons, and cut lemon. The vendors also sell lime and strawberry shake-ups. The kids love these so much that they’ve been asking us to make them at home. To my surprise and delight, Aidan said the ones that his dad makes are much better than the ones at the carnival. Tom usually makes them with stevia, water, and lemons. Sometimes we use honey or cane sugar. I really think that better ingredients make better food, and it seems that the kids agree most of the time.

The one exception seems to be Taco Bell. Aidan has commented that Taco Bell has the best taco meat. I just cannot make taco seasoning like Taco Bell. However, I saw a packet at the store and looked at it and figured out why I can’t compete: MSG. Using MSG is cheating. It’s saying that you can’t make your food flavorful, so you have to cheat by giving it an extra boost. Needless to say, we try to avoid MSG. So now it’s time to avoid Taco Bell (not that we go often, but they just built a new building in our town so it’s been a treat for the kids, though I’ve pointed out that the food is not new, just the building.

Yesterday I bought some tomatoes from the farmer’s market and combined them with the ones from our garden. The sauce is halfway done since I peeled and seeded the tomatoes yesterday. The last time I made the sauce I also used fresh basil and parsley from our garden and it was super yummy. Tom ended up using some of it with some ground beef, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, peas, and green beans. It was like Hamburger Helper from scratch and it was delicious, not to mention way more nutritious.

I also made my own honey mustard dressing yesterday. I had considered buying more honey mustard dressing at the grocery store yesterday, but then I looked at the ingredients again and saw high fructose corn syrup was listed second or third. I figured it would not be hard to make my own and that mine would be completely sweetened with honey rather than high-fructose corn syrup. It had three ingredients: plain yogurt, dijon mustard, and honey. That’s it! Easy and yummy.

The other foods I would like to cook today are chicken noodle soup and curried butternut squash soup. We have a defrosted chicken in the fridge and some chicken stock that Tom made from the last chicken we roasted. These chickens are from a lady that lives nearby. Eventually we will be eating chickens we’ve raised ourselves. I expect our flock of 23 will reproduce nicely come spring.

As far as the curried butternut squash soup goes, I will be using the following from our garden: butternut squash, celery, and chives. The onions will be either from our garden or the farmer’s market (it’s hard to keep track of where it’s from once it’s piled together on the table!). I’ll post the recipe later, once I test it out again. It’s a recipe I found online and modified. I haven’t made it in a while so I’d like to test it again before I post the recipe. I might have to make it in steps since we are heading out of town for the night. I’ve found it works well to do things in steps, like peeling and seeding the tomatoes and then putting them in the refrigerator until I’m ready to make sauce. I think I will probably cook the onion, celery, and garlic part up and put it in the fridge so I can finish the rest later. After all, the squash isn’t going to go bad any time soon!

This post is part of Fight Back Friday.

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It’s like Easter every day

August 26, 2009
Lula Mae's old nest

Lula Mae's old nest

We now have two pullets who are laying eggs. Holly laid her first egg Monday, though she spent at least a week getting ready. I have now learned how to tell when a pullet is getting ready to lay. First, they get noisy – lots of cackling and clucking. The wattles and combs will get bigger and redder when they are near laying. They also start nesting. That sounds a bit obvious, doesn’t it? But they will make a nest (assuming you don’t have nest boxes, that is), usually somewhere dark and covered. Lula Mae, the first pullet to start laying, picked a spot in a raised bed that has a pine tree and bush growing out of it, as well as other plants. She made a little hole in the bark in an area that was quite secluded. She laid there for a cople of weeks, then switched spots. She made such a nice nesting spot that the cats thought they would lie there. I suspect that is why she moved her nest. It took us a while to find the new nest, though we had an idea of where it was. It turns out it was in the back of our shed, in a place that only the kids can get to since it has a little doorway leading to it.

Doorway to Lula Mae's new nest

Doorway to Lula Mae's new nest

Holly decided the garage would be a good place to lay. She had beein going in there making a lot of noise for a few days. She even found a box that was perfect. The kids and I shredded some newspaper and put it in there, but then the kids (OK, Mo) decided to empty that box out and move it later that day. So we tried to make a different area for her and she seemed interested, but kept going back into the garage. Finally, Tim got that same box ready so that Holly could lay in there. That’s where she has laid her last (and first) two eggs.

Holly's nest box

Holly's nest box

The other 20 chickens, the Buff Orpingtons, have been out ranging for a week or so. There have been no major skirmishes between the two flocks. Anytime Chicken Joe goes near the other chickens, they scatter. Joe is very secure in his position as top rooster. I have noticed the Orpington roosters (3 so far, not sure about a couple of others) fighting a bit and doing the mating dance next to the pullets. The Orpingtons are now 16 weeks old.

So the question that keeps popping into my head is, “What are we going to do when we get 19 eggs a day?” It’s a question that gives me a slight panic. Not a real panic, more of a I-better-figure-this-out-soon kind of panic. Mo suggested we slaughter (her word, not mine!) some. But then the kids thought maybe we should sell them. We can do that, of course, but there are some restrictions about that. Maybe I can just sell them to family and friends? I told the kids it would be a family business. They think it’s fun to collect the eggs since the chickens are day-ranging and we do not have nest boxes. Aidan keeps saying it will be like Easter every day! And he is right.

Rainy days and Mondays are still exciting

August 17, 2009

We’re having a lazy, rainy day today. And yet there are still exciting things that have happened. First, we decided to let the little chickens out of their coop. I let them out before I let out the big chickens. The big chickens were none too happy about this, of course. Eventually I went outside with a plastic garbage can lid in had to let out the big chickens. I wanted to be prepared in case the pecking got out of hand. To my surprise, I let the big chickens out and they went the opposite direction, totally ignoring the little chickens.

Chicken Joe, mid crow

Chicken Joe, mid crow

Now, at some point there was a little pecking, mostly from Holly. Joe didn’t have to peck too much as I think he is secure in his place as top rooster and top chicken. So the little chickens were out ranging happily and peacefully. Last time I checked they were back in their coop roosting, probably to dry off since the ground is pretty soggy. I’m sure there will be more pecking as the two flocks reorganize into one or more flocks.

The other thing that happened is that Mama Cat went towards the creek. I followed her since I’ve been trying to get a look at her kittens, which were born around August 12. That’s the day she came back hungry and less round looking. I couldn’t find her kittens since they were somewhere near the creek and were hidden by the vegetation. A little while later, however, I spotted her moving one into the garage. I waited a bit to give her time to move them all, then went out to see where they were and try to get a look. I counted 3 kittens. Mama Cat was fine with me looking, but if I tried to reach in the box to move the kittens she would gently paw at me. I could tell she didn’t want me to put my hands in there, so I backed off. I’ll try to get pictures later, mayb when the sun decides to make a reappearance.

Chickens

August 13, 2009

Finally, some pictures of the chickens. The Buff Orpingtons are now 14 weeks old. I took these pictures more than a week ago, so they were probably closer to 12.5 weeks old at the time. They are big, but not quite as big as the New Hampshires. I’m waiting until they are about the same size before I let them all out. Or that is my plan at the moment, anyway. I really, really want to let the Orpingtons out to free range but I am worried the big chickens will pick on them. I suppose that with all that room maybe they will be ok?

Buff Orpington pullet

Buff Orpington pullet

I’m not sure how many roosters we will end up with, but there are at least 4 and I suspect that some others will be, too. You’d think I could tell by now! I suppose some of the others that look like they are getting combs and wattles could be pullets. And I suppose they could be laying eggs next month. Wow! They totally need to be out eating grass.

Buff Orpington cockerel

Buff Orpington cockerel

Buff Orpington chicks

Buff Orpington chicks

I had planned to name the New Hampshire pullets after my grandpa’s sisters, but that was when we thought we had 5 pullets. It turned out we had 4 pullets and that still worked since my grandpa had 5 sisters and only one is still alive. I figured we would not use her name since she was still alive. Well, now we are down to two pullets, so one is named Lula Mae, after my grandpa’s oldest sister. The other is named Holly. This is not one of my grandpa’s sisters’s names. It is a name the kids picked out when we were on our way home with the chicks. I didn’t want to use it because it wasn’t a name of my grandpa’s sisters…. but now that we only have two pullets I figured Holly works just fine as a name. So, here is Holly Hen. She is much bigger than Lula Mae, by the way.

Holly, a New Hampshire pullet

Holly, a New Hampshire pullet

I often say to Chicken Joe, “Who’s a handsome rooster?”

Who's a handsome rooster?

Who's a handsome rooster?

Here is a picture of Chicken Joe and Captain Gray, who is one of Little Gray’s kittens. We called him Tiny Gray for a while, but then I figured since he is a boy that name won’t fit for long. So Captain Gray it is. UPDATED: Sorry, but this is actually Little Gray, not Captain Gray, as Captain Gray is gray and white, but has very little white on his face.

Chicken Joe and Little Gray

Chicken Joe and Little Gray

First egg pictures

August 12, 2009

OK, I managed to get the pictures off the card from my camera. Hooray! Tim insists that my camera is fine and that I just need to charge the battery now. I will try that and see how it goes.

Anyway, now I have a ton of pictures to post but I will just do a few for today and then some more for tomorrow. So here are some of the first egg we found. This was found in the accidental garden right near the house.

First egg laid near house

First egg laid near house

This is the egg after we put it in the refrigerator. The other eggs are from the store, but are also pasture-raised.

The egg on top is the first egg

The egg on top is the first egg

This is from when we cracked open the first two eggs. One of them had a double yolk. I know this isn’t a very good picture, but it’s the best of the ones I took.

First two eggs cracked

First two eggs cracked

And here is a picture of the roasted chicken we had. It was the first time we ate food we’ve raised and butchered ourselves.

LemonButt

Roasted chicken

First egg

July 28, 2009

I found the first egg today. I am pretty sure it is the first one ever, but not 100% sure. I know that Lula Mae has been making noises for over a week now and that today she was sitting/squatting in the accidental garden, right next to the house. I went out to see what was up and possibly interrupted the egg laying process (is that possible to interrupt it in the same way that a woman’s labor can be interrupted by stress or danger?). All three chickens, including Chicken Joe the rooster, were making lots of noise. That was why I went out to see what was going on. I guess it was as big a deal to them as it was to me.

We also worked in the garden a bit today and picked a couple of tomatoes. One was eaten by the kiddos and one by the chickens when we left it unguarded. Silly chickens! Anyway, more tomatoes are turning red so that is great news. The sugar snap peas seem to be dying off int he heat, which I think is normal. The carrots are finally doing well, but Moira wants to pick one every time we go to the garden, so we don’t really have any to use in meals. I need to plant more carrots for fall and then remember to plant more next spring. The winter squash are taking over the area between the tilled area and the raised beds. I guess they didn’t get the memo that they were supposed to spread into the tilled area? Silly squash!

I will post some pictures tomorrow, as soon as I get them off of my camera. I also have a picture of a dead, half-eaten copperhead snake that Tim ran over with the mower. We left it out and something ate some of it last night. It’s a lovely picture and I know everyone will surely tune in to see it once it is posted. Right?

Summer update

July 22, 2009

OK, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. Really I haven’t. We’ve just had such had such a busy summer that I almost wish I would fall off the face of the earth just so I could get some rest. Things are still busy, but in a couple of weeks we should be back to normal; that is, no one travelling and no one visiting. That is part of why I haven’t posted much. The other reason is that we have lost some animals and that is upsetting and not fun to post about.

We lost two of the New Hampshire hens one evening at dusk. The kids and I were out of town, so things were quieter, I’m sure. Perhaps that is what gave the predator the nerve to get them so close to the house. We also lost two of Mama Cat’s kittens and one of Little Gray’s. We found a dead kitten on our lane and buried it and we assume it was Muck. The other, Muggy, just disappeared. Her other two kittens, Stinky and Vicious, are still around and Vicious has even gotten to be pretty friendly with the other cats and with us. Of course, it could just be that she is in heat! I am quite sure Mama Cat is pregnant again, too.

Little Gray’s kittens are cute and playful and friendly. In fact, I have Swirly Junior on my lap right now. He sleeps inside with us at night and we all love him. We did lost Scotchy Junior, about a month ago. He was under the couch and got stuck in the mechanism for the recliner. We didn’t realize this until the next morning as we were getting ready to go away for the weekend and I was making sure all the kittens were outside. It was horribly, horribly sad and I feel guilty that a kitten died because of our own carelessness.

Anyway, the garden is going OK. Things are growing despite my almost total neglect. I’ve used some lemon basil from the garden twice and made a yummy chicken dish. We have green tomatoes, lots of herbs, cauliflower and carrots. I need to plant more for fall, so maybe next week I will find some time to do some more planting. I did lose all the corn, probably to some deer that ate it while the kids and I were out of town. I think that the kids are a great deterrent to animals that think of coming too close to the house.

The chickens are doing well. The Buff Orpington chicks are growing and are now in the coop/dog kennel thing. It is working well enough for now, though it won’t work well for winter. We are still planning on building a coop, but it it turning into a fall project rather than a summer project. We have at least two Buff Orpington roosters, possibly a couple of more. I think that Lula Mae is getting ready to lay very soon. She has been making lots of noise and clucking when she goes into the coop at night. Her comb and wattles have grown and gotten quite red, which is also another sign. The other hen, who we have named Holly, doesn’t seem quite as ready, but I think she is getting there, too. Chicken Joe wasn’t crowing much when we still had the other rooster around, but now he is crowing very nicely.

That’s all I have for now! I will post more pictures someday soon. I have to take some first! I think next week things will be calmer, despite the fact that Tom will be out of town. I will be home with the kids and Tim and will try to play catch up with the garden, the mowing, and the blog.

Introducing Rosalie

June 19, 2009

This is Rosalie. She has a ring of black tail feathers. The other pullets also have black tail feathers, but not quite this same pattern.

Rosalie

Rosalie

I took these pictures a while ago, so she has gotten a bit bigger. I am pretty sure she is the top hen. I moved the coop to a new location and they had a hard time finding it at first. One night I was out trying to show them where the coop was. They all figured it out, but for some reason Rosalie was just standing there looking at me. I think she was glaring. I think she was giving me some attitude, but I could be wrong. She was very stubborn about going into the coop and was the last one in (yes, even after the two roosters!). I will have to watch her closely to see if she is the top hen, but I am pretty sure she is. I know who is the lowest in pecking order. I think I will introduce her next.

Rosalie

Rosalie

Cleaning day

June 16, 2009

Today was the day to clean out the brooder and the movable coop. I haven’t cleaned out the movable coop at all yet, so it wasn’t pretty. However, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been since the Big Chickens have been free-ranging and pooping elsewhere (though my back porch has seen better, less smelly days!). The part of the movable coop where the Big Chickens roost at night is covered in hardware cloth. So this helps a bit with the mess as some of it falls through. The brooder has the same kind of bottom, with bedding on top. I don’t bother with bedding for the movable coop because the Big Chickens are really only in there at night to roost and for a while in the morning while they wait for us to wake up and let them out.

So anyway, the cleaning involves these steps:

  • Move stuff out of the garage so that I can then move the brooder out of the garage,
  • Enlist Tom’s help (usually Tim, but he is out of town) to move the brooder out of the garage, near the movable coop,
  • Have the kids help get the chicks out of the brooder and into the movable coop,
  • Call Aidan over to fend off the Big Chickens, who are wondering what those little punk ass chicks are doing in THEIR coop,
  • Keep putting chicks into movable coop, while telling Mo to be careful with the chicks and yelling for Aidan to come guard the chicks,
  • Let the Big Roosters go in to check things out, while holding a kid’s sized ho in my hand to shoo them out if necessary,
  • Shoo out Chicken Joe because he pecked at a chick,
  • Hurry up and finish moving chicks so I can clean out the brooder,
  • Used big metal dust pan to clean out brooder and put droppings and bedding into a bucket to take to compost pile,
  • Turn brooder completely over to dump it all out,
  • Start cleaning the movable coop out, while Mo plays with the chicks in the run part of the movable coop,
  • Take a break because the sun finally came out and now it is humid AND hot instead of humid and pleasant,
  • Go back out and move the chicks from the movable coop back to their brooder (minus bedding so they can eat some grass),
  • Clean out the movable coop a little more and then put down fresh bedding (forget what I said earlier, bedding will be good),
  • Put water and feed back in brooder
  • Fill up water dish and feed in movable coop
  • Put brooder back in the garage
  • Fill feed troughs and water for chicks

OK, so that is done for a while. It is by far the worst part of having chickens, but on the whole I’d say it isn’t much worse than cleaning a cat box. The coop cleaning is once or twice a year and nasty, but the cat box is ongoing and easy.