Archive for May, 2010

Even Broody Hens Get Lonely

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

This afternoon I checked on the broody setting on eggs in the woods. She must have gotten lonely.

Broody Hen and Turtle

I think I heard her chatting with that turtle as I walked up on them.

These Chickens Will Be The Death Of Me

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Last year we ended up with 18 extra roosters from all the broody hatches we had. We sent 17 to freezer camp, and Charlotte adopted a Phoenix cockerel. While it was nice having chicken in the freezer and they tasted delicious, these guys were very small and hardly worth the effort. This year I promised Bernie to limit the number of chicks I allowed the broodies to hatch out.

I was doing really well there for a good long while. Within a matter of a few short weeks, I had eight broody hens. I gave the first babies to hatch to a neighbor when the chicks were a couple of days old. Score! Then Charlotte agreed to take two of the broody hens and all the babies they hatched. Double score! From the remaining broodies, we ended up with only four new peeps in the yard.

During all this excitement and broodiness, I noticed I was missing one hen when I tucked them in at night. After a week or so, I figured she was either setting on a nest in the woods or was gone. A few days later, I came up short one more when I tucked them in at night. I figured it was this broody and I pretty much gave up on the first one that went missing – but I did not lose all hope.

This afternoon in was in the goat paddock playing with them and Bernie was sitting at the picnic table in the backyard watching us. I began hearing some faint cheeping. A few minutes later it was noticeably louder.

I hollered over to Bernie, “Did the mamas leave those chicks back here again?” A couple of the mama hens that I let hatch out chicks have started leaving their babies and getting on with life – when the babies are not hot on their heals as they walk away. And when the mamas do manage to escape, those chicks scream bloody murder.

“Um, I don’t think so. These babies are very, very tiny.”

By the time he finished his sentence I had made it out of the goat paddock and was running toward the cheeping I heard.

And there she was. The first hen that came up missing – with four little babies bumbling along behind her.

I filled a feeder and waterer and put it down for them, but mama would immediately lead them away if I got anywhere close.

new baby chicks

You’ll have to look very closely, but there are two chicks in this picture:

new baby chicks

And there are three in this one:

new baby chicks

She has a total of four babies. I was really hoping to catch her and the babies and get them in a brooder, but I had no luck. She did finally lay down for a while with the babies under her.

new baby chicks

But she kept a close eye on me the entire time. I am really praying she heads to the coop with the babies tonight. It’s quite a journey for such tiny little chicks, but mama hens expect their babies to hit the ground running, so it’s possible she will lead them to the safety of the coop. I sure hope so. I have no idea where her nest is – if I can find it I will go out at dark and move them all to a brooder.

I don’t like having hens brooding outside the coop, but I accepted that there would be risks involved in allowing my chickens to free range. The consequences of keeping them penned are just more than I am willing to put up with – for my sanity and the sake of my chickens. Even so, I worry every minute that my chickens are roaming in the yard and woods, and I lose sleep over these broodies that have nests in the woods.

I love my chickens. I really do. But I know these chickens will be the death of me.

I’m certain I’ll go with a smile on my face.

Hamburg Hussy

Monday, May 24th, 2010

For over two weeks, I’ve been coming up short on my head count each night when I tuck the chickens in. And a few times I found a Hamburg hen clucking softly and pacing by the closed chicken run first thing in the morning when I went to let the other chickens out for the day. I knew that little hussy was broody and setting on a nest somewhere, but I could not find it. Well, she came into the run this afternoon while I was tending to the waterer and feeder, and I waited her out and followed her when she headed back in the woods.

And I found her clutch. There must be about three dozen eggs in it.

Broody hen in hidden nest

She’s way too small to cover all those eggs. I have no idea how many will hatch.

Broody hen in hidden nest

Well, there goes my plan of limiting the number of chicks this year……

Look at this cute bench Bernie made out of the leftover deck material.

bench Bernie made

It’ll be a nice bench to sit on and watch that broody Hamburg with all the little babies she’s sure to bring up in the yard in the next week or so. Hussy.

Bernie Rocks and Duke is a Bully

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Look what Bernie did today.

deck

He built gates for all three of the deck step openings.

deck

Now the pups can go out unsupervised and bark at things and we don’t have to worry about them terrorizing goats and chickens.

deck

Speaking of the pups terrorizing chickens, I must tell you that sometimes the chickens terrorize the pups. Dolly gets very excited when Bernie throws her frisbee off the deck for her to chase.

deck

But sometimes Duke can’t stand to see Dolly having so much fun.

deck

And she has to do some pretty fancy footwork to get past him.

deck

She actually thinks Duke is her friend and wants to play. She’ll abandon that frisbee to play with her friend.

deck

Dolly thinks Duke is the best playmate ever.

deck

Duke chases her all over the yard.

deck

When she gets tired of being chased and retreats, Duke lets out a crow that just about shatters windows.

deck

Diesel excitedly watches the entire exchange.

deck

And this is about as animated as he gets over the whole thing.

deck

On second thought, maybe the gates are to keep Duke from getting at Dolly on the deck.

Spring has Sprung

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

I realize there are a few things out of place in the milking/storage area of the goat barn, but if you look closely you may see one thing that positively does not belong here……

chickens

Shhhhhh. She doesn’t think we see her.

chickens

I let a broody hen hatch out three chicks and keep two of them:

chickens

chickens

I gave one to another broody.

chickens

A few days ago, yet another broody hatched out three chicks. Today I removed the front of the brooder and the mama brought her babies out into the coop for the first time.

chickens

We have no shortage of broodies here this year.

The Irises my mother gave me last year are now in full bloom.

chickens

And we should be eating strawberries soon.

chickens

chickens

Spring has definitely sprung.

I Heart Salads With Croutons!!!

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

I’m a big salad person. If we have leftover chicken or steak, I usually eat it chopped up in a salad for lunch for the next day or so – with lots of croutons. I can’t help it. I’m a crouton hound.

When I started making my own croutons, I swore off store bought. Nothing compares to the taste, or the cost, of homemade croutons. If I have bread that is going stale, I make homemade croutons. Sometimes, if I use a bread recipe that makes two loaves of bread, and I know we will only eat one, rather than freeze the second loaf, I make croutons out of it. Here’s how:

If you have an unsliced loaf of bread, slice it into sandwich size slices. If you have store bought sandwich bread, you’re ahead of the game.

Then take each slice of bread and slice it into cubes. Put it all into a very large bowl. Drizzle melted butter over the whole thing and toss the bread cubes around by hand. When the butter is fairly well distributed, you can sprinkle on some seasonings – garlic powder, onion powder, basil, oregano, rosemary, etc. – any one of these or all or whatever you like – depending on your taste. Then toss the bread cubes some more to distribute the spices.

Spread the bread cubes evenly on a cookie sheet. Bake them at 250 for at least an hour, or until they are crunchy enough to meet your specifications. Store in an airtight container after they have completely cooled. They will keep at least a week and probably two weeks – although I’m not sure because mine don’t last more than a week.

If you find yourself without croutons right before a meal (like I did tonight), you can whip some up in about 30 minutes. Toast a slice of bread for each person eating a salad. Quickly and lightly butter one side and sprinkle with seasoning. Cut the toasted bread into cubes and bake at 250 for about 30 minutes or until crunchy.

I really love salads. I love them even better with croutons. And homemade croutons rock!