Archive for the ‘fresh eggs’ Category

Double Your Pleasure…..

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Eeeeeep! Look what we finally got this morning.

double yolk egg

A double yolk egg! I had all but given up that I would ever find one of these. I am totally all about yolk in an egg. It’s the best part. So I almost peed my pants when Bernie called me into the kitchen this morning to see this beauty. It was all the more surprising because it came from a small, skinny egg. We have three girls that lay very small slender eggs, and the yolks are very large. Today one of them had a double yolk. Yay! Because it wasn’t really unusual in it’s appearance before he cracked it, we didn’t take any pictures. But I took some pictures this afternoon of two that are pretty similar.

eggs

The rounder eggs both weigh in as large eggs. The two skinny eggs both weigh in as small. And the egg that had the double yolk looked very much like those two skinny eggs.

This was definitely double the pleasure for me. I savored every bite and chewed with a smile.

Large or Small – I Love Them All

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Most of my older hens stopped laying as the days got shorter. Fortunately, I have several pullets that hatched out last year, and those little girls are keeping us in eggs through the winter. And since there are several different age groups, the eggs vary in size between the older pullets and the younger that are just starting to lay.

I just love checking for eggs each evening. I just can’t wait to see how many I’ll be collecting, or the size of each of them. The size really ranges – from itty bitty to extra large sometimes. And even though my chickens are white eggs layers, some of them lay tinted eggs – kind of a pinkish/beige sort of color.

Eggs

I love my chickens. And I love their eggs. Every stinkin’ one of them.

Quiet, Calm, Duke, and Pickled Eggs

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

We finally had a couple of days where the temperature rose above freezing, and we did not hesitate to take advantage of one of them and send nine cockerels to Freezer Camp. We are now officially extra-rooster-free for the first time since last spring. And it feels great. For everyone left on the homestead, anyway!

My poor hens have spent the past few weeks running and hiding from those extra cockerels. The girls would gobble their food as quickly as possible in the morning, if they ate at all, and then run/fly out into the woods to get into the trees. Sometimes they hung out on top of buildings.

chickens

It wasn’t the cockerels fault. They were victims of nature – specifically an over abundance of teenage testosterone. But they wreaked havoc around here. From the second they woke up until the second they went to sleep, the yard was filled with the sound of hens screaming and screeching as they attempted to escape from these cockerels, and the sound of the cockerels screeching as they fought over the hens. These cockerels were never tame and, although I never laid a hand on any of them, they would scream and run anytime I walked close by them. They also crowed non-stop. I do love to hear a rooster crow – but listening to 12 crow all day and night really pushes my enjoyment level.

And even though we were aware of the chaos surrounding these nine cockerels, we really had no idea how awful it was until they were gone! The resulting calm in the yard and the flock was immediately palatable. The quietness was a blessed relief, and by late afternoon, there were no hens in trees. For the first time in weeks, the hens were out wandering in the yard with Bobby Lee and Pico. I honestly think I saw those girls smiling……

Poor old Duke is hanging in there. He spends most of his day off to himself, with one or two hens. If I live to be 100, I will never understand why he gave up being Alpha Roo, and then withdrew from the flock for the most part. It really is heartbreaking. But even though Duke has lost his place in the pecking order of the flock, he will always have a special place in my heart.

Bobby Lee’s tail feathers came back beautifully after his molt. They seem to still be growing, and he’s got a couple that now drag the ground behind him.

chickens,Phoenix rooster

Pico is a sweet rooster, and I think he’s a pretty boy.

chickens,Phoenix mix rooster

And even though the older girls aren’t laying very well right now, the pullets are providing us with enough eggs that I used 4 1/2 dozen to put up 5 quarts of pickled eggs the other day.

pickled eggs

Pickled eggs are great. A calm flock is even better. All living things on the homestead are very happy right now.

Hussy Chickens and Greenhouse Plants

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

One of these things just doesn’t belong here:

Hidden Nest

No, it’s not that rusted truck tool box I once used as a brooder and has now been banished to the edge of the woods. Look a little closer. To the left of the box, under that pile of brush:

Hidden Nest

And look what I found when she got up:

Hidden Nest

There were nine of those eggs in that little hidden nest. They’ve got another nest or two out there, and I’m going to find them, dammit!

Golden Penciled Hamburg

And don’t you look at me like that, you little hussy.

I want to show you a few things in the greenhouse. We’re doing a little experiment and growing a couple of peppers and tomatoes in the greenhouse this year. We’re hoping they do well and have an extended season. So far, so good:

vegetable

vegetable

And look at this pretty little Colorado wildflower (thanks, Lilla!):

Wildflower

This little wildflower came from the seeds I brought back from Nebraska:

flowers

So did this Morning Glory:

Morning Glory

Mom brought me a bunch of flowers and plants when she came to visit last month. I have no idea what this one is, but it really has a beautiful bloom:

flowers

And one of the pots she brought me had some little rogue Impatiens in them:

flowers

The Basil is starting to grow now.

Herbs

The Oregano is getting a little crazy.

Herbs

And the Thyme is doing great. My dear friend from Texas brought me the pot it’s in when he came up to visit a couple of years ago. I love that little pot and it makes me think of him and smile every time I look at it.

Herbs

Oh, and look at these fig trees my father started rooting for me and brought up last month:

fig tree

I’m hoping to get them planted next spring. Maybe if I put chicken wire around them and then fill it with leaves and straw in the fall they will make it through the winters up here.

OK, speaking of chickens, I need to go hunt for some hidden nests. I really don’t like doing that. Not only do I rarely have luck finding them, the hens laugh at me while I’m searching.

Little hussies.

Bee Free,
Penny

How Does this Whole Chicken and Egg Thing Work?

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Since I’ve started raising chickens, I’ve gotten a lot of questions from people concerning eggs, and I’m guessing most people that raise chickens get similar inquiries. I’m going to dedicate this post to answering the questions I am most frequently asked about my eggs, and addressing a few things that you may find of interest. For those of you that raise chickens, feel free to chime in on this post’s comment section and share additional knowledge, or share answers to questions you frequently receive.

OK, here we go.

Question: Do you need a rooster to gets eggs from a hen?

Answer: No. The eggs will not be fertile, but a pullet or hen can lay eggs without a rooster around.

Question: I cracked open an egg and found a red spot in it. Does this mean the egg was fertile?

Answer: No. The red spot you sometimes find in an egg is something that occasionally occurs when the egg is forming in the oviduct. This is typically called a “meat spot” or “blood spot”, and it is usually a small piece of tissue or speck of blood from the hen. It is harmless and safe to eat. If it grosses you out, just remove it. You will not normally find these spots in store bought eggs because the eggs are screened by high tech equipment that detects these types of things and discarded.

Determining if an egg is fertile can be accomplished by looking at the blastoderm. The blastoderm is a small white spot on the surface of the yolk. You may have noticed this small white spot in store bought eggs. The white spot may look like a white dot and it is easily removed in infertile eggs. If the egg is fertile, there will be an expanded ring around the blastoderm. This is often called a bulls eye, because the ring resembles one. I don’t have a great picture of this, but I do have one that may help you determine the difference:

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See that egg in the middle? Notice the spot on it? Maybe you can see it better in this picture:

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Notice that it is not a clearly defined white dot? It looks expanded, and you may be able to notice the bulls eye appearance. This is a fertile egg. It is perfectly safe to eat and does not affect the taste.

Question: Why is the yolk in your chicken eggs so much more yellow or orange than store bought eggs?

Answer: Free range chicken eggs typically have very yellow or orange yolks because their diet allows them to ingest many nutrients from various plants that provide carotenoids, which is responsible for the yellow color of yolks. Quality chicken feed will also provide carotenoids that can result in eggs with a deeper yellow or orange color.

Question: I noticed that the egg shell of one of the eggs you gave me is rough and sandy feeling. What’s up with that?

Answer: It’s not unusual for new layers to occasionally lay an egg with a shell that is rough feeling. The rough, sandy stuff on the egg shell is calcium deposits that simply didn’t get smoothed out as the shell was forming. These types of shell do not affect the quality or taste of the egg. Below is a picture of one such shell:

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Question: Why are the eggs I get from you so difficult to crack? The shell seems to stick to the something that makes it difficult to get the egg out.

Answer: Beneath the shell of an egg, is the membrane. This membrane is very strong when an egg is very fresh. As the egg ages, the membrane deteriorates. Fresh eggs can be more difficult to crack because the membrane is very strong and the shell tends to cling to it. So take heart – you are getting very fresh eggs!

Question: Does a rooster have to mate with a hen each time before she can lay a fertile egg?

Answer: No. A hen can remain fertile from one mating with a rooster for quite some time, possibly for up to four weeks. This means that there is a good chance that the eggs she lays during that time may be fertile.

The above are the most common questions I am asked concerning my chickens’ eggs. If you have additional questions, please feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to answer. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll try to point you to a resource that can provide it.

On a slightly different subject, I found this link from the Mississippi State University Extension Service that does a wonderful job of describing the embryo development in chicken eggs. I found it very interesting and helpful.

Be Free,
Penny

Big Dogs and Sneaky Chickens

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

It’s been a while since I posted. I’ve been wanting to get pictures of the pups to show how big they are getting, but for some reason the only time I think about the camera is when they are sleeping. I’ll work on that this week. In the meantime, I’ve heard from enough of you to know that I should bring you up to date on what’s been happening on the homestead.

We took the pups to the vet for booster shots this afternoon. Dolly is now 20 pounds, and Diesel is 18! Not bad for a little runt. He’s really catching up with Dolly. These little puppies are a source of constant joy to us. It’s hard to be in a bad mood around them. Diesel and Dolly can make everything all better.

And I really needed Diesel and Dolly last night. I went out to candle the eggs under my second broody and I dropped one and cracked it. And it bled. And I cried. I am so upset with myself. I just can’t tell you how badly I feel. I’m not touching those eggs again. But on an up-note, I do believe the three eggs I candled before that were all fertile and filled with baby chick beginnings. They were mostly dark as I peered through them. I guess we’ll know in about two more weeks…..

Bernie found a nest in the far corner of the garage with fifteen eggs in it. Sneaky little hens. Most of the eggs had frozen and cracked. I’m pretty sure they’ve got another nest somewhere. Ten eggs a day just doesn’t add up when I’ve got 20 hens. I guess I’m going to have to do a little chicken stalking and find their secret hiding place.

Bernie somehow managed to hurt his shoulder. He actually injured it several months ago, but it’s gotten worse over time and it’s now to the point where he can hardly sleep through the night. I believe I can count on one hand the number of times he’s been to the doctor in the past 10 years for any type of illness or injury, but he actually agreed to go to one about his shoulder. And he was referred to an orthopedic specialist. His appointment is next week. In the meantime, he hasn’t really been able to do a whole lot, and he’s actually doing more than he probably should. He’s still chopping, splitting, and stacking wood several times a week. We kind of underestimated how much wood it was going to take to get us through the winter. This is the first winter we’ve had our wood burning stove and heated exclusively with it. The good news is that the wood is free. The bad news is that it takes A LOT of wood to get through a winter! Especially when the weather has been so unusually cold for so incredibly long. But have no fear. My man can handle it. With one arm tied behind his back – or flopping uselessly by his side.

In closing, I’m going to include a recipe for a Chicken Potato Bake that is super fast and super good. I found it one evening when I just could not think of what to fix for supper and I decided to search for something quick and easy. This one fit the bill. The original recipe wasn’t quite creamy enough for us, so I modified it a bit. I’m sure a lot of you I-Always-Make-Everything-from-Scratch people will get the shivers reading this, but hey – sometimes a person just feels a little lazy and wants a calorie laden meal for comfort. This is the meal for that person. And it only takes about ten minutes to assemble.

Chicken Potato Bake

Ingredients:
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste

1 egg, beaten

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts halved

1/2 package frozen potatoes O’Brian, thawed (about 12 ounces)
10 ounce can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup milk
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cup grated Pepper Jack cheese

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper on plate.

Place egg in small shallow bowl; beat well.

In a medium sized bowl, combine potatoes, soup, milk, sour cream, and Pepper Jack cheese; mix well. Pour into a 13×9″ glass baking dish or something similar.

One at a time, dip the smooth side of a chicken breast in egg, then in bread crumb mixture to coat. Place, coated side up, on the potato mixture. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts.

Bake for 45 – 60 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked and potato mixture is bubbling and brown around the edges.

Bee Free,

Penny

All Shapes and Sizes

Monday, February 9th, 2009

I had a little surprise waiting for me when I went to check for eggs today.

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Just look at that cute little thing! I have no idea who laid it. I’ve heard that new layers will sometimes lay itty bitty eggs, but this is the first one I’ve ever found that small. Many people call them wind eggs – and a few other adjectives for passing gas. I think that’s just way too crude for such a cute little thing. I’m just calling it a Small Fry. I understand these tiny eggs typically have no yolk. I’ll let y’all know about that when we crack it open.

We’ve also started getting large eggs.

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We don’t get them very often, but it’s always a nice surprise. We usually get small to medium eggs, and I’ve got no complaints about that – it’s just fun to find something different every now and again.

A couple of the hens now have completely bald patches on their backs from Duke’s affections. I’ve read about chicken saddles, but never really gave them much thought. After seeing all the damage Duke is inflicting, I’ve changed my mind and decided to make one and see if it works. A chicken saddle is simply something that fits over the hen’s back to protect it from the rooster’s spurs. To start, I’ve decided to make one for the White Faced Black Spanish that Duke is particularly fond of. Her back is pretty bad. I’m almost finished with it and plan to put it on her tonight. She’s my test case to see if this will really help. If it does, we are going to have a bunch of stylin’ chics around here.

In the next couple of days, I’ll post instructions for making the chicken saddle, pictures of a hen wearing it, and the results. If all goes well, we’ll just have a little Chicken Saddle Fashion Show. Keep your fingers crossed……

Bee Free,
Penny

Egg-cessive Obsession and Puppy Treats

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

I really love collecting eggs from my hens. It makes me smile. Every single time. From the smallest, to the largest, I just love finding those little gems in the nest boxes.

I keep a daily count of the eggs I’ve collected. In January, I collected a total of 274 eggs. Not bad for a bunch of new layers, with six of them in the middle of molt. Especially considering it’s winter, when most hens decrease production, or do not lay at all. That’s an average of 8.84 eggs a day. I need to work on that one laying the .84 egg.

Not only do I count my eggs, I weigh them. I don’t weigh every single one of them, but I take a sample of each day’s collection and put them on my nifty egg scale, just for the fun of it:

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I keep that baby on the counter, right next to the refrigerator.

Here are the minimum for egg weights as defined by the USDA:

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Fascinating, isn’t it? OK, not really, but it does help you understand the terminology on my nifty egg scale.

Most of the eggs around here weigh in at almost medium

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Some of them weigh in at small

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And I still get the occassional peewee

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Every one of them just tickles me. Just absolutely tickles me to death.

Today Bernie is chopping wood and I have puppy duty. These little buggers are growing like crazy. And they keep us hopping. They are doing great on their potty training and we’ve had no accidents in the house for two days. They’re even learning to walk to the door when they have to go potty.

And for those of you with pups of any age, I’m including a recipe for some tail-wagging, puppy pleasing cookie treats. I used to make these for our other dogs and they just loved them. I wish I could remember where I got this recipe so I could give the appropriate attribution. I think I got it out of a dog food recipe book I can no longer find – I’m sure it’s packed in one of those boxes somewhere….

Peanut Butter Doggie Biscuits

Ingredients:
3 tbsp. peanut butter
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats (you can use oatmeal – but NOT the instant type)
1/2 cup fine cornmeal

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Beat together peanut butter and eggs. Gradually beat in oil and water until well mixed.
3. In a separate bowl, thoroughly combine flour, oats, and cornmeal.
4. Add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture and blend well to form a dough.
5. Roll out the dough to approximately 1/4″ thickness and cut into shapes, or just slice them into squares if you don’t have cookie cutters.
6. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet, leaving about 1/2 between biscuits. Bake for 20 minutes until browned. Turn off the oven, but leave the biscuits inside to “crisp”. (NOTE: If you are using a smaller cookie sheet and have several batches to cook, you can place the finished biscuits in a single layer on a plate and leave them on the counter to “crisp” as you bake the rest.) Once the biscuits have hardened, treat your dogs! Store the remianing biscuits in an airtight container.

This recipe makes a fair amount of doggie biscuits, so I keep a few in a cookie jar, and freeze the remaining in a freezer bag.

Bon Appetite, Fido!

Bee Free,
Penny

Huh?

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

Based on your emails, and a comment from Bernie, I guess I need to clarify a few things.

 

We have not yet seen the puppies we adopted. They are actually about 235 miles away from us right now, in Southern Virginia. The pictures I posted were from the Pet Finder website. Betty Sue, from Our Critters, tells us the puppies are even cuter in person. I am not sure that is at all possible. Lordy, those babies are just adorable.

 

The All Good Dogs Go To Heaven post was about TC, who was my parent’s Dashund. The picture is of my mom holding him. TC had been with my parents since he was a baby, and it has been incredibly difficult for them since he passed. On the up side, they are also using Pet Finder to locate another Dashund. They know they will never replace TC, but they are lonely without a little buddy running around. I’m happy they are looking into a rescued pup.

 

And finally, Bernie took offense at my post about his cooking. He feels I portrayed him as incapable of cooking. Nothing could be further from the truth. And certainly I can not live with his pouting over my remarks on a daily basis, so I am going to apologize for offending him, clarify what I meant, and try not to piss him off again while I’m doing it.

 

Bernie CAN cook. He really can. And he has cooked many meals for me. Great meals. He also cooked for himself while I was visiting my parents for Christmas. Seriously. Not just eggs and bacon, he cooked a meat loaf.  With deer meat. From scratch. He saved some for me and it was delicious.

 

Here’s the deal: Bernie can cook if he has a recipe. If I tell him exactly how to make something, he can make it. And he does a fine job of it. For me, cooking rarely involves a recipe. It involves a little of this and a little of that. I have NO QUESTION that Bernie can cook, and if he did it regularly, he would do it creatively with no recipe at all (hint,hint). Now he CAN cook a mean scalloped potato caserole and he made that recipe up all by himself. And it’s good. Really good. So I apologize, Bernie. And I love you. What’s for supper?

 

Now I’m going to post some more pictures of polymer clay eggs. I made them this weekend. I hope I don’t have to clarify anything about this….. 

 

 

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We’re staying busy on the homestead and anxiously awaiting the arrival of our puppies. Bernie went for groceries today and returned with six toys for them. I don’t think they have any idea what a wonderful home they have waiting for them. I can’t wait until they see for themselves!

 

Bee Free,

Penny

Something Else to Do With All Those Eggs

Monday, January 5th, 2009

The company I work for gave us a holiday on Thursday, January the 1st. I decided to make it a long weekend and took vacation on Friday, the 2nd. That gave me four full days off work. And I made the best of them.

 

I’ve already told you I finished up Bernie’s quilt, thereby knocking out one of my New Year Resolutions. Well, I also decided to start making some polymer clay eggs.

 

Little Chicken Racing Team posted a nice tutorial about it making polymer clay eggs on the BackYardChickens website. I’ve been wanting to do something special with blown out eggs, but I have very little talent or creativity. When I read about polymer clay eggs I thought “Well, this looks like something even I can do.” Bernie and I each eat an egg for breakfast every morning, so I blew them out and kept the shells to work with.

 

The really cool thing about polymer eggs is that you can work with the clay and come up with all sorts of designs – and it’s really hard to mess it up! The first one I made was yellow and purple. Then Bernie asked for a black and orange egg. He’s a Harley guy – what can I say? When I finished with Bernie’s egg, I had some of the clay cane left over, so I made another out of it, and substituted just plain orange on the bottom when I ran out. Here’s a picture:

 

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How cool are those? I left the hole in the top of them so I can make ornaments out of them.

 

The most difficult part of the whole process is blowing out the eggs – and that really is not all that difficult. Just use a darning needle and poke out holes in the top and the bottom of the egg. You want the holes to be bigger than the needle, but not much bigger. Be sure to use the needle to break up the yolk inside of the shell – you’ll thank me for that tip when you get to the next step. Put your lips around one of the holes and blow the egg out of the other. It may take a little bit of work and a lot of air, but you will soon have an empty egg shell! Now be sure to eat that egg – or feed it back to your chickens. They’ll thank you for it.

 

Once the shell is empty, I use a syringe to squirt some oxine and water into the shell and rinse it out well. You can use a little bleach with water if you don’t have oxine. If you have a syringe with the needle, I have read that some people use this to remove the egg from the shell. I don’t have a needle, so I blow it out the old fashioned way.

 

Let the egg dry out for a day or two, and then you are ready to begin applying your clay. Little Chicken Racing Team (LCRT) gives a great tutorial, so I won’t repeat it here. After you’ve finished applying your clay bake the egg(s), sand and polish as LRCT describes. And voila! You’ve got some really pretty polymer clay eggs!

 

I plan to make several of these for my Christmas Victims next year. It’s a fair amount of work, but my Christmas Victims are worth it. And they know what happens if they complain…..

 

Bee Free,
Penny