28 December 2014

Cooking with bantam chicken eggs

We have been cooking with our bantam chicken eggs this past week, and I promised an update on how they are.  First up, the shells are sturdy!  They require a little more force to crack open, and I suspect it is a function of geometry as they eat the same as the standard hens.  Second point, the yolks are the same size as the standard eggs, just with less white (albumin).
two poached bantam chicken eggs - yum!

one bantam egg (on left) and one standard egg
As for taste, if you enjoy dippy eggs, poaching bantie eggs is just perfect!  They also make more yellow scrambled eggs and omelettes.  For baking, I am using two bantie eggs in place of one good-sized standard egg for bread and that turned out just fine.  The two red hens, Ninny and Betty, have been laying about every other day or even only twice a week, so their eggs are definitely at the top end of "large" size and some probably on the lower end of "extra large" size, so two smaller bantie eggs equal one standard in overall substance, just with a lot more yolk.

As for the remaining five nuggets, they spent the first part of the morning stretching their legs and wings, and they look leggy ... I strongly suspect they are in another growth spurt.  The two for Christmas are still in the extra refrigerator, as we didn't finish plucking the one and had to skin the second due to poor skin integrity.  They have all had the same diet (plus or minus bug-catching ability) so there must be a genetic component involved.  The skinned cockerel was also easier to clean out, as membrane and ligament integrity was also lower.  In fact, it sort of felt like a store-bought chicken to me.  Hmm.

Final note: I have ordered my birthday present: 50 new chicks!  I am getting 25 golden-laced Wyandottes straight run, and then 25 assorted heavy cockerels for late spring and summer eating.  They will ship out of Texas on the 7th, and arrive here the morning of the 9th, which is my birthday.

23 December 2014

A stay of execution

The remaining seven nuggets have a stay of execution right now - my back has been acting up yesterday and again today.  I did hold the door and navigate for hubby to move the small refrigerator into the large bathroom since we really do not have fridge or freezer space for these chickens currently.  I'll need to slaughter two tomorrow, rain or shine or hurting back.  One will be Christmas dinner, and one will be going home with hubby's parents, along with any green onion or parsley they may need.

A couple of pics of the voracious gluttons as of a few minutes ago.
Cornish Rock nuggets

7 Cornish Rock nuggets
I did have a chuckle yesterday afternoon when I saw one of the larger nuggets catch a bug, then waddle-run from corner to corner playing a cross between keep-away and Calvin ball.

21 December 2014

Initial observations on first tractored Cornish Rock pullet

I just finished slaughtering the smallest pullet out of the Cornish Rock "nuggets," which have been in the tractor for a month.  First, her skin, membrane, and ligament integrity were excellent, to the point that skinning her took almost as long as plucking her would have.  Both her crop and gizzard were full of grass, scratch, and crumble-paste, so she has been eating almost constantly while awake.  She had very little fat on her, which is different from the nuggets I have raised previously.  She had a beautiful, very dark red liver, a strong gizzard, and an average sized heart, which surprised me given her refusal to just slip quietly into unconsciousness.

She will make at least three dinners: tonight's stir-fry will have her breast meat, then the leg quarters will be another meal, with the rest of her carcass, wings, and giblets for at least one more meal.

Compared to the vast majority of other Cornish Rock pullets that hatch, she has had both a good life and a longer life.  I have been in a commercial broiler house, and I have watched video of chicken processing in a plant ... and I have also worked the line in a few factories.  The phrase "factory farming" is very appropriate for what your grocery store chickens go through.  Cornish Rock pullets are normally slaughtered at five weeks, since their growth slows in comparison to the cockerels.  You buy these labelled "Cornish Rock Game Hens," even though there is no game bird in their lineage and they are 47 weeks shy of being hens.

I'll post pics later - almost time to work the dough for bread now.

18 December 2014

Some times a picture says it all.


I love it when a plan comes together!


Today is the big day.  Our house up in Tennessee closes this morning (on Central time though) and we will have enough to not only pay off that mortgage, but also the loans we used to buy this place.  While we had enough in savings to cover more than half the sale price here, the amount we did not have was too small for a mortgage so we simply did a secured loan on our pickup truck and a small signature loan.  By Monday morning, those should be officially paid off (allowing a day or two for paper/computer work).

No, this place is not a Taj Mahal, and yes, we have a couple neighbors we'd rather not associate with at all (the black bears, raccoons, pygmy rattlesnakes, and we have heard there are also bobcats and water moccasins around) ... but this place is now truly ours!  At least, as long as we keep current on property tax, but out here we actually see county services in the form of weekly garbage pick-up and road grading.

Ours.  It's time to make a sign for the corner of the driveway and the road.

16 December 2014

The surviving chicks

The tractors have been repaired and the survivors have been caught and put back inside coops and tractors safely ... here is the final tally.  All eight nuggets survived, mainly because they were sleeping under the roost (best seen in this posts's pics) which kept bear paws and mouths from getting too close.
all 8 nuggets (Cornish/Rocks)
 Here are eight obvious cockerels from the 23 assorted chicks.
8 cockerels from the assorted bunch
 Here are what I thought were five pullets yesterday, but in this morning's chilly air it looks more like four pullets and one cockerel.  This is also a great example of my poor photography (lack of!) skills.
probably 4 pullets and a cockerel
My neighbor just came over and said she lost a chick last night to the bear.  Hubby had a feeling after we had laid down, so he got back up, got dressed, and took the BB gun and Sure-Fire flashlight outside and ended up shooting at a "pair of eyes glowing" out in the darkness near the woodline where the bears have come and gone from.

My neighbor also brought us four homemade tamales, which we just ate for breakfast and enjoyed.  She asked if I planned to order more chicks soon, so I told her Ideal sends our the weekly sales email on Thursdays.  Hubby already said he would understand completely if I wanted to get more chicks ... he even said that Saturday night.  Now, to wait for just the right sale.

14 December 2014


Regarding Bears.
FL Wildlife Commission's bear info page

In the link above, near the bottom of the page, is a video produced by the Florida wildlife commission. I found this to be quite informative.
They have several Bear related articles which might be worth the reading.( I'm not done yet!)
So far from what I gather covering last nights attack on the Chickens, It's our fault the bears attacked the chickens. Ok. So, to get just a little deeper here, the big rule is Don't feed the bears and don't attract the bears! Sounds good. What we needed to know before last night was that we were attracting bears. We also needed to know what bears ate and how they go about finding food. That's on us, no going back.
The big thing is securing food, trash, gardens and live stock. Which to this point we haven't really given much thought about. We don't create very much trash and mostly put it out in the morning before trash pick up. So that's covered. The gardens are all open boxes so it's fair game if we loose some to critters. No big deal they grow back?! Right?...
Livestock. Ok, we're slack where that's concerned. Mostly because we just didn't know we needed to do more. We have had our chickens for 18 months or more and until the Raccoon attack we'd not had any problems. Now things are different. we are looking at electric fencing now we are on a budget and have to plan this out. Going back to the FWC articles and video the big winner is electric fencing as a nonlethal answer to keeping out chickens safe. They say it's the most reliable way to keep bears and other critters out of where you don't want them.
I have said before education is painful and I stand by it. (Experience)
In the meantime I have put the tractors back together. I was surprised at how well they took the beating. I am hoping that the bears don't bother us again tonight
well I've gone on long enough.
Thanks for reading.

Black bears attack

Last night, two black bears got into the bigger "better" chick tractor, and killed 10 or 11 chicks.  One or both tried to get into the shorter triangle tractor the nuggets are in, but could not touch them apparently.  Hubby caught the bears red-mouthed and in the act.

Once we scared off the bears (very loud noise from a cap-and-ball black powder pistol, our noisiest firearm) we tried to assess the damage and catch the survivors who began coming out of various hiding spots.  This morning, there was one more survivor where the bigger tractor had been, looking for his buddies and food.  They aren't holding very still for counting, but it looks like we have 12 or 13 assorted chicks left now, along with all 8 of the nuggets.

I did not see the bears, but from hubby describing one as smaller than the other, I suspect this was a repeat visit from our unwelcome neighbor who came up on our porch (!) back in October.

While it is extremely expensive to build a bear-proof coop, and logistically impossible to make a bear-proof tractor, we are toying with the idea of setting up a safe zone with electric fence perimeter to scoot the tractors around inside.  Unfortunately that will need to wait until payday.

13 December 2014

Bantam chicken eggs

This past week, both of our bantam/Polish cross hens - both named Eileen because we cannot tell them apart - started laying.  I am surprised they didn't do bantie-sized pullet-bullets, but regular bantam size eggs.  Here is one of the Eileens in front of the five gallon bucket that serves as their nesting box with a regular golf ball in it.  The golf ball isn't just there for size scale, it's there so we know when one of the Eileens goes broody ... we figure she will be guarding that ball plus any fresh eggs.
one of the Eileens, a "new wave" bantam cross
We have not yet cracked open the first egg, as there are a couple regular eggs in front of it (first in, first out rule).

I tried to get a new pic of Corey, the new wave rooster, but he was not inclined to hold still for the auto-focus on the digicam.

Yes, the Eileens are named such after the song, "Come On, Eileen," but I thought for sure it was by Flock of Seagulls (no, they did, "I Ran") instead of Dexy's Midnight Runners ... because the feathers on top of their heads look like those wild hair-dos Flock of Seagulls had.  What the cluck, over?  Oh well, Eileen is a better name for those two than Seagull or Ran.

12 December 2014

Chicks at six weeks

So I have had these chicks for six weeks now, and the nuggets are getting some good size on them.  The two chick tractors are working perfectly now, with the little feathered gluttons grazing in between feeding times, and of course the all-they-can-catch-and-eat on bugs.  Hubby is quite pleased with how well they are stirring up the leaves and pulling the grass and in general scratching and pecking just like chickens should.  You can tell in these pics where the tractors were sitting before moving.
assorted chicks soon after moving the tractor over

you can certainly tell where the tractors were

a few of the nuggets tearing at the fresh grass
Oh, we are down to only 23 assorted chicks, as we lost a red cockerel, likely due to rowdiness judging from all the noise they were making the evening prior.

I am thinking of slaughtering ("harvesting"?) the nugget pullets sooner than Christmas.  There are only two of them, and the six cockerels tend to push them out of the way for feeding time so I think they may not be growing as fast.  They are a bit larger than the Cornish Rock "Game Hens" at the grocery, which are actually Cornish-Rock pullets at 5 weeks of age, with no game in them at all.

Right now, hubby is looking at these chick tractors as an end to his needing to mow ... while I look and see composting in place and think the grass will grow even faster than before.  We ought to figure out which of us is correct around May.

08 December 2014

Building a better chick tractor part two


We finally got the Large chick tractor built and full of chicks, which I'm sure you've already seen and read about! I took a few minutes of video to show how it came out. I know we put in a few pictures but I think this will show the tractor just a little bit better. It has the added benefit of lively little chickens bouncing around.

And a few pictures I took as well.

Thanks for reading!

06 December 2014

Building a better chick tractor

Yesterday and today hubby has been busy building an improved chick tractor.
front door, big enough we can crouch in

built-in roosts with roof enough to shield from rain

putting on the above-roost door
I have helped with the seemingly menial parts, like climbing inside and threading the ends of the zip-ties back for hubby to secure.  He says it is twice as fast with my help, so neither menial nor insignificant.  This tractor will be big enough we could also use for goslings, keets (guinea fowl), or even poults (turkeys).  Once finished, it will hold 24 chicks (8 cockerels plus the 16 remaining pullets/maybe cockerels).

04 December 2014

Raccoon attack

Our new chick tractor was hit in the wee dark hours of the morning.  Hubby had put a piece of plywood up against it where the chicks were sleeping too close to the wire, but apparently the plywood piece was too light, as he noticed it out-of-place this morning ... then saw the carnage.

First, do NOT try to tell me how "cute" raccoons are.  In fact, it's best to not attempt to tell any chicken owner that ... especially not one who has had to deal with the aftermath.  I knew there was at least one chicken-eating raccoon around, because my neighbor lost all but one hen to a raccoon back in the spring.  I saw the blood splatters on her coop before she washed them off.

The good news is we only lost one chick this time.  The bad news is the varmint will be back, probably tonight.  The ugly news is I awoke at 0200 and 0400 (approximately) because I was having dreams of going out and finding dead chicks.  Ugh.  Next time I have dreams like that, I will be going out to check on all the birds!

Now, for a not-really-bad pic of the poultry wire pulled out in the corner.
corner where raccoon hit, pulling out the wire
Yes, that is blood on the PVC pipe.  A basic description of how a raccoon kills a chick: it reaches its hand-like front paw in through the chicken wire, grabs the head and/or upper neck ... and yanks it out.  The body does not fit through the hole in the chicken wire, and so that stays inside.  This particular coon got a leg also.

So hubby and I are heading into town to buy enough stuff to make a second chick tractor, with the modifications we talked about yesterday.  These modifications certainly do include half-inch hardware cloth!

I guess this can be put down as a hard lesson learned.  Raccoons are stronger than I thought.  I am assuming they are every bit as difficult to catch/trap/kill as their reputation suggests.