31 December 2015

Eggs in incubator

OK, so I set the eggs into the incubator on Sunday evening, the 20th.  I had intended to set on Tuesday the 22nd as a way to mark the winter solstice, but the Pretties in particular had other ideas and the egg turning tray was full a couple days early.  I candled those eggs the other night, and pulled out a total of twelve clears from the original forty-two set.  Three of the 15 Silkie eggs were definitely clear, and nine of the 27 Wyandotte eggs were clear.  I had read that decreased daylight hours affected roosters' fertility, and I suspect this is what I am seeing, as I do no extra (artificial) lighting.  No big deal, especially as the eggs may start hatching early on the 9th, which is my birthday.

I have four Silkie pullets setting nests now, with the first one having five more Silkie eggs under her, and the second currently has one Wyandotte egg from Tiny and the Flashy Girls, after kicking the other two out twice.  The other pullets are either setting golf balls or an empty nest (until another pullet lays and she tucks that egg under her, which I pick up every evening).

The bunny report:  George has a couple of mates.  One is a black Mini Rex looking doe, at least one year old, whom I have named Gracie.  The other looks to be a part Rex part-Lop, as she has one ear that always sticks out to the side.  I named her Brooke, and she is a lovely color rabbit folk call opal.  I'll try to fix the picture situation soon, and post pics of these adorable bunnies.  None was pet-tamed, but I have gotten to where I can pet all three, although none will let me pick him/her up without fussing.  Ah, the joy of having soft furred mammals to raise and play with!

23 December 2015

Chicken thoughts and updates

I have some pictures that may actually be in focus, but the thingy that I plug the memory card into to plug into the computer has finally given up the ghost.  Hubby says his dad sent it to him when he did the Korea rotation, and that was back in 2007, so I suppose we got our money's worth out it.  Now to find a replacement ...

The incubator was full-up by Sunday afternoon, so I went ahead and set it on the 20th instead of the 22nd (solstice).  If this batch follows the same timeline as the previous one (even though I lowered the set temp another half degree because they were still hatching a bit too early) ... then I will have the first chicks hatching on my birthday, January 9th!  I tried for birthday chicks last year, but they had to bump my order back to my brother's birthday due to a poor hatch rate.  It happens.  I have fifteen Silkie eggs and 27 gold-laced Wyandotte eggs from Azar and the Pretties.

I now have three Silkie pullets out there setting nests.  The first one has five Silkie eggs under her, set on Sunday also.  The second had three Wyandotte eggs under her from Tiny and the Flashy Girls, but she kicked two of them out - twice.  So she has one Wyandotte egg under her, and will get some Silkie chicks from the incubator when they hatch.  The third, a black pullet I got at the auction a few months ago, just decided to set yesterday, so I am only letting her have golf balls until the eggs in the incubator hatch, at which point she'll have Silkie chicks also.  I'll start Pollux out with eight of the Wyandotte chicks, and see if he can nanny more than that or not.

From the October hatch of GLWs (Tiny x Flashy Girls), I will only grow out one cockerel, nicknamed Bigfoot, and caponize the rest.  I have more pullets than I originally thought, and at least two are in the current cockerel tractor (supervised by Pollux) because they have large feet and shanks and I mistook them for boys a few weeks ago.  I also suspect there are two effeminate cockerels hiding in the pullet tractor - I'll know for certain when I try to caponize them.

We will be eating one of the pied guineas, as the rest of the flock has rejected it.  This is the one I had to separate out last month due to an open sore pecked on its wing and back.  We had all the guineas out to see if the pieds could mingle back into the flock, and this one was chased away by whichever guinea was closest.

19 December 2015

Chilly morning

It got chilly overnight, with a low of either 40F or 41F.  The sky was clear as a bell when the dog woke us up to go out and pee before dawn.  It gave hubby a good excuse to fire up the new wood burning stove, which will be fueled by trees from the property in subsequent winters (what passes for winter down here).  He has a nice pile tucked under the back of the house already from the tree he is still cutting up in back.
new wood burning stove
Now that the sun is up, the living room in particular is toasty warm.  The brickwork and hole in the ceiling and roof were here when we bought this place, and was one of the things we really liked.  It just took a couple years to find the right one, as we did not want to rush into buying something as permanent as a cast iron wood burning stove.

17 December 2015

A wonderful dinner.

Home made Pizza!
Some might call it the food of the gods.

And they'd be right!

A wonderful pizza dinner tonight. The crust came out really well, another one from a certain bread magazine. 
Topped with ground beef home made sausage and bacon.
Served with a side of home made pizza sauce.
Getting hungry? 
Thanks for looking!

16 December 2015

More canning and some planting

I managed to wrestle one pic from the digicam's card: the previous canning party involving chicken harvested at the end of last month.  I am finishing up more canning today, after having a 100% seal rate yesterday on the four quarts of meat and three quarts of stock.  Today I finish up the stock (four more quarts) plus a quart and pint of stock from the time before last that didn't seal at room temperature but sealed at refrigerator temperature.  Pretty pic:
pints of chicken meat
and quarts of chicken stock
I do need to go out and put garlic cloves into the dirt - they sprouted on the table after I had given them a mild baking soda solution soak.  At least I know they are viable!  And yes, that is a correct usage for the often overused word viable ... able to live.  I have two cloves of elephant garlic, and two bulbs of regular garlic cloves.

It's supposed to rain today, but the sun is out and right now there are only a few wisps of clouds in the sky.  That could always change in under an hour though.  We kind of wish it would, as it is close to 80F again today.  Cold front is coming ... Friday's forecast low is in the 40s.

15 December 2015

Update and early resolution

Bad me ... I am really slacking on both blogs here.  We've been doing stuff - lots of stuff - I just haven't felt much like posting or fighting the digicam for pics.  So, I will make an early resolution ... I will update at least weekly here, pics or no pics.  This morning will be pic-less.

  • Eggs: All the splash Silkie pullets started to lay, and two more black Silkie pullets have started about a week ago.  This makes for some tiny eggs!  I decided to just go ahead and work my plan for these tiny pullet bullets: hard-boil then put them in pickled beet brine, which I had been saving up to either put eggs in, or to dye the tablecloth to match the stains.
  • Canning up more chicken meat, as I have slaughtered all but two of the slips, and they are only alive because we couldn't fit them into the refrigerator until I do more canning.  I have four quarts of meat, and haven't done up the stock just yet.
  • I am collecting eggs for hatching now, from all three breeding groups of Wyandottes plus the older Silkies.  One splash Silkie pullet is camped out in a cubbyhole, tucking any and all eggs she can reach under her.  I take them from her each evening, leaving the poor thing with only two golf balls to set on.  If she's still wanting to set when I go to start the incubator, I'll tuck some eggs back under her to hatch.  This way, if she quits like Bossy did in October, I can pop the eggs into the incubator without losing them.
  • Hubby took down a tree in the middle of the back so we will hopefully have enough sunlight to power the fence charger back there.  Large pieces of wood will be next year's heating plan, as hubby got all the needed parts to install the chimney for the wood burning stove.
  • I have a rabbit now.  He'll get his own post when I feel like fussing with pics.  I have named him George.
  • I am definitely on a list to get a dairy goat in the spring, and her kids as well, so we will be having fresh goat milk soon.  I am pretty jazzed, although not nearly as jazzed as my friend Lynn, who has already volunteered to goat-sit when I go to my son's college graduation in May.
  • I have broccoli out in my garden!  This is actually the first time I've managed to grow my own broccoli, and when the rain passes in a couple days, I'll be making a lovely little broccoli and cheddar quiche for brunch on the first cool day.
  • The red cabbage ain't doing enough to justify watering it anymore ... I'll pull those and toss to the chickens.  I am going to try Pak Choi seeds next.  I also need to reclaim the greenhouse(s) from those industrious vine plants, and get tomato and pepper seeds starting.  I did get a bag of seed starting dirt from Lynn, so this ought to be doable.
I think that's everything for now.

29 November 2015

Thanksgiving capon dinner

First, the "empty stomach warning" ... that is, do not look if you have an empty stomach.  Go snack before reading on!

We had Uno the capon as our Thanksgiving dinner, and yes indeed, he was tasty.  For those who may not recall, here is Uno out on the grass:
Uno the hatchery GLW capon
Note that his comb and wattles are small and still chick-pink ... that is how you can tell a capon from a slip.  When the hormones come back on a slip, they redden up and grow their comb and wattles again.  Even without his hormones, Uno still kept almost all of his tail feathers and held his own among the six slips.  I do recall him being a little pill as a cockerel, and unlike Pollux, Uno showed absolutely no aptitude for nannying chicks.  The one time we tried, all the chicks were huddled in the far corner of the tractor while Uno was eating all the food.

Uno plucked and dressed out beautifully.  My postal scale only goes up to five pounds, so I don't have a weight for him, but he was well-fleshed and had a generous amount of rich golden-yellow fat on him.  Here he is on the smoker:
capon on the smoker
Doesn't he look just positively scrumptious?   Hubby only gave him a light smoking - one hour - just enough for flavor.  Then, into the largest crock pot:
capon in the crock pot
For some reason, I thought I posted a pic of one of the cull cockerels in that same crock pot, but apparently not.  Uno was ten months old, and the next-oldest cockerel we've eaten was only six months old, so there is a definite difference in size and cooking time.  When I served dinner, he was cooked through, but not to tender stage yet.  Next time, I'll just set up the crock pot on low to go overnight, or maybe just "warm" which is one setting below low.

For those curious, dinner was rounded out with baked sweet potatoes, broccoli casserole (frozen from grocery store broccoli, as our plants out in the garden aren't ready yet), cranberry sauce, and homemade dinner rolls.  Dessert was baked pumpkin cheesecake, and was served a couple hours before dinner to give the rolls enough rising time.  It's a good thing we ate dessert first - no one had room for anything else after the dinner!  That was my first baked cheesecake, and I probably should have gotten a pic, but it is just too late for that now.

25 November 2015

Home made eggnog!

Recipe is "Spiced eggnog" from the New McCall's Cook Book, published 1963 (1973 printing), and this was the maiden voyage of the KitchenAide mixer father-in-law got us for Christmas this year.  He opened it up early himself a couple weeks ago, to make sure all pieces were there and it worked.  It will certainly come in handy for making mayonnaise!

More pics and posts to come ... I am hosting Thanksgiving so may need a bit of recovery time tomorrow.

20 November 2015

Cull cockerel harvest

OK, I was able to keep to my self-imposed work schedule for this first stretch of cooler weather, and slaughtered the eight remaining cull cockerels through the week, plus Uno the full capon this morning for Thanksgiving Day dinner.  Of the eight cockerels, two are big and meaty enough to roast whole, Brother, Feyd's larger cross-breed son and one of the Ameracauna cockerels from Luanne.  So, six went into jars: seven quarts of stock (two with a bunch of carcass meat for casseroles) and eight pints of meat.  I'll get pictures later on, as I am waiting for the quarts of stock to cool enough to open the pressure canner and check how many sealed.

The pints of meat canned up SO beautifully!  All I added to them was 1/4 teaspoon of canning salt, and each one ended up with rich golden liquid from the meat - canned in its "natural juices" as the grocery store label would read.

As I hoped, Brother had his sire's big meaty breasts.  He also had nicely fleshed leg quarters, and he'll be frozen whole along with the largest of the Ameracauna cockerels.  Meanwhile, Uno came out not only meaty, but with large deposits of rich golden-yellow fat, not only under his skin but in the abdominal cavity.  I tried to save as much of that as I could, and hubby held open a quart sized zip bag while admiring it as I put it in.  I am trying to decide if I want to render it first, or use it "raw" for making pot pie crust.  I'll need to get a new scale to weigh Uno's whole carcass - he is certainly more than five pounds (the limit on my postal scale).  I'd also like to get weights on Brother and the Am cockerel.  Especially Brother, since he was only five months old.

I am definitely looking forward with eager anticipation to next year's capon batch, from my Wyandotte sires: Feyd, Azar, Tiny, and even Spikey (over whatever remaining red broiler pullets and Feyd's daughters).  This morning's slaughter of my first full capon made all the efforts and slips worth it.

Full speed ahead, as I work towards the goal of consistently producing twelve pound capons!

11 November 2015

Rambling update 11 November

OK, so it's been nearly a month since I posted.  Whole lot of shtuff going on, just not typing away here on the blog.

  • Dad and Tammy visited right before the chicks hatched, and both thought the house and property and chickens were cool.  Tammy got a picture of every bird on the property!  LOL  Dad kept cocking his head and looking at the Silkies, commenting they look furry.  Tammy's best comment was about the Wyandottes, saying: "I always thought chickens were just ... chickens.  I never realized some could be so pretty!"  When the slips were let out, even more entertainment and comparisons to Jurassic Park.
  • Hubby's grandmother died right before Halloween.  She had been bouncing between the hospital and the rehab wing of a nursing home for a little over a week.  The funeral was last week Thursday.  She'll be missed, and remembered fondly here, as she was our #1 fan of our chickens.  Not just watching them, she said our meat birds were the best she'd ever tasted.
  • I finally saw a couple sprouts from all those seeds I planted last month - but only marigolds.  Everything else in the garden boxes are transplanted starts.
  • A majority of those transplants are doing good!  The broccoli is going great guns, and the Greek oregano start I planted last spring is running riot and now takes up almost a sixth of the box it's in.  I found some curled parsley and fernleaf dill starts, and those are settling in nicely, although the three different varieties of basil are trying to stay alive.  One Swiss chard start from the spring is not only still alive, but thriving.  A nice big leaf that broke off last week made some tasty omelettes.  Most of the spinach starts are making an honest effort, despite insect damage that also hit the green sweet basil pretty hard.  The purple and spicy globe basil plants are untouched so far (knock on wood!).
  • It is official: I am hosting Thanksgiving this year.  Just the in-laws, as brother-in-law is over in Korea, his wife and their two sons are down with her family, and Grandma will not be dining.  Since Uno the GLW full capon is not inclined to nanny chicks, he'll be the bird of honor for the meal.  I'll even be sure to serve him on the china platter I picked up last year at Pomona Park's "Everyone's Having a Yard Sale" weekend (which I skipped this year).
  • We planned to move Uno to the isolation crate, but that was quickly changed when I saw one of the pied guineas getting pecked.  Neither of us know what started it, but the poor thing has lost feathers on its back and right wing.  I tried putting Blu-Kote on it, but then the little stinker got loose and we both had to chase it into the iso crate, so I'll try again after dark.
  • We have a nice cool spell, and all I can think is, "Man if I still had my good pain pill, I could get SO MUCH done!"  As it is, VA took them from nearly everyone, and it's a high bar to get them back, so I'll just have to be content with what I can do without it.
  • Two cockerels slaughtered this morning, another two tomorrow morning, then the last two from Luanne hopefully Friday, leaving Nipper and Brother, Feyd's test-breeding sons - for the weekend.  I need grow-out space now.
  • Did the 4-week weigh-in for the Wyandotte chicks.  One pullet is lagging that far behind, and either had an injury or a neurological defect, and so needs to be culled.  I need to crunch numbers and play with basic statistical functions, not only because it is the geek thing to do, but because I would like to establish a baseline norm and also a cutoff point at four week intervals so I can compare among different batches of chicks.
For the upcoming rainy days, I have canning and baking planned.  Here's hoping.

21 October 2015

Gold laced Wyandotte chicks

I managed to snap a couple pics of the now week-old chicks yesterday afternoon, and they are even in focus.  Getting the chicks to pose is a whole 'nother ball of wax.
gold laced Wyandotte chicks at one week

healthy, bouncing Wyandotte chicks
Most are getting in nicely-colored wing feathers, and I know I have at least three good-sized, healthy, active cockerels as there was a three-way chest-bumping session going on until I interrupted it.

20 October 2015

Planting note spinach, chives, and marigolds

Just a note about planting seeds here.  The spinach is Burpee "Satin" variety, the chives are garlic chives (also Burpee) and the marigolds (edible flowers for us and the chickens) are "Crackerjack Sunset Giant" variety.  Yesterday I transplanted starts from Home Dept: two fernleaf dill pots, one regular green sweet basil, and another curled parsley.  I have been watering daily in mid-morning when the garden boxes are in the shade.

14 October 2015

Chicks hatching

Hubby and I awoke to the cheep-cheep-cheep of newly hatched chicks this morning, and now that it's light we have even more.  When we first got up, there were three and a half hatched, and now we are up to ten with more working on kicking out of their shells.  I set 24 eggs, with only one being marked as a Meatie and the rest from Tiny and the Flashy Girls.  The Meatie hatched last night, along with one early-bird Wyandotte.

The eggs are hatching over a day early still, so I still have not compensated enough for the incubator's thermometer and thermostat being off.  The first hatch I left it at the factory preset of 100.0*F, but for this one I changed it to 99.0*F ... the independent thermometer/hygrometer said the temp was running around 100-ish.  I'll be waiting until the first of the month to set another batch, so note to self: adjust the thermostat lower yet.

Hubby has been getting little video clips of the chicks while we wait for them to finish hatching.  One chick fell between the egg flat and the side of the incubator, and is stuck on its back ... but Luanne had cautioned me against opening the incubator before the hatch was done, so that little sticker is stuck kicking and cheeping until the rest hatch.  It is not easy leaving the incubator closed when watching it.  Pics after we open the incubator.

13 October 2015

Parsnips and Scarlet Nantes carrot seeds planted

Planting note: parsnips (Ferry-Morse Hollow Crown variety) and carrots (Burpee scarlet nantes variety) planted in the garden boxes where I transplanted the broccoli, red cabbage, bell peppers, parsley, purple and spicy globe basil, and Italian oregano starts the other week.  One of the bell pepper plants has opened a blossom, and the other has a couple ready to open soon.  The two success stories in the one box are Greek oregano and the green onions.  If neither of those two seeds sprout in two weeks, I'll plant some more.  Eventually, something ought to grow other than rope grass and sand spurs.

08 October 2015

Feeding time at Jurassic Park

So, I looked out the window just a short bit ago, and saw this.
Uno the capon and six slips
gaggled up for feeding time
They know what time it is ... feeding time!  They've been out running around since a little after lunch.  It rained about half an hour ago, and was still dripping.  Feeding time is about the only time they are this close to each other without squabbling.

I do have a pic of Uno by himself, that shows he is still chick-pink in the face, comb, and wattles.  I'll edit that one later though.

07 October 2015

Bossy on the nest

Just a few fun chicken pictures - first is Bossy doing what she was brought here to do: sitting a nest.  There is a total of nine eggs under her, seven from Tiny and the Flashy Girls and two from Spikey and the red broilers.
broody Bossy on nine eggs
After snapping this pic, I then tried to get a new picture of the two chicks who hatched the other week and are being reared by Pollux the Ameracauna capon.  As I pressed the shutter button, the little Wyandotte ducked behind a 2x4 of the guinea pen, while the Meatie did an about-face and put his head down.  Chickens ...

So I decided to get another pic of the two black Silkie pullets who are laying, and this time they co-operated!  Here is a surprisingly good photo of the two black pullets and a splash pullet, shot through the wire and also through a spider web.
Silkie pullets: two black, one splash
You can also see all the feathers laying around as the splash Silkies do their juvenile molt in preparation for the pullets to start laying.  This is about as close as I care to get to looking like snow!  LOL

04 October 2015

Guinea keet pic

I took the digicam out with me last evening to try to get some pics of the guinea keets.  They stayed in a tight group, but milled around enough within the small space to give the auto-focus fits.  Out of four pics, this is the one that is focused enough to see.
guinea keets venturing out of the pen
We just started letting them out of the pen after "chicken time" evening feeding, and they put themselves back in the pen as it starts to get dark.  They aren't quite in full-blown ugly stage yet, but they are very close to it as they are starting to lose keet feathers on the head and neck.  Hubby and I will need to watch The Dark Crystal again to get inspiration for some names.

An amusing anecdote: While I was out there last evening, I sneezed and immediately every keet ran into the pen and to the farthest corner from me.  Then, once they were "safe" from the noise, they started up the alarmed-guinea noise.

For the record, the keets are not really louder than the chickens, per se, but the alarmed-guinea noise is very attention-grabbing and just about impossible to ignore, unlike the hen bragging or crow-a-thons the cockerels and rooster do.

01 October 2015

Bossy is broody again

It took her a while to decide which cubbyhole she likes best, but today she made up her little bird brain and chose cubby #3 (from the left) ... maybe because that is where Flaca laid the past couple days, and we didn't collect up eggs last evening.  She was glued to those two eggs and two golf balls after dinner feeding, and although she fluffed up and almost growled at me, she didn't peck me when I fished the two large white eggs out.  She wasn't exactly hostile, but not thrilled either, when I put the seven eggs from Tiny's tractor and two eggs from Spikey's tractor under her.  I may get the golf balls out from under her tomorrow morning when she's eating.

So, one broody Wheatie hen with seven Wyandotte eggs and two Meaties eggs under her, due to hatch the 22nd.  Meanwhile, the twenty-nine eggs in the incubator will be candled Sunday.

The two chicks from the first hatch are doing well.  The heat bulb blew last evening, so we tried putting them in with Pollux again.  He enjoys having little warm bodies to sleep cuddled up with, but ignores them during the day.  They are still small enough to slip under the end pieces of the tractor, but apparently figured out how to get back in after getting out this morning, so we are letting them bounce around until it's dark enough to go to bed, at which point we expect them to snuggle up under Pollux for the night.

30 September 2015

Fowl pox

Apparently, fowl pox is going to be an annual event here.  The past two autumns, I had noticed what looked like fungus growing on some chickens' combs ... last month, Lynn mentioned she had looked up fowl pox because a friend of hers said it was on one of her hens' comb.  So, I looked it up also, and yes, this is what went through the flock last October and the autumn before that as well.

Googling for treatment got me this article on fowl pox, and it pretty much sounds like chicken pox in people.  It's a virus, so antibiotics do nothing for it unless the bird is getting so rundown that a secondary bacterial infection tries to take advantage of the weakened immune system, and yes it is possible for a bird to die from it, although most only catch it once.  I haven't seen anything similar to shingles in chickens (which is chicken pox coming back in later adulthood) but I have seen mention of a vaccine for it like is now currently available for chicken pox.

Fowl pox can get ugly if it gets into the mouth, airways, and/or esophagus ... and that is called wet fowl pox.  The dry version stays on the outside with lesions on the face, comb, wattles, earlobes, and even legs and feet.

We'll be doing what we can: bleach-cleaning waterers, feeding fermented scratch twice a day, Nutri-Drench in the water, and vitamin crumbles on top of the wet scratch.  We have abetter chance of getting snowed in under a blizzard than being able to control the mosquito population here.  The neighbor to the north has a dug pond; the property to the south has a dug pond; the property to the west has a natural pond; and the state land to our east has a swamp.  Emptying buckets and wagons and whatnot here on our property does nothing for the number of mosquitoes.

Oh, if anyone wants pictures, there is Google image search.  Just be aware that "wet fowl pox" will get you some graphic photographs of what it looks like on the inside of dead chickens.

24 September 2015

Try try again

Yesterday I emailed Luanne with questions on troubleshooting my incubator hatch, and she sent me back two excellent links.  First was a paper from U of Cali Ag school all about incubator issues.  Looking through that, I saw multiple mistakes I made.  The second link is an article on BYC about troubleshooting incubator failures.  Between the two links (both now bookmarked here!) I realized it was not so much a question of why so many didn't hatch, but why I have two healthy chicks out of the attempt.

Before dinner, hubby suggested we go out on the (new) back porch to crack open the eggs and see if that would give more clues ... there was a nice cool breeze blowing and we were both curious.  Seven of the eggs made it almost to hatching, and at least six of them were Wyandottes.  Three or four were partially developed, while the rest were clear.  The little thermometer/hygrometer hubby bought with the incubator and egg turner records minimum and maximum for both temp and humidity, and it showed that at some point during the hatch we had a temperature spike up to 103*F, probably in those last couple days ... unless that is a record of one of the chicks sleeping on top of it.  Most of the clear eggs were from the red broilers, whom I have seen kick eggs around while scratching without a single care.  If I hatch another batch from them, I'll need to collect eggs as soon as I see them in there to keep the little "soccer hooligans" from scrambling them.

I have the tray and screen scrubbed and have loaded the incubator back up, this time with 26 eggs from Tiny and the Flashy Girls, and one egg from Feyd and Penny.  Here's hoping I do a little better this time around.
Wyandotte eggs in incubator

23 September 2015

Two chicks hatched

So only the two chicks hatched out of 27 eggs set.  The upside is they are both very bright-eyed and active, and I have one of each.  The downside is ... I need to figure out why the other 25 eggs didn't hatch.
one Meatie and one Wyandotte chick
Meanwhile, my primary incubators (disguised as feather dusters, aka Silkies) are growing up, and the two larger black ones I bought at the local livestock auction earlier this month have started laying.  The splash Silkie pullets shouldn't take too much longer to start laying, and then I will have seven Silkies that should go broody shortly after the New Year's.  Until they do, I'll practice with my electric incubator ... and hopefully do better.
the two black Silkie pullets with the splash cockerel

Silkie pullets

22 September 2015

Coop repair

Yesterday we found some big gashes in the wire of our chicken coop.
I spent yesterday until about 5:00 pm (1700)
working on the coop. I started by removing the face boards, at ground level, and the "offending" wire.
This was done to 4 panels. each roughly 6 foot tall and 3 foot wide.

I wasn't sure I would be done in one day, the damaged wire was spotted just before Noon.(1200)
Katrina went to get the new wire while I got to work.

I decided to finish the job this morning. I could imagine myself rushing to finish.I knew I would be tired and very likely make a mistake in my rush to finish.

This morning i got started just after 9:00 and was done before noon with several short brakes. 

I found these pictures and thought I'd share them.

These were taken whike the coop was being built in 2013.

These was a year later.

And these are from this morning once the work was complete.

I have a few more plans to really finish the coop up but I have no problems putting the chickens back in there coop. 
I discovered a lot of problems that I will need to correct with the coop.
Mostly I am seeing where wood is rotting and boards are sagging.
I had never built something like this before and it's been a learning experience.

I should have a short video to add to this in a few days.
Thanks for reading!

21 September 2015


The eggs in the incubator have started to hatch this morning, a day and a half early.  A Meatie chick was the first out of the shell, and now a Wyandotte chick is out, with big feet and longer legs.

Luanne gave me detailed instructions for these last couple days in an email, and the big point she stressed was to NOT open the incubator until the hatch is done.  She stated every time she's had problems with "shrink-wrap" of the egg membrane on partially hatched chicks, it has been because she opened the incubator early.  So I have to content myself with watching through the window ... I won't open the incubator until Wednesday morning unless all the eggs hatch before then.

Hubby has his digicam up and took a bit of video after we had watched the Wyandotte break out of the shell, but still pictures are out until I open the incubator.  Oh yeah, we got to watch the first little Wyandotte kick out of the shell, then flop around clumsily.  His feathers still aren't dry yet as I type this, although the little early-bird Meatie looks to be dry now.

I feel like a little kid, with a big "wow" and excitement as I look at the other eggs, wondering which will pip next.

18 September 2015

Random notes on Wyandottes, breeding, and meat qualities

So this morning hubby and I slaughtered Hammy (NH slip), Castor (Americauna slip), and Tribble, the Cackle Gold-Laced Wyandotte cockerel who was not growing right.  Castor and Hammy were free cockerels from Luanne for caponizing practice, and are shining examples of why I need the practice.  Notes:

  • Hammy was nice and meaty, as expected, but what I didn't expect was how long it took to pluck him.  He was fluffy, and while that made for a beautiful sight in the sunlight, with his feathers shining orange, red, gold, and black ... it meant the flies and mosquitoes had ample time to find me.
  • Castor had a surprisingly meaty leg quarter on him.  I started to pluck him, but the skin on his lower breast tore off, so he was skinned.  Not much breast meat, but I didn't expect much meat on him at all, so the nice plump leg quarters were a welcome sight.
  • Tribble would have been the easiest to pluck if I had planned to pluck him.  As it was, I figured he'd be soup stock due to size.
I should probably mention that Luanne and also a couple folks who know her stock over on BYC all say her Wyandottes are not as fluffy as other exhibition lines.  Her Wyandottes also have a whole lot more meat on them than the hatchery stock I've previously and currently plucked.  That noted, I plan to breed towards less fluff than Luanne's stock currently has for the pragmatic reason that we will be plucking and eating cockerels and capons through the years I breed.  Luane's Wyandottes have a wonderful sheen to their feathers that dazzles the eyes and screams, "Healthy and quality bird!" and I definitely hope to keep that trait with the meatiness of flesh.  I just want less fluff to pluck.

Of course, this is a good example of why I am embarking on my unorthodox Wyandotte breeding project.  What I am wanting is not easily found: Wyandottes that are good for eggs, good for meat, and look good while doing it.  The hatchery stock is good for eggs, given their business model selects almost exclusively for egg production, while the more exhibition-oriented stock is rather fluffy (though meaty) but egg production varies.

Meanwhile, I grow impatient for Tuesday evening, when the first batch of Wyandottes should hatch in the incubator.

12 September 2015

Homegrown chicken dinner

I think we have hit the magical sweet spot on cooking up cull cockerels!  We had one of Luanne's cull Wyandotte cockerels last night for dinner, and the taste was simply awesome.  First, we slaughtered five Wyandotte cockerels Sunday morning to make room for the new Silkies I had bought Saturday night at the local livestock auction.  The carcasses rested in the back refrigerator for five days, then hubby mostly plucked one Thursday while I drove to an appointment, then he brined it (standard issue 1 cup salt to 8 cups water) until yesterday morning, when he put it into the offset smoker for a couple hours with cherry wood chunks for the smoke flavoring.  Then we moved it to the big crockpot and let it go on low for another three hours.  When hubby went to lift up the chicken after we decided it was done, both drumstick bones came right out and the meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender.

We just finished up the leftovers for lunch, and this was the fastest we have eaten an entire cockerel.  My friend Lynn had a leg quarter last night when she came by to get ten guineas.  I asked if she had supper yet, and when she said she hadn't I offered her some chicken.

"Home grown, too.   Wyandotte."

"Oh, now you're talkin'!"

Lynn agreed with hubby that the brine was a little too strong, so when I put it into the last three carcasses I added 2-3 cups more water.  Our plan is to smoke them, then cut them up for canning.  We'll see how many end up in jars, as opposed to the crock pot.  Maybe we'll get pictures this time.  Maybe.

11 September 2015

Guinea keets update and pics

So, the guinea keets are feathered enough to no longer need the heat lamp.  They aren't quite to the ugly adolescent stage, but they are close.  I decided to snap a couple pics because at nightfall this evening, I will go out and catch the eight whites and two remaining pieds ... assuming there has not been an unobserved escape.  Two of the white guineas have wriggled out under the frame after digging around.  The first escaped the other afternoon when Lynn was here visiting, and flew up onto the roof even.  The second made its jailbreak this afternoon, but was afraid of Little Girl, the "runt" of the black phase blue laced Wyandottes from Luanne ... even being the runt Wyandotte, she is still the biggest bird in her tractor.  So, hubby and I managed to catch today's escapee, without help from Little Girl or Flaca.
assorted guinea keets

assorted guinea keets
I'll try to give Lynn a call right before I go out to catch the guineas for her, but I suspect she'll already be on the road.  Her husband finished up the pen this afternoon, and was wanting to come pick them up the moment he finished.  He is really hoping these guineas eat every tick on his property.  According to Lynn, ticks really tear him up each year - I know they certainly love to feast on hubby and me both.

08 September 2015

Only one chick

Solamente un pollito ... that is all that hatched under Maria's hen: just one chick.  A couple mornings ago, we heard the hen get very upset.  Apparently, her nest was robbed by local wildlife, which ate most of the eggs as they were pipping.  It is a big downer, as I was anxious to see Tiny's first chicks, but it is a known risk when letting a broody hen pick where she'll nest and brood.

I think the sole chick is one of the Eileen's.

01 September 2015

New toys (mower and incubator)

We bought some new toys recently, and have been putting one to use when it has been dry enough but not too hot.  Toy number one: an old-fashioned reel mower.  Not a single gas-powered mower would start last week, and hubby suspects water in the gas tanks between all the rain and the high humidity.  I've wanted one of these for a couple years, so when hubby agreed to the suggestion I went right in and ordered it.  Here is hubby putting it together.
hubby assembling the reel mower
No pics of either of us using it ... we both get pretty sweaty and grubby, and for a while it is going to continue kicking our (*donkeys*) until we get in better shape, but at least we can keep a few areas clear in between the rains.

Toy number two was something I had not planned to get, but Luanne recommended it not only for off-season hatching, but as a backup if a hen quits her nest.  I hadn't considered the idea of a hen quitting, but sometimes they can get upset or scared enough.  So, here is the GQF Hova-Bator Genesis 1588 incubator with an automatic egg turner.
incubator set up and ready for eggs
I just set my first batch of eggs - twelve gold-laced Wyandotte eggs from Tiny and the Flashy Girls, and fifteen eggs from the Meaties, Spikey and the red broiler pullets.  If everything goes just right (HA!) there will be twenty chicks from Tiny on the ground by the equinox, as Maria's hen is still setting the nest of eggs we put under her.  Here's hoping.

20 August 2015

Note eggs set

Just a note to myself because we'll be turning the calendar before the eggs hatch:  Monday maria found her "missing" hen setting a clutch of eight eggs.  Maria told me to bring some eggs to exchange for the ones the little hen was setting, so I grabbed the carton that had mostly eggs from Tiny and the Flashy Girls, along with an egg each from both Eileens and Bossy, all three who were in with Rock Star.  The hen was unhappy enough at being found, and was really upset by the egg switch, but I went over and looked this morning and she is happily on the eggs in the bucket they got orange trees in, on its side and filled with dried grass and leaves (and the eggs).  So, figure she settled in seriously on Tuesday the 18th, which puts the eggs hatching September 7-9th.

19 August 2015


This video is a few weeks old now. 
For those that don't know a Keet is a 'baby" Guinea.
The order was for 25 and we've lost two. 
They will be getting a tractor of some kind very soon.

Thanks for reading!

18 August 2015

Cappy's grand finale

This post is a tribute to Cappy the Gold Laced Wyandotte, hatched 20 January 2015.  For a cockerel who had absolutely no future in the breeding pen, he has had quite the good life!  I attempted to caponize him back in April ... in fact, I truly thought he was my first capon.  As a believed-capon, he was nanny to two batches of cockerels.  It was only last month that his hormones returned in full force, and it was obvious he was a slip.  So, Friday morning we slaughtered him.  We let his carcass rest in the back refrigerator, then brined him all day and night Sunday.  Hubby lit the smoker firebox yesterday afternoon while I seasoned: a light sprinkle of salt, black pepper, a very light sprinkle of cayenne pepper, then slices of a zested orange.

By 5:30 PM the smoking was rudely interrupted when the sky opened up into what Lynn described as "a monsoon" when she stopped by to pick up Maria's eggs to sell.  We put Cappy in the oven at 350F, but all we had last night were the wings, as the wonderful aroma was just about driving us crazy.  Great, most excellent flavor, but the meat had not cooked quite long enough.

Today I snapped a pic before covering Cappy up with some foil and putting him back into the oven, this time at 250F for a couple hours.
Cappy the capon slip,
smoked and seasoned and ready for the final roast
The breast meat was a tad dry, but that was probably because we didn't baste him.  Hubby thinks we should use the drippings for either a gravy or a sauce.  The flavor is fantastic!  We have more slips, so we can experiment to see if it's a matter of the smoking, the seasoning, the bird being older, or a combination of those things.  We'll also vary cooking factors like basting or wrapping in foil longer.

We are really hoping Uno is a full capon, because we both want to roast a fine capon for one of the winter holidays!

17 August 2015

Meet Spikey the meat brick

First of all, these pics represent my usual lack of skillz with the digicam ... coupled with Spikey's natural tendency to turn away from the camera.  Perhaps I should have named him after my dad, given the shared aversion to cameras, but this might give an impression of just how solid this cockerel is.
Spikey the single comb Wyandotte

Spikey and a couple of the red broiler pullets
As the Wyandotte cockerels were growing out, I lamented the single comb on Spikey because he has such substantial beach ball shaped body.  He's at least half brother to Tiny and Azar, but while he's noticeably shorter than those two, he is also wider and rounder.  He'll make a nice Meaties sire, starting with the five red broiler pullets I kept (who lay quite well for a meat breed/cross too).  I decided that I'd like most of my Meaties that I breed to be single combed, as that will make it a little easier to tell at a glance in a few generations which birds are supposed to be Meaties and which are the official Wyandottes.

When I picked him up a few weeks back to move him in with the broiler pullets, I was happily impressed with how solid he feels.  Hubby thinks it amusing I described him as a little "meat brick," but he really does feel that solid.

31 July 2015

July eggs

This has certainly been the month for the layers!  All the other January pullets started laying, unfortunately no hen is broody this month, and we weaned the chicks from the broody Eileen, so all 24 pullets and hens were and currently are laying.  This has added up to a new record for eggs: 364 eggs during the 31 days of July, that I am aware of!  To top that off, this week I took 21-1/2 dozen eggs up to Palatka for Leo to buy to supply his extended family up in New York City.  Leo commented to hubby Wednesday that our eggs taste just like the ones they ate when he was growing up, and our impression is that is a high bar to clear.

We also took at least three dozen up to hubby's family in Jacksonville, and another 18-pack may have walked out with father-in-law (with notification, of course) when he came down to help hubby build the back deck.

I do need to figure out which of the red broiler pullets is laying either thin shelled eggs or no shelled eggs.  All those pullets are alive for one purpose: to produce baby broilers.  Eggs with extremely thin or no shell won't hatch, so this pullet needs to be identified, then invited to dinner as the guest of honor.  That sounds like a better euphemism than "freezer camp."

30 July 2015

Guinea keets arrive

They are here, and they are so tiny!  They are also absolutely cute ... quick pic.
25 assorted guinea keets
newly hatched and just arrived
They hatched Tuesday afternoon or early evening, and were shipped out by evening.  Those are marbles in the waterer tray, as the keets are quite clumsy even for newly-hatched birds and could fall in trying to drink and drown.  I fished three out of the waterer tray in the first few minutes.  Hubby put poultry Nutri-Drench in the water instead of sugar at my suggestion ... looks like my instincts were good because I don't think all of them have figured out the food dish just yet.

They need the heat lamp, and after cupping my hands over a second one that was shivering badly, I had the idea of putting in a hot water bottle.  When I went out to check them just now, two were trying to sleep on their feet with their chins on the water bottle (which is actually a metal drink container that does a terrible job of holding its temperature ... which makes it ideal for this!).  As I watched, both slid sideways off the bottle together, like two drunk friends that can't hold each other up.

More to come, as hubby just went outside with the camera that does better video than stills.

29 July 2015

Capon slips

So, as I think I mentioned last week, most of April's capons are actually slips ... even the nannies Cappy and Puffy.  While the caponizing was not exactly a success, it isn't exactly a failure, either.  The slips have had a good three months' worth of growth, and this morning I (attempted to) get a pic illustrating the size difference between Cappy and one of his cockerels who is approximately the same age Cappy was when caponized.  Excuse the blurriness (those who aren't already used to my stunning LACK of photography skills!) because Cappy decided to toss his head in annoyance just as I snapped the comparison pic.
size difference between Cappy (the blur)
and hatchery GLW cockerel the age Cappy was when caponized
Now, for another interesting thing about Cappy in particular: when he started growing his comb at the beginning of this month, it grew fast and tall.  With Azar and Tiny, I have a visual difference in the combs between one who carries the single comb recessive (Azar) and one without the recessive (Tiny).  Now, I have visual difference on hatchery stock: Feyd does not have the recessive, while Cappy certainly looks like he does.  His comb is already a bit bigger than Feyd's, who is two years older.  Here is a clear pic:
Cappy's monstrous comb
If Cappy had stayed a full capon, he'd probably have been our chick nanny for a few years, but as his hormones have come back he has lost his patience with the chicks.  Ah well, he is a good size now for smoking.

28 July 2015

Getting guinea keets

I have shown hubby guineas at the farm swap down in Barberville, and also at the county fair, so he has been aware that not only do I want them, but they can be noisy and are really strange-looking.  Yesterday, I received an email from Ideal Poultry announcing an overhatch special on their guinea keets this week.  The price was tempting enough for me to mention it this afternoon after lunch ... and hubby said, "Go ahead and order them."  I just got off the phone from making said order, which will ship tomorrow and be at the post office either Thursday or Friday.  I am getting the hatchery assortment, which could be any combination of four varieties.
assorted guinea varieties from
Ideal Poultry
It's taken two and a half years, but I am finally getting my loud watch-birds ... and hopefully around spring I'll be roasting my first guinea.  I have recipes, but no practical place to get them.  Oh, they are reputed to be every bit as good as wild turkeys when it comes to eating ticks, too!  The ticks were bad this past spring, to the point we couldn't even hang laundry without having them crawling up our legs.

26 July 2015

Feyd and the Big Butt Girls

Luanne commented in an email this morning about what excellent condition the black phase cockerels are in, whereas between the rain, breeding, and general everyday activity her chickens are starting to look raggedy.  I offered to get pics of the Big Butt Girls, and guess who is out cruising for bugs before breakfast this morning.  Yes, Feyd is looking quite raggedy ... but don't waste any sympathy on him.  He is hen-pecked with PRIDE!
Feyd crowing and one of the Big Butt Wyandotte pullets

Feyd and two of the Big Butt Wyandottes

Feyd crowing for a Big Butt Wyandotte pullet

the Big Butt Girls peeking out of the tractor

the Big Butt Wyandotte pullets in morning sunlight
Hubby snorted with amusement earlier this morning when I used the phrase, "the EverReady Rooster" to describe Feyd.  That silly chicken really is the embodiment of the old joke about a farmer getting a new rooster who proceeds to breed everything in the entire barnyard.  Then when the farmer sees the rooster lying on his back in the middle of the barnyard with buzzards circling, he goes out to scoop up the carcass.  The rooster is only playing dead, points to the buzzards overhead, and whispers, "Don't blow my cover!  They're almost ready to land."

I believe all that white in Feyd's feathers is because of the illness that ran through the flock back in October and November right when everyone was molting.  I expect he'll grow out normal feathers after this next molt.  If he doesn't, then I'll need to work out a plan B.