30 April 2015

A second capon and a probable slip

Another morning of chickening, and another round of learning through experience.  I had four candidates this morning, and while all four are still alive, I have one likely slip (incomplete capon, where some tissue remains and will grow back), one capon, and two full cockerels.  The probable slip is the half-capon from last week, and the second teste broke apart and I could not locate all the pieces.  The capon was the second one I did, also one of the Ideal Poultry GLWs, and while his testes broke also, I was able to keep track of them inside the membrane and get them out.  I learned from one of the old capon downloads that twisting the teste before pulling it out cuts down on bleeding, and it certainly helped contain the pieces.

About those full cockerels: the one is the full cockerel from last week, and he was not going to have anything to do with trying that surgery idea again.  The other is the runt of the red broilers, and pretty much all the red broilers are too jumpy for caponizing.  Perhaps someone who is a lot better at caponizing could do them, but that is not me.  So all the red broilers, plus the very uncooperative Wyandotte, are now in a tractor by themselves and will just be pulled out for slaughter.

29 April 2015

Chicken update 29 April

Glossing over stuff right now, as there has been more serious chickening here.  Yesterday hubby and I went to Luanne's to pick up some more black phase BLR Wyandottes and two broody wheaten Americauna hens, and came home with some free cockerels in addition.  Twenty new chickens total:

  • four single comb Wyandottes, we didn't check the color.  Either they'll be dinner or they will contribute to my meatie line.
  • five black phase Wyandottes, one older (5 weeks old?), maybe one or two at 2 weeks old, and either 2 or 3 week olds.
  • the two "Wheaties", both two years old and both proven broodies with minor feather color faults.  I think Luanne said she has some progeny to continue working with, and doesn't need these two anymore.
  • two "olive egger" cockerels, one larger than the other.  The smaller one has already moved next door and the larger one is now named Bubba and he's in with the wheaties in the new broody tractor.
  • six assorted cockerels for caponizing practice: some Americaunas, a couple New Hampshires, a Marans (mix?), and a Welsummer.
Twenty new in yesterday, three went next door this afternoon (along with some garden beans), and Beardie is now in the back refrigerator chilling.  The attitude adjustment was only temporary.  I should not need a chair and a bullwhip to get eggs, and Beardie was not as unique as he may have thought.
the two wheatie hens, the smaller cockerel, and Bubba in back

the successful capon, in with capon cadidates
We had to move the capon in with the smaller chicks, as we put him in with four his own age and they had him hiding in a corner.  The pullets in particular went after him.  He leaves the younger chicks alone for the most part, and they seem to be intimidated just enough by his size to not go after him.  The capon will peck a bit over food, but nothing harsh enough to worry.  He seems mostly preoccupied with eating, dust bathing, and lounging in the shade in peace and has been off by himself this afternoon.

Oh, we got our first blue egg yesterday before we even got the birds home.  One of the wheaties laid in the carrier, and the other laid this evening once Mula, Ninny, and the smaller cockerel went next door.  Oh yeah, Mula and Ninny went home LOL back over to Maria's who originally sold/traded them to me one and two years ago.  Those two transformed into the Red Devil hens tag team as soon as they were away from Feyd.  Including the late blue egg, we got nine eggs today as Mula and Ninny laid early this morning then refused to let the Wheaties too close to the bucket.  Those two also had both cockerels running scared whenever they even twitched.

Tomorrow starts a three morning caponizing marathon, as I have a dozen more 14 week old cockerels to fix, including one who has been hiding out in the pullet tractor.

And yes, the IS the short version.

24 April 2015

I may have a capon

This morning I had three cockerels in isolation for caponizing.  Now I have one still all-cockerel, one half-capon, and one possibly full capon!  The half-capon is marked with a blue zip tie around his ankle, while the possibly full capon has a green zip tie, but of course he took a step as I snapped the pic, and it doesn't show.
Wyandotte possible capon
Even if he is a slip, it will take quite a while for his teste to grow back.  Yes, chickens can grow them back, if there is enough tissue left inside.  On both him and the half-capon, the first teste came out without a hitch.  On the half-capon, I could not get a hold of the second teste, as there was a blood clot in the way.  On the possible full capon, the second teste broke into three pieces ... at least I hope it was only three pieces.  The three pieces I pulled out equaled the size of the first teste.

Now, I get to watch him closely.  In a few days, his comb and wattles ought to go back to chick-pale, and he should calm way down and decide his sole purpose in life is to eat and get big.

I am going to caponize (or at least attempt to) all the cockerels from Ideal that I got in January.  I decided against keeping any of the red broiler cockerels, and also against keeping any of the Gold-Laced Wyandotte cockerels because they are on the scrawny side for Wyandottes.  The pullets aren't impressing me much, either.  Ah well, it was worth a try and Ideal is the southern-most major chick hatchery to my knowledge.  I'll have to see how well the four largest GLW pullets lay.

23 April 2015

Chicks pics and a visitor

First up, pictures of the adorable chicks, now a week and half old.
splash Silkie and Gold-Laced Wyandotte chicks

week and half old chicks
The little Wyandotte pullets look to be getting in wing feathers, and there is a bit of variation in the amount of gold.  I'll be interested in seeing how they feather out.  As for the Silkies ... they are unbelievably cute!  I can now understand why and how people keep these as pets.  They are very laid back, and don't really panic when picked up.

Now, previously when we have had wildlife visit us, it has been less than pleasant.  The past few days though we have had a nice visitor in the form of a female pheasant.  I think she's attracted to all the chicken feed that inevitably spills a bit, and I am hoping the hawks, eagles, and owls leave her alone.
female pheasant

our pheasant visitor

22 April 2015

Hormworm season begins

I just pulled the first two small hornworms  off my pink Brandywine tomato plant ... the chickens were pleased.  And so it begins.

14 April 2015

Chicks again

Twenty hours before USPS tracking said they'd get here, I received a call from my local post office saying, "You have a noisy box here now!"  I was already on my way there to give them fair warning about a noisy box expected tomorrow morning ... he thought that was amusing.  Apparently, my chicks arrived at Orlando this morning at just the right time for a considerate clerk to tuck it in on the express van headed here.  I have one extra Wyandotte in the bunch, for 26 gold-laced Wyandotte pullets and 15 straight run splash Silkies.  OK, the Silkies really are that cute!
gold-laced Wyandotte and splash Silkie chicks
Now, for a couple pics from Sunday morning, when Beardie decided to test his boundaries with me and flared when I went into the tractor to get Penny's egg (she is still laying in the back corner!).  Prior to this, I had merely picked him up, but this time, I picked him up, tucked him in the crook of my arm with him on his back, and carried him around until he quit struggling or trying to nip me.  I had warned him: "Mess with me and I will pick you up and pet you and carry you ... and name you George!"  Bugs Bunny joke ... he is still named Beardie.
"And I will hug him, and squeeze him ..."

"... and pet him and love him, and name him George."
The past couple days have been wonderfully peaceful while getting Penny's egg (still in the back corner of the tractor) with Beardie just watching us, clucking at us, but not flaring, flapping, or trying to kick.  He doesn't need to like us coming into the tractor, but he does need to mind his manners when we do.

12 April 2015

More building for chickens

Here are a few recent building projects.  Hubby (aka "Household Seven" because he makes things happen around here) has been a busy working man, and of course he has been eating like a working man to boot.  Small price to "pay" for this much labor, so I am happy to cook for him.
putting the rubber fingers into the bucket plucker
This morning's project was the bucket plucker, which I'll probably do an individual post on after we try it out tomorrow morning.  It is like the WhizBang automatic (motorized) chicken plucker, just without the large steel tub and motor.  Since we usually do only one to three chickens at a time, this sounded like a much more feasible idea, both economically and in terms of effort.
Feyd, Goldie, Mula, and Ninny inside their new tractor
We emptied the original half of the rampart, and Feyd and the hens seem to like having grass under their feet even if it makes dust bathing a bit more of a challenge.  We're happy because we have not needed to mow yet.
new door on the rampart
The biggest reason we needed to empty the original half of the rampart was the chicken wire on the door had rusted through and broken and was scratching our arms when we went in and out.  Hubby took the door down and replaced the poultry wire with hardware cloth, and then he dug out the dirt floor about a foot deep and brought in a huge pile of leaves.  We'll be using this half as a brooding area, since it is too hot in the daytime to use the shed this time of year.  The brooder tubs will go in by the center wall, and have heat lamps on the end, and I won't need to worry if the adventurous little monster escape the tubs because they will still be enclosed!  Chicks are due to arrive Wednesday morning from Missouri, and I am getting excited about that.

09 April 2015

Chicken trivia

Here's something I have not read anywhere on the web or in print (as of now): When a cockerel starts to kazoo crow, each of his testes are about the same size as his heart.  After barely a week of kazooing outside in the morning, each teste will be larger than his heart.  Keep in mind a chicken's heart is four or five times larger than its brain ... all of a sudden, cockerel behavior makes a lot more sense.

I slaughtered "puffy" the half-cockerel red broiler this morning, and attempted to get his remaining teste out.  Even using the larger rib spreader, it would not fit through the incision.  To his credit, he made quite the spectacular Logan's Run, jumping over hubby (talons first) when he opened the door to the cage and then trying his darnedest to fit through the neighbor's field fencing, which is 4 by 4 gaps.

I had three more cockerels ready to try live caponizing, but my back started acting up with just "puffy," so those three went into the cage with food and water and will simply be pre-slaughtered for the operation, along with the rest of the red broiler cockerels.

Acorn squash blossoms

For the past few mornings, I have had new acorn squash blossoms to look at.  The blossoms last less than 24 hours, so they really are a flash in the pan, so to speak, although we have not yet tried them as food.
first acorn squash blossom
 This very first squash blossom had a node under it, and it looks like it set into our first squash.  Several other blossoms have only been atop simple stems, and I am wondering if squash does male and female blossoms.  Something to look up when the rain hits soon.
new acorn squash blossoms amid the lettuce
My back has been all out of sorts this week, and part of it is my own fault for procrastinating way too long to order refills from the automated phone-tree hell VA has.  Ya know, there are over 7 billion people in this world, yet it takes the better part of an hour to get a live one to pick up the line at the VA.  This is not unique to this region: I had the same issue in Tennessee.  There is nothing quite as dehumanizing as needing to key in seven prescription numbers and having that recorded voice droning on over the phone speaker.  No, I usually do not get the numbers keyed in correctly each time, then it tells me there is no such prescription and I need to start back at that branch of the phone tree/flow chart.  This time, I will be certain to gather up the refill papers and snail mail them in ... I know hubby had a look on his face when I finally gave up on the refill thing while trying to get an actual person because they put the sticker on the box and not the bottle of one of them.  Oh well, I get what I pay for with VA.

05 April 2015

Learning about Potatoes!

Hello! Household 7 here. ( pardon the joke)
Recently we planted potatoes, 14 seed taters in one of our garden boxes behind the shed.
We actually planted two sets of potatoes in two boxes. But this post is looking at the first box of 14 plants. I've been watering every evening and have watched the start to grow. A few of them have gotten quite big! Some of them I have yet to see at all. Which has been bothering me. I was excited to see 8 of the 14 plants the other evening. very good so far. Looking at the instructions on the bag they came in it says to add another 6 to 8 inched of soil when the plants are about 8 inches tall.  I misread the instructions and covered all of them. two days later we are seeing the three tallest plants popping up out of the soil. Looks good. Except something seemed odd, so I reread the instructions.
Just today I uncovered the smaller plants and while I was at it I scratched around for the other potato starts. They're still there and still starting.

 I'm not very sure whats keeping them from growing as fast as the others. I recovered them with soil and will wait for them to get going.

I think what I have learned so far is to follow the instructions. I will be more careful. I think if I had done it right from the start they would all doing fine, those first few are really looking good.
It's nice to know that the other starts may yet grow.

I expect i will be digging around for the starts in the second box soon, they were planted only a day after and I have yet to see anything from them.
I think I am paying more attention to them because this is our second time trying potatoes. the first time I'm not sure what we did wrong.

Thanks for reading.

03 April 2015

Cooking with all these eggs

Since we are past the equinox now, the days are longer than the nights, and will just keep getting longer until the solstice.  No, it is not only hubby's imagination, the days really are long and getting longer - LOL but he means that in regard to the work load.  With lengthening days, those of us with laying hens are getting a very steady supply of fresh eggs, and for the next few months the challenge will be to keep up with the hens.  Of course, I have recipes!

One is a new one, in the useful cookbook from TSC's bargain box.  I made the cream cheese poundcake, which calls for six (whole) large eggs and has yielded a wonderfully rich dessert, snack, and even breakfast this morning.
decadent 6 egg cream cheese poundcake
That cookbook has another recipe I'd like to make, but need to wait for the cream cheese to go on sale.  The regular cheesecake recipe calls for three large eggs plus two large egg yolks ... sounds like five whole bantie eggs to me.  We're not eating omelettes and scrambled eggs or poached eggs enough to keep up with the Eileens, who are laying at least two days out of three.

Another warm weather favorite here is tuna salad sandwiches, which I use one hard boiled egg plus the homemade mayonnaise.   I cut this recipe in half today, so that means I'll be making it more often but it will be fresher.  Hubby had hard boiled a dozen eggs the other day, for salads, tuna salad, and even just snacks.  Here is what is left of the mayo after doing up the tuna salad.
homemade mayonnaise
On the list of egg recipes we do love eating: quiche.  I usually do up bacon, spinach, and cheddar, but since we've discovered chard as a spinach substitute we'll be doing that, with the chard leaves fresh from the garden box.  Hubby would also like to try making a souffle.

Somewhere deep in the archives, there is an old Mother Earth News article on the best way to store eggs.  It looks like I didn't bookmark it, but the big take-away is that unwashed eggs stored in the refrigerator will keep at least six months, which is when they stopped their experiment.  We'll be keeping some, but of course it will be the FIFO rule: First In, First Out, sometimes called rotating stock.  It was a bit embarrassing last autumn to have laying hens but no eggs.

01 April 2015

Bleep bleep stupid cookbook

There are times when I really ought to pin my ears back, dig my heels in, and bray like a mule instead of allowing myself to be rushed out of a store.  This would appear to be particularly true when it comes to cookbooks.  Here are two cookbooks I picked up out of Tractor Supply's bargain book box, and thought all I needed to do was glance at the title.  Titles have fine print, also.
The Rosie's Bakery All-Butter, Cream-Filled, Sugar-Packed Baking Book
by Judy Rosenberg
My comment as this went into the cart, "How can I resist this title?"  I thought the same with this one:
Chocolate (from the Cake MIX Doctor)
by Anne Byrn
Y'all might noticed what I emphasize in the caption: "from the cake MIX doctor."  I totally missed the small "mix" hidden in the wooden spoon in the logo!  So, this afternoon I am looking for a nice nummy recipe, preferably involving cream cheese, and found several in this second book.  The problem was they all have a box of cake mix as part of the ingredients.  I go looking in the front (past all the really nice pictures of so many varieties of chocolate cake!) to see what kind of substitution for the box mix or advice on converting it to from-scratch ... instead I find a short paragraph about how you can take a box of mix and make it great ... then I finally read the "mix" part of the title.

I feel cheated.  I stopped buying cake mix boxes a few years ago when I figured out my cake pans were not growing, but the amount of mix was shrinking.  At that point, I figured it was just easier to bust out the old cookbooks and make my cakes from scratch.  (Not to mention, I have old magazines that say tuna cans used to have 7 oz of tuna, not the 5 oz today, or the 6 oz of a decade ago!)

I not only felt cheated, I said that "colorful metaphor" that hubby doesn't like.  At least that one rhymes, although any and all duck lovers here might stone me if I posted it.  I was snookered by beautiful photography of chocolate, and too dazzled to see the itty-bitty lettering that would have had me dropping the book right back into the bargain bin as if it had burned me.

I do not want this book.  First person who either emails me, or claims it in the comments here (blogspot emails me when a comment is posted, so first is still first there) will have this blasphemous cookbook.  I am still very much out of sorts about not being able to do up a chocolate chip pumpkin cheesecake.  Ah well, there is caramel cheesecake and I won't even have to substitute butter in for margarine or soybean oil (pretty much the same things, just one is solid at room temperature).  Get it while you can!  I am a bit of a book miser, but this one has no place on my shelf.

ETA: I don't do April Fools day.  This is for real.  Ya want it, just claim it.

Eggs and meat

For the month of March, we had 74 eggs laid ... possibly one or two more as Ninny's recent eggs have been breaking.  No layers were lost, and three of the four pullets started laying.  Not a single day did we come in completely empty-handed, and this past Monday we brought in five of the six eggs laid.

Yesterday's caponizing attempt went better than previous, and I have finally figured out where to cut.  All I needed to do was change my perspective to the opposite side of the bird, then it was clear as day.  Yesterday's tally is one dinner and one partial-capon.  It's progress!  The first cockerel jerked when I was about to snip the membrane, and then the blood started gushing.  I had nicked the vena cava, and honestly it looked like he bled out faster than all the ones I cut the jugular.  The second one had one teste twice the size of the other, and twice the size of the other cockerel's, and when they start to grow large they don't hold together well.  Even though I think I fished out all the pieces, I could not locate the second teste afterwards.  That boy is relaxing by himself in the chicken hutch, and looks lazy until he sees me coming.

Oh, here is yesterday's bleed out cockerel, a red broiler from Ideal.  My opinion of these birds is still the same as it was at the beginning of March: not terrible, but really nothing to recommend them over any others (unless on a really good sale).  If you want a lot of meat and want it fast, stick to the Cornish crosses.  If you want slower but more flavorful meat, find a decent line of heritage dual purpose birds.  I can personally recommend Luanne of 8 Acres Farm in Alachua County - the lady from whom I am getting black phase Blue-Laced Red Wyandottes.  If you are local enough to pick up, she often has extra cockerels she'll sell as meaties.  I need to either fix my current digital scale, or buy one that won't need batteries.  I'd actually like to keep track of carcass weights as I go, especially when I start breeding my own birds.
carcass of almost 10 week old red broiler