Saturday, June 22, 2013

Not Eggsactly a Money Making Scheme

Trust me when I say, you don’t save a penny raising your own hens  just for eggs. Housing, feed, fresh vegetables, medical care all cost money, most of which is not recuperated if you eat or sell a dozen eggs for a whopping $3.00/dozen. You do however; get better tasting healthier eggs, not to mention the chemical free reduction of bugs and the entertainment value watching the antics of your flock.
We didn't get into raising our own chickens as a money making scheme.  We wanted to become more self sufficient.  Self sufficient isn't always the least expensive option or easiest.   It is the most rewarding and healthier option. You learn a few things along the way, enough to know there are things going on in this world with relation to the food chain that are not right. I like to know where my food comes from. 
Did the egg you're consuming come from a production facility where she gets to sit in a box all day, every day of her short life and eat commercial feed?  Or did you get the organic, free range option?  Note, just because it comes from a “local farmer” doesn’t mean they have a good diet either.  Are they allowed to free range for grass/weeds and bugs?   Is their diet supplemented with fresh vegetables and fruits?
Some egg facts you should know;
  • The yolks from our farm raised hens are darker than store bought. 
  • They DO taste better. 
  • They DO last longer (up to 3 months in the fridge).  Longer by some accounts.
  • The eggs you get at the store are upwards of 30-40 days old by the time they make it to the shelf at the market.    I'd like to know the food I eat is as fresh as possible.  40 day old eggs are not fresh, even if the carton states "farm fresh eggs"!
  • An egg contains all the building blocks of life!  How else could it create another chicken?
  • An egg contains all vitamins except for C
  • They do not need to be stored in the refrigerator, however that has become the norm.
We have been able to supplement the cost of feed, etc by raising and selling chicks.  Again, unless you can really increase your numbers, and find a venue to sell them, it is not going to make you rich. You will be richly rewarded in other ways.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What Makes an Egg; Brown, White, Green, or Blue?

Do you know how eggs actually get their color?  We are all used to seeing white eggs at the market, and on occasion brown, but those were typically sold for more money or only available as an organic, free range option.  Throw in green, blue, pink and you have an altogether rainbow of egg options; most people don’t even know exist.

All eggs are actually white to begin with, and during the 26 hours or so it works its way down the oviduct, it’ll pass through an area that actually dyes the egg.   They have their own paint factory!  Each hen will lay the same color egg, every time.  The same breed of chicken may all be layers of brown eggs, but those eggs will likely be different shades of the same color.  I have 7 Easter Egger hens laying green eggs of different colors;  mint to olive, dark to light.   Unless she’s sick or suffers from malnutrition, it will always be the same.  It rotates as it goes, and if it rotates too slowly, you’ll actually see speckles.   If it rotates too quickly it will have streaks.  I have a hen that always lays a speckled egg, I've never seen a streaked egg.

The inside of the shells are actually white!
I find it all very fascinating.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

It's Raining, It's Pouring

We sure had good intentions of getting caught up at The Compound this past weekend, but the weather just wouldn’t cooperate.  The chickens are lucky they even had a chance to get outdoors.  Just what we wanted or needed was more rain!  We’ve had so much the Tilapia pond is overflowing, the garden is a mud bog and  so overgrown with weeds, but I can’t get in to take care of without getting stuck in the mud.

We also wanted to get started on the final touches to the pizza oven.  Nothing other than cleaning out the camper, tiki hut and caring for all 81 83 chickens (forgot to add the two new ones to the overall count) was accomplished.  We feel like such slackers.
As I write this post, it is raining AGAIN! 
To those of my family scared by the huge number of chickens, take a deep breath and calm down.  I have them posted on Craigs List and have a buyer for 3 pullets this Saturday.  I will not keep all of them, I promise.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Delivery at The Compound

With great excitement the Moose and I went to The Compound late Friday, to get a head start on chores, but most importantly to check on Connie and her eggs.  Out of the 7 or so she had been laying on, she hatched out these two.

I don't think any of the others will hatch, but we left them with her for a couple more days.  She's a very protective Momma, and is already training them on what is OK to eat.  We gave her some fresh sweet corn, lettuce greens, and bread, to help her gain the weight she lost back, and also to give her a variety of things to eat.  She was making a clucking noise when eating the sweet corn to let her chicks know it was something worth eating.  They ran over and pecked at it, but they are still too young to really enjoy corn on the cob.

Dolly is still sitting on her eggs, and we should see something from her, if all is well in the next week or so.

We need to come up with an area for Connie and her two little ones, so she can stretch her legs, but not be bothered by the other hens.  The large dog kennel is a nice large space, but I'm sure she misses scratching and the breeze in her feathers.

I just adore chickens!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Broody Hen at The Compound

We're so excited!  We have a broody hen!  The Moose and I have really wanted to have our hens raise their young on their own, and we look forward to comparing the differences between them and the ones we hatched in the incubator. 

Will they be more socially excepted in the flock?
Will they grow slower, quicker, or about the same?

We noticed Connie sitting in the nesting box a couple of weeks ago, and when I went to collect the eggs I got quite a growl.  I knew something was up.  She stayed on the eggs the entire day.  We gave her three more days to make sure, and then the Moose moved her to one of the dog kennels we bought at a recent yard sale for $5, to keep her and the eggs safe and secluded.  She didn't like the move very much, but after a about 10 minutes or so, she settled right down.

We placed a small container for water and feed just in case, and she has actually eaten a little.  I don't think you can really tell in this photo, but she has really flattened herself out over those eggs. 

They should hatch sometime this next week or so, if I'm guessing correctly.

We had another go broody as well, Dolly.  The Moose moved her, and at the point we left The Compound on Saturday, she did not sit back on her eggs.  She just started eating, like she hadn't eaten anything in a week!

I'm keeping my fingers crossed, she'll have settled down.  More updates to come!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Putting Life Into Perspective

Aunt Elaine's Lilac Bush
On our recent mini vacation, visiting family in Wisconsin, I had plenty of time to gaze out the truck window and get some perspective on life.  After the past 5 months, where every waking minute has been spent on tiling, painting and chickens, the 4,000+ miles of windshield time allows for plenty of time to rest and think.

Rest from the physical aspects of our project was very much needed.  It was getting so bad the Moose and I were competing for most complaints about aches and pains each morning!  “Oh my knee”, “your knee, what about my back?!”  We should have invested in Tylenol and Advil!  Now my backside hurts from all the sitting, but I haven’t had to get up and down off the floor in over a week! 

Mentally I needed a break too.  As issues run through your head, the worries about our business, finances, etc.  all I had to do was look out my window at the empty buildings and for sale signs in cities through each state or listen to the news that some family members are getting laid off from work, to put my life in perspective.

Watching snippets of the news and seeing the devastation and heartache the people in Oklahoma are going through, made me count my blessings.  Seeing people already rebuilding, along with thousands of volunteers showed me how perseverance and fortitude should be a bigger part of my daily vernacular.

The Moose and I rarely turned the radio on.  We just needed the peace and quiet, to put things back in order.  There is something to be said for companionable silence.   

Most importantly it gave me time to pray, and thank God for all my blessings.  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Hunting We Will Go

We’ve been M.I.A. recently.  The Moose and I finally decided to take a few days off and visit family in Wisconsin.  We had a work related trip to Pittsburgh then added on 8 hours of drive time to get to the land of cheese, brats and beer! 
We had three full days to cover as many relatives as possible.  I hope to have some follow up stories in the near future.  Our hunt for the infamous, nonexistent in Florida, unless you pay over $8.00/lb. rhubarb.  It virtually grows like a weed in Wisconsin, and this is its prime harvesting season.
On our last full day in Wisconsin spent with the Moose’s Mom and her hubby Gene, we went rhubarb hunting!  Moose’s Mom placed a few phone calls, and those few calls turned in to good prospects. 

Her friend Teresa (an interesting character, emigrated from Italy in 1955 and doesn’t take anyone’s crap, my kind of lady), had a “little” bit left.  Ladies and gentlemen, her idea of a little bit was a black garbage bag full!  Now it had the leaves still on, but really that’s a “little” bit?!  We had a great visit, and solved all the world’s problems over a glass of cheap Italian wine.  She’s Italian, if she says the wine is good, it’s good, who am I to argue?  She doesn’t “waste her good money on expensive wine”.  I could have spent a week shadowing this woman, just to hear her expressions and life experiences.
Then it was off to the Moose’s Aunt Elaine’s, for another “little” bit.  We had almost another whole garbage bag full!  Now this lady is amazing!  She lost her husband this past year, and is fully self-sufficient.  I’m guessing she’s in her late 70’s.  She pushed a lawn mower over her 1+ acre property herself, as her riding lawn mower was being repaired and the lawn just couldn’t wait.  How many 70 + year old ladies do you know of that mow their own lawn?

If that wasn’t enough to impress me, I was absolutely amazed at her garden, and yard.  She’s spent over 30 years at this property, and it is out of this world.  Another lady I could shadow, to learn all her gardening secrets.  I called her the Master Gardener and she seemed a bit embarrassed at the accolade. 
Our final stop and not to be outdone by the ladies, was Gene’s brother Jimmy.  Again, I wonder what the folks in Wisconsin consider as a lot of rhubarb.  Jimmy had a “little” bit, and I could take all that I wanted.  Yep, another bag full!  We spent time with he and his wife looking over his classic cars, and family heirloom rose bushes.    

It was a fantastic day  (thanks for driving us around Gene!) and trip even though short.   I dropped off some rhubarb to my Mom and Padre’ on our way home, and made two more people extremely happy.  My family loves rhubarb, could you tell?

 Interesting Rhubarb Facts:
  • Some of the earliest records of rhubarb date back to China in 2700 B.C. and was used for medicine.
  • It’s really a vegetable, part of the buckwheat family.
  • One pound of fresh rhubarb yields about 3 cups chopped or 2 cups cooked.
  • Ben Franklin is credited with being one of the first to send seeds to the American colonies.
  • One cup of rhubarb contains as much calcium as a glass of milk, although not absorbed as well as dairy.
  • Rhubarb leaves are toxic, they contain oxalic acid.  They can be used to make a natural insecticide.
  • Nothing tastes better than a strawberry rhubarb pie!