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Archive for the ‘Chickens’ Category

Here at RockStahl Ranch we have chickens that provide us with lots of eggs. That means lots of opportunities to try new things with eggs. Here is a new recipe (patent pending … I wish) for making great tasting eggs that is a combination of fried and scrambled eggs. But the main reason for making the recipe at home is to mess with peoples head and have fun.

First the recipe (scale it to whatever size you want):

2 eggs
1 Tablespoon of milk
1 Glob of seasoning, whatever you can dream of to make it tasty and exciting.

Separate the yolks from whites. I do this with the shell.
Whip the eggs with some milk and your seasoning.
Heat a pan the you would to fry and egg with butter, oil or my favorite bacon fat.
Pour in white mixture and then gently place the egg yokes on top of that.
Try to come up with several clever sayings when you server these to family members or guests.

Here are some starter ideas for when you serve the eggs.
“I left the eggs on the counter for a few days, but I think they are ok.”
“These are bald eagle eggs I bought on ebay.”
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Paprika style eggs. Lots of paprika (mine is freshly ground and a bit orange. I am sure you can get a better red color with store bought Paprika.)

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Pesto Eggs. Great to serve with ham for Dr. Seuss reading marathons.

Now it is your turn. I would love to know and see your creative inspirations, or videos of people’s first reaction to eggs that just don’t seem right. Post or send me pics and I will include them in this blog!

Yes I have neglected this blog for a few years now and it is time to start writing again.

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We are coming up to our 9th month of raising eleven chickens from chicks (one had to be fast-tracked to chicken heaven because of disease and a broken leg), and enjoying the nutritional and entertainment benefits of having them! For those of you wondering about the cost/benefit of raising chickens (assuming no zoning restrictions in your ‘hood) here’s the Chickenomics:

Chickenomics is about the cost/benefit of keeping chickens

Click on image for larger size. As you'll see, the chickens earn their living!

  • We use an Excel spreadsheet to track daily egg harvest, feed consumption, and any other types of “income” (egg sales to neighbors, if we have surplus) to gauge how much it costs to keep chooks vs. how much we save not having to buy free-range, organic eggs from the supermarket
  • It costs about $35/month to keep 11 hens (not to mention the farm mice) well-fed and happy. Evidently, the days of something costing “chicken feed” are gone! The girls go through about two 50-lb bags of layer feed/month.
  • Our happy (spoiled, even) free-range hens supply about $70-80/month of eggs (price of free range, organic eggs at our local grocer is $4.50-5.00/dozen!). Each hen lays about 5-6 eggs per week in the summer; and about 40% less in the winter.
  • No fear of ‘tainted eggs’ – we’re confident our chooks are healthy and clean. That’s quite a savings!
  • Being around chickens is a boost to your mental health. If you’re ever sad or upset, go to the chicken run, throw them an apple core, and watch the mayhem. *Priceless*
    Indignant Shirley and our third egg. Don't know if she laid it, but she sure looks PO'd. Actually it's just hot (high 90's and she's panting)

    Indignant Shirley and our third egg this past summer.

    Now for the “fixed costs” that were not mentioned above:

  • Fencing, building and materials for the chicken coop was >not< cheap. But we wanted to put something up that was not an eyesore (the coop is in the foreground of our backyard view of the distant mountains – why create a Coopenstein?
  • How much exactly? I can’t remember, I was swooning. Ok, ok, somewhere betw. $1-2K for the 16 sqft brooder coop and the 6x8ft (48 sqft) chicken coop with 3 nesting boxes. Yes we could’ve made it cheaper but didn’t, so don’t take our numbers as the benchmark. However, some finished coops are ridiculously expensive, well into the $2K range for the size we built. We do believe that ours is functionally well-designed, but that’s a separate topic we’ll address in another blog.
  • It took about 4 1/2 months until our chickens started producing eggs, so figure spending about $150 on feed prior to their laying. This cost is quickly recouped, as you’ll see in the spreadsheet above.

The final word – we do not put a lamp in the coop to extend the hens’ laying season, tricking them into laying the same number of eggs as they do during the longer days of summer. First of all, we don’t consume 9-10 eggs/day nor need to sell them for income. We’re always pleased to be able to get a few dollars for them, and our friends are thrilled knowing their inexpensive, fresh eggs come from super-happy hens!

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There are many firsts that we cherish: First crush, first kiss, and of course, first pullet egg from your new chickens.

You remember where you found it, what time it was, and how you first tweeted about it.

It was the morning of August 2nd, tucked away in a corner next to the water tower. It was smaller than a small supermarket egg, but cute! The shell was like 50 grit sandpaper with bumps, and I felt sorry for the hen who laid it.

Discovering our first chicken egg

Our first egg in the new hen house!

This is the first time that I have had chickens since I was a boy. These are my wife’s first chickens.

Closeup of our first chicken egg.

These free-ranging beauties are hard at work to take care of us!

What happened to the egg you might ask? Sunny side up and shared so we got to enjoy it together ๐Ÿ™‚

We have gotten a pullet egg per day since the first was laid three days ago. Because hens are supposed to start laying small eggs only once every 3-4 days, it stands to reason that we have three hens that have started to produce. None of our 11 chickens (all about 22 weeks old) have cockledoodledooed, so we presume that they are all girls!

Let the omeletsย  begin!

P.S. We won’t fail to say “Thank You” to our girls every time we collect eggs.

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Well-camouflaged tobacco hornworm can be a garden menace!

Well-camouflaged tobacco hornworm can be a garden menace!

Time to talk about the nasties. This bugger is a vicious defoliator, mostly attacking plants in the Solanaceae (nightshade) family – tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, and of course, tobacco. The specimen above was first assumed to be the tomato hornworm, but a master gardener from Colorado State clarified the difference between the two caterpillars. They’re the larval stage of the “hawk”, “sphinx” or hummingbird moth – begrudgingly beautiful – but can wipe out your tomato plantation in no time.

These critters added to our tomato heirloom woes (notably “blossom drop” from the very high temps) just yesterday when Roy discovered them feasting on the leaves. In the evening, he applied Bt, Bacillus thuringiensis – an effective natural pesticide against caterpillars. In less than 48 hrs, we put on our “pattern identification lenses”, and picked about 20 of these nasty buggers. Picking them off the leaves is like pulling velcro apart, and they seem to fight back by bending backwards and grabbing you with their vicious little jaws. (Actually I don’t think they bite and people will handle them with bare hands … but these critters still gross me out!)

The Bt was effective almost overnight, but we still found a half dozen or so lively, fat beasties today.

Bt already took effect in less than 24 hrs. for some caterpillars

Bt already took effect in less than 24 hrs. for some caterpillars

The happy ending to this story is that we get a whole lot of entertainment feeding these caterpillars to our chickens. The chooks will come to you eagerly, snatch the beasty from your hand, and fight over the gourmet meal. They were pretty subdued in the video, but you do see the Buff Orpi do an Olympic sprint well away from the competition!

A more informative video on tomato and tobacco hornworms to watch is from GardenForkTV.

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As many chicken owners know, these wonderful, food-providing creatures can also be frustratingly destructive. Lush green lawns can quickly turn to wasteland. Fresh chicken poop is too potent a fertilizer to use and can quickly “burn” grassy areas and gardens. Chickens also love taking dust baths, creating large cozy divets – which can be problematic for people who don’t care much for moon landscapes!

Cultivating chicken garden allows hens to feast on greens

We plant hulless oats for our chicken garden

Using a chicken-wire frame shown in the above picture, we can cultivate a “chicken garden” to allow greens to grow undisturbed in our chicken pen until the plants are more mature. When the area is ready, we can either remove all or just part of the frame to let the chooks go wild and feast on the greens.

Chickens feasting on hulless oats in our chicken garden

Chickens feasting on hulless oats while part of their garden remains protected

The above area is quickly laid to waste within 24 hrs, but provides a great source of nutrition for our hens. This frame allows us to cultivate gardens in different parts of their pen. The hulless oats shown above took about 1 1/2 months to grow to that size, so we’re looking for other greens that grow faster and are just as attractive a food to our chooks.

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Chicken whisperer coaxing chooks to come to him

Roy the Chicken Whisperer coaxing chooks to come to him

It’s been a couple of months since we last wrote about our chickens. They’re now about 3 1/2 months old and have adapted well to their new home. Recently however, they’ve been flying up on the 3-ft fence and exploring areas outside of their spacious run. So we thought it’s probably time to clip their wings.

The chooks seem to like Roy the most – which is great – because he’ll be the grim reaper when their time comes – but hopefully not for a few years. To prepare the chook for wing-clipping, Roy likes to turn them upside down like this (and yes, they’ll put up a fight for about 20 secs. or so, but then settle down in submission). I don’t think it’s necessary to flip them over, but it seems easier to articulate the feathers.

Roy grabs chicken at legs to turn upside down for wing-clipping

Grab chicken at legs to turn upside down before you clip wings.

Next, spread out either the left or right wing. It’s usually sufficient to clip just one wing, but we suspect that our gals are gung ho fliers and may have to do the other wing later on.

Spread out chicken wing to articulate feathers.

Spread out wing to articulate feathers. This girl is a Rhode Island Red.

You (or preferably, your helper) will want to clip only the long outer wings or flight feathers, taking care not to get the shorter inner wings. Make sure you use sharp scissors. We clip only the first 10 or so flight feathers, but some people clip up to 20.

Only clip the flight feathers, and as closely as possible.

Only clip the flight feathers, and as closely as possible.

Lastly, you’ll want to give them a good pet on the back and praise for being so cooperative. (Um … it’s a bit of a stretch they’ll enjoy the hugs. But it is a good idea to get them used to being handled!)

Give praise after clipping chook's wings

Handle your chooks frequently or you'll be like Rocky Balboa chasing chickens!

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Unknown chick breed

Meet "Jeanette", a UFO, garden fertilizer & breakfast provider

It is Day 4 and our twelve chicks (all about 3 wks old) are still kicking – literally. I am slowly becoming more efficient in the cleaning and care, esp. making sure that their water is changed several times a day. Every day of survival is another day of health and another egg factory in the making ๐Ÿ™‚ย  Cleaning their boxes isn’t too big of a chore, and the newspapers go straight in the compost bin!

We all look in on the chicks several times a day, letting them get used to being handled. The 12 are currently split up in 2 groups of 6.

Buff Orpington chicks

Happy Blondes

Mixed chicks, hybrids, buff orpingtons

Big Bertha & Psychos

In one box are the “blondies” (Buff Orpingtons), and these gals (presumably all gals, but unlikely) seem to be the most sedate and poo-lific. The second box has a mix of Black Sx-links, Rhode Island Reds, and Buff Orpingtons. Unfortunately, this seems to be the psycho group, segregating according to color (what’s up with that?), taunting each other, and seeing who can screech the loudest. The largest are the Black Sx-links, one of which I have called “Big Bertha” of turkey-esque size. Every time you handle her, you’d think she was Marie Antoinette at the guillotine.

We are currently studying various chicken coop plans, including those we found in this book, Chicken Coops, by Judy Pangman. Many people criticized it for lacking real building plans, and perhaps the title is misleading because there are no detailed plans for any of the coops – just pictorial representations and occasionally, dimensions. For us, however, these “concept” plans should be sufficient.

I’m especially excited over the opportunity to use a lot of scrap building materials and “junk” that we’ve accumulated over the years. Rather than haul these to the dump, constructing and interior decorating a chicken house brings me back to my childhood when I’d build houses for my dolls ๐Ÿ™‚

We’d love to see a link to your own chicken coop or ones you’ve seen that you really like!

Tweet tweet for now,

Gigi

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