Saturday, June 30, 2012

Easy Herbed Deviled Eggs - Three Ways

I love deviled eggs. They're easy, nutritious and a wonderful way to highlight the wonderful flavors of both our fresh eggs from the chickens and fresh herbs from the garden.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Our New Saxony Ducklings - Cuteness Overload

Welcome to the world little ones!
We have had five Saxony duck eggs incubating in our incubator for the last 28 days.  (Follow along with our daily updates to The Great Eggscape HERE.)  Today was Hatch Day and this little one didn't disappoint. Arrived right on schedule.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Water Water Everywhere...the Hanging Chicken Ware Canteen Waterer

Clean, fresh water is the single most important thing you can provide your chickens for their health and welfare. Important in the summer of course, a constant water supply is also equally important during the cold months.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Flock Hurricane Preparedness

The calm before the storm
It seems that the weather is getting more extreme year to year, and hurricanes and tornadoes are popping up all over the place. We hear storm warnings all the time and they usually turn out to be nothing, but last summer we got hit with Hurricane Irene and I realized just how unprepared I was to handle severe weather when it came to protecting our backyard flock. 

Here in Southeast Virginia, our biggest threat is hurricanes, but they often spawn tornadoes in their wake. The advice here goes for not only hurricanes and tornadoes, but also blizzards if you live in the northern climates.

We have our hurricane preparedness kit in the house with flashlights, batteries, canned food, bottled water, a battery-operated radio and such, but we really didn't have anything prepared when it came to the animals.

Flying debris, flooding and high winds that could blow your coop over are all concerns when a hurricane or tornado is predicted. Also not being able to get to the feed store for several days for feed because of blocked roads or power outages, injuries that may need to be taken care of and a lack of electricity to power your well are also of major concern. Plan now so if a storm is headed your way you will be ready.

We first heard the warnings that Hurricane Irene was changing course and heading right for us in the early evening last August. With visions of the opening scene from The Wizard of Oz running through my head, I ran down to the barn.

~stock photo~ 

First, I let the chickens out of the coop and left all the windows open. Barn and coop windows and doors should be open during storms involving high winds to let the air flow through and hopefully not lift up the structure. Our coop is not very large or heavy and just stands on cement blocks so it could blow over or be lifted by heavy winds very easily. 

(One note: conventional wisdom dictates that larger animals, horses, cows, etc. should be let free during storms because they have a better chance running loose than in stalls where they could be crushed if the barn collapses, but chickens are so small and light that they would blow away too easily, so barring a direct tornado hit to your 'bunker' they will be far safer 'cooped up' in a sturdy structure.)

I decided that the chickens would be safer for the time being out in the run/paddock area while I prepared a hurricane shelter for them. Since it was already getting dark, they immediately sought the high ground and roosted on top of the run fence.

I decided the safest place for them to weather the storm would be in the tack room of our barn. There is only one small window and the room is raised about a foot above ground level, so no worries of flooding. I put down a plastic tarp to try and keep the floor as clean as possible and then set up some temporary roosts for the chickens using wooden ladders.

I set out feed (enough for several days) and water and then filled as many buckets as I could find with fresh clean water in case we lost power to our well or I wasn't able to get back down for a day or so.

I filled some tubs and baskets with straw and fake eggs so they would know where to lay their eggs. 

I gathered all my first aid supplies and made sure they were handy in case of any injuries due to the unfamiliar surroundings. You want to be prepared for lacerations in case of a broken window or trampling due to panic. 

One product I always keep on hand is Bach Rescue Remedy for Pets. It is a homeopathic liquid that eases stress and calms not only chickens, but also cats and dogs, in times of anxiety, illness or injury.

As I was getting everything ready, I caught a few curious girls watching my preparations through the window! (I cut a piece of plywood and anchored it over the window to prevent the window breaking.)

When everything was set up, I ushered our little flock to their new temporary quarters. By now it was dark and they were noticeably nervous with the wind starting to pick up considerably and it had already started raining.

They were understandably confused at first, 

but a fresh bale of straw kept them busy and their minds occupied. 

I turned off the lights and shut the door securely, confident that they were as safe as they could be. The hurricane hit overnight and raged all the next day. The following evening I was able to safely get down to the barn during a lull in the wind and driving rain to check on things. I opened to tack room door to find quite a mess (we had the ducks to thank mainly for that!) but everyone was fine. 

And a few had even laid eggs in one of the baskets. 

I refreshed feeders and waterers and tossed some sunflower seeds in the straw. I was worried about pecking issues with them all being in such a small space for a prolonged period of time so the sunflower seeds would keep them busy.

It ended up being two full days before I could safely let everyone out and back into their run. We suffered only minor damage and lost only two trees, so I was grateful for that.

The tack room needed a thorough cleaning, but I was able to drag most of the mess outside on the tarp, which I hosed down and let dry in the sun.

After this experience, I know that I will be far more prepared in the future for impending weather. Here is my flock hurricane preparedness list:

1) Fully stocked first aid kit

2) Plastic tarps

3) Buckets and barrels filled with water

4) Feed to last at least three weeks (through the duration of the storm and to allow for the possibility that feed stores won't be open or accessible to delivery trucks during the cleanup)

5) Several bales of straw

6) Treats including sunflower seeds and other things that can be scattered for them to find to keep them busy and prevent pecking issues

7) A safe, dry (preferably windowless) area - could be a garage, mud room, basement, barn stall, etc.

A lack of proper planning could result in losses or injury to your flock, so take some time to figure out what your storm preparedness plan might entail.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Cock-A-Doodle....Roo? 10 Ways to Sex your Chicks

~Pink eggs are hens, blue eggs are roosters? Unfortunately it's not that easy!~

One question we get asked fairly often on our Facebook page is 'Is this a hen or a rooster?' with an accompanying photo of a chick. Generally, that's not an easy question to answer.

Of course you can always just guess. You've got a 50/50 chance at getting it right. Hatcheries have professional chick sexers who get it right more than 90% of the time, but for us backyard enthusiasts, chick vent sexing just isn't something we can do. You can easily injure a chick if you don't know what you are doing, so that's best left to the professionals.

I personally don't feel confident that I've guessed correctly until I either hear a crow (starting at around 10-12 weeks usually) or see an egg (starting at around 18+ weeks), but there are some who claim its possible to sex chicks using old-timers' methods. Here are some of the more popular ways:
Some say that rounded eggs are hens and pointy, football-shaped eggs are roosters. I don't know that this has been scientifically proven, but if you have a choice and want hens, I say pick out the round eggs to hatch.
It is said that setting your incubator temperature half a degree lower will result in hatching hens, while setting it half a degree higher will result in more roosters.

Wing sexing can only be done within the first 48 hours of when the chick hatches. Hens' wing feathers are two different lengths while roosters' are the same length.


Fairly early on, little roosters' combs will be larger and pinker than hens'. Even at six weeks old, in both photos you can clearly see the hen's comb (on the left) is much smaller and paler than her brother's (on the right).

Roosters' legs will begin to thicken fairly early on. Some breeds will begin to grow tiny spurs on the back of each leg to help you identify your little roosters.

Conventional wisdom says if you wave a hat above the chicks and then drop it, the hens will squat or run and hide while the roosters will stand alert and even look up at the sky. My results were inconclusive with this test. One future roo did approach the hat, but the test was mostly met with indifference by the rest.

 It is said that if you rub a penny along the back of a chick and then toss it, if it comes up heads, that means you have a rooster, tails you have a hen. I did this test a few times on each chick and it came up randomly heads and tails, so I don't put too much stock in this method. Besides, the chicks just kept trying to eat the penny.

I have read that if you set down two bowls, one filled with 8 ounces of plain water and one filled with 8 ounces of water and a teaspoon of white vinegar, the roosters will go for the plain water, and the pullets will choose the vinegar/water mix.  I tried this. They all went for the vinegar water.  So much for that test.

I had been told by more than a few people that if you put a gold ring on a string and hold it above a chick, it will start to move on its own accord - in a circle if its a hen and in a straight line if its a roo. I do believe this works.  The ring definitely circled over some of my chicks and moved in a straight line over others.  At that point I wasn't sure which were pullet and which were roosters, but the ring definitely made its choice.

~two pullets (hens) with rounded saddle feathers~

~two roosters with long, pointed saddle feathers~

By around 8 to 10 weeks old, chicks will start getting pronounced saddle feathers (saddle feathers are where the back meets the tail). Hens' saddle feathers will be rounded while roosters' saddle feathers will be long and pointy.

And there you have it - ten ways to attempt to sex your chicks.

General behavior is also often an indicator. Roosters just seem to 'strut their stuff', even at a young age, bump chests and just 'look' more masculine. They often feather out more slowly but their feathers are more colorful. Hens are often smaller, daintier and have feminine features.

I hope these methods of trying to figure out if you've got roosters or hens will help you with your next batch of chicks. If nothing else, they're fun to try.

Everyone is welcome at Fresh Eggs Daily! To make sure you don't miss any of the tips and tricks, fan questions, giveaways or unending stream of cute photos join us on facebook at Fresh Eggs Daily and Ducks Too and be sure to sign up to follow our blog via email, Networked Blogs or Google Connect.

Friday, June 22, 2012

No More Jail Breaks - DIY Self-Closing Run Gate

I am usually careful to close the gate to the run behind me, but invariably going in and out with my hands full - of treats, water or feed going in, or eggs coming out - the gate gets left ajar. And those darn chickens don't need but a second to jump on the opportunity to escape and get some free range time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Utility Cart Makeover - Cost $0

~repurposed utility cart using only stuff I found in our garage~

You know you have one of these in your garage. Everyone does. The old, cheap (maybe you bought it from Ikea or Target ten years ago ) cart or end table from your first apartment after you graduated from college that you just can't bring yourself to take to the dump because there's really nothing wrong with's just really, really ugly.  So it's been sitting forgotten in your garage.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Egg Bound Hens - How to Recognize, Treat and Prevent

Imagine one of your hens is acting funny.  She is fluffed up, her eyes are closed and she is lethargic.  You notice her sitting on the ground and maybe dragging her wings.  Her tail is down and most likely she is straining or pumping her backside.  Upon closer examination you notice that liquid is dripping from her vent and you may feel an egg-shaped lump.  All signs of an egg bound hen.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Terrible Horrible No Good Really Bad Day Macaroni and Cheese

Some days are better than others.  Today I have already been stung by a yellow jacket, chased our horse around the pasture trying to catch him for our farrier, cleaned up puppy puke - on OUR bed, no less, and discovered that a bunny has not only eaten all our spinach but also all our beet tops....and it's only 3 o'clock  in the afternoon.  All in all, I've had better days.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Homemade Orange Peel White Vinegar Coop Cleaner

Lately I have been looking for recipes to make my own natural homemade cleaning products.  I'm sure you all have seen the orange peel vinegar cleaning spray all over pinterest. In fact, if you google 'homemade orange peel cleaner' 4.4 million hits appear. 4.4 million. So this idea certainly isn't original. But it seems effective and won't harm the environment, our lungs or our pets. I whipped up a batch using the instructions from one of the 4.4 million links and set it aside to 'age'. 

Roasted Broccoli Bacon Cheddar Quiche

If your husband is anything like mine, he claims to not like quiche.  However, he absolutely will clean his plate every time I make my Roasted Broccoli Bacon Cheddar Breakfast Pie.  Sometimes it's just a matter of semantics.

I love baking quiche (er...I mean breakfast pie) using our fresh eggs. It's quick, easy, great warm as a winter supper with a bowl of soup or at room temperature with a salad in the summer.  It's great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  

I love that you can adapt it to use whatever leftover veggies and cheese you have, but I think this Roasted Broccoli, Bacon and Cheddar combination is my favorite.

Ready for the recipe ?  Go collect 4 freshly laid eggs and let's get started.

1 pie crust (store bought or homemade)
1 Cup broccoli florets
3 garlic cloves
4 fresh eggs (chicken or duck works)
1 Cup heavy cream
 1/2 Cup milk
1/2 Cup chopped onion
8 slices bacon
1-1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1 Tablespoon flour
Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

First make the crust. You can use store bought or make your own.  I use Martha Stewart's Pate Sucre recipe for all my quiches and tarts.  Whichever way you do it, get your crust into a tart pan or pie plate. 
Bake at 450 degrees for 5 minutes.  Line the edge with foil to prevent burning if necessary and bake for another 5 minutes until crust is nearly done.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Turn oven temperature down to 325 degrees.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon until crispy in a cast iron skillet. Remove bacon and roast the broccoli florets and sliced garlic cloves in the bacon grease over high heat until crispy and browned.  Chop broccoli and bacon into smallish pieces.

Whisk eggs, heavy cream, milk, and onion. 

 Toss together the shredded cheese and flour, stir into egg mixture with the bacon and the broccoli mixture.  Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.  

Pour into the pie shell...

 and bake for 40 minutes or until set.  Cover the crust with foil if necessary to prevent over browning. 

Remove from oven and serve hot or at room temperature.
Another nice thing is that quiche reheats beautifully in the oven or microwave or is good room temperature the next day also.

Stonewall Kitchen, LLC