Hello Handsome

My flock added a new member today, a 5 month old Black Austrolorps Rooster temporarily named Handsome Stranger.

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Isn’t he a pretty boy?

I was lucky enough to know someone who knew someone else (who’s cousin’s grandfather’s nephew, not really but you get the point) who was looking for a new home for him. I currently have four Austrolorps hens who he’s already been trying to charm through the fence. But before he joins his new harem he has to go through a few weeks of solitary.

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Silly girls

When ever you bring new birds onto your property it’s a good idea to quarantine then first; even if they’re coming from a place you’ve personally  visited and inspected. A health bird may become sick very quickly, and the best way to prevent any sickness from spreading is to play keep away until your sure that their total fine. The recommended time frame is about two weeks.Besides quarantining birds coming in make sure birds coming out aren’t sick as well.  This goes especially for your own birds coming back from shows and fairs. The flocks in my area had a bad experience with this  a few years back.

During our county fair someone brought a bird infected with fowl pox to the youth poultry and rabbit show. A lot of 4-H’ers show poultry in the fair and unfortunately the sick bird passed on the fowl pox to a bunch of other flocks including ours. For weeks afterwards we got reports of birds dying in many kid’s flocks around the county. Fowl pox usually is quite painful for the birds and can be deadly if it gets inside the hens throat. We had to put several hens down, but that was nothing compared to a friend of mine who shows birds at semi-professional level. She showed about twenty birds at the fair and ended up having to put  7 different birds out of their misery, not to mention treat dozens more after it spread.

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Medium to severe case of Fowl Pox (be careful googling this, there are pictures of dissections  of diseased birds)

The moral of the story is be careful when introducing new birds or birds that have been away for a while. “Handsome” is frustrated for now being penned up, but it’s worth it knowing it will keep my flock happy health and safe.

Thanks for reading,

-Kc

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Caring for Chicks

Spring is an interesting time for me. Between juggling youth softball, the spring hatch of assorted eggs, 4-H, and lastly and most importantly college finals, life can be hectic to say the least. But amidst the chaos there are reasons spring is my favorite season. My favorite part of spring (besides fresh veggies from the garden) are the barnyard babies.


My favorite animal, Geese! 

The ducks are laying almost too many eggs to count. Unfortunately they’re lousy setters and I’m going to have to incubate if I want ducklings. My Turkin hen has been disappearing for days at a time lately and I suspect she’s setting eggs somewhere. Knowing she’s a bantam I won’t be surprised if she shows up one day with a brood of new arrivals. On top of all this (as my family well knows) I shouldn’t be allowed near a feed-store this time of year unsupervised. All this means in late spring my house is full of cheeping, chirping biddies.


These guys are Cochin chicks that hatched in my incubator a few days ago.

My younger sisters are participating in the 4-H laying hen project this year, which involves (surprise, surprise) day-old chicks. I’m rather excited (more than my sisters) because this year they’re doing Buff Orpingtons, which we haven’t had before. Here’s a short walkthrough of our preparation for, and care of those little balls of fluff.

Brooder set up
Before you get chicks it’s best to have a place to put them ready. This doesn’t always happen at my house because we don’t always know we’re coming home with chicks at the end of the day. But we’ve done it so many years that all that’s usually required is to grab a bag of feed on the way out of the store. Here’s a list of go to items in our chick starter kit.

-Feeder: either the tray style feeder or the kind that screws onto a mason jar. The style depends on how many chicks you have. The mason jar is best for a small amount of chicks, usually 5 or 6, any more and not everybody is going to be able to get food. The tray style is best for large amounts of chicks.

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Feeder styles

-Waterer: Again the kind that screws onto a mason jar. Try not to use an open container, chicks can very easily fall in and drown. If you have a large amount of chicks multiple waterers are needed. Sometimes feed-stores will stock the gallon plastic waterers, but these usually become brittle and need to be replaced every few years.

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Waterer styles

– Brooder Light: Feed-stores usually stock these at a pretty high price. These are official chick lights but you can also get almost the same thing at the home improvement store for much less. For a bulb, get a red colored one or a heat bulb. For a smaller light you can also use an old fashioned filament bulb. Don’t use the new halogen bulbs or LEDs, they don’t give off enough heat. Adjust the light as needed in the brooder. If the chicks are huddled under it, they’re cold and you need to lower the light. If they’re at the far corners avoiding the light and panting, it means they’re too hot and you need to move the light up some. A well placed brooder light will have equal amounts of chicks under it and chicks not under it. As the chicks grow, raise the light a little each week until they’re ready to go outside at about 6 weeks.

-Brooder box: Although official brooder boxes are available they’re usually quite expensive and you really don’t need one unless you raise a ton of chicks each year. That being said if you find one cheap used go ahead and get it, it’s nice to have a brooder that was made to be a brooder. I usually use a Rubbermaid container or a cardboard box lined with newspaper to brood chicks in. The down side to this is that you have to change the newspaper frequently or things get smelly.

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Typical Brooder Setup

-Feed: There are hundreds of feed choices out there but it all boils down to two types: medicated and non-medicated. Which you choose depends on your preference and how you feel about havering medication in your future layers and broilers. The medication is usually out of their systems by laying time and it prevents coccidiosis and other nasties that chicks can succumb to, but the choice is yours.

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Contrasting Feed Labels

That’s about it. We make a point to check on the chicks at least twice a day if not more. This allows use to get a jump on any problems and to establish a baseline of normal behavior so we’ll know if something is wrong. Remember that the little peeps are newborns and need a lot of attention. This is not a start it and leave it project. Keep an eye on them, treat them well and they’ll be chasing bugs around your yard in no time.

Good Luck!

-Kc

The incredible, edible (evil) egg

Today I have faced my greatest enemy, and won. Not only did I win but I face stomped it into the ground. What enemy you ask? The hardest , slimiest, yolkiest thing to ever roll onto a farm: the egg. Da-da-dum… Ok, enough dramatics. I did conquer  my greatest culinary block today though; that is, the meringue base.

Ever since I was little I’ve poked my nose into dozens of hobbies but one of my favorites was and still is cooking. One of my oldest memories of cooking (by myself) is that of attempting to make Ladyfingers. (For those who don’t  know the definition of a Ladyfinger is “light and sweet sponge cake roughly shaped like a large finger.”) The part that baffled me was the egg base, the meringue.  I would whip it up and then it would fall back down. As hard as I tried I could  not get it light and fluffy like in the pictures. I finally gave up and put it in the oven, (later the oven caught on fire but that’s a different story) but I never got it right. In fact, about a hundred years and several failed attempts later I still haven’t nailed it.

So fast forward a bit. I am working on a class project and the class is given a choice of recipes. I, in my folly, pick the recipe that is most likely to explode on me: the jelly roll cake.  The jelly roll cake is basically all whipped egg whites (read meringue) with a tiny bit of flour and sugar. Bring on the battle. My first skirmish is a complete failure. When the cake comes out of the oven it looks more like the surface of the moon than a cake. It doesn’t taste right either. Now I’m starting to stress, this is the night before the presentation and I only have enough ingredients for two cakes. The next try is also my last. I go through the whole recipe again. Finally, at 11 o’clock at night the last cake comes from the oven, a little burnt, but whole. Success. (This is the part were I jump up and down for joy, then faint from exhaustion) I DID IT! This was probably one of the happiest (culinary) moments of my life.

Yum

What Brazo Gitano is supposed to look like. I didn’t think of taking a picture until after it was eaten, but this is pretty accurate.

 

Here is the recipe that made my life heck for 5 hours…

Brazo Gitano (Gypsy’s arm cake)

Basic ingredients

6 eggs separated

75g sugar (2 1\2 oz)

75g flour sifted

1 tsp grated lemon rind

4tbsp icing sugar

whipped cream

a few flaked almonds

Steps: 1. Beat the egg whites until stiff then mix in the egg yolks little by little and then mix in the sugar

2. Fold in the sifted flour gradually then add the grated lemon rind

3. Line a shallow baking tin with buttered grease proof paper

4. Pour in the batter and bake in a medium oven for approx 10 mins

5. Remove carefully from the baking tray and place on another piece of grease proof paper sprinkled with the icing sugar – leave to cool for a few minutes 6. Cover with the whipped cream and then carefully roll up the cake 7. Place on a plate and sprinkle with a little more icing sugar and a few flaked almonds

Enjoy! -Kc