I’ve decided to introduce two of our most prolific egg layers together. Chuck regularly refers to them as “The Twins” or “The Leghorns” so if figured why not. These are the 2nd and 3rd chickens we got in spring 2018. They are White Leghorns and lay white eggs almost every day. We picked them up at the same time and while we don’t know if they are in fact related there’s a strong possibility they are.
As you would expect of a chicken breed called White Leghorn they are all white, except for their very red combs and wattles. Coco is actually bigger than her “twin” Dottie. Admittedly it’s hard to tell unless they are next to one another.
You will notice in the photo that the chicken on the left is larger, this is Coco, the chicken on the right is, therefore, Dottie. Also if you notice Coco has purple shoulders. I have sprayed her shoulders with something called Blu-Kote [intended for wounds to help fight bacteria as well as disguise the wound further protecting it] in order to help differentiate them for quick identification.
Coco the Crabby Chicken
If you’ve spent any time at all watching chickens you know how they are very individual, each with their own little quirks. Coco is one of those chickens with definite quirks. Both Leghorns are bossy, pushy and first in line. Whether it’s to get out of the run to free-range, get their chicken scratch or snacks, they are always first.
Lots of busy work going on here at the Hretz homestead. Chuck and Tim have fully planted our gardens. Also, all our flowers are in. I’m generally on flower-power and chicken duty while the men do the grass and food production. This works wellfor us.
Today is touching base on the birds. We have seen the first round of House Finches come and go. The 2nd round had an unfortunate nest collapse leaving all the eggs smashed on the front porch. the third set of finches have a very full nest with 6 eggs. which in my experience is l larger brood.
Bird watch 2019 has officially begun. Nesting is in full swing and the set of eggs have been laid.
Our neighborhood, Queen’s Lake has Bird Sanctuary signs posted as you enter. And I have seen more varieties of birds in our yard than anywhere else I have lived. Also, this neighborhood happens to back up to New Quarter Park.
New Quarter Park has many amazing walking trails. The park is a 545-acre preserve. There are mature woodlands and open meadows, which offers a diverse habitat that supports a variety of plants and animals. I had not realized until I googled a link for the park that it sits on a bluff of fossil shells. Another really interesting thing about the area is the surrounding tidal creeks and marshes.
Garden prepping is in full swing here. My husband Chuck has started his seedlings. We moved some existing plants, planted last year from the front gardens, into different gardens in our backyard to protect them from deer. If I had realized the deer would be a problem I would’ve done more research when we started revamping last year. And of course, the chickens are doing their part turning over all beds in prep for planting.
Other Garden Prepping
We dug out flowers from neighbors who were looking to thin or remove perennials. Then planted them into our gardens In addition, we have reworked some of the garden beds from last year. We made some larger and added another new bed. We are trying to make the beds curved in such a way as to accommodate our riding lawnmowers ability to navigate with ease.
What do the labels on Egg Cartons mean? Does my back yard flock meet these labels? Are my chicken’s eggs healthier vs. store bought eggs? We eat our chicken’s eggs. I sell the eggs. Our chicken eggs are given to our family. It’s important to me to have the best eggs possible.
Marketing always manages to sneak into our subconscious whether it is right or wrong, especially when we really haven’t done the research to ensure the claims are accurate and meaningful. Then there’s the whole question of what is accurate.
Labels you will see on Egg Cartons
ALL NATURAL There is no legal definition for all natural. Does that mean our chickens eat natural bugs vs fake bugs?
FARM FRESH– Again, no legal definition for this. Did the eggs come from a farm, like with crops and cows? Were the eggs from a farm that has 2 million chickens laying eggs in cages? What about my 1 acre, is this a farm since we grow food, raise chickens and have a pack of chihuahuas?
HORMONE-FREE– Are you aware it’s illegal to give hormones to poultry in the USA? Therefore all eggs and chicken are hormone free so the label is redundant.
ANTIBIOTIC-FREE– Laying hens are not typically given antibiotics although some meat chickens may have been if necessasary.
USDA-CERTIFIED ORGANIC– A farm must apply for this designation and undergo inspections to ensure all standards are being met. Chickens are fed organic feed from their 2nd day of life. In addition, the chickens must have access to the outdoors.
I am not certified organic, however, I take great care to meet the needs of my chickens, and they are only fed organic non -GMO food. In addition to a great deal of research on my part, my daughter, Stevie, who works for the USDA specializing in poultry and has been an excellent resource.
Perfect hard-boiled eggs was a feat in which I strived for my entire adult life. I have attempted to have perfect hard boiled eggs thousands of times. I’ve never had any success until now!
I swear to you. I have tried every method out there. With each attempt, I would have eggs that wouldn’t peel. Every egg I ever cooked looked like it had been malled by a wild animal after it was peeled. Ask my husband, ask my children. Seriously, go ask my BFF Raquel whom I would I repeatedly beg her to boil eggs for me!
I tried for perfect hard-boiled eggs by placing them in cold water, enough to cover by an inch, which then was brought up to boil. I turned the heat off and let sit covered for 20 minutes. Peeled eggs resulted in half the egg white pulling away with the shell.
I boiled eggs with a tablespoon of vinegar. Or a scoop of baking soda. Also, Boiling the eggs for 5 minutes. Another time 7 minutes. Plunging the boiled eggs into ice water to cool. Another time leaving them to cool in the pot on the stove. Peeling them under running water. All with the same un-peelable results.
Egg-tastic – How I present my eggs for selling is all about the packaging. Earlier I told you about my love for good packaging. The last couple of weeks I’ve been working to come up with great packaging for the eggs I sell. I think I nailed it and it’s egg-tastic!
Previously sister-in-law, Ruth, and her husband gathered an entire box full of recycled egg cartons. And they brought them to me when they visited last November. Ruth was also very excited to gather the eggs every day. She defintly had a serious case of chicken fever.
The most important supply is the previously mentioned recycled egg cartons. I have many. Which is a good thing. I did sort through them and chose the ones I like the best. There are two styles I prefer.
Over the Holiday break, my mom drove down and brought my nephew, Anthony, with her. It was an extra treat for me to have both of them. Anthony is a sweet, creative, gentle boy with too much energy to be confined inside.
The first morning they were here I got up and went to let out the chickens as normal around 7am. Just as I was walking to the coop Anthony came barreling out the door with a long sleeve shirt in hand and one shoe still not on. He desperately wanted to go see the chickens with me! I said I would wait until he was properly clothed. Makes me laugh even now.
Dressed now, we headed up the hill. I let the chickens out of the coop and after they all ran out I teased him he would have to clean up the chicken poo. He, of course, was not interested in that. He only had eyes for the chickens, I’d say he had already caught the Chicken Fever after only one night here.
We had really nice weather, most of the day’s mom and Anthony were here it was in the upper 50’s and low 60’s. This was so nice because we spent a good amount of time outside. Which, of course, meant lots of time with chickens. He got up the nerve to pick up one of the chickens and he snagged Agnes! She is an Ameraucana and is very sweet and gentle.
After just a few days he was very comfortable with the chickens. He gave them snacks every day. He even hunted the dirt for worms to give them. No doubt he would be a great Chicken Keeper. Katie? Andy? What do you think? Can he come to live here and take care of the chickens? I’m sure he wouldn’t even mind cleaning up the poo! He loved collecting all the eggs and was very excited about the blue ones. He asked if he could take home some eggs for mom and dad. He also ate eggs almost every day while here. He knew exactly which chicken gifted the egg he was eating. I’m sure that makes them taste better.
As I’m writing this I’m watching the chickens via a closed circuit camera. I’m doing this because I’m trying to determine which one of my True Blues are laying. Currently, Louise, the chicken that was broody last fall and then molted, is in a nesting box. I really thought the blue egg layer was Kittie as she did not molt. Having said that subconsciously I must have thought really it was Louise because that is who I marked as laying in my chart as well as writing her name on the eggs.
A bit of egg-laying background. As the days get shorter chickens lay fewer eggs and some stop laying all together. The end of November we saw a definite decline in egg laying in our hen house. You know, just as Chuck starts doing extra baking of cookies, cakes, and bread. Hens do not lay eggs in the dark, so with the shorter days leading up to the Winter Solstice, this is normal for egg-laying. Now that we are on the other side of the solstice the days are beginning to get longer and therefore more eggs begin to be laid.
The nesting boxes have been like Grand Central Station today. So far I have an egg from Agnes, Ida, and Coco. Louise is still sitting in a box, she has been in and out for the last hour or so. She has been in four different boxes. I guess she is trying to get inspired. Perhaps Kittie has been the layer, and now with Lou, maybe I’ll get two True Blue eggs today. Yesterday I collected my first Cuckoo Maran egg from Gertrude since November!
I’ll keep watching while I do my chores. I hope today is another 5 egg day. We have had three of those this week. For the last month, we’ve been averaging 2 eggs a day. I actually had to buy a couple dozen eggs. With the longer days it will make for busier chickens.
Come for a visit and see if you catch the Chicken Fever, too! We will see how contagious it is with my brother-in-law, Pete, and his family here this weekend. Then the following weekend my oldest two boys, Charlie and Ricky, arrive from Michigan. Also, Charlie’s girlfriend, Agatha, is coming with them. Charlie said she wants to learn to knit, I can definitely help with that, and I think she is the most likely to catch Chicken Fever. I’m looking forward to these visits!
I’m not really the type to set New Year’s resolutions. I always want to be working on bettering myself and our quality of life. I know I need to do things like exercise more, eat healthily and be more patient, always.
So rather than specifically have a resolution here are the things I want to focus on;
make the most of our acre and grow food, and actually eat it
focus on getting chemicals and toxins out of my life, that means you too, diet Pepsi
find my people, I’ve been a hermit this past year
In a nutshell, we are already planning what we want to grow, will refocus on shopping places like the local farmers market and the newly opened Earth Fare, clean up our eating with help from the previous two, and put myself out more in the knitting world and visit my family.
Short and sweet with the intent of accountability. Next time I’ll tell you a bit about my nephew’s visit with my mom. Anthony, too, is a huge fan of our chickens.
Until then I’m off to measure my gauge swatches on my January Gansey for the knit along I joined.
Happy Knitting, gardening, cooking or whatever brings you joy.
What came first, the egg or the chicken? In our case it was the chicken. We have ten of the twelve we originally started with. Shortly said, we had one chicken that developed a cross beak and she was unable to eat enough to sustain life and she went to chicken Heaven. Bea was very friendly and sweet as could be. You can see a short video of her looking for me on Instagram here.
Then there is Frida. Frida was one of two straight run Polish Crested Chickens we purchased. These were the only straight runs we bought, all others were sexed and determined to be pullets or female. They were an, OMG! they’re so cute, impulse buy. We knew we had a chance of having one and possibly two roosters. But I was optimistic and named one Frida and the other Ester.
And, yes, I’ve been told Ester should have an H and it’s spelled ESTHER. Having said that, I don’t care, I have spent my life spelling my name (and the names of our kids) so why not give sweet, little, Ester her own spelling, too?
Anyway, I’m telling you about Frida. Frida turned out to be Fred. When I told this to my son, Rick, he asked why I needed to change the name just because the chicken was now known to be a boy? He was right, damn it! Gender equality and self identifying for everyone and I kept referring to him as “her” anyway. SO, Frida the Rooster was hence forth known as the Drag Queen Rooster, Frida!
You might note- Frida as some Purple feathers. Well, Frida is all black except for the feathers on the very back of her head, those are white. When the hens weren’t pulling every damn one of the white feathers out! I swear. She looked like a Friar, no pun intended. So I kept spraying the white feathers with a thing called Blue Coat which is an antiseptic for animals. The spray dyes the skin blue and as it happens, white feathers purple.
As we moved further into the summer and the chickens were all reaching maturity, eggs were getting laid and Frida was getting frisky. The more Frida matured, the more aggressive she became. That in itself isn’t a bad thing. She protected her flock. Frida gave Cali (one of our dogs) a lesson in messing with chickens 101 and as a result she now has a very healthy respect for chicken personal space. Eventually Frida decided she didn’t like me collecting eggs and started kicking dirt and jumping at me. This continued to progress and I researched how to handle it. In spite of my efforts she became very agressive and even drew some blood from me. It seemed she was destined to go live on a farm somewhere.
So Chuck listed Frida on the Williamsburg Trash and Treasure FB Group and someone called and said he would like Frida, he was hoping to cross breed with his hens and see what interesting mixes a Polish Crested would bring to his farm. Off Frida went. And peace reigned in the run again.
That’s how we ended up here, months later with a Broody Hen and no fertilized eggs for her to hatch. Instead she has been spending the better part of two months sitting in nesting boxes whether they actually had any eggs or not. She has long since stopped laying herself, which is too bad because she lays pretty blue eggs. She is one of two True Blue Whitings we have and her name is Louise. She is a pretty yellow and golden brown and very sweet. I removed her from the nesting box several times each day and at night to put her on a roost. She never stays out long.
Today. Today I took drastic measures. It’s a brisk 55 degrees and sunny. After spending lots of time debating on different ideas I decided to take the plunge, well for Louise to take the plunge actually. It is recommended to but a broody chicken in cold water with the thought that this will lower their body temperature (which is elevated when the go Broody.) I put her in a big bucket of cold water and held her there for 4 minutes. At first she was very unhappy but quickly relaxed and waited it out. Once I released her she ran off and spent quite a long time preening herself and fluffing all her feathers as they dried.
I also decided to “lock” her out of the chicken run all day in hopes the colder day would aid in the cooling of her temperature. Since the gate is shut I have had to play gate keeper to the hens in order for the other hens to have access to the nesting boxes, since they are still laying. I haves pent the better part of the day outside or looking out windows to see who is trying to get in the run. And unfortunately Lou has been up there more than I had hoped. I keep chasing her off and she goes but reluctantly.
Maybe I should have kept my Attack Drag Queen Rooster and let her hatch some. Maybe next time I’ll ask Stephanie to purchase some fertilized eggs from her friend on my behalf.
Today is the first sunny day after rain on and off for the last few so the chickens have found a nice sunny, dry spot to take a dust bath. Click this link to watch a couple minute video. If you haven’t seen chickens dust bathing they look rather strange. I find it entertaining and I’m sure you will, too.