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.
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.
This is Frida, but I’m thinking she is a he, so really this is Fred. When we decided to have chickens we knew we wanted all pullets, which are chickens that have been sexed to ensure they are female. You pay a bit more for the guarantee. When I went to pick up our White Leghorns they had also just received in a bunch of Polish Crested, they were so cute, I tried to resist. Not very hard, obviously. I chose two, a black and white one and a brown one. Because these were a straight run, not sexed, I knew I could end up with a rooster, or two.
The brown one is Ester, she is half the size of Frida/Fred. They both are friendly and easily let me “catch” them and hold them a few minutes.
Our neighborhood, Queens Lake, is in Williamsburg but we are considered rural residential. There are different rules for different districts within the city. Because we are rural we can have chickens, one chicken for every 2500 square feet of property with a maximum of sixteen chickens. We hope to have them free range the back yard but so far they are sequestered to the chicken run. I have worked hard to make the run a fun chicken space. I understand chickens can get bored and I don’t want that. That’s when they find trouble.
We did have two chickens escape this week. I had Covered about 50% of the area above the coop but had run out out netting. Apparently I wasn’t moving fast enough to get some more. It is now 100% covered. I understand the number 1 killer of backyard chickens are dogs. I certainly will do what I can to prevent untimely deaths. Cali, our Chihuahua/Beagle mix, has a very unhealthy interest in the chickens.
I also have a special needs chicken. This is Bea, she is an Ameraucana.
She has developed a scissored beak. If you want more information I am directing you to my favorite chicken blog, The Chicken Chick.
She tells you about this better than I can. But basically so far Bea is doing well. She eats and drinks with the only noticeable problem is she sometimes can’t pick up treats from the ground or my hand. Small things like clovers sprouts can be too small for her to grip. I’m keeping a close eye on her and I always try to hold her for a few minutes to really acclimate her to handling, but she doesn’t love it. I want it to be easy to check her out and if need be give her some help with out her also being afraid to be handled.
This is my Production Black, I think. I have one of these and two Cuckoo Marans, They all look alike. I can’t tell who is who. But they are rather friendly and easy for me to pick up and hold. They are curious little ones and always are right there to see what I might have in my hand. Lately they have been loving sprouts, clover, wheatgrass, alfalfa and such. I started some sunflower and radish sprouts. I’m sure they will be ready to try those, too.
I’m learning a lot about chickens. And there seems to be lots of adjusting as they teach me more and more everyday about what they need. So it’s petty interesting around here. Next on the chicken run agenda is to create a box garden with wire cloth frame over it.
I think we probably need to name our property. You know, like a real homestead. Since we are installing gardens and have chickens and all. I need a clever or witty name. We live on Horseshoe Dr so maybe the Hretz Horseshoe Homestead. Have and ideas?