Saturday, February 26, 2011


We got chickens because I really wanted them.  I am not really an egg eater but I do eat scrambled eggs.  I do however, bake...a lot.  I thought it would also be a good marketing point to my baking to have on site fresh ingredients such as eggs.  We started out with 6 hens a few years ago.  We also got 3 ducks that year....that is for another day... a post sure to have to laughing out loud!  Last year we added 8 more hens to the flock.  Over the years we have learned a lot about chickens, coops, nurseries, brooder, and eggs.  I will save the brooder, nursery, and coop info for another day and go with the eggs today.

First off you do not need a rooster to have eggs from the hens.  This for some reason is a mystery to a lot of people.  If you do not have a rooster you will still get eggs.  If you have a rooster you may get some fertilized eggs.  You can still eat the fertilized eggs and you will never know the difference.

Fresh eggs taste so much better than the store bought eggs.  This is typically due the diet and living conditions of the small backyard (in my case front yard) chicken owner.  My birds get to free range as much as possible.  They eat all kinds of grass, weeds, and bugs from the yard.  I also feed then a high quality feed pellets and scratch grains.  All this combined together makes for a tastier egg.

When a young hen starts to lay eggs at about 6 months old their bodies need time to adjust to the laying process.  Sometimes you get colossal eggs like this one:

Usually when they start out the eggs are tiny and grow in size each week as they lay more and more and their bodies adjust.  My hens will lay every day.  As they get older, the 3 year old hens still lay 3 or 4 days a week.  That is not bad for a chicken that old.  When you get about a dozen eggs a day they quickly take over your fridge!  I have a medium dorm sized fridge just to store the eggs in.  Sometimes I have to store them in the regular fridge because I have so many.  When that happens, I start scrambling a few dozen eggs up at a time and giving them back to the birds.  They love them, and they need the protein.  When  I boost their protein intake they tend to not pick on each other as much.  They will peck each other in boredom of being cooped up too long like many days this winter.

Every now and then a newly laying hen will encounter total process confusion.  I have found shell-less eggs in the nest boxes.  That is exactly what it sounds like.  The egg is laid without have a shell at all, just the insides.  makes a mess to clean up.  Some eggs are lain that are all wrinkly or have a flat end.  This is caused when the egg shell is being formed inside the hen and there is another egg bumping up against the first one.  She is basically making eggs too fast.  These eggs are edible, the shells just don't look the best.

Occasionally I will go out to get the eggs and find a soft shelled egg.  See eggs are complex packages.  The edible part of the egg is encapsulated in 2 layers of shell.  The soft shell in inside the outer hard shell.  The hard outside shell protects the egg from damage and is porous to allow the egg to 'breath'.  There is in inside soft shell that protects the edible part of the egg and the growing peep if there is to be one.

 I have gotten several soft shell eggs from my girls over the years.  When this happens I supplement their food with oyster shell crumbles.  Providing them the oyster shell boosts their calcium and allows them to make hard shells again.  I usually mix some oyster shell in their feed bucket all the time.  I have gotten some eggs that were very tough to crack!  My hens are very healthy, but they do run into problems that are out of my control.

Some chicken breeds are just better than others.  My first round of chickens were a mixed group of Rhode Island Reds, White Leghorns, Black Sexlinks, and Easter Eggers.  All of these birds were/are fantastic layers, hardy, and generally friendly birds.  The second group of birds I got were Red Comets.  I am not pleased with these at all.  They are fragile, mediocre layers, and not friendly birds.  This year we are looking to get some more RIRs, Easter Eggers, and maybe some Buffs.

Since we live in a pretty much wide open field, other wild birds have taken to laying eggs in strange places.  This bird laid her eggs in her nest that she built on our truck tire!  The truck was not used that much and she made the nest up under the wheel well high on the tire.

Speaking of strange places to make a nest and lay eggs can you spot the egg in this picture?

This is a Killdeer nest.   These birds like to nest on the ground and in wide open fields.  This nest was on the edge of our driveway in the gravel.  There were 4 eggs in this nest, 3 hatched and this one was a dud.    We find Killdeer nests all over the yard.  They are a bit of a pain in the butt, however we do what we can to accommodate them and let them alone until their eggs hatch.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Crocheted Hats

As I mentioned before I was taught how to crochet at a very young age.  I still love to do it and I have managed to teach myself some techniques that were way beyond my basic training from my grandmother.

I started making more than just blankets.  Here are some hats That I have made.    Head on over to the Craft Corner of this blog for more of a description of these hats.  Check it out!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Recipe: Stuffed Steak

We made Stuffed Steak the other day for dinner.  I had never heard of this dish until I met my husband.  It is different, and pretty tasty.

Head on over to the What's Cookin? page of this blog to see more pictures and get the whole recipe.  Check it out!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Captain, we are taking on water

My chickens called me yesterday afternoon on the cluck line.  (I told you they were spoiled!)  I heard from a frantic bird,  “Captain, Captain, mayday mayday, we are taking on water.  What are we to do??!!”  I told them I would be right out.  I pulled on my rubber boots and wool coat and headed out to the front yard.  There I quickly found myself ankle deep in water, and realized there is a hole in my boot.  “This is not good.”  I said and the chickens whole heartily agreed as they themselves were knee deep in water.  Bet you didn’t know Chickens had knees, huh?  

I was smart enough to grab the ice chopper and a square bottomed shovel to take with me to the coop.  I commenced to chipping and carving a trough for the water to flow away from the coop.  As I chopped and hammered at the ice and frozen ground the soggy crazed chickens panicked and ran to and fro inside the coop.  Chip the rooster was especially high strung and clucking and crowing feverishly.  
Outside I was quickly becoming a mess myself.  I failed to grab a scrunchie before leaving the house and my long hair was seriously getting in the way.  Then my nose started running with every blow I made to the frozen ground.  Soon I was snuffling with all my might to prevent snotcicles from running everywhere.  Finally my dear husband showed up on the 4 wheeler and he called our son to rush me out some tissues.  I should have had him bring a scrunchie also, but I was gratefully happy for the tissues.  

Dear husband started to plow the water away from the coop along the trough I had chipped out.  It was working until the water hit a high spot in the yard and started to flow back to the coop.  Husband then got the bright idea to spin the 4 wheeler’s tires with the chains on to carve the toughs better and quicker than I chip them.  He proceeded to do just that and commenced to make a mess!  He had rooster tails of mud, ice, water, and chicken poop everywhere!  It did carve the flow lines much quicker and we got most of the water diverted from the coop.  

Several hours later the water was diverted for the most part.  I think I soaked most of it up in my boot.  The chickens cheered for us and were happy again.  We saved the Chicken’s day and life resumed back to normal, as I hobbled back to the house with a boot full of water, and very sore back and shoulders.  Oh what I do for my chickies.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Chickens

I shoveled out the chicken run the other day.  There is still about 3" of ice all over the ground including inside the chicken run.  The ice build up was so bad we had to chip away at the ice holding the door to the coop fast in its grips, remove the door and cut about 3" off the bottom.  Now the ice should not be able to get its cold hard grasp on the door!  Thankfully there was plenty of overhang coverage of the door that allowed us the liberty to just hack off 3".  The door still has plenty of coverage to keep the chickies safe and protected from the boogie man out side at night.  These chickens are well....chicken about everything!

As I was saying, I shoveled out the run and since it was to be somewhat tolerable temperature and wind-wise, we decided to let the birds out to get some fresh air....Lord knows there is not too much of that in a coop that has been closed up for a few days with 13 chickens inside! I was also concerned that the poor girls would slide on the ice and break a leg.  Then I would have to make soup.  I was not in the mood for soup - so we sprinkled sand down inside the whole run for them to get some traction.  The run is 8x30 so it took a lot of sand.  I sprinkled around to scratch grains for them and opened the door.

They all came barreling out of the pop door.  Yes that pop door is a cutting board!  It works well - don't knock it until you live it, we tried several different materials for the door and the cutting board seems to work the best.  They enjoyed the sunshine and the fresh air.  Of course Curious stayed by me as she always does.

Even Chip the psycho rooster came out to crow his ownership and over-protectiveness of his girls outside against his wishes.  The boy would keep those girls locked up 24/7 if he had his way.

However, as soon as some snow and ice slipped from the truck that was parked nearby he panicked and made all the girls panic.  I don't think I have ever seen chickens move so fast as they did to get back inside the coop before the big bad melting sloshing ice could get them....big chickens....Curious did not panic and she stayed out by me gobbling up the scratch grains as fast as she could peck.  One of the newer, not too bright birds was gobbling up the sand that we put down...stupid bird brain!

Peep season is fast approaching.  We have decided to get 18 peeps this spring to add to the flock.  I am off now to check out the on line prices of peeps and design a new brooder/nursery for them.  We have always kept the peep brooder in the basement of our house but as we have had a few seasons of chickens now we are improving our process.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tutorial: How to make your own clothing labels or tags

Today I am going to teach you how to make your own clothing labels or tags.  These hand dandy instructions are really easy to follow.  If you sew and sell your goods this is a great way to make your products look more professional and add a bit of marketing to your wares.

Head on over to the Sew What?  page of this blog for the step by step directions and photos and learn how to make your very own tags and labels.  Check it out!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Retro Apron

I finally got around to uploading some more pictures of stuff I have made.  Here is a picture of an apron I made much like Amanda's apron, except in Christmas fabrics.  I have more pictures of this pretty apron over on the Sew What? page of this blog.  Check it out!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cute Crocheted Items

I was part of a pattern tester group that got to try out a new pattern that someone had written.  I was sent the pattern and told to crochet it just as it was written and make notes as to what was unclear or wrong, etc.  The finished piece turned out to be this cute little bunny.

The cute little cupcake was super fun to do and a free pattern on the web.  Head on over to my crafty corner to read more about my crocheting and see other things I have made.  Check it out!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pear Pincushion

I made this pear pincushion for in my cousin's sewing box.  It turned out to be a prickly pear if you will.

It is cute and easy to make.  Head on over to the Sew What? page of this blog for more details.  Check it out!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Curious the Chicken

This is Curious.  She is a Rhode Island Red chicken that is 3 years old.  She act more like a dog than a chicken.  She is very affectionate and loves attention.  She is also curious about everything.

When she was just a peep she would walk with me the length of the brooder while I cleaned out the duck's side.  It was a large brooder and she would walk back and forth watching and 'helping' me.  She has continued to stay affectionate and inquisitive about everything as she has gotten older.  The other chickens will sometimes gang up un her and beat her up some - just establishing the pecking order of the flock.  I tend to stick up for her and don't let the other birds pick on her, maybe that is why she is attached to me.

Curious loves to be held and pampered.  When she was getting really beat up over the summer, I would rescue her.  She would willingly let me pick her up, and take her to a different part of the yard.  My other chickens would not cross the driveway so I would take Curious over to the orchard and put her under one of the cherry trees.  I would give the tree a  shake and Curious would gobble up the Japanese Beetles that would drop to the ground.  I would try to get her to move to the next tree but she would just look at me and say, "No, you put me here under this tree.  I am not moving."  So I would have to pick her up and carry her to the next tree for more yummy bugs.  Goofy bird.  So pampered she would not walk to the next tree!

When I take the birds a fresh water every night she is standing in the nest boxes waiting for me.  As soon as I step into the coop she is right there to take several long drinks before I can get the watering can set down.  She does the same thing with the food can.  She eats first and looks to the other hens as if to say "Neener neener neener, I get to eat and drink first!"  I think I have totally upset the pecking order!  I don't really care as long as I know she is getting food and water and not getting beat up. In the picture above you see Curious and Fuzzy at the watering can.  Fuzzy is a whole other story bird!

I scrambled up some eggs for the hens over the weekend.  The need the protein and it helps reduce pecking when they are cooped up for long periods of time like they have been lately with all this bad weather.  I had 2 plates full of eggs balanced on my arm and hand as I opened the coop door with the other hand.  As soon as I stepped inside the coop Curious did this:

Yep she hopped right up onto my hand balancing all the eggs and just sat there on my fingers.  She was very comfortable there and started to eat the eggs at her leisure.  Again, she looked down at the rest of the birds on the floor of the coop smacking their beaks, drooling for the eggs, and took a big bite of eggs and said "Neener neener neener!"

She stayed on my hand like that as I eased her down to the floor and put the egg plates down for the rest of chickens to enjoy.  They all devoured them and made happy noises.  They are funny when they get stuff stuck to their beaks.  Since they obviously can't lick their beaks off and don't have opposable thumbs to handle a napkin - they do what they can to clean their beaks off.  They stroke their beaks back and forth across the roosts or on the floor to wipe them clean.

I love my chickens and know they don't have a long life span, but I will be really sad when Curious and Fuzzy pass away.  These two chickens in particular have such notable personalities and are so darn funny, loving and quirky, it just make you smile.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl Sunday Menu Ideas

Today is Super Bowl Sunday and being a Pennsylvanian, or Pennsyltuckian as some say in these here parts, we root for the Steelers.  I have my Steeler T-shirt on even though I probably will not watch much of the game.  I will be making goodies to munch on throughout the day for us.  We are not hosting a party but just us making a day out of the event.

I usually try to make a good big meal on Sundays, not just because I have the time, but it also gives me leftovers for the week's lunches for me.  Today however is not going to be one of those days.  I may still get some leftover out of todays noshings but it will take some creativity on my part to make them do-able lunches.

On the menu for today is Buffalo Chicken Dip:

Since it is still fairly early here, I do not have it made yet.  I will post the recipe on the What's Cooking page of this blog.  Later, after I get it made I will post a finished picture.  This is a pretty popular dip.  You can scoop it onto crackers, use scoops/tortilla chips, or use celery to deliver this yummy flavorful munchie to your mouth.

There will also be Taco Scoops:

 This is a great appy for parties.  It gives you the great flavor of tacos in a one bite delivery of a scoop chip.  Super easy to make and delicious to eat!  Again, I will post recipes and finished pictures on the whats cooking page.

I will also be making Hot Sausage in sauce with pepper and onions:

This I have to get moving on now.  It is best if you let it cook away in a crock pot all day long.  The sausage gets infused with the sauce and the sauce gets infused with the hot sausage.  A marriage made in  the crock fit for heaven!  Slap a saucy sausage in a fresh roll, top with cheese, sauce, and grilled onions and peppers, splash on some ketchup...oh I am drooling~!  Once again finished pictures and recipes will be posted to the Whats cooking page.

I may even make some lemon, cherry, and red raspberry tarts, if I have time:

I make my own pie crust from scratch - so easy to make, and use commercial bakery filling sleeves for the fruit filling.  More details will be on the whats cooking page.

If you are a football fan, enjoy the game and may the best team win!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Up at 4am on a Saturday

I roll over in my bed all snuggled down, toasty warm,  under my wool blanket and realize I am wide awake.  I squint to get a blurry glimpse of the clock glowing red on my bed side table.  4:00 glares back at me, mocking, taunting me through my uncorrected vision blur.  I groan in disappointment and disbelief that it is Saturday, my weekend, and I am wide awake at 4:00am. I give a sigh and haul myself out of bed.  There is no use in trying to go back to sleep now.  I am up for the day.  I get up at 4am during the week for work and that is fine, but I would like to be able to sleep in a little (6am would be fine) on the weekends.  Not this weekend apparently.

Now it is almost 6am, I have had my cup of hot tea and have been surfing around the internet all morning so far.  I still am in my PJs, rebellion for having been wide awake at 4am on a non-work day.  Actually, my plush super soft sleep pants are very warm, soft, fuzzy, cozy, and just down right cute, and I don't ever want to get out of them.  They are bright pink (ack!) with cup cakes all over them, so whimsical and fun! Pair those with a pink t-shirt and a a dark blue Eeyore zippy, and matching blue fuzzy slippers, and I am so darn color coordinated it makes me want to break out in song! Well almost....the boys are still sleeping - most of the United States is still sleeping at this hour on a Saturday.

Even my tea mug is color coordinated with my sleep attire!

If only I could be so put together for life outside the house!  Maybe someday.  Not today, it is my day off and the freezing rain is coming down outside again.  Hopefully it will not amount to too much and will melt off quickly.  Have a great day!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ice Storm Feb 2011

It is Wednesday and I am home from work.  It feels strange, like it should be the weekend or something.  My son has not had school for the past 2 days either.  This is something, as his school never cancels school!  The even canceled for today last night!  The weather is really bad, that is why I am not at work.  We got hit with a major ice storm that brought sleet and freezing rain for the past 2 days.  I even heard some thunder earlier this morning.  Thunder and lightening during ice/snow storms are pretty impressive.  I did make it to work yesterday even thought it was pretty bad, but not today, it is way too icy for me to be out there.

We got quite a bit of ice.  I would much rather have had snow, but I don't control the weather.  I just have to roll with it and wish I lived someplace warmer.

The chickens are not happy.  They have been able to get outside the past few days with all the sunshine we have had.  Not yesterday or today though!  That is all I need is to have them slide and break a leg on the ice.  Chickens are not the most graceful creatures in the world.  No, it is best to keep them cooped up in the coop until the ice melts or I get in the run and chip it all out....I think it should melt!  Chipping out ice is not fun, easy, or a clean chore.  Bits of frozen chicken poop, mud, rocks, and scratch fly up in your face and get in your hair and all over your bullets and everything - I have when that happens.....sorry 
i digressed into an old taco commercial for a moment.  Anyway you look at it chipping ice out the chicken run is not for the faint at heart, or the weak muscled.  

We have an extension cord running from the house to the Chicken coop.  This supplies the much needed electric to run the heat lamps inside for the birds.  The coop is equipped with 2 red heat lamps in the winter. It is necessary to heat the coop for the water to stay thawed and to provide some heat for the birds.  I check them every day for signs of frost bite to their combs.  I don't worry about their feet as much since we keep them cooped up when it is really cold and icy outside.  Their perches are 2x4's mounted flat so they have to sit on them with their feet flat and then hunker down over their feet which keep their feet warm when they sleep.  Pampered chickens - I have them!

I even found wile rabbit tracks outside Dust Bunny's cage.  This wild rabbit got onto the porch through a gate, up the ramp, and onto the porch to say "Hey you - in the cage.  Yeah you.  Whatcha in for?"  Then he skittered away.  Goofy rabbits.  I wonder if they are planning to break Dust Bunny out of jail?