Category: Chickens

Happenings Around the Homestead

It has been a slow week around the homestead this week.  As I have been saying for a few weeks, the summer garden is reaching the end of its life, and nothing is yet growing for the fall.  In fact, I just put out some fall/winter crops this weekend.

I had really wanted to sow peas or some other legume for the fall to add some nitrogen back to my soil, but I waited to late to get that done this year.  After that snafu, I made up my mind that I would just forego the fall/winter garden this year, but then I became inspired once again.  Yeah, that happens often.  🙂

While it is too late for peas and other legumes, it is not too late for some other fall/winter veggies such as some greens, radishes, and carrots.  I placed an order at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and I sowed what I had already.  That means I sowed Kale and Mustard Seed, both of which I sowed very randomly by just throwing the seeds.  I also sowed some radishes that way.  I then put some White Icicle Radishes in one of the raised beds. and I did the same with some lettuce.

The funny thing is, much of what I sowed this weekend is not for my family, though we will eat of the lettuce and radishes.  I don’t expect we will eat much Kale though, and I am sure we won’t eat the mustard greens.  You might wonder why we grew them then.  CHICKENS!  Yep, it is cheap and healthy chicken food.

Sigh, the things I do for those egg-laying ladies.  😀

The Chicken Chronicles

The ladies have really stepped it up this week.  Their previous record on eggs was 25 a week, and this week they layed seven more, upping that record to 32!  The most interesting thing is the Easter Eggers are hardly laying at all yet.  They are only averaging 2.3 eggs a week per bird, and once they are laying at full capacity this should be around 5 eggs a week per bird.

Oh, I do have an egg pic to share this week.  This is from their record day of SEVEN EGGS!

Seven eggs!  This is the most we have gotten in a single day to this point.

Seven eggs! This is the most we have gotten in a single day to this point.

Even though the run is secure, we have always locked the ladies in their coop at the end of the day.  I figure that this is an added layer of security if a raccoon or opossum gets into the run during the night.  Well, about a week or so ago we found two birds hanging out below the coop in the run when we went down to let them out in the morning!  These two ladies had presumably suffered all night outside of the coop.  Determined this would never happen again, we have been diligently watching for this at night.  Well, on Saturday night when we went down to shut the door, there were two of the Easter Eggers sleeping on a roosting pole in the run!  Those silly ladies!  We ended up leaving the door open that night, but going forward we will pull that roosting pole out toward the end of the day to prevent this from happening again.

The ladies are getting more brave.  I might have mentioned this last week, but I will say it here again.  In the past, they would stay all together and relatively close to the run when we let them out to stretch their wings and eat some grass.  In fact, let me back up.  In the beginning, we would move them from the run to a dog cage, where they could get fresh grass, but be protected.  As soon as we were confident that they could take care of themselves, we began letting them run in the yard, but what did they do?  They ran to the dog cage!  Finally they got past that, and then they would all hang close to the run together.  Then they started wandering a little further away, but generally together.  Now they are going all over the back yard, and sometimes they are going solo.  It’s nice to see them getting more brave, but it also makes it harder to round them up to go back in the run.

All this typing about them running around the yard is making me long for the proper homestead property even more.  One day …

The Chicken Chronicles

Since the ladies have started laying, I have been tracking the number and the size of the eggs.  It is nice to see both numbers increase a little each week, even though I sure don’t notice it during the week.  Candidly, I am often threatening them that if they don’t provide fresh eggs I will be eating fresh meat.  🙂  Yes, it is nothing but an empty threat, but maybe it will inspire the ladies to lay a little more.

I'm trying to encourage the ladies by showing them their good work.

I’m trying to encourage the ladies by showing them their good work.

We ended up with five eggs each day for three days in a row, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and both Friday and Saturday the Easter Eggers outlayed the Rhode Island Reds, which is unusual.  In fact, it may be the first time this has happened.  The Easter Eggers consistently lay smaller eggs though, but they are getting larger.

Look at the above picture again.  Notice how one of the “brown” eggs is kind of pink?  I am wondering if that is an Easter Egger’s egg.  Supposedly they can lay pink eggs.  Perhaps I have one doing just that.  I’ll have to pay attention and see if I can figure out who is laying those lighter eggs.

I am curious to see how the egg production begins to fall off and when this happens.  I think I mentioned this last week too.  Chickens are typically light sensitive when it comes to laying eggs, though I understand the Rhode Island Reds will lay throughout the winter.  We have decided we aren’t going to supplement with lights, as I think God made them to need that period of rest, which I will give them.

My wife is normally the one that lets the ladies out to “stretch their wings”.  She is beginning to convince me that the birds are not dumb animals as many say.  Most of the time she can say something like, “Time to go back in.” over and over, and the chickens start heading for the chicken run.  Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few stubborn birds, but believe it or not, there are times they all just go in.

I have also noticed the ladies are not staying together when we let them out as much.  In fact, they all go their own separate ways.  I do like seeing that they are scratching in the garden more, and I am seeing them get plenty of bugs.  The more the merrier!  I have explained to them that this is one way they should pay their rent.  😀

Happenings Around the Homestead

One of my favorite things to do, usually, is walk through the garden in the morning.  I love the cool of the morning, the dew on the ground, and the quiet.  It is a real source of enjoyment for me.  However, I do NOT like walking through the garden at 7:00 AM when the humidity is high and the temperature is already warm.  Unfortunately, that happens sometimes, and Saturday was no exception.  I knew I had some work to do in the garden, and I was so hoping for a cool morning, but alas, that was not to be.

The tomatoes seem to be on their last leg now.  The plants are looking quite haggard, and the tomatoes themselves are not even as appealing.  In fact, the chickens were able to dine on several of them today.

The corn is getting most of my attention this year, and today I harvested several ears I hope pop well, as I would love to get their coloration worked prominently into the popcorn seed.  Let me show you four of them:

Landrace Popcorn

Look at this beautiful white kernel licked with flame-like colors!

Landrace Popcorn

More of the flame-licked colors on this cob, and I love the variety of colors.

Landrace Popcorn

I am confident this one has some glass-gem corn mixed in with it, and I like it. I love the greens – they are a rare treat in my seed stock.

Landrace Popcorn

More flame-licked colors. This one looks a lot like some seed stock I saved last year, which I am sure is what has pollinated all of these. I sure hope this pops well.

Look at that last picture a little closer.  See the red kernel just to the right of the middle?  See the spots?  I wonder what they are.  If you look at the one below it, the purple one, it has the same spots.  Even so, these kernels are things of beauty!

Believe it or not, we have a winter squash plant that is growing like gangbusters!  I doubt anything will come from it, as it has yet to set fruit, but it was a late starter, and it happens to be the only winter squash I have that survived the squash bugs and squash vine borers.  I sure would love to get some seed stock from it.

Sweet potatoes are a new crop for me, and even though I grew some last year, I cannot remember for the life of me when to harvest them.  I think it may be after the first frost, but I need to look it up.  I am so hopeful that I have a good crop of sweet potatoes.  I grew purple and white sweet potatoes, which taste very similar, though the purple ones are generally more dry.  Even so, I enjoy them.

Usually at this time of year I am not yet thinking about next year, but it sure is on my mind this year.  I think it is because I didn’t do such a good job getting the garden out on time this year, and I am hoping to redeem myself a little next year.  🙂  It won’t be long until I start planning.  Until then, I have a few other projects I am working on which I will be sharing here, including a homemade smoker and a homemade dehydrator.

The Chicken Chronicles

While I was out of town last week, I began to get really excited.  It seemed the egg production was increasing after two days in a row with five eggs each.  Since then it has been relatively quiet though.  I think we had three eggs on Friday, one on Saturday, two on Sunday, and two on Monday.

Speaking of eggs, we have had two oddities lately.  The first is a spotted egg.  Apparently one of the Rhode Island Reds is feeling some pressure to match the Easter Eggers for their unique eggs.  Look what she laid:

Spotted Egg

Spotted Egg

That has not been our only oddity though.  We have also had a shell-less egg laid:

Shell-less Egg

Shell-less Egg


Shell-less Egg

Shell-less Egg

Saturday I was sure we were going to have several eggs.  I was out roasting coffee and heard that egg laying clucking going on all morning.  Come to find out, I think it was a first time layer.  When we checked for eggs later, there was only one there, and it was smaller than what we’ve been getting.

The ladies sure are getting brave.  When we let them out to run in the yard, they used to all stay together, but now they just go off on their own exploring.  That is fine unless we see a neighbor dog coming around.  Even so, we have yet to have an issue.  Yesterday, though, the chickens nearly went to the front yard, which is the furthest I have seen them go.  Brave ladies they are!

I am using the deep litter method in the coop, and yesterday I was noticing how well this seems to be coming along.  Basically by keeping a deep layer of litter in the coop, the smell is minimal and fantastic garden compost is being created.  Charity and I have neither one smelled the coop much.  Charity’s nose is ultra sensitive, so I think that is a good sign.  I think after the leaves fall for the year, I will clean out the coop and move this fantasic compost to one of the garden beds for next year, and restock the coop for the winter with fresh litter (oak leaves).

I am curiously awaiting the slow down of egg production for the year.  I don’t know when that happens for my area yet, though there are some reports that it slows down when the sunlight becomes less than 14 hours a day.  We are already less than that, so it may be soon.  Perhaps that is why they seem to be laying slower than I had hoped right now.  Even so, the Rhode Island Reds are supposedly winter layers.  Hopefully that means we will see a steady flow of eggs from those four ladies all winter long.

The Chicken Chronicles, August 11, 2014

I am traveling for work today, and I will probably schedule this post to go live sometime while I am in the air.  It is Sunday morning as I write this, and I am thinking ahead to my week, realizing I am not going to be able to check each day while I am gone for eggs.  My wife doesn’t quite get the same excitement from this that I do, but I will have to bribe her to be sure and let me know the egg update each day while I am gone.  🙂

Sometime during the day on Saturday, perhaps after I collected the eggs for the day, I decided I probably needed to weigh the eggs to help me better determine how they are growing in size.  I had a total of seven uneaten eggs in the kitchen from our birds, so I took some weights.  Here are the results:

Rhode Island Red Eggs: Average of 1.47 oz (4.4 oz/3 eggs)

Easter Egger Eggs: Average of 1.35 oz (5.4 oz/4 eggs)

Store Bought Large Egg: 2.2 oz

So, as you can see, right now our eggs are less than half the weight of a store bought large egg.  This is a little smaller than I had estimated, but nothing that worries me.  I understand that their eggs will get larger over time.

The disappointment so far has been the number of eggs that have been laid.  The best I can figure, we have a minimum of four birds laying: two Easter Eggers and two Rhode Island Reds.  I come to this conclusion because there have been days where two eggs from each type of bird have been in the nesting boxes.  There could be more than this, but this is the minimum.  On average, we are getting two eggs a day now.  I had wrongly assumed that they would become egg-laying machines as soon as they started laying, but it seems their bodies need to gear up for this some too.

I had to chuckle some on Saturday when I went down to check the eggs.  I always peek in the window first to see if there is a bird in the nesting box, and there was.  There were also two others peeking their heads up through the chicken ladder hole in the floor as if they needed to see what was going on.  😀  Blondie is still the only one I can for sure identify that has been laying eggs.



I haven’t seen another Easter Egger yet, though there has to be one, and I can’t tell the Rhode Island Reds apart.

I have also been intrigued by the ladies’ choice of food.  I thought chickens would eat anything, but ours have not been that way so far.  Even so, there are some scraps they absolutely love.  One of those being tomatoes, and the other being watermelon.  Last night when I went down to check on the ladies I noticed they had cleaned a watermelon rind down to the thinnest green sliver.  It almost looked like leather it was so thin.  They also love most other kitchen scraps, but they aren’t fond of peppers and onions at all, that I can tell.  I suppose this is good, since I can’t imagine this has a good impact on egg taste.

Happenings Around the Homestead

This has been a slow garden year for us.  First of all, spring arrived late this year, and, second of all, with my work travel schedule, I was hardly home to work on the garden.  I also started a new garden spot this year which didn’t account properly for the position of the sun in the spring, and the new chicken coup is partially shading a garden.  In short, we have struggled with our garden.

We have yet to harvest peppers worth speaking of, and while we have harvested some great tomatoes, the crop has been small.  I have only harvested my first cucumber in the last week or so, and the summer squash, while being one of the plants which was out as early as possible, has already stopped producing.  Speaking of squash, my winter squash was hit by vine borers while on the mission trip, and there is nothing left.  My okra landrace project is coming along, however, it isn’t producing quite like I had hoped.  Oh, and let’s not forget the sweet potatoes!  The deer are having a hay day with the leaves.  🙂  I still expect a good harvest from them though.  The corn has done well, I think, other than the possible cross pollination issue.  Even so, the corn looks healthy and I am expecting a good harvest.

It may sound like I am whining about the gardening year, but I am not.  I consider every year a learning opportunity.  I have several good take-aways from this year that I will be sure to implement next year, and if the Lord so blesses me, next year this will happen on a proper homestead property.

Speaking of vegetables, last Friday we stopped off at The Farmer’s Market in Nashville, Tennessee.  If you haven’ t been there, you have really missed out.  This is a true joy for me.  Let me share just a few pictures:

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

Huge onions

Huge Onions!

Colorful Bell Peppers

Colorful Bell Peppers

My family is really blessed though, despite the lackluster garden year.  My father-in-law also gardens, and he has blessed us with an abundance of melons, peppers, tomatoes, and more.

Speaking of peppers, we have already smoked a good amount of peppers, some of which are already dried and ground.  Others are in various stages of processing, but I should be able to share a picture soon.

The chickens didn’t work as hard for us yesterday, and only produced two eggs: one blue and one brown.  I did eat the first of the eggs last night, and wow, were they tasty!  Hopefully there will be three more today.  I had to smile at my first egg issue yesterday.  One of the ladies laid her egg in the run below the cage, which is not fun to get into during the day while they are playing.  I could have just waited to get it, I suppose, but I was impatient.

I have to wonder, am I the only person out there who is already thinking about next year’s garden?  The growing season is not even over yet, and I am sitting here dreaming this morning of what I will do different next time.  Don’t worry, I am sure I will share the plans here as the days roll on.

A Few More Eggs

WOW!  I can’t tell you how excited I was yesterday to find out that we had not just one more egg (see: My Surprise for the Day), but THREE MORE EGGS!  Not only that, but one of the Easter Eggers, we believe it was Blondie, laid an egg!

Three New Eggs

Three New Eggs

Henry Ford, referring to the Model T, reportedly once said, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”  That is much like eggs, isn’t it?  Almost all of them are white, though the stores have found ways to upsell anything brown in color.  The one thing that I haven’t seen in the stores yet, however, is a blue/green shade of egg.  Even so, there are breeds of chickens which lay this color naturally.

You will notice four eggs in the picture, the largest of which is a store-bought, large, white egg that I placed in one of the laying boxes to encourage the chickens to lay there.  The other three, however, were all from yesterday.  The one at the 7:00 position in the picture looks identical to the one yesterday in color and size.  The next one going clockwise, at about the 10:00 position, is the first Easter Egger egg.  The next one going clockwise is perhaps a little smaller than the other ones, and it is a little more elongated.  I would say all three are similar in size to a small store-bought egg.

If I understand it right, there are probably three hens laying right now, one of which has layed two days in a row.  I expect all three will now start giving 5-7 eggs a week, or a total of 15-21 eggs a week.  The other seven hens should start laying soon, perhaps more will even lay today.

My family thinks I am a complete dork, but I am so excited about this.

My Surprise for the Day

You will never guess what I found yesterday!

I was out in the garden making my rounds.  I had just finished picking okra and cucumbers, and was on my way to the tomatoes, but I decided to make a stop off at the hen house to check on the ladies.

Lately I have made it a practice to open the nesting box door to see if there has been any interest in the nesting boxes.  It is about time for the Easter Eggers to start laying, if I am lucky, and each day I wonder if it is my lucky day.

A few weeks ago I put a store bought egg out there to encourage the ladies to check the boxes out, but the activity has been minimal.  Even so, sometimes the white egg appears to be gone, though it is always just buried in the leaves in the nesting box.

As I opened the nesting box door yesterday, the silly white egg was gone again.  I dug around in the leaves and found it, then carefully placed it back on top of the leaves.  As I was preparing to close the door, low and behold I noticed a chicken!  She was laying at the opposite end of the boxes and had burrowed out a nest.  I quickly closed the door and made my way to the house.

It wasn’t much longer until we heard cackling commencing!  One or more of the girls sounded as if she was having a total come apart.  🙂

We went on to church, expecting we might have a little surprise when we arrived home after church.  Sure enough, we did!  We all eagerly went to the hen house as soon as we arrived home, me with camera in hand.  🙂  Here’s what we found:

Our First Egg

Our First Egg

You will notice, perhaps, this is not an Easter Egger! That is right! One of the Rhode Island Reds was the first layer. Unfortunately, I can’t tell these birds apart, so it could have been any one of the four.

The Potential Winner

The Potential Winner

Here’s a couple of more shots: a better one of the egg, and a comparison shot vs. a store-bought, large, white egg.

Comparison: First Egg vs. Large Store EggComparison: First Egg vs. Large Store Egg

Comparison: First Egg vs. Large Store Egg

Our First Egg - A Better View

Our First Egg – A Better View

As mentioned earlier, this was a surpise.  I expected eggs any day now, but I expected them from one of the Easter Eggers.  The best I can understand it, the Easter Eggers are unpredictable on when they will lay their first egg, but with six of them, I am expecting one any day now.  The Rhode Island Reds are younger than the Easter Eggers though.  We bought the Easter Egger chicks on March 15 of this year, and we bought the Rhode Island Reds on March 29th.  Neither were more than a week old; probably just a few days old.  I don’t have the calculations now, but I expected the Easter Eggers to lay sometime between the end of July and the first of October (yes, unpredictable from what I can tell), and I expected the Rhode Island Reds to begin laying at the end of August.  I just checked though, and it seems the Rhode Island Reds should all start laying about right now.  SIGH.  How do I get so confused on this stuff??

With any luck, the Easter Eggers will be laying soon too, along with the rest of the Rhode Island Reds, and we will start having a beautiful mix of brown and blue/green eggs soon.

Those who raise chickens often say the first egg costs many hundred dollars, but those thereafter are inexpensive. I haven’t calculated the cost of this first egg, but I know why people say that. It wasn’t cheap getting to this point, but those are sunk costs. Now I just have healthy, inexpensive eggs that come from chicken who get time to free-range daily.