January 29, 2013

Chicken Stalking

All chicken owners know the anticipation of the first egg. As time grows closer for  hens to lay, we get the nest boxes ready, we put in "false" eggs to encourage laying, we push oyster shell for great egg shell strength. We continuously count back to when the chickens were hatched. But when it all said and done, it simply comes down to waiting...and waiting. Just when you think your have a bunch of infertile hens, an egg comes. Our first egg arrived on January 25-------------------->

I could not believe it! I went out to feed and water our ladies, and just be some chance I happened to look in our nest box. (See above regarding my thought of infertile hens) There next to a plastic Easter egg was a smaller "twin." At first I thought my mind was playing tricks on me. Then I thought I was just seeing double due to the fact that it was so cold and my eyes were watering. Upon wiping my eyes, and sticking my head deeper into the coop, it was in fact our first egg. Quickly I scooped it up and ran yelling my husband name into the house. Poor guy thought something was really amiss! Our egg, a sage green, cracked from freezing, but our egg. Unfortunately, the children had already left for school and missed out on this. But that was alright, I have been the major chicken keeper and was able to bask in miracle of this gift. Then my hubby asked, "Well who do you think laid it?" Huh? I did not know. So I took a scientific stance and began my investigation.

The process of elimination:

We have five chickens. Two of them grew into beautiful young men, so they went out to live at my friend's farm. We did replace the men with two girls that were hatched during the same time. So I started with obvious what type of bird/color of egg.

Thyme: Barred Rock=Brown egg
Mrs. Babcock: Rhode Island Red=Brown egg
Miss Prissy Fluffinbottom: White Leghorn=White egg (she is a new lady)
Luna: Marans/Ameraucana mix= Colored egg
Ebbie Loo Who: Marans/Ameraucana mix= Colored egg.(our other new lady.)

Since the first three ladies will not lay colored eggs, they were eliminated as the layer. Leaving only Luna and Ebbie. Honestly I thought Ebbie laid the first egg because there was one of her fluffs on the egg. But as I thought more, I was not sure.

Immediately I Googled "how to tell which chicken is laying?" No luck. So I went to my fellow contributing bloggers and friends at Farm Chit Chat. They should know, or at least give me some advice.  Here is what they said:

1. Stalk them and see who is in the nest box.
2. Put food coloring or Blue Kote on around their vent.
3. Put lipstick around the vent.

Needless to say, we had great laughs regarding #2 and #3. My neighbors already think I am nuts having chickens in the city, what would they think if I am out there "violating" my chicken with lipstick! So I opted for #1!

Let the Stalking Begin!

I figured out a round about time that the said "egg layer" was giving me her egg just by the average time I found the first 3 eggs and when I go out to feed/water. That gave me from 7:15 a.m to 9 a.m. I was determined to figure this out.

 Oh, did I mention it is Winter? Oh, and that I live in Northwest Ohio? If you have been following our nation's weather, it has been very, very cold here. I was not looking forward to being out in the cold, but I was on a mission.

Stalking Day!

Early Morning destination, The Coop!
Here I am! Bed head, make-up smeared, and puffy eyes! Sorry for the scary picture, but it was 7:15 a.m and I literally jumped out of bed, threw on my coat, and scarf. I realized later that I had my Pajama pants on backwards and inside out to boot! Yeah, I am hot!

I proceeded to slowly walk out to the coop. Trying to be a quiet as possible. That was not happening! Even though our dog Willow is good with the chickens, she does not like it when "Mom" spends anytime near them with out her. Let the whining, barking, and jumping on the backdoor commence. That put a wrench in the whole using my stealth Ninja skills to stalk with! Grrr!

After getting Willow relaxed with a bowl full of food, it was now 7:45 a.m. and every second counts when you have a mission such as mine. When I did get to the coop, the ladies knew I was coming and were all at the door to be let out. No egg, no one in the nest box. They wanted FOOD! Grabbing my gloves I went about the chore. I cracked the main door on the coop to be able to sneak peeks at the nest box. I went back into the house because I was starting to get cold. Time was 8 a.m. I stood at my back window watching and warming up. Then I saw Luna go up into the coop. She was then followed by Ebbie. Really? both colored egg layers in the coop? *Sigh* so much for warming up! Out again I go. I stood outside of the coop for another 20 minutes. During this time Luna kept coming up to the main door squawking at me and Ebbie sat on the roost. This was not proving to be easy. About 8:45 Luna entered the nest box. Finally! I watched her move around, peck at the straw and she finally laid down. Grabbing my camera out of my pocket I figured an egg would be arriving an minute, I fully opened the coop door. Luna stopped her fussing and stared at me, as if to say "Do you mind Lady?" Snapping off a few pics, she gave me a harder stare and a low growl,  I told her "I know, I know, I don't like to be bothered when I am ovulating either." But somewhere in my mind I was not convinced that she was going to lay. Why? I don't know, maybe it had something to do with all these months of waiting, maybe the scientific part of my brain needed a conclusion, but I was determined to see this egg laying up close and live.
My determination lasted to 9:15 a.m. Chickens like privacy when laying, I get that, but I think it had more to do with the fact I could no longer feel my fingers and toes. That was all I needed was to get frostbite and have to explain to the doctor how, "Well, Doctor, I was stalking my chicken you see..." So off to a hot shower I went. The whole time I was in the shower, I knew, just knew Luna would lay that egg while I was in there. Guess what? She did, and has continued to gives us her beautiful green eggs daily.

Do you mind????


My chicken stalking days are over. I have come to the acceptance that the other ladies will lay. I have them set up for success. Kind of like in the movie Field of Dreams, "If you build it they will come." Our ladies have been given a place to be happy and productive layers. My advice for first time chicken owners waiting for their first egg, it will happen, when it will happen, regardless. Remember the old saying? "A Watched Pot Never Boils."Learn from my insanity, but if you too want to be a chicken stalker, may I suggest doing it when the weather is warmer.

Good luck!

January 15, 2013

Bread Making + Me= EPIC FAIL!

 Today starts the day when we ladies at Farm Chick Chit Chat kick off the "Bread Bake Off." My first initial thought was "o.k, I don't like to bake, but I can do this." I love to cook. Give me some spices, and an apron and I can whip any culinary delight. I got this covered. Or so I thought. My bread is now sitting in our compost bin. Our chickens would not even touch it. Yes, it was pretty awful!

First let me say that I understand the scientific process of bread making. I get the whole idea behind it. The interaction of the yeast, the rising, the kneading etc. Yet I have never made bread. Granted I have made banana bread, pumpkin bread, and  zucchini bread, homemade pretzels, and even homemade cinnamon rolls.  The cinnamon rolls and pretzels required the same "thinking" of making a loaf of bread, right?

So the what the ding dong heck did I do wrong? I have a few ideas:

  1. I got too big for my britches. After reading recipes, upon recipes, making bread seemed pretty easy. Ha!
  2. I wanted to make a "healthy" bread and used Spelt flour. I never worked with it before. I mean come on it is wheat.
  3. I was doing five million things at the time it rose, and I punched it down like the recipe said. But I admit, I let it rise again and again, before I did anything with it. 
  4. I think I over kneaded it? Is that possible? It has to be.
  5. My oven is psycho. If it says bake something at 375 degrees, I have to set my temperature at 300 degrees. Because of this I have to "watch" things in the oven very carefully. Oh, did I mention I was doing five million things at once?
  6. And maybe,  just maybe I am not meant to make bread? Is there some unforeseen force out there that knows this and does not want me to expel my energy in this type of venue? 
So, until I master this art of bread making, which was not going to happen by today, I was not going to let my fellow Farm Chicks down. I was going to contribute something doggone it!

Here it is: 

 Can you just smell it? The most delicious tasting, healthy alternative. Yep! It is "Aunt Millie's 100% Whole Wheat and Whole Grain bread." She makes the best store bought bread ever!*sigh*

Do not worry, I am not "done" attacking this bread adventure. Even if I have to purchase a new oven or a bread machine, It is On! I will overcome!


January 10, 2013

Illusions of Grandeur: My backyard

It has been unseasonably warm for January the last few day here in Northwest Ohio. Now will it stay this way? Heck no! But it is just enough to taunt me. It does not help that a lot of people I know are talking about seed catalogs and planting ideas. Now that the holidays are over, it is time to start shifting gears and planning my attack for the garden/yard.

Oh, the feel and smell of the earth! The beauty of a seed growing into something that sustains you. Sitting in the garden at twilight and appreciating the beauty around you. Ah! Relaxing.

 POP! there goes the dream, it was all an illusion! Instead you see this...

The WAR ZONE!!!!!!

     The above pictures are my backyard.  Small, muddy, and in need of more TLC! Most of my grass is crab grass, so when that dies all that is left is mud. I blame the majority of this mud hole on the dog. She for some reason just loves to dig when it is winter, spreading dirt every which way. This fall I raked the straw from the coop clean outs in the the most muddy areas. Now all I can think of is the movie "Ten Commandments" you know the scene when Moses is down in the slave pits churning mud as other slaves are adding straw to make bricks. Hmmm...

The houses in our neighborhood are close together. So close you could hand a cup of sugar out your window to your neighbor's without leaving the house. Alright, I may be exaggerating, but you get the point. Pretty much everyone on my side of the street have shared driveways. Lucky for us we love our neighbors so it is not too bad.

I am not garden handicapped. I get "gardening." Each year I attempt to create the perfect haven. We put in the the patio, we did a koi pond, I did an herb garden. But at the end of the summer, I realize I did not achieve my desired goal. But this year will be different! I have been saved so to speak.

My saving grace came in the form of Chris McLaughlin's book "Vertical Vegetable Gardening." This book is a must have! I was able to get a copy of this book before it hit the shelves. Chris and I met through the blog Farm Chick Chit Chat. We both are contributors for this blog. She asked us to read this and write a review for her. I read this book in two hours. My head was spinning at all the ideas that I will be incorporating into my small yard this year. One of my favorite aspects Chris uses is
re-purposing items. I love to reuse items.

Of course my dream is to move out of the city, I would even take just an acre. But for now my plans are coming together for the spring. Seed catalogs are on their way, my green thumb is itching to play in the dirt, and as the saying goes  "Bloom where you are planted!"