Category Archives: chickens

I have a problem…

See, our two chickens used to go through a heck of a lot of feed. Like, I had to refill it every few days. At first, I thought it was because they had just started laying eggs are were ravenous (I don’t know… it made sense to me at the time). But then they kept knocking over their food dish and it would fall into the pine shavings. It has a little loop on top, as it’s designed to hang. I’d also heard that hanging feeders reduce waste (oh, those messy chickens). So, one weekend while we were home I decided to just get in there and hang the darn thing. Since I did that, I maybe fill the feeder once a week. I clean and fill the waterer more than that!

Let me back up.

We have two chickens. The big Buff Orpington faithfully lays one egg every day. The smaller, louder, pushy Easter Egger lays every day but occasionally takes a day off (such a slacker!) You’d think two eggs a day is a lot and we’d be overrun with eggs. Alas, this is not so. On mornings when I make breakfast to eat in the car, it’s usually 2 eggs, fried or scrambled on a tortilla or toast. So, right there we’re eating eggs as fast as our chickies give them to us! But, we don’t eat eggs for breakfast every morning, so sometimes we build up a surplus. I’ve given 4 to 6 eggs away to friends about 3 times and that’s it. I don’t bake with our eggs because baking uses a lot of eggs! That, and our eggs aren’t quite as large as regular large eggs (2 oz. average) so I’m always worried it’ll mess something up.

Eggs went on super-sale this week, I’m guessing because of Easter and the inevitable egg-dying and/or hiding that goes on. I wanted to make some hard-boiled eggs and try pickling some eggs, so I picked up a flat of 20 since I certainly wasn’t going to experiment with our precious home-grown, not-quite-free-range but definitely not stuck-in-a-cage eggs. And then I hard-boiled 8 of them.

Crazy chicken people on the chicken forums swear that their eggs are, like, 5000% better than store-bought eggs. They swear they taste better and can tell the difference blind-folded and with one arm tied behind their backs. I was just thrilled our eggs have bright orange yolks and are tasty. Not once did I think there was a difference in taste. Until I ate the hard-boiled egg. It just wasn’t the same. Maybe it was because it was a jumbo egg; maybe I didn’t cook it the same (I should have thrown one of our eggs in the pan, too). All I know is that it didn’t taste as, well, tasty as the time I did hard-boil a pretty blue-green egg. We had fried eggs in PA, too, along with Travis’ dad’s tasty, tasty sausage gravy and biscuits and I’m sorry to say the eggs just weren’t as good.

I have become an egg snob.

There is a point to all of this rambling, I swear. The point is that I’d like more eggs. But, I need more chickens to get more eggs. And I’ve been told that there will be no more chickens until our chickens are a year old (because egg production slows down after 1 to 2 years). So, the chickens get to be a year old, I can get 2 more chicks and by the time those new chickens start laying, our girls should just start slowing down.

But! I had a plan! It is prime chicky-getting season (aside from the fact that Easter is coming up and there may be people buying cute chicks for Easter when they aren’t prepared to raise a full-on chicken, to whom I say don’t do it! Go buy a chocolate bunny instead!) and there will be different types of chicks at all the feed stores (as opposed to the slim pickings when chicken shopping in, say, August). I figured, the way our chickens go through feed, we’ll have to stop by the feed store soon to get more food. While we’re there, how can we resist picking up new chicks? And then the hanging feeder foiled my trickery because the feed supply will obviously be lasting for quite a while.

You may be wondering why I don’t just throw the feeder back on the floor so they go through feed more quickly? Well, because my frugal side kicks in and won’t let me knowingly waste all that food when I know it can be prevented.

Perhaps I’ll just have to make the argument that now is the perfect time to have chicken breed choices instead of waiting until August again. If we wait until next spring, the chickens will be 2 years old before new chicks are laying and I’ll probably have to go buy regular eggs or something. Which, if you really think about it, completely goes against any frugal, money saving argument since we all know raising chickens for eggs is not saving me money.

Maybe I’m just addicted to chickens.

procrastination

I am supposed to finish laundry, pick up the yard, and mow the lawn at the moment, so of course I’m playing on the computer.  Travis just finished weed duty, then he’s going to clean his kegs and start the transfer process.

We’ve consistently (for 3 days, ha!) gotten one egg from the chickens (I think it’s Buffy) each day.  Each day they get a teensy bit larger and the color is a little darker.  One thing I noticed is that the yolk is the same size, there just seems to be more of the egg white.  We cooked them up for breakfast this morning and they were definitely a darker color than our store-bought eggs, which is exciting to me.  I’m wondering how long it will take before we actually have an egg backlog.  Right now, we go through them faster than the chicken lays!

Poor sweet Cassie is full of matted fur.  I think part of the problem started when we shaved her a couple of years ago (I read you’re not supposed to shave double-coated dogs) and the other problem is that we just don’t brush them often enough.  Lexi is easy because her fur doesn’t really mat up.  Sadie doesn’t either, she just needs constant brushing to get rid of the extra fur.  But, she’s also kind of easy because you can swipe at her a few times here and there and eventually she gets groomed.  But Cassie takes more effort and time (for being the same breed, she and Lexi have wildly different fur) and she’s just kind of been fur-neglected.  So, we’re going to see if we can find a good groomer to do something and then try to take better care of her from here on out.

I made Jamie Oliver’s Chicken Braised in Milk the other night, except I followed this recipe instead, which added lemon juice (not just the zest) to the pot.  I liked it, because you can taste the lemon juice ever so slightly in the finished sauce.  I kept the cover on for the first hour, then took the cover off, which gave us some nice crispy skin on the breast.  The chicken was moist and tender and the sauce was good over rice, on the chicken, and absorbed into some homemade bread.  We also used an organic chicken (from Costco… small steps), which made me feel better, but I don’t know that it tasted all that different from a regular chicken.

Now I’ve got a pot roast in the oven – just a chuck roast with French Onion Soup and some beef broth – waiting to become dinner.  That and the leftover chicken should get us through the week before we jet off to Denver.

All right.  Enough procrastination.  I’m going to go get my chores done so we can go get lunch.

Oh yeah, Happy Super Bowl Day!  This may be the first year we don’t have plans to attend a party, which may be kind of nice.

Still a new year

Is it too late to say Happy New Year?  It’s still a pretty new year…

We spent our holidays at home, laying low, and generally enjoying the down time.  Especially considering we’ll be hopping on and off of planes and taking various road trips in the next couple of months. 

I’ve been taking advantage of my Blockbuster by Mail subscriptions lately, renting various workout DVDs and then exchanging them in-store for a new release.  So, we’ve gone through quite a few movies during our long weekends.  We watched Angels & Demons (I think I was too busy wondering what Ewan McGreggor would do as a priest to see the ending coming), Twilight (yes, we watched it; mainly to see what the fuss is about and to find out what vampires look like when they glitter – Spoiler: they look like glitter), Inglourious Basterds (entertaining and quirky, and then we figured out it was a Quentin Tarantino movie and it all made more sense), District 9 (I didn’t like and really wanted the main guy to just die already), and Four Christmases (I like Reese Witherspoon, Travis likes Vince Vaughn, it was pretty much a win/win movie).  The funniest thing about Four Christmases was the baby puking.  Because it’s exactly like that in real life (I suppose Vince Vaughn’s reaction is pretty spot-on, too).  If you’ve ever had a baby throw up on you, you’ll appreciate those parts of the movie.

I haven’t committed to any New Year’s resolutions, nor have I signed up for the 10 in 10 challenge, but I am still on that never-ending quest to get a little fitter and a little lighter.  Also, because I started months ago, I consider it a continuing and ongoing habit and not just something to start once January hits.  I was doing pretty well before Christmas, then kind of hit a snag, and now hopefully I’m back on track.

We’ve been eating pretty well lately.  I managed to not cook on both Christmas Day AND New Year’s Eve, but I did cook most of the meals around those days, so I think that’s a good trade-off.  Since we both worked on New Year’s Eve, we just went for an early dinner at Luc’s Bistro (still my favorite place to eat in Poway).  The next night I cooked up some lobster tails I snagged at Henry’s, and then I made Shrimp Fra Diavolo using Rao’s arrabbiata sauce and fusilli pasta (also found at Henry’s).  I dusted the shrimp with a mixture of flour and cornstarch, though, instead of just flour and it made the shrimp light and crispy.  It was actually a really good meal.  We still have half a bottle of the sauce left, so I might pick up more shrimp and do it again.

Then it was a meal at Indigo Grill ($20.10 Anniversary Week through the 8th!) and it was good enough to make me want to go back, which I think is a sign of a successful promotion.  There are a lot of Cohn Restaurant Group haters in San Diego, and I do agree that some of their places are overpriced and underwhelming (like Mister Tiki), but I have also enjoyed meals at Thee Bungalow and the Gaslamp Strip Club (more for the fun of it than anything else) and now Indigo Grill, so I think sweeping them all under the rug is a little uncalled for.

In chicken news, they are getting so big and heavy, but no eggs yet.  Granted, they’re still too young to be laying eggs (maybe next month?) , but I keep hoping they’re overachievers or something.  Lexi got into the coop one morning when I was bringing them treats, got a mouthful of Bunny, and now they’re all wary when I let them out in the morning.  They used to run right out to see what treats I brought; now they sit in their coop and give everything a big stinkeye and only when I show them something enticing will they come down.

Bunny is definitely top chicken in her coop

Buffy is a big girl!

So far, 2010 (twenty-ten, if you’re tallying votes) looks like it will be a good year.

Thankful

Thanksgiving has always been a family affair for me.  I remember my mom hosting Thanksgiving dinner (really, more like a late lunch) for what seems like forever.  Even when I went off to college, I always came back for Thanksgiving.  Luckily, I was within driving distance and didn’t have to deal with high airfares.  When I moved to San Diego, I hosted Thanksgiving dinner once, just after moving into my new condo.  My dinner table was a bunch of empty Ikea furniture boxes. 

Sometimes, Travis and I can arrange to take a Christmas trip, but we always spend Thanksgiving with my family.  It’s just one of those things we never question.

This year, we’re hosting dinner at our house.  We’re a smaller group now – just my parents, my sister, and her boyfriend.  It seems a little silly to consciously be thankful on this one day, but I suppose it’s better than never acknowledging it.

So, here is my list of thankful things and thoughts:

  • All the lovely thoughts and comments about our sweet kitty.
  • All the years (12 is a lot!) I had with that cat and how she was always the same, sweet, friendly cat no matter who I added to her household.
  • My family – no matter what, you can always count on your family.
  • Our friends, the ones we get to see all the time and the ones who live farther away.
  • Including the one I’ve known the longest and the crazy fact that we (practically) live next door to each other, just as we planned all those years ago.
  • All the online food people I’ve gotten to meet this year.  How fun!
  • Our dogs, even though they’re shedding like crazy right now.  Don’t they know they need those coats for the cold weather?
  • Our chickens, for the constant entertainment they’ve provided.  And, one day, for  their eggs.
  • Our house, which is a home.  It also lets us entertain, unwind, and enjoy our space.
  • My new kitchen!  I love it, and it was just barely worth all the time and energy we put into it.
  • The Mira Mesa Trader Joe’s, which is easier for me to get to, plus it’s bigger and they have better food samples.
  • My job, which I still enjoy and am grateful to have.
  • Of course, I am grateful for Travis.  He understands me better than I think and makes me happier than I thought I could be.  He treats me well, puts up with my dogs, and he loved my cat.  What more could a girl ask for?

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families.  I hope your bellies are full of tasty foods and decadent desserts.  I know ours will be.

p.s. – If you are able, please consider donating to the Food 4 Kids program. I’m sure those kids would be very thankful.

pets and dinner

I bet you think I’m going to talk about the difference between raising animals as pets and raising animals as dinner. Like, we have dogs as pets but would never consider eating them, but we also have chickens as pets – are we going to eat them? BUT! I was actually going to talk about Pets. And Dinner. Not pets as dinner.

Side note: While we do expect to eat the eggs from our chickens, we don’t plan on turning any of them into dinner. If one turns out to be a rooster, becoming dinner is completely dependent on T’s willingness to, er, process it. We could go either way. But we don’t intend to ever raise chickens for the purposes of eating them.

Here’s the pet update: the dogs are fine. The dogs are the same. Nothing ever changes with the dogs. We’ve watched our friends’ dog a couple of times and I’m happy to say that she melded into our dog-chaos perfectly. She even holds her own protecting treats and other doggy valuables. The cat is fine. She was getting kind of skinny for a while, so we started feeding her some canned kitten food in the morning. That kind of bulked her up, but now she expects morning breakfast (and gets very vocal if it’s not there) so I’ve just cut back the amount she gets. The chickens (because they are pets, really) are growing up quite quickly, but I’m happy to say that they put themselves to bed on a perch in their coop (if loose in their run) once it gets dark, so I don’t have to chase after them. They love grapes, mealworms, and crickets; they are undecided on tomatoes and cantaloupe. Corn is a winner, as are the parsley trimmings from the garden. I fed them steak trimmings the other day, but I don’t think they really went after it. I’m feeling pretty confident that Bunny will lay eggs; Buffy’s comb has started to turn a bright pink but her back feathers still look round and fluffy. I guess we’ll just have to see.

Now, for the dinner update. My mom went to Maine recently and, in return for watching 3 out of 4 dogs, she shipped live lobsters back. Not just for us, but for our friends, too! Nice, big lobsters – about 1 ¾ lbs each – all packed into a Styrofoam containers and checked as luggage. She was supposed to join us for dinner, but got waylaid in Chicago. Somehow, her checked luggage got out of Chicago to San Diego, though. It was my first attempt at cooking live lobsters, but it wasn’t nearly as exciting or dramatic as I’d been led to believe. I thought the lobsters would start fighting to get out or stick a claw out or something. Nothing. You toss them into boiling water, put the lid back on, then set your timer for 12 minutes. Come back, pick up a bright red lobster, crack the tail off, whack the claws, and get your melted butter ready. They were delicious! I even went through the tedious step of squeezing out all the leg meat. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to make a lobster scramble for breakfast. Leftover claw and tail meat got turned into lobster corn chowder… I suppose I could have saved the shells to make stock, but since I don’t even intend to make lobster bisque, I’m not sure why I would need quarts of lobster stock around. Chicken stock works just fine for me, thank you.

So, thank you so much, Mom, for the lobster dinner. It was delicious and we had a great time. I’m just sorry you weren’t there to dine with us. But, I’m glad you did eventually get into San Diego.

Fort Knox, but for chickens

I apologize for the lack of pictures lately (not like I’ve ever been a fountain of visual aids here), but they’re all still on the camera memory card. I think I meant to show pictures of the chickies as they were growing up, and then they went and got all grown up too fast! They’ve been moved into their coop and we (by we, I mean T) have spent a lot of time trying to secure their run area from the dogs.

While they were just in the coop, the dogs took to staring at them through the open hardware cloth and then scratching at it, making a lot of noise and scaring everyone in the process. I tried to add boards to block the chickens from their field of view, but it didn’t really work. So, enclosing the run area became a priority. Originally, we were just going to close it in with wire fencing and hardware cloth, but as the coop experiment showed, the dogs are kind of relentless when they can see the chickens. We bought cement fiber board panels from Home Depot (I think they’re siding panels) and used them as walls all around the coop and run. Wire fencing is above that so no one can jump or fly in. T is going to build me a gate using part of a panel and we also buried hardware cloth around the perimeter to discourage digging.

The solution isn’t as open-feeling as I’d envisioned, but this will keep the chickens safer and prevent the dogs from going crazy (and making so much noise). Of course, the downside of this is that the chickens look so small in the big space! I have to remember that they’ll probably grow to almost twice the size they are now when they’re full grown, and that I don’t really need more than 2 chickens. Two chickens will provide more eggs than we can use, we’re not going to sell extras, and we’ll probably just give some away. So it’s not like I need more layers to provide a constant stream of eggs.

For the longest time, the chickens weren’t interested in any food other than their feed. I was beginning to think my chickens were broken… the internet was full of people whose chickens ate everything in sight! Now I think they just weren’t old enough. I recently gave them mealworms and crickets and they went nuts! The chickens make a funny noise when presented with something new (kind of like “Whoa! Suspicious item! Stay back!”) and they make a different noise when chasing after food (“Whee! Being predatory!”) Either pet store crickets are kind of slow or the chickens are pretty quick, because they clear the field rather quickly.

I also gave them a small dish of yogurt (we’re a Fage household) with some ground flaxseed on the side. Bunny loved the yogurt; Buffy was quite offended. She would go to peck at it, then get upset that it stuck to her beak. There was a lot of head flinging and beak wiping. And then she would go back, maybe to see if it was still as disgusting as it was 5 seconds earlier? Bunny, meanwhile, would just go pick up the specks of yogurt that were being flung onto the floor. Buffy seemed to like the flaxseed, but not the parts touching the yogurt. And, at the end of the day, the dish was pecked clean.

They’ve also enjoyed a tomato that was half eaten in the garden and a fig that was split open (or maybe pecked open by a wild bird). They have not touched the pineapple guava I gave them when I was testing it to see if it was ripe (it wasn’t).

I really like our chickens. They’re different from the dogs and they’re interesting to watch. It’s been a lot of work getting them set up to live outside and they probably won’t ever pay for their coop and run through eggs alone, but I still think they’re worth it.

quick chicks + chirps

It seems like we’ve been All Chickens, All the Time around here lately.  I guess that’s normal.  These chicks are my new hobby and hopefully will be the new composters (yes, I still have the worm bin, but you’ve got to admit the chicks are way cuter) and we check on them all the time, so it makes sense we have chicks on the brain.  Which is different from having a chicken brain.  Maybe.

I was actually sent a promotional pack of new Charmin, which I meant to share with you (and will) mainly because I found it all to be interesting.  I also have a new Febreze scent diffuser, which may be my favorite so far and way better than the Glade Wisp.

In the meantime, enjoy these chicky pictures and know that they look completely different already.  Lady Orpington is really starting to feather out and get big (so big!)  They’ve also gotten pretty used to being picked up and handled, since we’ve made a point to hold them every night.  And they’ve discovered their wings and if you hold Lady Orpington, Bunny will get lonely (or maybe jealous?) and flap her way onto your arm.  Which they both climb and jockey for prime position on your shoulder.  And then they’ll poop on you.  Or sleep.  Sometimes both.

Lady B is way bigger than Bunny

Lady B is way bigger than Bunny

they've started perching, but still sleep on the floor

they've started perching, but still sleep on the floor

Bunny is so pretty!

Bunny is so pretty!

little poopers

little poopers

can you see the crazed look in her eyes?

can you see the crazed look in her eyes?