Saturday, December 17, 2011

Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

Oreo and the Reds are in full production, despite the season. Doc and I are swimming in eggs. So we make hard boiled eggs.

Not every egg is perfect. Filthy eggs and ground eggs go straight to the reject bin. We also got one enormous egg from Vo and a tiny "fart egg" from a Red. But until winter sun started cutting in to production, we had a backlog of 10 dozen eggs on the counter.

Vo made the giant egg. A Red made the yolkless "fart egg".
Thanks to aggressive hard-boiled egg consumption, we are down to a more comfortable backlog. In the process, Doc has mastered the art of making the Perfect Hard Boiled Egg.

Even after feasting, we have a big backlog of eggs.
Start with old eggs at room temperature. We use eggs that have been on the counter for just over two weeks. Refrigerated store bought eggs average about 60 days old, so you are fine to boil them after a few minutes of warming on the counter top.

Seven Steps to Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs
  1. Clean the eggs to remove any dirt or nastiness that might give them a funky flavor.
  2. Fill a pan with room-temperature water. Doc uses a Wok.
  3. Add one or two dozen eggs to the water.
  4. Turn the stove top to high heat.
  5. Set the timer for 15 minutes to get 10-12 minutes of boil time.
  6. Place eggs in ice water using a slotted spoon.
  7. After 5 minutes, dry and refrigerate.

Hot eggs melted all the ice.
The boil time varies by altitude. To find the right amount of time for your conditions, test your first hard boiled egg before you chill the rest. Chill it for a few seconds and peel it as soon as you can. Cut the egg in half. If the white is solid and the yolk is solid yellow, you have made perfect hard boiled eggs. If the white or yolk is a little runny, they are still soft boiled and you need to let the others boil for another minute or two (be sure to test again). If the yolk is green, you have boiled the eggs too long and the others need to be removed now.

Now it is time to enjoy your hard boiled eggs. They are wonderful as a breakfast sandwich with mayo. They are a delight with marinara and linguine. They are a convenient nutritious snack at any time.

Oh the chickeny joy!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tis the Season for Chicken Gifts

Here are some gift ideas for you. Oh the chickeny joy!

Chicken toys -> here.

Storey's Guide is the chicken book. 

There is also the Dummies book.

Cool calendar. Get yours today!

Cool sign.

My driveway needs this sign.

I have a metal rooster. Maybe I should get this too?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chicken Nipples

I know what you are thinking. "Chickens don't have nipples." Not that kind!

Nipples over Red
This is a Chicken Nipple:

My clever Reds and Oreo like water. They poo in it every chance they get. But I am in possession of opposable thumbs and a larger brain, so I set out to eliminate their water pollution situation.

I tried hanging a rabbit waterer in the run. They first used this as little chicks in the fancy brooder cage. Given the chance to peck something semi-new, they pecked at it, got a drop of water, and despite their chickeny astonishment, pecked at it again.

Thus encouraged, I ordered the aforementioned Nipple Waterer kit. I also ordered an 11/32" drill bit to install it. They are supposed to be hard to find, but I found one easily enough: 

It was easy to drill the holes in the bottom of a plastic bucket and suspend the bucket where the chickens could imbibe. The harder part was getting them to drink.

Half of the Reds were smart enough to drink from the nipples.
Smart Reds drink without soiling their water
Oreo fell in with the non-smart Reds. In a later experiment she demonstrated a willingness to die of thirst before she would consider drinking from the water source every other chicken was using.
Dumb looks are free
The rest of the flock preferred to drink the poo tea they made every morning from the fresh water I provided.
They say the fittest shall survive. Yet the unfit may live.
OK, so I got outsmarted by poo-pullets. But at least the flock gets clean water when they have absolutely no other choice.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pullet Pizza Party

Doc and I had a fierce craving for a vegetarian Margherita Pizza. We raced to the local purveyor of pie and greedily consumed our treat, clucking over the good parts and stuffing ourselves silly.

We took the remaining slices home for the flock. I carefully crept up the to fence and lifted the poultry netting. The birds circled me, screaming for the awesome deliciousness they were sure I would soon provide.

I dropped a slice into the chicken run. They greedily consumed the treat, clucking over the good parts and stuffing themselves silly.

De was a little skeptical at first, but ready to try it.
De starts with the thin end
One of the red pullets moved in to investigate this alien morsel.
"Share" is not a chickeny concept
The rest of the chicks were ferocious. The instantly closed in and stripped the flesh off the pizza, leaving nothing but bones sinking to the bottom of the run.
School of deadly chickens
Pizza carcass, stripped in seconds
It was a grisly sight. But oh, the chickeny joy!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Stink Eye, the Chickeny Look of Disapproval

Chickens are expressive creatures. They let you know when they are content. They let you know when they are frustrated. They let you know when they are hungry.

But when they want you to know they are very displeased with you, they have a special expression. They give you the Stink Eye.

When Vo was forced to test drive the new coop, she expressed her displeasure with being unceremoniously relocated.
How dare you disturb my repose!
The chicks, new to the facial expression thing, looked a little more disappointed than disapproving when the treats did not leap from my hands into their pen.
How could you?
Mr. Big, always vocal with his opinions, was not at all pleased to be pushed away from the yogurt bowl when there might still be a speck or two in there.
Yogurt makes a delicious fashion accessory
Buffy, another vociferous bird, wants nothing more than to be free of all constraints that keep her from anything she desires, such as world domination or fried mealworms.
But De is the Queen of the Stink Eye. Mere proximity offends her. I went to close the coop one night and got a full blast from her. I ran like a fraidy cat.
Begone foodless human!
I bet you would have run away too.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cool white roof

Doc and I, with help from some likely youths, constructed a coop for the chicks. It has wire walls and shade cloth to keep the chicks cool. But with Texas temps going over 100, more thermal control was needed.

We tried a mister. It has worked well, but the soil, dry from 5 inches of rain in 7 months, has gone into stinky decomposition overdrive. And still the birds are slow roasting in the coop....

But my nephew arrived for a visit. Free labor, hooray!

We moved Jailbird Vo and the chicks into the adult pen. Buffy gave them a warm welcome.
Say hello to my little friend
Once the red chicks outnumbered the adults, things got calmer. The chicks liberated the mister and the adults withdrew to the coop to sulk about today's youth and their lack of respect.
Chicks in the mist
With the chicks squared away, we set to work on the roof. The nephew and I mounted ladders and braved the entangling poultry net of doom.

Only a fool would put a poultry net over of roof before painting it. Sadly, I am that fool.
There must be a better way
We used up a can of gummy white primer, sealing holes, covering metal, and sometimes painting the net. An hour on the ladders was all we could stand, so we declared victory and hastened to the house for iced tea.
Not as bad as I feared
We put the chicks back and fed them treats. Oh the chickeny joy!

The white roof cut the coop temperature by 5-10 degrees. Now the hot chicks are cool. Aaaaaaaay!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mixed up chickens

Jailbird Vo is Mr. Big's very special friend. This entitles her to missing feathers, bare patches of skin, and bloody scabs. The latest prize in her collection is a sprained leg.

Because of the sprained leg, she squawks every time Mr. Big mounts her. He seems oblivious to her discomfort.

Because the new chicks are living in the new coop, I have no good way to safely isolate a chicken. So I juggled the pecking order instead.

I put Vo in the chick coop. She immediately transformed from the docile low bird to a bloodthirsty seeker of power. She explored the coop, sat on the roost, and ate the food. The first chick in the door was an aggressive red who has a habit of attacking other chicks so she can eat fresh feathers.

They squared off, reared their heads back, and tussled in a noisy feathery fury. Since Vo was already injured, I grabbed the red and took her away before the two could do more than cuss vigorously.

When Oreo and the other reds arrived, Vo was careful to give each one a peck or two or twelve. By sunset, I had to scoot Vo to one end of the roost, ceding her hard-won territory to the terrified chicks.

I placed the aggressive red chick in the adult coop. She went from alpha chick to lowly intruder in just a few heartbeats. She immediately set about trying to hide from the furious Buffy.

With the unsettled pecking order, bedtime is a noisy affair. Mr. Big and Buffy shrilly protest the presence of the interloper. The red chicks cluck their terror of the big bad battle-scarred veteran sitting on their roost.

I can hardly wait for Vo to finish healing.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hot Chicks

The Texas heat has been living up to its reputation. I have tried passive cooling for the chickens, but as the temps go over 100, I have to take action.

Enter the Mister. This doodad attaches to a hose and allows the water to slowly escape as a fine mist, purportedly reducing the temperature by 20 degrees.
Even a little pressure makes a cooling mist
To entice the chicks into soaking range, Doc and I placed chick pellets near the mister. The moist pellets were a big hit. The chicks consumed them with relish (the attitude, not the condiment).
Moist pellets are our favorite!
Some of the chicks loved it. Some were less than thrilled.
I feel pretty

You will pay dearly for this indignity
To entice the adults into the misting area, we removed the barrier between the chicken runs. Mr. Big was the first to arrive. Oreo took the opportunity to say "Hi Dad".
Oreo, Mr. Big, and mist rainbow
Rather than rely on the wind, I set up a second mister in the adult run. The adults were a little less sanguine about the mist, but much happier with the damp soil.
Mr. Big and Buffy mud bathing 
The mister was a big success! It used very little water and made a cool spot in the chicken runs. When the sun got to be too much for me, I went to stand in the mist too.

I am going to save this memory for winter....

Oreo and the red chicks are growing

Oreo hatched from an egg that had been intended for breakfast. Confronted with the reality of a live chick, Doc and I realized we were still unprepared and raced out to Tractor Supply to get some last minute chick doodads, and inevitably, more chicks.
Oreo, newly hatched
Ten days later, we let the gang out into the tractor, with adult supervision. Oreo and the reds were utterly adorable with their little wing feathers and fuzz.
Adorable at 10 days
At about three weeks, Oreo was the cutest chick in an awkward bunch. One red looked like a vulture.
Three weeks and awkward
Oreo looks like a real chicken at 7 weeks. Her red comrades seem to have feathered out nicely as well.
7 weeks with nice feathers
Oreo and the red girls are looking like proper young ladies at 11 weeks. They work together to patrol their run, protecting it from lizards, bugs, and amazingly delicious seeds that mysteriously fall from the sky when I am near.
11 weeks and full of themselves
Some time in the next three months we will have to build nest boxes. Oh the chickeny joy!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Silly Egg Picture

These pictures were posted on Reddit.
Posted by Baator
Response by danthemanhan

Friday, July 22, 2011

How to Beat the Heat, Chicken Chillers

Texas gets a little warm in the summer. While Doc and I are inside enjoying the air conditioned splendor of the Humble Abode, the chickens are outside getting a head start on roasting.

Frugal farmer that I am, I prefer to use failsafe passive methods to protect the flock. The first protection I added was a shade cloth to cover overly-sunny locations.
Shade cloth on the gate
 The cheesy PVC tractor got a shade cloth as soon as I tried to use it in the daylight. I eventually abandoned the tractor because I only had one water source in there. More about water below.
Shade cloth over tractor
I found silver-sided tarps that were just the right size to attach from the big coop to the run fence. With some wildly improvised PVC pipe and a lot of baling twine, the tarps kept out the rain and sun.
Elegant awning for only $10
Chickens pant a lot in hot weather and need to replace the water lost. To help them with their organic active cooling system, I provide multiple water stations in the main run.

De, Robin, and water, water, water
The black livestock dish was a wise investment. One chicken is smart enough to wade in there. The rest prefer to drink from the plastic waterer or the galvanized metal waterer.
Oreo demonstrates hands-free drinking technique

The chickens need water at all times, even at night. I sometimes have to replace fouled water three times in a day. I guess poo-water is the chicken version of lemonade. Oh yeah!

The flock also appreciates getting hosed down with cool refreshing water. Well actually, that is not true. They hate it with a fiery passion. Mr. Big hates it less than the others, but Buffy fairly smokes with rage when I reach for the hose.
Mr. Big fixin' to chill out
When my nephew shows up for his hopefully-annual recreational hard labor, I plan to have him paint the metal roof of the new coop. A coat of white paint on there will cut the coop temperature by 10 degrees.

Other people have made suggestions which I have not yet tried:

  • Install a mister system
  • Plant shade vines
  • Freeze bottles of water and set them in the run or in the water dish
  • Provide frozen fruit or frozen vegetable treats
  • Install a coop fan

What methods do you use to beat the heat?

Update: Tried freezing bottles of water. The adult chickens were not interested. The chicks initially ran in terror, then stepped closer for a look, and then finally lounged on and around it. Ah, the wisdom of youth!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

First Occupant in New Coop

The New Coop is done-ish.

I gave the coop a metal roof. I managed to put the last screw into it just as the rain started.
Roof installed in the nick of time
Doc and I worked feverishly the next day, enjoying the Texas sun and heatstroke. We completed the drip edge, hardware cloth, door latch, and run fencing. We decided to test the coop with one chicken. Jailbird Vo volunteered.
Vo enjoying her own private coop
We constructed a cheesy sliding pop door. The hardware cloth impedes the door and the pull string will have to be replaced with something better.
Dodgy Door
After some perfunctory exploration, Jailbird Vo pooped on the sand to make sure it was working. Then she settled in for the night on her mini-pallet roost.
Fancy roost
When we ventured out in the morning, Vo was still in the coop -- alive and well. This was at least partly due to the vermin trap being occupied by a nocturnal trespasser.
Pre-occupied vermin trap
We plan to put the poultry netting over the run ASAP so the chicks can have some elbow room.

Monday, July 11, 2011

New Coop Progress Report

I need a new coop. The fancy brooder cage is getting really crowded. Packing the chicks into the cage makes me feel like a conductor.

Doc and I considered my construction skills, the Texas summer, and the urgent need for a new coop. We immediately hired a couple of likely youths to build a coop. They said, "Sure, we can do that in four hours". I told them I needed it done in two days. "No problem".
Off to a good start
I gave them the dimensions, helped them collect the scrap wood, and supplied them with tools. They assured me they knew what they were doing because their other job was building kitchen cabinets from scratch. I watched them carefully and learned a few carpenter tricks, like measuring.
Fancy tile backer cement board floor
After I came back from lunch, I checked on the young carpenters. Uh-oh! According to the plan the cement board should have fit perfectly with a single cut to add an extra strip. They had to cut the cement board in multiple places and nothing seemed to fit right. Did they check to make sure everything was square as they were building the base? Nah, that is the installer's job....

Next day, the plan was to put up the walls, roof, and doors. After much sweating and colorful language, they presented me with their "completed" work.
Looks pretty much like a coop
I paid them and we all went away wiser. *sigh*

Doc and I dismantled the most egregious errors and reconstructed the coop in fits and starts. We fastened the hardware cloth using screws and plumber's hanger tape.
Hardware cloth fastened over treated wood
We eventually enclosed the exterior with hardware cloth. Searching the barn, I found some ancient plywood that could be wrangled into a roof-like structure. Doc carefully guided me up the ladder and onto the roof. With much trepidation, I screwed the plywood to the rafter, actually making it into the wood, thanks to Doc's good eye.
A roof-like structure
By the time we stopped for the night, I was sunburned enough to have a slightly smoky smell. Doc's theory is that the "smoke" was actually my personal aroma made visible.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Snakes on an (Earthly) Plane

Seriously, don't do it
As a Texan, I take trespassing very seriously. Trespassers with two, four, or zero legs are not welcome at the ranch. But my chickens, being avian dinosaurs, apparently have other ideas when it comes to their legless cousins.

It would seem that the chickens do not mind so much when their cousins come to visit and help themselves to a few eggs. The last couple cousins consumed ceramic eggs, and by the power of Natural Selection, the remaining ones only seem to like the genuine article.

So today, while opening the gate for Doctor Dolittle, I encountered a zero-legged trespasser. At first I thought it was a stick, so to be sure I gave a neighborly "Hi there" while reaching for the board that holds the gate open. As my face got closer to the object, I could see that it was organic and scaly.

Experienced warrior that I am, I gritted my teeth, closed my eyes, and aimed the board at the snake's head. I missed. I missed because it lunged at me while I was swinging at it's head. I stuck a blow to the snake's tail, causing it to snap like a scaly little whip, right in front of my face. The board shattered with the force of my mighty blow and half of it sailed over the snake's head toward mine. I danced away as my digestive exit blinked out an S-O-S.

Screwing up my courage, I returned to the fray. Keeping my eyes open this time, I managed to share a blunt opinion with the trespasser. Accepting my irrefutable logic, the snake departed this plane.
Water Moccasins shouldn't mess with Texans
Ever the professional, Doc suggested I wash my hands. My hands are not the only things that need washing....