Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What breed of chicken?

In the comments, Bob asked what kind of chickens we have, so here goes:


Bess is also an Auracana mix (see info on Dolley below) and she's very much the baby of the group. She has more personality than the rest of them put together--she loves to fly up to our shoulders or jump waist-high to get a treat out of our hands. She's the most voracious snail-eater of the bunch and has gotten the others interested in them too, for which we are very grateful. She lays very round little green eggs. I think she was the last to start laying.

This week (and remember, it's winter) she's laying an average of 3.5 eggs per week.


Araucana? Ameraucana? Easter Egger? Mutt? Much has been written about the mixture of breeds you might get if you buy a chick from a hatchery with any of these labels attached to her. Ours came from Belt Hatchery, and there are similarities to some of the "pure" Araucana photos I've seen on line, but she's clearly a mixture. She lays beautiful light blue eggs, and she's very sweet and smart and brave--she's always the one to chase the cats out of the yard so they can all forage in peace. She's sort of the second-in-command behind Eleanor.

4.25 eggs/week in January.


Golden-Laced Wyandotte. A beautiful bird. Lays very pale brown eggs, which are also a bit longer and narrower than Eleanor's. She's the most skittish of all our chickens, but as you can see, it's not like it's impossible to get near her or anything. She's just a little shy. Because we only have four chickens, it's easy for us to make an extra effort with her, as Scott is doing in this picture.

3.5 eggs/week in January.


Rhode Island Red, a classic. 10 months old in this picture. A very reliable layer of dark brown eggs. She was also the first to start laying. She's very sweet-tempered--smart and curious and very much the leader.

5.5 eggs/week in January.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Battery Hen Welfare Trust

Oh, my goodness. You have never seen anything as sweet or as sad as these skinny cage-raised hens who have now been rescued and sent off to live a happy life in the countryside. Why don't we have something like this in the US?

Well, if you are in the UK, you probably already know that you can adopt a hen who would otherwise be headed for slaughter at the end of her short period of peak egg-laying production. This group has saved an incredible 11,457 hens in 2005.

The most poignant part of the site for me is the list of care tips for these rescued hens, which include:

"The hens have stood in a tiny cage for a year, so their muscles are not strong. They will struggle to jump up to a roost and usually sleep in a heap on the floor. (A ramp placed up to the roost is a useful way to encourage them to go up). However, it doesn't take long for legs to strengthen and you will see a difference usually within a couple of weeks.


"The most obvious problem with the hens is that many come out almost totally featherless. Feathers will, usually, begin to re-grow within weeks though some take longer. The main points to be aware of with naked hens are extremes of temperature, ie they will feel the cold, wet and wind more keenly and can also easily suffer from sunburn, especially as they relish sunbathing and don't know when they've had enough!"

Battery Hens - The Battery Hen Welfare Trust

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Egg Cups

Check out this amazing site devoted to egg cups. They are more art than serving piece here, which seems only right. I have yet to ever soft-boil an egg, set it in an egg cup, and crack the top off with a spoon (ugh! It really doesn't appeal to me!) but I have found that the absolute best way to display an egg that has just arrived from the henhouse is to set it in an egg cup. We have three; I wish we had more.

This blog is in Spanish, and as far as I can tell, the bloggers are in Brussels. It looks like people are sending them egg cups from all over. Check it out here:

Una huevera al dia

Friday, January 27, 2006

Dentists for Chickens

I just got back from the dentist myself (why, oh why, are we still drilling and filling? In this modern age, why isn't there a pill or a laser beam or something?), anyway, I don't really want to talk about that, but I do thank See My Chickens for picking up this BBC story about Beryl and Ginger, a couple of hens saved from slaughter who needed their beaks repaired so they could eat properly. Hens lay more eggs during their first year, and after that, when they are less productive, a commercial egg producer will usually--well, you know. Let's not speak of that, either.

And although the article does not say this specifically, chickens in these commercial environments often undergo a beak trimming to keep them from pecking at one another. Of course, they would not peck if they were allowed to live a normal, happy, uncrowded, unstressful life, but that's rarely the case on an egg farm. So I'm assuming that the beak restoration was necessary because the beaks had been trimmed.

Kudos to the Jaybeth Animal Sanctuary in Suffolk for taking them in.

BBC NEWS UK England Suffolk Denture expert to fix hen beaks

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Are you into chicks?

Call it nostalgia, call it crass commercialism, call it what you will. It's almost that time of year again, and you know what I'm talking about. The baby chicks are going to start arriving in feed stores soon. I can feel it.

It would not be prudent for me to bring home any more peeps from the feed store. Four chickens are enough. It would be difficult to integrate young uns into our established flock. We're out of town too much this spring to be raising chicks in the bathtub. Etc, etc.

But I pulled out this baby photo of Eleanor and Abigail and it was too much. Rather than buy more chicks, I'm making T-shirts. If you want one (or a tote bag, or a mouse pad, or...well, you get the idea), check out the Humboldt Hens shop at CafePress. Happy shopping!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Meet Beanie

It gives me such pleasure to find other chicken blogs out there. Today I bring you the brilliant Beanie, who just in the last few months has learned not just how to peck at a string, but indeed how to pull on it. Beanie is brought to us by Jim, who writes this about himself:

"My name is Jim. I am the one who discovered Beanie. Since she was such a special chicken, I decided to tell her story in a Blog format so others could share in what I am discovering."

Unfortunately, I'm not able to watch some of the most recent videos (technical difficulties?) but do browse around and watch Beanie do the chicken dance or dream of going to the moon.

Beanie's Blog

Monday, January 23, 2006

Why didn't you SAY you wanted a shell?

Much to my relief, Bess laid an egg with a shell today. I hope that was just a fluke. She seems to be feeling fine. Here she is with Abigail and Eleanor, waiting for a scratch fix from Scott. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Bess laid a soft-shelled egg

Actually, it's a no-shelled egg. The one on the left is a normal egg from Bess. The one on the right is what she produced today. (the spots are just dirt from us handling it.) It's surrounded by a membrane that's about the consistency of latex, but more fragile.

Bess was acting like she was feeling bad this afternoon--all puffed up, not moving much, kind of a strange posture--and I was afraid she was eggbound. (this would have meant that she had an egg inside of her that she couldn't get out. It's a dangerous condition and the home remedy involves warm oil and a gentle massage you-know-where.)

But eventually she went into her nesting box and produced this. She did seem to feel a little better afterwards, but she went back to the box for a while as if she had another one. Nothing came before nightfall, and she seemed to be feeling well enough that I put them to bed as usual. (If I really thought she was sick, I'd bring her in and we'd spend the night in the bathroom--me and Bess, that is. Scott usually thinks I overreact to things like this.)

As far as I can tell, sometimes a chicken lays an egg without a shell for no reason at all. Sometimes it's a vitamin D deficiency, and it's certainly true that they haven't seen the sun much lately--until today, that is. I added a little poultry vitamin solution to their drinking water just in case.

Oh, and if you were wondering--an egg forms from the inside out--first the yolk, then the white, then the membrane, then the shell. So that's how an egg can come out without a shell--something went wrong with the process right at the end. I also recently learned that eggs come out pointed end first, until they reach their final turn in the track, when they spin themselves around and emerge into the world rounded end first. Posted by Picasa

The shell-less egg. We had to break the membrane and make sure everything looked normal inside, of course. The whites were so thick that they didn't spill out at all. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

In the Compost Pile

It's hard to get a good picture of them all together, but I at least managed to get three of them facing the same direction (Abigail's hiding in the back.) They love nothing more than scratching around in the compost pile for worms. You can see how full Dolley's crop gets (she's the one on the right)--she packs enough food in there to last her a week, then sits and digests it all night. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Veggie chickens!

A Christmas present from Mom...not yet sure where they will live in the garden...I figured I'd wait until the worst of the rain was over before leaving them outdoors. Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 16, 2006

You only THINK you've seen an egg

Check out this blog, where a high-powered microscope shows the hidden beauty of any number of ordinary household objects:

Amateur Microscopy: The Incredible, Edible Egg

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Henry Has Six Wives

Accidental Smallholder is getting new chickens. It's always disruptive to introduce anyone new to the brood, especially when it's (gasp!) a man!

Henry looks like a fine fellow, and I hope his gentle disposition remains. I get asked about this a lot, so I'll mention it here: you don't need a rooster to lay eggs. A hen will lay an egg every day, cock or no cock. If there does happen to be a Henry around, the egg has the potential of hatching into a chick. (a process that takes a few weeks and a hen with the desire to do nothing but sit on the egg day in and day out.) Otherwise, it's just an infertile egg.

The Accidental Smallholder :: Diary

Friday, January 13, 2006


Rain, rain, and more rain. We're in for at least 10 days of it. Poor girls, there's not much for them to do on a rainy day. I run outside and feed them pears to console them. They don't know about chocolate, so the pears are pretty exciting. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Another chicken blog!

Peter in Devon is blogging about chickens, pigs, geese, and more. Check it out here.

Keeping Chickens at Home.

And in response to a question about what we do with all those eggs--on a good day, we get four eggs, one from each hen. But on average, we probably get 3 eggs a day, maybe 20 eggs a week.

We have eggs for breakfast a couple times a week, so that uses up 8 or so.

Sometimes Scott makes a fabulous breakfast thing called a Dutch pancake, which I think is made of eggs, flour, and milk. It bakes in the oven and rises slightly like a souffle. He puts fruit it in. So that uses up a few more eggs.

Sometimes we make egg salad. It is hard to hard-boil fresh eggs, because there is so little air inside the egg when it's fresh that the eggs are difficult to peel. But we do it anyway, and that uses up a few more eggs.

Then we give the rest away. A dozen eggs makes a great hostess gift. I take some to painting class to share with my classmates. I leave them with the neighbors to make up for the noise the hens sometimes make first thing in the morning, when they're all excited about laying their eggs.

And when we're out of town, the kid in the neighborhood who hen-sits for us gets to keep the eggs as part of the deal.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Poached Scrambled Eggs

An interesting story in the NYT about making scrambled eggs the way you'd make poached eggs: by dropping them into boiling water and letting them cook quickly, then pulling them out with a strainer. Sounded quick, fresh, and interesting (and the technique works best with freshly-laid eggs, whose whites are still very thick), so we tried it this morning. I wish I could say that that I'd discovered a fantastic, perfect new method for cooking eggs, but no. The eggs were bland and uninteresting. Amazing the difference that pat of butter in the skillet makes. I'll stick to my usual scrambling technique, thank you.

The Way We Eat: Which Came First? - New York Times

Monday, January 09, 2006

Eleanor as Marilyn

For a while there, we were bringing Eleanor inside every day to clean out her wounded toe in the bathtub. This is her ancestral home, the bathtub where she was raised under heat lamps from a tiny peep.

So after we cleaned her claw, we'd let her walk around the bathroom for a few minutes while it all dried out. At some point she discovered that there are few pleasures in life as satisfying as backing one's rump up to a heating vent and letting the warm air ruffle one's feathers. She stood doing this for so long that there was time for me to run up two flights of stairs and get the camera. Posted by Picasa


I've had trouble posting photos for the last couple of months, and I've just now fixed it. HA! OK, this is not a great photo of the girls, but I'm just so excited to have this working again that I'll put up anything. Here they are, gathered around for a handful of scratch. We haven't had much rain lately, so they've been very pleased to get to spend so much time outdoors. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Testing the Eggstractor

Has anyone ever tried one? Put your hard-boiled eggs inside, pump, and out it comes, peeled and clean. How does it do it? Fortunately, Connecticut's Coverage You Can Count On is on the story.

WTNH.com - Testing the Eggstractor

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Where would I be without Ricky Gervais?

OK, if you don't get this, I can't explain it. But if you're one of us, go check out Episode 4, where, in the first segment, they debate the merits of the Heifer International program I wrote about recently, in which you can purchase chickens (or, in this case, a goat) for a poor family somewhere else in the world.

Guardian Unlimited Ricky Gervais Ricky Gervais podcast

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Century Egg

This just in from Wikipedia. And I thought our egg recipes were clever.

The century egg, a.k.a. preserved egg, thousand-year egg, thousand-year-old egg, is a Chinese delicacy made by preserving duck (or less commonly chicken) eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, salt and lime for around only 100 days, despite the name. The yolk of the egg is concentrically variegated in pale and dark green colors while the egg white is dark brown and transparent like cola. The yolk is creamy and somewhat cheese-like in flavor with a strong aroma. The egg white has a gelatinous texture similar to cooked egg white, however with very little taste. The surface of the egg white is sometimes patterned with a snow-flake pattern.

Has anyone ever tried one? Do we dare make them ourselves?

Century egg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia