Posts Tagged ‘chickens’

Feeding the kids

It’s always hard getting home grown chicken into my kids. It’s usually tougher and stronger flavored than shop chicken. Also, it’s easy to overcook the breast and then it becomes very dry. On the basis that no-one has studied kids’ tastes as much as the red-haired clown, I decided that the breasts of the four boys we were given on the weekend would be chicken nuggets.

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I chopped the breasts finely, and mixed in tarragon, garlic, egg and a little flour. Then in went a bit of cheese and corn. The coating was ground up crackers and desiccated coconut. I formed them into little balls, and coated and flattened them.

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Voila! Both kids finished theirs all up! You see dessert in the background: it’s a brioche with blueberries poked in. It also worked it pretty well:

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Here’s hoping that full bellies make for a long sleep!

Love in the time of smoked chicken

Today’s post is a culinary adventure and homage to the wife.

Here’s the smoker she found at the tip for $80:

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Fired it up for the first time today:

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Four pairs of chicken breast in:

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A few hours later:

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Smoked chicken for pasta sauces, salads, sandwiches etc.

Of course, if you kill chickens yourself it has some risks:

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But it’s ok, she got me some band-aids.

You could see this as a post about food or chickens, but to me it can only be about marrying someone who has an eye for a bargain and a heart of gold.

Moulting season

Edit: Lets try that again with photos that actually work.

Autumn is moulting season for chickens.
The chickens look like this:

Moulting Season1
The chook yard looks like this:Moulting Season2

 

And there are no eggs to be seen.

This morning I’m feeding my chickens a little pick-me-up in the form of a hot mash with some poultry spice.

Moulting Season3

This is just their normal feed (lauke extra egg or showbird breeder) with a couple of table spoons of poultry spice (from a friend, I can ask her where she gets it if anyone is interested), and a kettle of boiling water.

Moulting Season4

Happy chickens

Moulting Season5

Spot the intruder

Moulting Season6

Our new mouse hunter thought he better check out good smells coming from what the chickens were having for breakfast.

Moulting Season7

 

Murrumbateman field days 2012

We had a great time at the field days this weekend.
To the other Canberra backyard poultry club members, to all the lovely people we met (those who bought or just stopped to chat), to Laucke and Brindabella stockfeed for the samples, to our enthusiastic and talented babysitters and to our youngest new recruit, a big thanks and we hope to see you all again next year if not sooner!

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Rooster logistics

We’ve been getting a few questions recently about the logistics of keeping roosters in suburbia so I thought I would write a bit more about life with our boys.

Hugh, with his girls

We currently have three (eek) roosters: two Araucanas (father and son Craig and Hugh) and a Light Sussex (Clock). We also don’t count any cockerels we may have growing out for eating at any given time – their first crow is sadly usually their death warrant by the following weekend.  We only plan to have two breeding roosters in the long term.  The reason we have three at the moment is that Hugh (the son) is bigger and better looking than Craig (the father), but Hugh got sick a lot in last summer and autumn and we a) kept expecting Hugh to just die, and b) were sure as soon as we decided he would be fine and knocked off Craig, Hugh would get sick again and die, leaving us roosterless.  So Craig has sort of been hanging around as a backup.  Plus Craig has a very sweet temperament (as does Hugh) and we do like to breed for calm chickens.

Craig, with his girls

(Much younger then) Craig in the kitchen

Clock, however, is a whole ‘nother story – he’s a bit of a bastard.  We were given Clock and decided to breed from him (replacing Red the RIR) because he is quite simply massive and we are breeding for meat.

Clock, in all his massive glory.

But as he has gotten older, Clock can be a bit aggressive and I won’t turn my back on him while in the main pen, nor will I let the 3 year old in the main pen anymore, which is sad for her.  So Clock will probably be heading for the great crock pot in the sky soon – his only saving grace at the moment is his fertility which is excellent!

We built a proper night box (documented here and here) to keep the roosters (Craig and Red at the time) quiet at night and in the morning.  Red kept crowing at random times in the middle of the night and it took us a while to work out that he was waking and crowing anytime our toddler was crying out in the night.  With our new baby due (last March) we knew we’d need decent night accommodation to keep him quiet!

The night box is divided in two so that we can keep two roosters.  Hugh and Clock sleep in it at the moment.  We hoped it would be soundproof, but it’s not, though it does severely muffle the crowing.  When Red slept in there we also used to have a portable radio hanging in there at night to provide more white noise to stop him waking and crowing at sounds in the night, but we haven’t needed this for the current residents.

Logistically, we pick up the roosters and put them into the night box at some point in the evening, usually after they have roosted, but occasionally before if we can be bothered catching them.  We then let them out in the morning.  On a weekday we let them at around 7am.  On a weekend it is more like 8 -10am.  The record lateness was the day our son was born this year – they didn’t get let out until 1pm when we got home from the hospital.  They were fine, just keen to get out!

The night box is sitting in the run of the main pen, so when we open the door Clock just explodes out of it and immediately starts chasing his girls.  Hugh knows to sit and wait until he is carried across the yard to his pen (where he also immediately starts chasing his girls).  Moving them twice a day is beneficial as it means that they are used to being handled.  This means that Hugh at least is quite tame.  Handling Clock a bit also helps to remind him that we are top of the pecking order, not him.

Moving them around twice a day is, to be honest, a colossal pain in the ass.  Clock is really big and I (SF) can’t quite get my hands around him enough to pin his wings down so I usually make WWMD put them in at night.  However, we think of it as a responsibility of keeping roosters in a suburban setting.  We have fantastic neighbours and we want to keep them that way!  We discussed with all our surrounding neighbours when we were thinking of keeping roosters, and they all assured us that it was fine.  Almost all of our surrounding neighbours have dogs that bark a lot (which we also don’t mind) so they were very understanding about animal noise.  We check in with them regularly to check that the crowing isn’t bothering them.  We also reiterate regularly that they need to let us know if the roosters start to bother them so that we can revisit the sound proofing, though thankfully this hasn’t happened yet.  Our bedroom is also the closest to the night box of all the neighbours so we should be able to hear a problem before they do!

There isn’t much we can do about the crowing in the day.  They usually have several crowing sessions throughout the day, and if one starts they all start up so it can be quite noisy at times.  Clock likes to stand up on top of the night box and crow his heart out.

That’s about all I can think of for now, but I’m happy to answer questions in the comments!

BTW did anyone notice that this is our 101st post?!  I can’t believe we have passed 100!

Pomo chickens?

Yolk within white within shell is a social construct. Pomo chicken transcends it.

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Bake me some pie

After a rather gruesome week I had 10 pairs of chicken breasts and little energy or inspiration so it’s pie! Seared the breasts whole (I just couldn’t be bothered cutting them up) and simmered them in a stock made from 5 roasted carcasses and the remnants from a roast supermarket turkey hindquarter. Once cooked I chopped up the meat and reduced the stock. The pastry is a shortcrust of butter, flour and milk.

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I got 6 dinner sized pies out of this batch: 9 of the chickens were bantam australorp cockerels which had relatively large breasts for their size but still small by shop standards.
I love making shortcrust pastry; not only because raw it’s the favorite food of our 3 year old (besides chicken liver), but because it’s really hard to buy good pastry, but easy to make it. Butter and flour goes in the food processor, process and adjust by adding more of one or the other till you have something like wet sand. Add a small amount of milk, or an egg, and a wee bit of baking powder, mix, and chill for 20 mins. The only caveat is that you mustn’t overheat or overwork the dough: that would make it tough.

And in today’s episode of Araucana Antics…

Today the chickens in the Araucana pen managed to knock their nesting box upside down trapping Hugh Grant (the rooster) inside it.  I feel there may be something to read into this, especially given that a couple of the girls are starting to lose some back feathers at the, ahem, mounting point.  Maybe they decided they’d had enough today and took matters into their ownhands (wings? claws? feet?  This cliche loses something when applied to chickens…)

The rooster trapping episode backfired a bit though; as soon as the nesting box was righted again there was an immediate squabble between Imogen and Tinsel for who got to use it first.  Looks like they’d been holding on all morning.

Roll Call Winter ’12

More for our records as much as anything else, here is a line up of who we have where, Winter 2012.

Main Pen sans inhabitants:

The rooster night box in the run.

“Clock”  Light Sussex cockerel, around 7 months old.  Named by our three year old.

Light Sussex hens: “Adelaide” (front), “Penelope” (middle) and “Henrietta” (back).  Sisters, just under 2 years old. As far as we know unrelated to Clock.

Two Blue laced silver Wyandotte hens: “Juniper” (L) and “Pepper” (R); and two RIR hens: “Scarlet” and “Carmine”.  Anyone’s guess as to which is which without looking at their legbands.  All around 18 months – 2 years old.

Our reliable layers: “Barnadette” 3 year old Barnevelder, and “Blue” nearly 2 years old, BLR wyandotte hen,

The little brown one at the back is the only one I couldn’t manage to photograph on her own.  She is a LS x RIR (sex-linked) pullet of our own hatching, 6 months old. She was the only girl hatched with about 8 boys (who were delicious…) and we decided to keep her to see how she lays.

 

In the aviary (the grower pen):

Araucana x GL Wyandotte cockerel & RIR pullet.  Hatched Feb 2012.  These two were rejected by Blue who was broody at the time.  She took a huge chunk out of the cockerels back but he healed up fine.  He probably will be eaten in a month or so, she will move to the main pen.  The third is a Welsummer pullet (around 6 months old) we are adjisting for a friend.

 

The green house is currently empty.

In the Araucana pen:

At the front “HughGrant” (so named for his hair).  Cockerel, nearly a year old. The other two lavender Araucana’s in this pen are “Tinsel” his full sister (also nearly a year old) and “Lavinia,” their mother (2 years old).  Hiding at the back is “Imogen”, black bantam Araucana, 2 years old.  The last pullet is “Houdini” Araucana x GL wyandotte, hatched in Feb and just come on the lay. She was raised by “Blue” (the very same who rejected the two in the aviary).  As her name would imply, “Houdini” has a bit of a knack for escaping.
“Houdini” lays a lovely green egg, “Tinsel” and “Imogen” blue eggs.  Lavinia is still moulting, but she lays blue eggs too.

 

And a temporary resident of the Araucana pen – this black cross breed cockerel, full sibling to “Houdini” and also raised by “Blue”.  He doesn’t have a name, and will probably only be around another few weeks.

In Craig’s Pen we have “Craig” (obviously), “Thyme” and newcomer “Gypsy”. “Gypsy” is about 7 months old (just come on the lay) and is some sort of Araucana cross from several generations back. She unfortunately doesn’t have the blue egg gene but I think she might be splash so she will hopefully make interesting coloured babies with “Craig”.

This is the pen we are breeding for temperament and/or interesting colours.

 

Our final pen is the brooder. It currently has 8 five week old chicks; 7 pure lavender Araucana one RIR x Wyandotte.  Two of the Araucanas have twisted beaks and are missing an eye each.  No doubt we will lose some of these chicks as they get older to cocci etc.  The two twisty beaks and one other look a bit cocci at the moment.  They are all being treated for it but it with meds in their water and a coccistat food but it never seems to do much good and we are mostly just resigned to losing a few as they get older.

They are nigh on impossible to photograph as they move around too fast!

And as an extra we are adjisting another four and a chicken tractor for a friend for a few months.

In the tractor there is a lavender Araucana, an Australorp and two Salmon Faverelles. No idea about ages.  The Araucana and Australorp are laying.

 

A quick(ish) coop shuffle

We did a reshuffle of coop equipment yesterday to maximize available room for growing out hatchlings.  We basically swapped the housing in the Araucana pen with the brooder pen, but this involved pulling off one of the wire walls of the Araucana run so it took us most of Sunday.  It could have taken much longer, but our wonderful mother/-in-law came over to amuse the kiddos while we worked outside.  She even folded the (embarrassingly large pile of) washing while the kids were asleep.  What a gem!

Anyhow, some before pics:

The Araucana pen.

The partially disassembled brooder.

This is the house that is going from the big chickens to the babies so it was thoroughly cleaned out and miltoned to try to minimise disease spread.  Chicks get exposed to disease over their life and gradually build up immunity.  But you don’t want them getting a massive hit of disease exposure at once from being moved into a pen that used to house older chickens, hence the disinfection.  Chances are the big chickens have already been exposed to anything the chicks have so we didn’t bother disinfecting the house going from the chicks to the chickens.

And after the switch around:

The new chick house complete with heat lamp.

The new Araucana pen.

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