January 1, 2008

Here we are, all set to start a new year. And every year, I think I’m going to do better, and get more done, and have BIG plans for what I’m going to accomplish. And every year, most of the things I accomplish don’t seem to match what I’d planned to accomplish. Maybe this year will be different? (I know, take off those rose-colored glasses!)

So what’s on the agenda for 2008?

#1) Get rid of all the wool from past shearings sitting in my basement.

#2) Update our farm website. Our critter population has changed dramatically.

#3) Rejuvenate my flock of laying hens. Time to order some new chicks this spring! My hens are getting elderly – I didn’t even know that chickens lost coloration in their feathers like we do in our hair.

#4) Order some meat breed chicks also, and fill our freezer with some “I know what’s in ‘em” chicken. My biggest hang-up is finding someone to do the processing. I can’t handle all the feather plucking and cleaning out and stuff like I did when younger and healthier.

#4) Find someone who raises beef without hormones, and put some no-dye-or-anything-else-in-it beef in our freezer.

#5) More, higher raised beds in the garden. Even just one that was tall enough I don’t have to bend over to work would be great. It would make growing veggies so much easier for me.

#6) Finish refinishing the house, specifically, the hall bathroom and my office. Those are the major projects, but there’s a bunch of little stuff that needs done, too.

#7) And the most major project, clear out all the extras in the house, from merging 3 households of packrats. It’s time to clear things out, but it takes a lot of time and effort, and is difficult when you have lots to do, and not enough hours during the day you can work!

I know doing all this will be difficult in one year, but it’s good to have goals to shoot for!

Is that chicken, just chicken?

December 12, 2007

Because of some health issues (fibromyalgia for one), I’ve recently been working on my diet. I’m trying to eat more “natural” foods, as close to ‘off the farm’ as possible. It’s made me check food labels even more carefully. Sometimes the ingredients are kind of what I figured, and other times what I read on labels comes as a complete surprise.

Case in point… chicken. I was looking at labels on packages of frozen chicken breasts, figuring it’d say chicken. Period.


I discovered the chicken is injected with broth. I looked at lesser known brands first, then I checked out Tyson. Didn’t matter. Both were injected with up to 15% broth/salt water. And getting fresh chicken instead of frozen doesn’t help. It’s injected with the broth solution also.

When I looked on the web to see if I could find out exactly what is in the broth, I never did get an exact list of ingredients, but I did find out a whole lot of other stuff.

It seems Tyson says their company injects broth in chicken because “customers like it.” It supposedly makes the chicken more tender.

But here’s the thing. Tyson sells chicken to Walmart. Walmart wanted packages of chicken to be even weights, like their 3-pound bags of frozen chicken breasts. Well, guess what? Chickens don’t all produce the exact same weight breasts, so either the chicken company has to put in extra chicken to ensure there is at least 3 pounds, and lose money because there’s some “free” chicken in there… or they inject a lesser amount of chicken with broth until it weighs an even 3 pounds.

Okay, if they want to inject the chicken with broth, and it’s labeled they have, that’s their choice. The problem is the USDA allows them to label this broth-injected chicken as “100% all natural chicken.” What???

Some chicken companies quit selling to Walmart when it insisted on even weight packages because they wished to keep their “natural” label and couldn’t afford to lose money by putting extra chicken in the package. Naturally, they’re upset that the USDA now allows the natural label to be put on broth-injected chicken.

These companies lose out because a) they lost their market with Walmart, and b) now they lose the uniqueness of their labeled chicken, because other companies can use the label even though their product is not chicken, just chicken.

The consumer loses out on this deal because a) they are paying the same price for the broth in the chicken as they pay for the chicken itself, b) there is an increased amount of sodium in the chicken which most if not all consumers positively do NOT need, and c) where do you find just chicken, plain chicken????

What a rip-off!

Fowl Update

July 23, 2007

It’s dark out, and almost 9pm, but I can hear the guineas outside making a racket about something. They’re not called the “barnyard watchdogs” for nothing! We have two sets of babies (keets) left. The first batch we so carefully penned up was a disaster. None of those survived. The others that hatched out close to the same time was a smaller group, and there are still two keets running around. I have hope they’ll survive, as they are already half grown.

Then last week we noticed a new group of 5 babies. They are still pretty small, and already down to 3 keets. One way or another, something seems to get to the little ones, and the survival rate is pretty low. I think we have too many hawks, owls and 4-legged predators.

Of course, it’s better than the peafowl, which have zip babies right now. I still haven’t had any luck with any eggs hatching in the incubators. My only hope now is one peahen who is sitting on an unknown number of eggs. This is the first year any have tried to nest. I hope she does better hatching eggs than the incubator.

The peahens will probably stop laying soon. The peacock is molting, losing feathers at a rapid rate. That usually signals the end of mating season. It looks like another not-so-successful year with the peafowl. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but the last couple of years have been a bust.

The 3 little chicks of assorted flavors are growing rapidly. In fact, I mistook one the other day for one of the little Golden Sebright hens. They wander further away from Mama Hen these days, and don’t always stick together either. I think they may all be hens, which would be a miracle, but they don’t have much of a comb even yet, and a rooster should be showing a pretty good sized comb by now.

Our last little outside fowl, Peepers, just got moved into a bigger cage on the front porch. After she was abandoned by her mother, and I couldn’t get the other hen to adopt her, I put her in a birdcage on the back porch. She’s about outgrown it, so we put her in a bigger cage. I’m not ready to turn her loose yet, since she’s only half grown. I’m not sure how’s she going to do on her own.

She doesn’t look like the other three, so we have 4 chicks that are all different. Nothing like fowl diversity!

Peepers on top of her bird cage.

Chicken Littles…

July 11, 2007
Right now we have some chicks. Only four, but what a varied assortment! We like diversity here. The mother is a Buff Orpington hen, and the father is a mix from a Polish Silver Laced rooster and Sicilian Buttercup hen. Almost sounds more like flowers than chickens, doesn’t it?
Polish Silver Laced + Sicilian Buttercup =

This Rooster + Buff Orpington Hen = Some interesting Little Chicks.
Here’s a more recent picture of the fast growing little chicks…
The fourth chick was abandoned in the nest by it’s mother. I tried to get the above hen to accept it, but it was a little younger than her chicks, so she figured out it wasn’t hers and kept pecking at it. For now it’s residing in a bird cage on our back porch.

We also had a bunch of Guinea keets. (Fowl lesson for the day: baby guineas are called “keets”, not chicks.) The guinea hens have been nesting in pairs this year, with double nests containing up to 50 eggs. One pair ended up with about 16 keets out of all those eggs, one set ended up with about 5 keets, and another set abandoned their eggs after a snake kept raiding the nest.
Guineas give new meaning to the phrase “bird brain.” They run up and down along a 4-foot high fence, trying to figure out how to get to the other side, when they can fly to the tops of very tall trees with ease. They’re also noisy, but they have one important virtue… they eat ticks. We had a real problem with ticks when we first moved here, and now see only one or two a summer.

Guinea hen and keets crossing our driveway.

The only fowl problem is we don’t have any peafowl chicks this year. I don’t seem to have much luck getting them to hatch out. I have a couple of incubators filled with eggs, but no chicks yet. I keep hoping!

Meanwhile, we’ll enjoy watching the fast growing chicks and keets scampering around after their mothers. It’s fun to see them hopping around, scratching and trying to do “big chicken” stuff.

Chicken Littles… gotta love ’em!

What Egg-xactly is it?

July 5, 2007

Some of our chickens like to lay eggs in a feed trough in the sheep shed. When I went out to gather eggs, here is what I saw:

Okay, true confession time. The top egg I placed in there for comparison. It’s a peafowl egg. Our peafowl are in a large aviary, so lay their eggs in there. Once in a while we find a chicken egg in the aviary, as our Golden Sebright’s can slip through the openings in the wire at the bottom, but generally speaking, the chicken eggs and peafowl eggs aren’t together.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering what peafowl are – I know some people get confused at the term peafowl! Think peacocks. Only peafowl is the real name for those type of birds, peahens are the girls, peachicks are the young birds, and peacocks are the boys, and the boys only.

Anyway, back to the nest of eggs! In the middle are two chicken eggs. The white one on the left comes from a Sicilian Buttercup hen. The one on the right comes from a Buff Orpington hen.

Now the bottom egg, I’m not sure egg-xactly what it is. With that odd shape, I believe it may have been a Polish Crescent Sliver Moon chicken.

Well, okay, maybe not. I do believe it came from our Polish Crested Silver Laced chicken however. I really don’t know what happened that she laid this egg with such a strange shape. They usually look just like the other chicken eggs.

I guess she just wanted this one to be egg-stra special!

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