Posts Tagged ‘eggs’

What a day!

As days go, yesterday was one of those…

It started well enough, a bit chilly, but not enough to make me want to put a jumper on. Why would you, when the sun was shining bright in the sky for the first time in, well, ages?!

View of the field - 5 September 2009

View of the field - 5 September 2009

I started feeding the pigs, but only made it as far as Perky, Fergie, Scrumpy and Brini when I discovered that Brini was lame. Her appetite wasn’t diminished: in fact, I spotted her limping when she had finished her food and was making her way over to steal Perky’s!

Using the offer of a belly rub as bribery, I persuaded her to lie down and examined her off fore leg (front right), suspecting a thorn. The thick mud obscured things somewhat, so I tentatively cleaned it off, all the while keeping up the belly rubs with my other hand, wishing (not for the first time) that I had an extra set of hands. However, it came as a shock to discover the true cause of her lameness. Not a thorn, but a deep cut where she (or one of the others) had obviously trod on her foot in the night.

At this point, Brini decided that enough was enough and scrambled to her feet, snorting in disgust at my probing. Watching her limp off through the mud, I realised what my first course of action must be: get them off that patch, onto somewhere drier. Cleaning it would be a waste of time if she had no means of keeping it clean afterwards…

Unfortunately, the only mud-free (ish) patch of land was Tia and Bailey’s enclosure, to the east of the field, where they were helpfully grazing down the long grass before winter. What’s more, there was a large area to the west of their enclosure, which could be incorporated into the pen by adjusting the electric netting. This would be perfect for Brini, as the long grass was still wet with the morning dew, which would do a great job of cleaning the cut out naturally, making my job that much easier.

It took of a bit of skilful manoeuvring, but I eventually swapped the two groups over, despite Fergie’s insistence on leading the way, despite not actually knowing the way…

The four pigs were thrilled with their unexpected move:

Perky, Fergie, Scrumpy and Brini - 5 September 2009

Perky, Fergie, Scrumpy and Brini - 5 September 2009

Tia and Bailey were not as happy. In fact, they were downright miserable and Tia spent the rest of the day giving me *that* look. The look that says she’s going to cause trouble. And judging from her previous behaviour, I believe her… I just wish I had somewhere for them to go! Even though the pair had the largest run with the best grass, leaving the four pigs a much smaller ratio of space and grass per pig, the “unfairness” of this was overwhelmingly compensated by removing Tia’s urge to roam whenever she had less than perfect grazing…

Oh well, the electric fence is on, the battery has been recently charged, and they’ll just have to put up with the mud for another week. *Gulp*!

Moving the six pigs and adjusting two hundred metres of electric netting took me over two hours so it was late in the morning by the time I had the opportunity to re-examine Brini’s foot. As I’d hoped, the long wet grass did a wonderful job of cleaning the cut and it was virtually mud free, and that meant I was able to see that there was no blood and that the cut was the porcine equivalent of cutting the skin around your nail. Painful, but not as bad as cutting anywhere else on the finger.

Even better, the heat and swelling had both gone down considerably (so much so that I had to double check I had the right foot) and watching her walk, it was evident that the she was feeling much better, as she wasn’t limping nearly as much as she had been.

I (finally) headed back to the feed shed, checked the chickens, who were most indignant at being ignored for so long, popped to the loo (note to self: always, always go before feeding the pigs!), grabbed my wonderful Purple Spray, and walked back to the pigs, intending to settle Brini down and spray her foot to (hopefully) kill off any infection that may be lurking.

As plans go, that one sucked. Scrumpy wanted belly rubs, Fergie wanted belly rubs, Perky wanted belly rubs … Brini told me to go to hell. And continued to do so for the rest of the day. I know because I went back every hour or so and the pattern was the same. Every other pig was thrilled with the idea of belly rubs in the afternoon sun. Not Brini. In fact, she was so determined that she never did get her belly rub and I never did get to inspect and spray her foot!

Having said that, not only did she make a break for Perky’s food again that evening, but she actually ran after me when she got a whiff of the contents of the their veggie bucket and realised that bananas were on the menu.

I’m hoping that yesterday’s recovery continues and that her foot heals itself without any further problems – or infection. I’ll obviously try again today, hoping that it’s not a case of bolting the stable door after the fact, and will keep all fingers crossed for a speedy and trouble-free recovery.

And the rest of the day? Well, having lost the whole morning, in the afternoon I culled and plucked the three bantam cockerels, checked Brini, cleaned out the chicken houses, moved the Pekins and Silkies out of the horrible old wooden ark and back into the Eglu, which had been acting as a temporary broiler ark for the boys, collected the eggs (four today, bringing the total for 2009 to an astonishing 1003!), checked Brini, cut the grass around the chickens’ electric netting, had a very late lunch, checked Brini, walked the dogs, dug up a row of potatoes, checked Brini, cut up the pigs’ fruit and veg, fed the chickens, fed the pigs, checking Brini one last time as a I did so, then headed for home, knowing that I still had the three chickens to draw and one to cook, putting the other two in the freezer.

The Trio - 16 August 2009

The Trio - 16 August 2009

I hate drawing (aka gutting) chickens, and never seem to do a neat job. Still, practice makes perfect, and I’ve now done the grand total of five cockerels and therefore know one thing to be true: big chickens are much easier than small ones…

I decided to try poached chicken, intending to make a chicken and vegetable broth. B’s away at her parents, so although I know the broth was missing something, I don’t know what that something was (B’s a skilled cook, I just cook…). It was still tasty though, and there’s plenty in the freezer, not to mention some extra stock!

I eventually fell into bed with a well-deserved bowl of chicken broth at about ten o’clock.


Dusk falls over the field - 5 September 2009

Dusk falls over the field - 5 September 2009

Bank holiday sunshine

Ok, so maybe the sun didn’t shine yesterday, but boy, was it hot on Sunday!

Brini and Scrumpy - 24 May 2009

Brini and Scrumpy enjoy their fresh grass. I moved the pair (and Fergie and Perky!) onto new ground on Sunday afternoon.

Pinky - 24 May 2009

Pinky made the most of her wallow

Potato patch - 25 May 2009

The potato patch is coming along well. Not sure when I should start earthing up though

Molly's eggs - 25 May 2009

Molly the Pekin bantam has started laying her eggs in the grass outside. Thing is, she's laying in the grass in the big chickens' run, not her own!

600 eggs!

Wow, as of New Year’s Day, my hens have laid 600 eggs!

That’s not bad and I’d like to thank them for each and every one, especially the ones that made my omelette the other night. It was the first time I’d managed to make one without it turning into scrambled eggs, which made it doubly tasty. (Thanks, Delia!)

Peggy Sue, the Pekin x Silkie who hatched in November, is yet to even think about laying, but her “sister”, Molly the pure Pekin bantam, has been laying for a couple of weeks now – they are very weeny eggs, but perfectly formed nonetheless. It’s good to know that I’ve got a pure Pekin daughter of John and Dolly, in addition to Peggy Sue, and it looks as though one of the other pure Pekin chicks from the April lot is also female. Fingers crossed!

An egg-sellent Easter

B and I had a bit of a piggy-surprise when we arrived at the farm yesterday, but I’ll blog about that later.

When B went to check feed the chickens and collect any eggs, she came back with a puzzled expression on her face and one by one produced the eggs she’d found. A double-yolker, two standard sized eggs and a teeny weeny egg, about the size of a quail’s egg!

By the end of the day, all six laying hens had popped one out, the two exceptions being Mama Silkie, who has got chicks, and Dolly, who is broody.

Home laid eggs on Easter Sunday - 12 April 2009

Home laid eggs on Easter Sunday - 12 April 2009

Left to right: a double-yolker by either Speckle or Dawn, Irene’s egg, Dawn or Speckle’s egg, Buffy or Willow’s egg, Silly Silkie’s egg, the mini-egg by either Willow or Buffy.

The mini-egg didn’t have a yolk, just the white, but we used the four big eggs (including the double yolker, yum yum) to make scrambled eggs, which we had with Sosage de Harold (hmm, another blog post I need to write). A delicious, home grown meal!

Judging by the colour, the mini was definitely laid by either Willow or Buffy, but thanks to the piggy events of the morning, we never got a chance to egg-watch to find out once and for all who is laying which eggs. Typical, really, as all five bigger chooks laid. Ah well, better luck next time!

Soft-shelled eggs

For a while now, at least one of the hens has been laying very soft-shelled eggs, not that many, maybe once a week. Sometimes, the shell is missing altogether, so the egg is just in its membrane. Whoever lays these eggs rarely does so in the nest box, preferring the roosting bars in the Cube!

Last week, I decided to take action and removed the chickens’ corn feeder, leaving them with just layers’ pellets, as well as some grit. The pellets and the grit contain all the minerals and vitamins the hens need to keep them healthy and happy, as well as providing the necessary calcium to keep the egg shells nice and hard.

I thought this had done the trick, as the week went by with not a soft shell in sight, leading me to think that whoever had been laying the soft shells had just been lazy, stuffing themselves on corn, which tastes nice but doesn’t do much for them, leaving no room for the pellets.

I didn’t clean the Eglu and Cube out on Thursday but when I did it yesterday, I found not one but two soft shelled eggs! One was wobbling like jelly in its membrane on the roosting bars but the other one was cracked open in the tray, presumably laid the day before as the yolk was practically glued to the poop tray!

So I’ve given them back their corn, which the others were thrilled about, and am now scratching my head as to what to do next. Trouble is, I’m not sure who the culprit is. If it’s one of the two young hens, it’s not a problem as new layers take a while to get to grips with laying and things like soft shells and double yolk eggs are common problems. Not that I view double yolkers as a problem, but you get what I mean!

However, I don’t think the pullets are the problem when it comes to soft shells, especially as the double yolkers are becoming increasingly rare. And it’s not Irene. Which means it’s either Willow or Buffy. My money has always been on Buffy but I’m not so sure now. Buffy’s been an extremely sporadic layer recently, but yesterday afternoon, after I’d discovered the broken eggs, I caught her in the nest box, looking as though she wanted to lay. She hadn’t and although I’ve just realised that I forgot to check when I shut them up, I don’t think she laid anything at all. Which means that Willow is the most likely suspect. Which is not good, as she’s been looking a bit ropey recently, but since she was laying nice eggs without any problems, I thought she was ok. But if she’s laying the soft eggs, then maybe there’s a problem after all.


In other chookin news, Dolly Parton, our Pekin bantam hen, has gone broody and nothing seems to be putting her off, even dunking her bum in a bucket of cold water! I’ve given up and just make sure I turf her off her nest two or three times a day so she gets some food, water and a chance to scratch around. She’s got a long, long wait for any eggs to hatch: (a) Mama Silkie and her three chicks are in the broody ark so Dolly’s got nowhere to go; (b) I don’t want any more bantam chicks; and (c) I haven’t got a cockerel to fertilise the big chicken eggs. Well, there’s Flint the other Pekin bantam cockerel, but I think he’s a bit weeny to do the job!

EU egg labelling law under threat!

As you’re munching your way through your Easter eggs this weekend, take a moment to consider the needs of battery hens.

According to Compassion in World Farming, the EU might scrap laws that force egg producers to state whether the eggs are from free-range, barn or caged hens:

The EU Commission is discussing the possibility of scrapping compulsory labelling of egg packs in favour of a voluntary scheme. Compulsory labelling by method of production has been an important contributing factor in the decline in demand for battery eggs, meaning that fewer hens in the EU endure a life of confinement.

Read more here and then please, please take a moment to send an email to Mariann Fischer Boel at the EU’s Commissioner for Agriculture.

And remember to base your email on the template or write your own completely. If you use the template as-is, it lessens the impact.

Time is of the essence!

Hat-tip: @gdnsmallholder

Identifying the eggs!

I’ve been trying to work out which hen lays which egg but never seemed to be in the right place at the right time. But I got lucky yesterday and found Speckle, the Warren x Buff Orpington who hatched last July, in the nest box. She hadn’t laid yet but I kept popping back and eventually struck a yolky gold! Irene (Dorking x Light Sussex) was leaving the nest box when I arrived the second time but I already know what her eggs look like – and hers was sitting next to what had to be Speckle’s. I popped back a while later, just on the off chance, and caught both Dawn (Buff x ?) and Willow (one of our two older Buff Orpington hens) in the nest box. I kept an eye on the girls and Dawn left first so I put my hand under an indignant Willow and removed my prize. A huffy Will popped hers out a short while later and I know now which eggs are laid by the bigger hens! Buffy didn’t lay yesterday but as she’s also a Buff Orpington, hers shouldn’t look any different to Willow’s, though she is laying very big at the moment.

L-R: Speckle, Irene, Dawn, Willow

L-R: Speckle, Irene, Dawn, Willow

From the back, L-R: Buffy and ? (11th), Speckle, Irene, Dawn, Willow

From the back, L-R: Buffy and ? (11th), Speckle, Irene, Dawn, Willow

This is great news as I can now keep Speckle, who was sired (is that the right term for chickens?) by Fat Boy, our resident Buff Orpington cockerel, without worrying that I’ll put one of her eggs, fertilised by Fat Boy, under a broody hen. Hurrah!

Eggs and naughty chickens

Irene, our Dorking x Light Sussex hen has, it seems, had enough of being in with the other big chickens and spent most of the week getting out of their pen and into the bantams’. I therefore spent most of the week putting her back with the others, a task made more difficult by her refusal to come within three feet of any human. Putting her back therefore involved distracting the big chickens, flattening the electric netting and “chasing” her sheepdog-style through the gap.

But I gave up the day she took herself back to the bantams in the few seconds my back was turned as I checked for eggs!

Now she just pops back and forth for reasons known only to herself.

I need to clip her wing feathers to stop her flying but will wait until B’s next day off as I think two of us will definitely be needed: one to hold a protesting chicken and one to clip the feathers!

Irene in with the bantams - 27 February 2009

Irene in with the bantams - 27 February 2009

Still, I can’t be cross with any of the chickens: in February, they laid a grand total of 151 eggs, with the big chickens laying 87 and the Bantams and Silkies popping out 64!

And, on one very happy day, each and every hen laid an egg for me! You should have seen the grin on my face when I realised there were eight eggs in the bucket!

Well done girls – keep ’em coming!

Happy Valentine’s Day

According to B’s work colleagues, our relationship is “lacking romance and spontaneity” because of what she got me for Valentine’s Day.

The new Grubs and Glug in the Eglu - 14 February 2009

The new Grubs and Glug in the Eglu - 14 February 2009

I don’t see what’s wrong with asking for two new Grubs and a Glug so that your Bantams and Silkies are no longer forced to eat out of a cat bowl and a margarine tub and drink out of a dog bowl! I like my present. I think it’s great.

And that means I am having a happy day, especially as we’re having a Special Meal tonight: sausages from our own pigs, eggs from our own chickens and, although I didn’t grow the potatoes myself, I will be scrubbing them and making the chips.

It’s a delicious meal: turn the oven on to about 200 degrees, and while it’s heating up, plop some some oil in a roasting tray so it covers the bottom and whack it in the oven to heat up as well. Cut up the potatoes into chippy shapes / wedges / whatever and when the oven’s ready, chuck them in the tray. Swirl the oil around so it covers the chips and then put back in the oven for just under an hour, but do check regularly and turn the chips over.

Cook up the sausages on the grill or, if you’ve got good quality ones with limited fat, put them in with the chips about half an hour after the chips go in. Baste them with the oil (add more if necessary) and make sure they stay moist so don’t stray too far from the oven!

Once the chips have been cooking for just under an hour, take the tray out and so long as the chips are cooked*, make a small nest in the chips for each egg you want to cook. Crack the egg into each nest then whack back in the oven for about 5 minutes.

It’s not pretty once served but my, it’s delicious!

(*If the chips and/or sausages aren’t cooked properly, put them back in as the eggs really don’t take more than about five minutes to cook but you don’t want to over-cook them!)

Now that’s what I call an egg!

When hens start laying, either for the first time in their lives or after a break for winter / moulting etc, they can often lay super-duper giant eggs, that quite often have a double yoke inside. Once their bodies get used to laying, things get back to normal.

Amongst the four eggs I collected yesterday, such a giant egg dominated the nest box:

The egg on the top left is a normal large egg and to its right is the Uber Egg. The one on the far right is an egg from the day before. The two in the front row are from the Bantam and one of the Silkies.

The egg on the top left is a normal large egg and to its right is the Uber Egg. The one on the far right is an egg from the day before. The two in the front row are from the Bantam and one of the Silkies.

Needless to say, this egg will not be for sale!