Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sweet, sweet, Sky

If you look at the camera roll on my phone you will notice that the majority of the photos are of Sky. She is a Blue Orpington and in the Orpington fashion has a calm, sweet, cuddly personality. She and her sister Thea, also a blue Orpington, we're a splurge for me, costing $18 each, and I almost cancelled the order many times.

She arrived as cute as the rest but was different right from the start. She would jump up on us and sit and take a nap in our laps. This she does to this day. When I approach the run, I meet her eyes scanning to get to the front and as soon as I sit down she frantically looks for ways she is going to get in my lap. Once there she settles in, closes her eyes and sleeps. Almost saying, 'Ok, now I can rest'.


She is at the bottom of the pecking order. I have never seen her peck at the other hens, but she does get pecked at. She doesn't run or even complain, she just lowers her head in compliance and moves over. She is not bothered by it and the other hens, for the most part, don't mess with her. I think they know she is kind and not a threat.


She is a big girl! Most Orpingtons are large and she is no exception. She has a big fluff of downy feathers puffing out from under her wings. As for laying eggs....I have never caught her in the nesting boxes, and while the rest of the flock are clearly laying and I see them in and out of the nesting boxes all day long, I am not sure what's up with her. When she sits on my lap looking up at me I ask her if she laid an egg today but she never tells. She just looks back at me with those big black eyes as if to say ' just sit here a while so I can enjoy your company and dream.'


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

If it's good enough for the chickens

Breakfast is served

Having chickens has changed the way my family eats. I have always made healthy choices in regards to the food I put on the table, but these girls bring it to another level. For many years before the chickens entered our lives, I had been baking our bread, and growing a lot of the vegetables we eat in the summer. What I don't grow, we get from a local CSA. We drink raw milk from a local dairy farm, and while we are there we pick up cheese and ice cream. We are very lucky to have these resources so close by. So how did the chickens change something that seems pretty wholesome to begin with? Today when I prepare our meals I think past the meal to when I will be bringing the leftovers to my girls. Would I want to give this to them? Is this good for THEM to eat? If the answer is no, I don't make it.

Waiting for breakfast


We recently went to a less then great restaurant. The food was too salty, or too greasy or a little bit of both. Unfortunately, a lot of the food was left sitting on our plates after the meal was over. My husband looked over to me and asked if we should bring it home for the chickens? As I scanned the table, still with that salty, greasy taste in my mouth, I said, no. I wouldn't serve this to my girls. I was kind of wondering why I served this to myself.


So thank you girls. Thank you for keeping me honest. You are with me when I am walking the aisles of the grocery store. Every choice I make I make with you in mind because if it's good enough for you it's good enough for my family.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

If it's Tuesday I must be baking muffins

I am not quite sure how this tradition started, but I bake muffins on Tuesdays. I must have been doing this for some time because if there are not fresh baked muffins sitting on the counter when my boys get home (and it's Tuesday) there is chaos in my house. These Tuesday muffins also come with rules:
  • Muffins have to be a unique recipe every Tuesday. I can only get away with repeats every two Tuesdays.
  • Muffins must not contain any type of nut. Not because we are allergic or don't like nuts, we actually are a nut loving family, but because we do not like nuts in our muffins. That's the kids speaking by the way, I love nuts in muffins.
  • Muffins must be healthy and contain only whole wheat flour. That's me speaking.
So I try my best to keep the chaos to a minimum and bake muffins on Tuesdays.

Whole Wheat Cranberry Oatmeal Muffins

  • 1 cup milk (I usually use whole milk, almond or coconut milk)
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats or 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • Handful of cranberries chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 425°f (220°c). Grease 12 muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.
In a small bowl, combine milk, oats, cranberries and vanilla. Soak for 15 minutes.
In a separate bowl, beat together egg, oil and honey; stir in oatmeal mixture. In a third bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients, just until combined. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups until cups are 2/3 full. Batter will be thick.
Bake in preheated oven for 15-25 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean.

Everything Happens for a Reason

This weekend met us with warmer temperatures and very heavy rain.  Read- torrential rain.  The coop stays very dry given it was built in the early 1900's.  It was built as a horse stable and the inside floor was dirt. When we moved into the house we used it as a shed and built a wood floor on top of the dirt floor, almost like a pressure treated deck inside the building.  This was a less expensive alternative to having someone pour a concrete floor and we could do it ourselves.  Fast forward to today when we are using this 'shed' as a chicken coop, something I never even imagined we would do when we built that floor. Under that floor is still that dirt and when we get rain like we did this weekend, and the rain can't seep into the ground because it is frozen from last weeks negative temperatures, the dirt gets wet which makes the wood get wet which makes the pine shavings wet. So now I have wet pine shavings.  I knew I would have to clean out the coop today and that was my plan.  So I jump into my car and set out for the trek out to the feed store, 40 minutes away.  I don't hate many things but driving 40 minutes out to the feed store is one thing that I hate. 40 minutes there, 40 back, way to much time.

So let's fast forward again, past that wretched drive, to when I am walking into the feed store and hearing the nice gentleman behind the counter telling the nice lady in front of the counter that they are out of pine shavings. Out of pine shavings? How can that be? I thought I was just thinking this but apparently I was saying it because the nice gentleman behind the counter was apologizing to me but I wasn't listening, my mind was thinking about all the time I wasted and all the chores I could have been doing and the wet pine shavings that still filled my coop! They will get more Wednesday was that last thing I heard as I stormed out the door.

So let's fast forward again, past that wretched drive back home, to me walking in the door and vowing never to go to that the feed store again, and me determined to find another.  A Google search turned up one in a nearby town, much closer then the one I was just at.  Now I know what your thinking. Why was I traveling that 40 minute wretched drive to a feed store when there was one in my own backyard? Not sure. Not. Sure.

So I have a new feed store. They sell everything I need including organic layer feed, oyster shell, poultry grit....I am giddy. The nice gentleman that I encountered at this feed store must have thought I was crazy how giddy I was.  And you know what? They also sell baby chicks and are getting some in really soon.  Giddy.
Our Flock when they were chicks

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Eggs of all shapes and sizes

My son came running in this morning declaring 'one of the girls laid an enormous egg!' He was right.  I am thinking it was one of the twins. They have just started to lay and this is very common in young pullets. Looking at this egg sitting on my counter , along with all the other eggs, brought a smile to my face every time I walked past.  Not only because it stood up so much higher then all the others, but because it reminded me of what a gift these chickens give us every day.  I know they are doing want they do and what they do is lay eggs, but they allow me to witness this miracle  every day. So wether it's Bamboo with her beautiful blue eggs, Tuttie with her odd shaped brown spotted eggs, or Zelda's light brown perfect eggs, they are all gifts and all cherished for the short time they sit on my counter.
If you are wondering, that enormous egg was of course a double yolk egg. Two perfect large yolks.

Friday, January 10, 2014

All together now

The girls seem to get along much better when the temps start to fall.  They have been in the negative degrees here in Massachusetts but that's not stopping the flock from enjoying a group dust bath. They just move aside the hay I laid down for them to uncover the sand below.