Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesdays' Show & Tail - Got your GOAT? You BETCHA!

Today I'm joining in Tuesdays' Show & Tail at West Virginia Treasures.  Show & Tail is all about sharing your pet pictures, creature features, and anything animal you may have heard about or experienced!  To link in at Angela's blog and meet other animal lovers, click HERE!
 This isn't technically about a live animal, but a reasonable facsimile thereof!
Just the Right Size for the Right Little Guy!
 While "the hubbs" and I were out driving around one weekend, we came upon a Barn Sale.  We love to look at JUNQUE, and both of us noticed a lonely wooden Rocking Goat in the mix.  We thought it was so cute, and immediately we thought of a friend who just LOVES and APPRECIATES everything "GOAT"!  We bought it for her to use when her grandson comes to visit!  She sent us a photo of the baby riding his Rocking Goat, and it was so cute that I just had to share it today!

Have a Rockin' Good Day!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Store this in your Memory Bank -

"People may not remember
what you said or did, 
but they will always remember
how you made them feel."
- Author Unknown

Memories and feelings - take care to preserve them from the wrinkles of tyme.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Q&A: Hen's Age

Cause for Celebration??
Q:  At what age does a hen begin to lay eggs?

A:  First off, young female chickens are called pullets until they reach the age of 1 year, and that is when they technically can be called "hens".  A pullet will start to lay eggs between 4 and 5 months of age, generally.  It actually depends on the breed of chicken - some may start as late as 8 months of age.  Each breed matures differently.
Barnevelder Pullet at 4 months old
This morning I went out to collect eggs and I found a very small egg - and I determined my second Barnevelder finally started to lay.  I had purchased 2 pullets at the same time, to keep each other company, as the older girls would reject them from the flock until they were of similar size as the rest of the group.  They were nearly 4 months old when I brought them home.  One of the girls started laying 3 weeks ago, at 5 months of age.  I was told they were hatched at the same time, but one of the pullets was a bit smaller.  So this morning, being 1 week shy of 5 months, she became a "working girl"!  In another 6 months they will reach the age of perfection - full-fledged HEN-HOOD!!!  So then we can throw a PARTY - - - Complete with CAKE!!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

An Old Country Estate Find

Yesterday while I was on a mission to buy Kiln Dried Pine Shavings for my hens' cozy little house, I came across an Estate Sale - almost hidden because of road closures way out in the middle of nowhere!  (Imagine that - they were working on a road that didn't really appear to need anything done to it.  Must be our tax dollars at work.  Hmmmm.  I could think of roads that OBVIOUSLY NEED repair, but - we won't go there just now.)  The sale was up a long dusty lane, far back off the road...a very old farm house with attached garage...a series of tables set out in front of it, an older couple sitting behind one table with cash box at the ready!
Old Cookie Recipe from Vintage Cook Book
There were old books to thumb through, the top portion of a wringer washer, old tubs and buckets, rusty trusty hames with horse sweat dried on them long ago...and OOODLES of BASKETS!  Goodness me - I could not believe the number of baskets on display out there on the grass!
Handle of an Antique Chicken Snatcher!
I spied something and grabbed onto it as I looked at some Ole ChRiStmAs OrNieS on another table, then asked the sellers if they'd keep a watch on my "prize" as I went inside of the house to see what else might be of interest to me.  The man exclaimed, "YOU know what this IS, don't you!!!"  "I shore DO!", I replied.  It was a handle attached to a 4 ft. long wire pole with a hook at the end - a vintage Chicken Snatcher!  A person hooks the chicken by the leg, to be able to quickly catch and treat it or remove it from the rest of the flock....VERY handy indeed!
Dykstra Poultry Suppliers
He had just found it this morning and brought it from the shed out back to put in the sale - I figure it must have my name on it!  But, I checked, and it had Dykstra Poultry Supplies stamped into the handle, with a phone number that was ancient to most folk - not enough digits for our phones today.  Prolly what was once known as a "party line".  Anyone know what those were??? (Hint: it has nothing to do with Line Dancing....)
5 digit phone number
I made a mental note to "Google" the address, to see what might be in that building today.  Stuff like that always interests me, especially seeing as I grew up in the Grand Rapids area.  I knew the business would no longer be there - surely it was either bought up by a new owner, or was standing empty like so many old buildings of that era. 

When I got up this morning, I fixed me a cuppa joe and proceeded to Google Maps - and after typing in the address on the snatcher handle, the location popped up.  It said "approximate" for the location...because....when the street view came onto my screen, I could recognize the buildings in the area, but running my cursor over the photo, the address showed a paved parking lot.  BOO.

Let that be a lesson to you.  Don't stand still . . . Try to keep up with the changing times.  If you stand idle for too long, they'll pave right over top of ye!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Crafting - A Fun Autumn Wreath!

In all the stores, Autumn has Arrived (so has Christmas, but please, let's not go THERE right now!!)!  It put me in the mood for some crafting.  I need a new look on my door for the season, and a wreath is the perfect thing to share with you today.  Everything can be attached with floral pins - no hot glue necessary - -  so Lets Begin!
 You will need:
  • One Straw Wreath (mine is a 16 inch wreath)
  • One package of floral pins (Michaels or Hobby Lobby have them in stock)
  • A Scarecrow head (I found mine at Hobby Lobby, but Michaels has them too)
  • One 4 ounce package of dried corn husks (found in grocery stores, ethnic foods)
  • A small fake pumpkin, cheap gardening gloves, fake leaves, fake crow, and excelsior or dried moss (Dollar store purchases)

1.) First, separate the husks, then soak them in a pot or tub of warm water to make them pliable.
2.)Next, take old newspaper and lightly stuff the garden gloves.  You can use worn out gloves instead of new, if you like.  Recycle!!!
Fan Shape
Pin Fan to Wreath
Adding fans and continue pinning
Check positioning for starting and finishing ruffles
Layers of Ruffles
3.) Take a corn husk and fold it in half, then fold it into a fan shape.  Pin it to the wreath with a floral pin, near where you will want one of the gloves to be.  Lay out the gloves and head, to get an idea of where the corn husk "arms" will go.  When this is done, it will give the idea of a scarecrow encircling his arms around a bountiful fall harvest, so align to get a better idea of what the finished project will look like.
Arm Ruffles, leaving spaces for head and gloves
4.) Continue to fold and fan the corn husks, pinning each in place to cover previous pins and creating a semi-circle from outside the wreath to the inside of the wreath.  Work your way around, stopping where the scarecrow head will attach, leaving a space for the head, then continue around, making sure that the fan tips point towards the top of the wreath.
Top of "sleeves" - puff husks to hide the pins!
5.) When you have those "sleeves" nice and fluffy, you will then attach a few final husks near where the head will be, but make the tips of the fans point the opposite way.  When you have that completed on each "neck" area, lift the center of the fans to puff out a bit, and pin again so the puffs hide the pins used to attach them.  We don't want to have any pins showing!
Pin Head!

Adding Pumpkin, Crow, Leaves, and other decorations
6. Put a floral pin in the back of each side of the Scarecrow head, and pin it onto the straw form securely.  Do the same with each glove, making sure that each glove is on the correct side.  Secure a couple of the fingers in the same way.  Poke a floral pin behind one finger, then push it into a portion of the bottom of the pumpkin.  Don't put it towards the center because the pumpkin will probably just fall out.  You want to balance it against the secured glove and the straw base, then attach with another pin.
Finished Scarecrow Wreath
7.) Grab some excelsior and stuff it behind the gloves and around the rest of the straw wreath that is showing between the gloves, pin in place.  Take fake leaves and pin in place.  I had dried bearded wheat that I used as well, and if you have additional flowers, fake grapes, and dried weeds or pods, those would be wonderful to place in this wreath. Use what you have on hand and be creative!  Last but not least, I placed a lovely crow into the mix - how glamorous he looks!

Now the wreath is ready to be hung on your door using a wreath holder - and doesn't he look dapper?

Happy Fall, Y'all!

Q&A - Cold Chicken

Questions Questions!  Who gotsa Question?  None such thing as a silly question!  Ask away, chicken FANS (that's a pun - see picture below)!
Rooster Fan, from CSN Online Stores
Q:  Do chickens have sweat glands? And how do you keep your hens cool in summer?  Do you need a fan?
A:  Great Question!  Actually, chickens do not sweat!  In the backyard settings like mine, the hens do a great job of beating the heat on their own.  Shade from trees and shelters helps, plus they will "pant", which releases moist heat from their little chicken innards!  They also will scratch in the dirt for daily dust baths, and can be seen laying down, letting the coolness from the earth remove heat from their bodies.  And, don't forget plenty of fresh clean water - very important for healthy hens and good egg production!
Fresh, clean water is KEY!
Heat can do more damage for chickens than the harsh winters.  The bee-YOO-T-ful feathers that cover roosters and hens are eggs-cellent insulation from the cold; feathers let very little body heat escape, and so it's easy to understand why conditions on larger farms should be monitored when it gets hot.  Large industrial fans, ventilation, and air movement by cross ventilation are necessary, as well as removal of animal waste (waste decomposes, creating more heat inside cages and buildings).  Overcrowding can be a cause of chicken stress, overheating, and death.

With each news broadcast of food recalls, it is easy to make a decision to know where your fruits, veggies, and meat products come from - Buy from local producers, and search out eggs for sale from backyard poultry farmers!  Support your local growers!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tuesdays Show & Tail - The Dancing Chicken and Friends!

 Today I'm joining in Tuesdays' Show & Tail at West Virginia Treasures.  Show & Tail is all about sharing your pet pictures, creature features, and anything animal you may have heard about or experienced!  To link in at Angela's blog and meet other animal lovers, click HERE!
Turn up the volume and enjoy the show!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Egg Recall and Bio-security

By now most everyone has heard of the recall of over half a billion eggs due to Salmonella, which has caused illness in probably over 1,000 people.  The eggs being recalled have been sold under the name brands of Hillandale Farms, Sunny Farms, Sunny Meadow, Wholesome Farms and West Creek.  According to reports on the news, the affected eggs were packaged anywhere from April through August of this year.  That's a long stretch!
I explained to my girls that because of the recall, they might be forced into "Overtime Production".  They immediately stopped dead in their little chicken tracks, with shocked looks written all over their little hen faces!  Lizzy (front left of photo above) reminded me that they only lay one egg per 24 hour period - but perhaps if I provided extra treats of melon and peas, they just MIGHT be able to do an egg every 22 hours.... "Don't rush PERFECTION", she added!  We'll find out shortly if the recall increases customer demand.  It might necessitate adding a few new "working girls" to the flock!

Neglecting Bio-security Rules at the battery egg  farms is apparently the cause of the issues at the Iowa farm.  Different rules apply when it comes to large operations and the backyard poultry owner.  Large farms require disposable foot gear slid on over shoes or boots, changeable for each separate building housing poultry.  Visitors must be supplied with overalls and boots by the farm owner before entering the poultry areas.  New hens should never be mixed in a previously established poultry housing unit. Sanitized water must be supplied for the birds in each unit.  Birds must not be stressed and the numbers of hens living in each size cage must be enforced to government standards.  And, cleanliness of pens and buildings, vaccinations, and rodent control are some things that are always of importance.
For us "Backyard Coop Keepers" who do not own astronomical amounts of hens, certain rules and common sense apply.  Clean water, feed stored in rodent-proof containers, and clean dry bedding are the basics.  Moldy or wet feed should be removed as soon as discovered.  It is always best not to mix ages of hens, since the young ones might get picked on by the older girls, and as an added note, not all breeds of hens will get along, so when introducing hens, be sure to take care and keep a sharp eye out for bullying and hen pecking!  Another caveat - do not borrow or share poultry tools with other poultry owners. Infections can be unknowingly spread that way.
I enjoy interaction with my girls, and when I clean the nest boxes every day, they can hardly wait for the new paper shreds to be added to the shavings!  The main hen house floor gets debris and dampness removed, so flys are not attracted.  It only takes a minute to clear the mess from last evenings Roost Fest, change the "sheets" in the nest boxes, and to replenish the oyster shell calcium and grit in their bowls and trays.  Our hen house is manageable and I don't have to ever stoop down for chores or egg collection!  I have time to give the girls the "once over" to be sure no one is hurt or ill, and time to scatter some seeds for their entertainment!  Cleaning down to the bare bones of the house is done once a week, when everything is dusted for bugs and the shavings are replenished with fresh smelling pine!  Sometimes I even add chopped lavender to the mix - it makes it somewhat of a SPA ATMOSPHERE - and lavender is good snacking for the hens, as well!

Happy Hens mean Healthy Eggs!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Just How Chicken can a Chicken Get?

Chicken Chickens!   

The photos above were taken this morning when I went out to feed the Girls.  Click on it to enlarge.  I served them up cantaloupe innards and the rinds with tidbits of fruit still clinging on.  Marilyn, the white hen, was the brave one this morning.  She pecked a little, saw that it didn't hurt her, and continued to eat while the other hens went after the seeds and innards on the cement slab.  Shortly, they ran out of seeds and approached cautiously, eye-balling the feast set before them, and making sure nothing was going to jump out and grab the rest of the brave ones, before they submerged their beaks for a test bite!  This was the first time they have ever had cantaloupe rinds, so no previous images were stored on their pea brains!

I've found that all of my hens have different personalities, and because of that fact, choosing names is relatively easy!  Henrietta lays the largest eggs and she's generally "Boss Hen" - if she doesn't like what one of the other girls is doing, she pecks them in the butt!  Priscella is kind of a shy hen and does as she's told.  Marilyn is a white hen (named her after Marilyn Monroe), and Lena tends to "leanaround" the outskirts of the chicken run!  The Cuckoo Sisters are named Ms. Mamie and Ms. Emily (after the dear ladies on the long-running Waltons program), and those Darned Barnevelders are 2 sisters hatched from the same clutch - they are little dickens of pullets, always getting into trouble!  Robin is a lovely black Sex Link hen with red feathers on her breast.  Lucy is the red hen.   Cleopatra passed away not long ago, but she had dark eyeliner around each eye, and was the most strikingly beautiful of all the hens - a real charmer. Queen Elizabeth is a regal hen, named by one of my followers - and here is her picture:
 How do YOU name your pets?
Chicken questions?  Ask away!
The Chicken Wrangler


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cold Snap - Hot Tomatoes!

Potting Shed Welcome!
It's been so cool outside the last three days - what a WELCOME relief!  I listened to the weather report early this morning and in another 2 days they are saying the humidity will be on the rise once again.  No matter.  This time of year we expect the ups and downs in temps.
Roma Tomatoes
 On my way out to feed the hens and horses, I stopped to inspect the garden.  We don't get a lot of sunlight back here in the woods, but since I have had a pretty good flower garden going the past few years, I decided to plant 3 tomato plants in one of the sunniest locations to see how well they would do.  I spotted several tomatoes ripe and begging to be picked, so I brought them in and added them to the ones I collected a couple of days ago.  Any bruised or damaged fruits are used as treats for the girls -
"The Girls" on the lookout for TREATS!
I have a recipe found in an old magazine that I thought I would like to try sometime - and here it is, in case YOU have a cold snap and wouldn't mind running your oven for a short while!

Scalloped Tomatoes

3 TBS butter
1/4 Cup minced onions
2 Cups fresh bread crumbs
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Dash cayenne pepper
3-1/2 Cups fresh diced tomatoes
1/4 Cup fresh bread crumbs
1 TBS melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In 3 TBS of butter, in a small saucepan, saute the onions until tender. Add 2 cups bread crumbs, sugar, salt, pepper and cayenne. Arrange layer of tomatoes in a greased 1-1/2 qt casserole. Top with a layer of onion-bread mixture. Continue until all is used, ending with tomatoes on top. Combine 1/4 cup bread crumbs with 1 TBS melted butter and sprinkle over tomatoes. Bake, uncovered, 45 minutes.

I think this would be good either with a sprinkle of shredded cheese on top during the last 7 minutes of bake time, or great served with grilled cheese sandwiches for a different twist on dinner!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tuesday's Show & Tail - Pysanky Easter Eggs

Today I'm joining in Tuesdays' Show & Tail at West Virginia Treasures.  Show & Tail is all about sharing your pet pictures, creature features, and anything animal you may have heard about or experienced!  To link in at Angela's blog and meet other animal lovers, go to the web site given below the peacock... (my blogger link doesn't seem to be working this morning for some reason....gr-r-r-r!)
Several years ago I rented the upstairs of a farm house in Polo, Illinois.  It was a great setting, and the friend I rented from owned a variety of animals.  Among them, several peacocks.  Beautiful birds, both male and female.  My mother created beautiful Pysanky - (Ukrainian Eater Eggs), and was looking for different types of eggs to practice her crafting skills, so naturally I asked for some unhatched eggs to mail back to mom in Michigan.
Autumn Splendor
We waited until October, then collected a nice clutch of eggs.  It was a frosty cold morning the day I transported those eggs in the back seat of my car to go looking for a suitable size box to mail them in once I blew out the contents of each egg.  I turned the heat on in my little Hyundai as I wound around country roads, enjoying the scenery.  Suddenly, I heard a sound like a gun-shot!  Then another - and another - it sounded more like a war zone just a short moment later!  I couldn't imagine what was going on - there was debris flying everywhere!  I quickly stopped my car at the side of the road, and I smelled the most horrid scent that gave me a clue as to what was occurring - ROTTEN EGGS!  I opened the car door and flung all those eggs, exploding or not, out onto the side of the road as quickly as I could!  GROSS!  There was a woman raking the leaves in her yard, and she must have thought I was a crazy person or something, the way the eggs went flying out of my car!

Later on, I got "The Rest of the Story" from my friend.  Apparently the eggs were laid during the hot part of summer, and the heat "cooked" the eggs.  With the frosty temps we'd gotten during the past few days, the eggs froze, and when I turned the heater on in my car, it caused expansion of the inner egg contents, and then BOOM!  I suppose I should be thankful the eggs were cooked - if they weren't, it would have been much harder to clean out my car after the disaster!

Enjoy your day today -
The Chicken Wrangler

Monday, August 16, 2010

Q & A: Concerning Fertile Myrtle - - -

Q:  We have little Banty rooster, Rodney, who LOVES the ladies...luckily we have about 18 hens and he has no favorites.  I was going to let one of my hens hatch eggs this year but it ended up that none of the eggs were fertile. Anyway, Rodney has been around for years and was pretty old when my friend gave him to me, so do they stop being able to fertilize after a certain age?
Fertile egg - note circular area near the center. photo courtesy of poultrymatters.com- thank you!
A: Being perfectly honest, I don't know if there have been any studies published involving age of roosters in regard to fertility.  If the eggs are "turning up empty", there are many things that need to be considered.  Roosters need to be in prime nutritional condition, and I believe there are ROOSTER BOOSTERS on the market that would help increase fertility .  Also, various illnesses come into play that don't always display noticeable distress in each animal affected (avian infectious bronchitis is one such disease that comes to mind).  Roos can acquire epididymal stones that, of course, would effect fertility.  Heat induced sterility could be possible as well.
Coming up EMPTY?
Blank eggs aren't always the fault of the rooster. You don't mention if your hens are bantams too, or if they are Standard size hens.  That may play into the answer.  Hens generally prefer a gentleman of their own  size/age (they won't let a young cockerel near them for courting!). If he is a good deal smaller, he may be large enough to perform the actions but not be big enough to "close the deal"!  Also, if her cloaca feathers are too dense, that would cause some difficulties in performance.  Hens are more fertile at a younger age; the number of eggs they will ever lay is predetermined at the time they become young pullets, surprisingly enough.
Broody hen
Did your hen lay eggs and leave her nest?  Some hens just don't become "broody".  Broody hens will lay until a suitable size clutch is laid.  The eggs can be left unattended in the nest box and the embryos will continue a slow development, but the vital period when they need the steady warmth from the broody hen is 12 days after laying, and then the hen will sit on them and rotate the eggs as nature intends her to do.

I hope this helps a little!

Good Egg, Good Day!
The Chicken Wrangler

Q: Does the Rooster Crow at Dawn - and do we REALLY need one?

A:  Many folks have sheepishly asked me questions about the rooster's part in egg production - the most recent was a gentleman I met who owned an Antique Shop.  He was surprised to learn that a rooster is not necessary if eggs for eating is all a person wants.  And having a rooster on the premises does not increase the amount of eggs a hen will lay, either.  Roos are needed only if you wish to obtain fertilized eggs for hatching or eating (some folks believe there may be nutritional benefits in fertilized egg consumption).  Fertilization takes place after the rooster breeds the hen, and before the eggshell is formed.  Once the egg is refrigerated, the embryo would not continue to grow and hatch in the refrigerator!  It would be perfectly safe to eat.  Blood spots or meat spots on the surface of an egg?  No, that does not mean it was a baby chick forming.  It's only the sign of a broken blood vessel during ovulation.  Again, safe to eat.  1% of all hens in production will lay eggs like these, and  they are not always caught by egg producers or farmers before shipping to the stores or customers.  If it bothers you, they can easily be removed with the tip of a knife.
Rooster Closeup
Eggs DO start to lose protein the longer they sit, though refrigeration helps to arrest protein loss. Most scientific nutritional organizations claim there is little to no difference in nutritional benefits between fertilized and non-fertilized eggs.
Crowing Rooster
 On another note - - Roosters crow at dawn, and what ever else time pleases them! No matter how extremely beautiful a rooster may be, the crowing in our woods would annoy me no end, so I would not own one at this point in time.  Another reason not to keep a rooster is the fact that some will breed hens mercilessly, clawing their backs and ripping out feathers, causing the hens to bleed, and possible cannibalism would result.  For eating eggs, and happy hens, a rooster is totally unnecessary!

If you have any questions about chickens or their care, please ask, and I'll be happy to try and answer them!

Have a great day -
The Chicken Wrangler

Friday, August 13, 2010

Summers' Fleeting Fly-by

Brown-eyed Susans
So hard to believe that summer is almost gone....In some areas the kids are already back to school.  Gardens will soon be waning, and the colors of the flowers change to orange and gold once again...
Happy Fall, Y'All!
I enjoy all of the seasons, but Autumn is my all-time favorite!  I love the first cold snap - frost on colored leaves, and all the harvest decor at the Farm Markets! 
Winter White Vellux!  So Cozy!
 I won't miss the humidity we've had this summer, but I know when the snow falls I'll be remembering the heat, hoping that the thoughts of it will keep me warm under my piles of blankets!   Sorry girls - no chickens in the house this winter!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Gift Certificate Give-Away

You simply MUST go see Angela at West Virginia Treasures - she's having a giveaway for a $40 gift Certificate good at CNS Stores!  Last year I won a lovely tea pot at one of the blogs I follow, and I've purchased baby shower gifts there - they have a great selection of items.  If you win, you will certainly be able to find more than enough items to use the certificate on, and many items have 'free shipping', so it's a double bonus!  There's up to 3 chances for you to enter, so.....Go check it out HERE and NOW!