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Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Great Eggscape Too - Hatching Duck Eggs


Welcome to The Great Eggscape Too. I just put six Saxony duck eggs in our Brinsea Mini Advance incubator and in 28 days hopefully we will be able to watch six ducklings hatch from those eggs!

I hope you will follow along as we add to this post all through the incubation period.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Perfect Scrambled Eggs


Fresh eggs don't need much fussing with since they are bursting with freshness and flavor anyway, so I often find myself just lightly whisking a few with a bit of heavy cream, salt and pepper, then turning them into a sizzling skillet coated with a bit of olive oil and cooking them slowly until they are just set.  A sprinkle of fresh cut herbs - in this case some fresh dill - and there you have it...


Perfect scrambled eggs.

Remember these tips:
Scramble SLOOOOWLY over low heat
Stir or whisk the whole time - the curds will be smaller and creamier.
Move cooked eggs from the outside edges toward the inside as you whisk.
Cook only until barely set.  Just until not runny.  The eggs will continue to cook a bit after you serve them up.




Thursday, May 24, 2012

Top Ten Edible Flowers Your Chickens Will Love

Anyone who free ranges their flock even some of the time knows that chickens will eat pretty much anything you have planted, so why not choose some nutritious flowers that they will enjoy when you're planning your gardens in the spring ?

(As an added bonus, all ten of these flowers are also edible for humans.)

Check out our pinterest board Gardening HERE.

Here are my choices for
The Top Ten Flowers your Chickens Will Love:


1. Nasturtium not only attract bugs that eat the dreaded squash beetle larvae, the leaves and flowers are also edible for humans and make wonderful salad garnish.   Your chickens will love eating both the loeaves and the flowers, which are thought to be a natural wormer and also have antibiotic properties.


2. Squash blossoms are tasty stuffed with a sausage/ricotta mixture then fried, but the chickens love them also fresh off the vine.  The blossom is a good source of calcium, iron and Vitamin A, so let them indulge from time to time.


3. Violets make beautiful edible garnishes for cakes, cupcakes and ice cream, and also help with circulation and stop inflammation of the arteries. Your chickens will enjoy munching on them too.


4. Marigolds not only ward off insects in your garden, but they are also an antioxidant and promote the growth of new skin tissue.  As an added bonus, chickens who eat marigolds lay eggs with bright yellow yolks.


5. Bee Balm is a wonderful flower whose leaves can be made into a healthful tea with antibacterial properties that is also used to clear respiratory problems in humans and chickens.  It of course also attracts bees which help pollinate your flowers and fruit trees. Your chickens will enjoy both the flower and leaves.


6. Dandelions are a nice addition to salads. I guess technically a weed, instead of spraying them why not pick some for your chickens.  They are a natural detoxifier and one of the most nutritious plants in your yard, with lots of iron, calcium and Vitamin A.


7. Roses and rose hips cleanse blood toxins and act as antiseptics and antibacterial agents for both humans and chickens. Roses are also a classic as well as a beautiful way to decorate a cake with an edible garnish.


8.  Sunflower seeds are obviously a favorite among the feathered crowd, and also very nutritious, providing protein and essential oils to both humans and hens. The leaves are edible as well and your chickens will enjoy stripping the stalks of them.


9. Clover Blossoms are considered to be the most nutritious weed in your yard.  Both a blood purifier and an antioxidant, clover provides calcium, iron, magnesium and Vitamins A, B-12 and E as well as respiratory benefits.


10. Echinacea (or coneflower) flowers and seeds are excellent for improving respiratory health. Chickens are extremely susceptible to respiratory illnesses, so planting some echinacea will benefit them greatly.

Other Edible Flowers: Apple blossoms, Calendula, Carnations, Chrysanthemums, Citrus blossoms, Eldberberry blossoms, Geraniums, Hibiscus, Hollyhock, Impatiens, Lavender, Lilac, Pansy, Pea blossoms, Peony, Phlox, Snap dragon

Flowers to Steer Clear Of:
For the most part, chickens will avoid those flowers that are harmful to them, but to be on the safe side, it's best to AVOID planting the following potentially toxic plants in areas your chickens can access:  azalea, black nightshade, buttercup, castor bean, clematis, corn cockle, foxglove, henbane, honeysuckle, irises, lily of the valley, oleander, privet, rhododendron, St. John's Wort, sweet pea, trumpet vine,  and vetch.

There are many, many more potentially harmful flowers and plants....but if you stick to the ten safe AND nutritious flowers above, your chickens will thank you !


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Monday, May 21, 2012

All About Duck Eggs


We raise Pekin and Saxony ducks on our farm here in Virginia, right alongside our chickens.  We have four Pekin ducks, Penelope, Sasha, Sonia and Brigid and one drake, Gregory, and collect between 3 and 4 eggs every day, right through the winter. In fact, the ducks out laid our chickens this past winter !

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Light Sussex - Pink Egg Layers

This spring I decided to forego ordering chicks from one of the large hatcheries, which has been my M.O. the last couple of years, and instead try hatching some chicks myself.  I was fortunate enough to get some hatching eggs donated by Chicken Scratch Poultry, a small breeder that focuses on a few less-common breeds that I have had my eye on for awhile.

One of those breeds is the Light Sussex.  This was a new breed for me, but I was interested in raising a few because they are purportedly a friendly breed that are good layers of pink eggs.
~photo courtesy of Chicken Scratch Poultry~

Out of the beautiful pink hatching eggs, emerged two tiny fluffy yellow chicks. With fans' help I named the chicks Daphne and Guinevere.  "Daphne" means bright, alert and playful, charming and elegant. One look at what Daphne will look like as an adult and you know the name fits.  "Guinevere" means fair and white (how apropos!) and of course was the legendary Queen of King Arthur.  Since this breed originated in England around the time of the Roman conquest in 43A.D., I thought Guinevere was the perfect name.


By one week old it was clear this is a very friendly breed. Any time I took them out of the brooder, they seemed perfectly content to just stand on my lap.


I had also ordered day old chicks from Chicken Scratch Poultry that arrived at the same time my eggs hatched, so one more Light Sussex joined Daphne and Guinevere in the brooder.  By a week old they were already starting to lose their yellow chick fluff and one was even sporting a few tiny tail feathers!

At a month old, their feathers were coming in white and the black markings had started to emerge. True to the breed, the three of them continued to be curious, friendly chicks, having a grand time exploring the ground outside their coop as I snapped photos.



By five weeks, it was clear that I had a rooster.  It's hard to tell roos from hens at this young age, but by comparing chicks of the same breed and age, it can sometimes become apparent at an early age.  One chick's comb was much larger, turning red and he was already starting to grow wattles.  His legs are thicker and he is more stocky than the two females.  So it looks like we have a Lancelot for our Guinevere!

I am enjoying watching the chicks change and grow. They were adorable chicks, are now gangly teens, and as adults they will be absolutely stunning. Here is Lancelot at 16 weeks old...he's just gorgeous.

And here are the hen and rooster together at about 18 weeks old.

~photo courtesy of Chicken Scratch Poultry~

I am so glad I chose to raise a few Light Sussex. From everything I have seen, they will be extremely friendly hens and will add a nice bit of color to our flock, that up until now hasn't included any white chickens.  

And oooh, those pink eggs !  I can't wait.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

DIY Chicken Salad Bar


I had been planning to build a covered 'salad bar' in the run for my chickens for awhile.  I wanted somewhere that I could safely grow grasses and other seeds for them to munch on when greens are scarce, but would allow the seeds to sprout and grow without being bothered by the hens' incessant scratching. Enter the Chicken Salad Bar!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Speaking Duck


Like any good chicken or duck 'mother', I pride myself in thinking I understand for the most part what our chickens and ducks are trying to tell me by the different clucks, growls, shrieks and quacks they use.  If you spend enough time around them, you will come to recognize a low throaty cluck of a broody hen, the sort of growling sound when they spy a hawk, the high-pitched chirp-chirp of a lost chick, and the Morse code-like chatter of the ducks when they're excited.

While I would never claim to be able to communicate with them on every level, their body language also helps convey their message and between the sounds they make and their expression, we seem to be able to get our messages across to each other at least most of the time.

So when Gregory, our Pekin drake, came over this morning while I was filling the ducks' pool and started chattering away, I assumed he was just excited about having a clean pool, so we 'chatted' about it for awhile with him getting more and more worked up by the minute....well, imagine my surprise when I glanced over my shoulder to see the run gate had swung partway open and all the chickens were escaping ! 


As I ran to get them back into the run, I swear Gregory waddled away, completely disgusted by my failure to communicate with him.  And yet again, I was humbled and reminded how much I still have to learn about our backyard flock.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cupcakes with Edible Rose Mint Garnish


I am all for cooking and baking from scratch.  The finished product is always better tasting, more satisfying and more healthy than using a box or package. But sometimes I just don't have the time, or the energy, or the ingredients to start from scratch (ever wonder where that saying came from BTW? starting from scratch....hmmm) so I cheat a little bit.  This time I used a boxed cake mix and prepared frosting to bake the cupcakes.  It's okay to cheat sometimes...besides this time it's ALL in the presentation !

Monday, May 7, 2012

Framed Egg Shadowbox for Mother's Day


This Mother's Day why not use some blown eggs and an old frame to make a pretty 3-D shadowbox ?    This is an easy craft project for kids that highlights some of your pretty eggs and flowers from the garden- two of ANY Mom's favorite things !

Materials Needed:

Three raw eggs
An old frame
Piece of cardboard
Mulberry Paper
Assorted flowers and leaves
Stick on stencil letters
Glue gun/sticks
Modge Podge

How to Blow the Eggs Out:
Here are the instructions on how to blow eggs using the Blas-Fix kit (link to purchase one from amazon below) which is what I use. If you blow out alot of eggs, it pays for itself.  But you can also use a thumbtack, paperclip and plastic coffee stirrer/straw to blow the eggs out.



  For this project, I made BOTH holes on the back of the egg so they wouldn't show when they are attached.  Then I set them on paper towels to dry completely.

How to Dry the Flowers:
If you have the time, press flowers and leaves in between parchment paper sandwiched in between the pages of a heavy book.  I used violets, violet leaves and what I think are wild sweet peas.  I laid them out in a single layer and then carefully closed the book.




Then I stacked  a few books on top and let the flowers dry for about a week. 

If you don't have time to let the flowers dry naturally, you can also dry them in the microwave.  Just  place the flowers in between the pages and zap for thirty seconds at a time until they are dry. 

How to Make your Frame:
Find an old frame that will fit a 5x7 photograph. Remove the glass and the cardboard insert.  Spray paint the frame with two coats of white spray paint, letting each coat dry completely.



Next cut the cardboard to fit inside the frame and cut a piece of the Mulberry paper 1" larger than the cardboard on all sides.  Tape the Mulberry paper around the cardboard to cover it and insert it into the frame.

Press the letter stencils onto each egg to spell "M-O-M"
Then paint each egg with Modge Podge and let dry.

When the eggs are dry, use the glue gun to attach each egg to the backing where you want it to go. 

And using the glue gun, attach the flowers and leaves around the eggs.

And there you have it ! A pretty springtime 3-d shadowbox for Mother's Day !

Here's the link to purchase the Blas-Fix kit on amazon:



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