Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Preparing for Isaac

Having lived on the east coast of Florida for several years, including the summer of 2004 when we were pounded with one hurricane after another, I am fairly practiced at preparing for a hurricane. What makes this one different, is that I have never had this many animals in my care at the time of a hurricane, or this much property to secure. Last time I lived in an apartment and had 2 pets, a parrot and a rabbit, both of which were inside. Now I have over 20 chickens, 13 turkeys, 3 dogs, and about 12 acres to keep up with.  I began preparing several days ago, when Isaac was expected to be a category 2 and headed straight toward us. Now, thankfully, it has been downgraded to a category 1 and moved to the west a bit. We still need to prepare to have power outages, high winds, possible tornadoes, flooding, and no access to supplies. I always like to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. The winds have gotten strong already. The chickens are free ranging still but will be locked up where it is safe in a couple of hours and will remain there until the storm has passed.  

The chicken coop has been tied down. We are worried about the tin roof remaining intact during the storm so we secured it. The coop has an automatic waterer, but a regular gravity waterer has been placed in the coop to prepare for the loss of electricity. We have well water so no electric, no well pump, and no water. Extra feeders have been placed in the coop to ensure that they will have plenty of food if it isn't safe for me to go out and feed them in the morning. 

A cattle water tub was brought over and filled so that we will have plenty of water for the animals. I'm expecting it to finish filling during the night, as we are going to have LOTS of rain. 

The turkey hoop coop has been evacuated. It is built to be light so that it can be moved around the yard easily. This means that in high winds, it just isn't safe. The tarps were removed so that they don't catch wind. Hopefully it will hold up through the storm. 

This is where the turkeys will ride out the storm. A cattle/horse trailer. It is sturdy enough to withstand the wind, and possibly downed limbs. It also has a middle divider so that if we need to leave, we can close the turkeys in one side, put the chickens in the other side, hook up to the truck, and all of us can go. 

The turkeys seem to enjoy the new settings. They are so curious. I had to rig the back of it because they had figured out how to escape. Who ever said turkeys are stupid have clearly never been around heritage turkeys before. They are too smart for their own good sometimes. I moved their automatic waterer to the trailer, but also gave them a gravity waterer and extra feeders. We also stocked up on chicken feed, turkey feed, and dog food when we were stocking up on canned food and water for ourselves. They are good to go!

The first feeder band made its way through as I was finishing up. We already had our first tree casualty. This was a large Oak. Luckily it was away from the house and fell into a wooded area. Hopefully we won't loose many more. Time to hunker down for the storm!

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Turkey Heads Are Getting BIG!

This is the most curious turkey. He isn't scared of anything and always
has to come see what is going on. He is also the worst about biting (tasting).
He thinks that everything is food. Narragansett 11 weeks.
One of the blue slates had to come see what was happening too!
Bourbon Reds. They still all want to see what the camera is every
time they see it. It usually means they want to taste it. 
Nosy Nosy Narragansett
Poor little Igor is now half the size of the rest of the turkeys. We have discovered
that it is not her neck, but her leg and breast bone, that are growing crooked.
She will likely have to be put out of her misery at some point but for now she is
getting around well enough and the others watch out for her.
7 Weeks

Some of the babies free ranging in the yard. Around 7 weeks old.
Even with the best of intentions, sometimes things don't get done. I had planned on posting weekly pics and updates on the turkey poults. That turned into biweekly posts. I'm not the best at keeping up with writing things when there are so many other things that need to be done around the homestead. I'll save all of that for another post, though. The babies are almost 12 weeks old now! When they were about 7 weeks old I started putting them in the chicken hoop coop during the day while the roosters were roaming the property. They were just too darn big to leave in the brooder coop anymore. I began letting them out in the yard when I was out there watching them. They never went more than a few feet from me. I assumed that if I was right beside them, they would be safe. Boy, was I wrong! I was sitting at my stone table, which is surrounded by a flower garden (my serenity garden). Half of them were under the bench I was sitting on and the others were right beside me. I was bent down talking to one of the blue slates (baby talk... its sickening I'm sure) and a swoosh of brown feathers flew by my face. I opened my eyes to see a hawk turn his head around and stare at me from atop my poor poult! He wasn't more than a foot and a half from my face! I grabbed the closest thing to me and swung it at him, while trying not to hit the turkey, and the hawk flew off leaving the poult there. The baby jumped up and ran back over to his brooder, along with the rest of them, and begged to be put back. Hence, no more free ranging turkeys for a while. I assume that the chickens are just too fast for the hawk, although we only have 6 chicks left. I think I know now where they all went to (aside from one that our new puppy got a hold of... there will be no more of that!). Now that all of the roosters have been sent to freezer camp (YAY!!!) the turkeys moved into the hoop coop full time. They have been the sole residents for about two weeks now. They are still super curious. They don't like being picked up quite as much as they used to, but they still come running over every time I get near the coop. Keegan says that they look like the flying monkeys from TheWizard of OZ when they are jumping and flapping around. I have to agree with him. I call to them (turkey turkey turkey!)and they all talk back. Keegan is the best at it, though. He figured out their alert call (by accident) and sent them all scattering. He can also get them to make several other calls and gobble. The time before last when I moved the hoop house, I broke one of the frame boards where there was a knot, so moving it got sidelined for a bit until I could fix it. Now they are moved onto fresh grass and LOVING IT! They are feathered out and beautiful! I can't believe that I was so worried about getting turkeys. They have been so much fun and are really not difficult to take care of at all. Now that I say that, though, something will happen... I encourage anyone that has to space to put them (and move them frequently because they get much more stinky than chickens if left in one area) to get them. They are no more difficult, so far, to take care of than chickens.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Homemade Mayo!

Did you know that mayonnaise is made with raw egg yolk? I didn't either, until recently. I don't eat mayo very often, simply because it is so bad for you. I do love egg salad, though. It is my favorite use for fresh eggs. I love to boil a bunch of them, shell them, place them in a baggie or container, and graze on them for the next few days. Egg salad is so easy! It uses mayonnaise, though. I don't trust factory produced eggs and refuse to give my money to companies that treat animals the way that they do. As much as I hate to part with the very few fresh eggs that I am getting from my hens, right now, I think it is worth it. Making homemade mayonnaise is as simple as making egg salad.

The ingredients are:
One fresh egg yolk
1 cup Oil (I love having the option to use any oil I want instead of what is cheaper for the company)
Lemon juice (I usually don''t measure.. a splash? About 1 1/2 tsp)
Vinegar ( I also love being able to choose my vinegar. I use apple cider. Again, I don't measure. About the         same amount as lemon juice).

First, separate the egg. Keegan is always excited about
 getting the white. He knows how much great protein 
there is in it. 

 Next, whip the egg yolk. I prefer an electric mixer 
because it takes a while, but a whisk works. Whip the
 yolk until it starts getting thick. 

 Once the yolk gets thick, add the splashes of vinegar and 
lemon juice. Whip until it gets really frothy.

Once it is really frothy and getting thicker, start drizzling the oil in. 
Just add small amounts at a time, while mixing.  

 If you add the oil too quickly it will not thicken correctly. 
The more oil you add and the more you mix it, the lighter 
and thicker it will become.  

Once all of the oil is mixed in add salt and another splash of 
vinegar to taste. You can also add garlic and other spices
to make flavored mayo. 

Voila! Homemade Mayonnaise! To make egg salad, simply
add a dollop of the fresh mayo to a couple of hard boiled eggs. 
Add chopped onions, brown mustard, garlic, and paprika. 
Use a fork to crush and mix. Add to toast. :) 
As simple as that. SOOO Good!

This was the use Keegan put the egg white to. 
A fresh salad, tomatoes fresh out of the garden, onions
from our garden that we picked this spring, and scrambled egg whites 
topped with a splash of apple cider vinegar and ground pepper. 
Good choice :)

Chickens Lay Eggs

Greta: One of my Easter Eggers
Chickens lay eggs... common knowledge. Well, except for my hens apparently. They are approximately 22 weeks old. The time that hens begin to lay eggs varies by breed and by individual, but it is generally around 18-22 weeks. Most people would probably think that I was a crazy, but I am so excited about my hens laying eggs. Not just because I want to eat them (yum!) but because I have raised these girls from day old chicks and it is almost like waiting for your babies first words or steps. I know... crazy chicken lady, but I'm not alone. It is an exciting time! I AM excited about eating them, though. I can't bring myself to buy store eggs anymore so we have just been doing without since May, unless I can find a friend locally to let us buy some of their farm fresh eggs, which we have been lucky enough to do a few times.

About 2 weeks ago I was surprised to find a perfect beautiful little green egg in my nesting box. Imagine that! My chickens are so smart that she figured out exactly where to lay her egg without me showing her and having never done it before! Sounds silly, but it is impressive to me. I didn't expect the EE to be the first to lay. A few days later I found another pretty little green egg, and then a peachy colored one! Then, of course (I got too excited apparently) the Easter Egger that was laying my perfect green eggs went missing. We never found her and assume that she fell prey to our neighborhood hawk (another story). So back to one egg a day. I tried everything! I gave them treats (sunflower seeds, fruit, and veggies from the garden), I made sure the nesting boxes were clean and pretty, I checked all around the yard to make sure that they weren't laying them somewhere else... nothing. Now, they will lay when they are mature enough. I know that I can't convince them to do it because it isn't their choice, but I seriously thought about marching straight over to the coop with an egg basket in one hand and a frying pan in the other and telling them to make a choice. We are, afterall, paying their room and board with nothing in return!

The one laying hen that I have left has consistently laid every day, only missing a single day this week. My son figured out why, this morning, when he was making breakfast ( YES HE COOKS! I'm so proud!). He cracked the egg open, into the pan, and out falls another egg! He found an egg within an egg! This happens occasionally when a fully formed egg, for some unknown (to me, anyway) reason, turns around and heads back up the reproductive tract instead of down to be laid, and gets another white added to it. Once it gets back on its downward track, it gets another shell added, and then is laid. I wish I had gotten to him before he cracked the second one so I could get a picture. I have been hoping to find a double yolker at some point. I know that those are also common in newly laying hens. Two yolks leave the ovary at the same time, go through the process of having white added together, and are enclosed in a single (much larger) shell.

 This afternoon (my girls don't like mornings... they lay in the afternoon or evening) Keegan went out to check for eggs. He found one in the outer nesting box, and was happy to discover another lady in one of the inner nesting boxes! We got two eggs today!!! I am so happy! Small wonders. I am always reminded of the scene in Curly Top when Shirley Temple's character says "Oh my duck can do a wonderful trick! My duck can lay an egg!" The hateful headmistress asks "Well, what is so wonderful about that?" and Shirley replies "Well, can you lay an egg?". My chickens can lay eggs! Now if we can just get the other 11 ladies to catch on.

Einstein (my EE rooster) and some of the Buff Orphington ladies trying to find their way into my tomatoes. Bad bad chickens!

The ladies came to visit at the back porch. Surprisingly, they don't eat my potted herbs.