Saturday, April 28, 2012

The emu has arrived!







If you ignore the quail crowing in the background,  you can see the new baby emu in the hatcher early this morning.  He seems to be responding to the crowing though. =)



The 2nd one came out of his shell tonight





The 3rd emu is trying to hatch you can see his beak peaking out.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Hatching emus

Jim and I are hatching emu eggs in our incubator this year. We use these cabinet style incubators.

It's been over the allotted 56 days for the hatching to begin and we've have been watching...  watching...  watching for the hatch to arrive.

Tonight Jim called me into the basement to see that one of the eggs finally had a crack in it. As we watched, the small break in the egg began to lift up the egg shell, like a manhole in a city street. Again and again it rose, until Jim finally took the piece of egg shell away.





In an emu egg, under it's thick shell is a white membrane. We watched as that membrane (sort of like a little curtain) moved and wiggled.



We have read that if you whistle to the egg, it may whistle back. I've whistled on and off every day, but have heard nothing.
As we stood there watching, the little fella whistled. Jim and I, in wide eyed wonder, looked at each other in delight. "Oh my gosh, this is like giving birth watching the baby come!" I said. (The funny part is our middle daughter was born on this day 24 years ago).

The first whistle is me, then the baby quietly answers with a whistle



Jim and I watched, took a picture, a video and finally, reluctantly shut the incubator door.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hatching your own chicken eggs

There is something about hatching your own chickens that keeps me doing it year after year. My husband is the best at it. We have a small styrofoam incubator that we bought many years ago for about $40. (I believe they are $60 now.) I have never been very diligent in keeping track of the temperature and humidity, but have still managed to hatch out a few chicks.
  
 This year, Jim and I decided to go for it. He took over the task of watching the temperature and humidity. We put a total of 36 eggs in and hatched out 28. Here is a picture of the same one we have that Stromberg's is selling:


We also bought a small thermometer/hygrometer that sits inside with the eggs. It takes about 28 days for the eggs to hatch.
The temperature to hatch out chicks needs to be about 99.5* from day 1 - 18. And the humidity should be 50%. The eggs need to be turned, as if the mother hen was adjusting herself on the nest. Jim would simply roll his hands over the top of the eggs and move them slightly.
From day 19 - 21 you no longer have to roll the eggs around. The temperature should be 99.5* but the humidity should be at 70 - 80%. Sometimes a spray bottle with warm water works. This helps keep the chick moist and not dry out as it is hatching.

It was so much fun watching the first egg start to crack open.






After they hatched out, we placed them in a bin with food and a heat lamp. You can find out what the next step is by checking out my blog on it http://wwwhighlonesomeranch.blogspot.com/2012/04/getting-started-with-new-chicks.html


Before you start with the next batch of eggs, thoroughly wash and sanitize the incubator. 

We had so much fun with this, that we now have turkey and chick eggs in the small incubator. We also own 2 large cabinet style GQF incubators/hatchers (www.gqfmfg.com/) and have duck and quail eggs in one, and emu eggs in the other! 




Feeding Your Chickens on a Budget


Most of the time, during the Spring Summer and Fall, feeding chickens will be minimal to non-existent if they are free-range. They are wonderfully equipped to find their own food - bugs, seeds, greens.




When you start with chicks, you can feed them a commercial diet, phase them into a homemade diet, or go homemade all the way.
Adding fresh chopped greens to their diet from day 4 on, is a good way to start them on their way to a home-grown diet. Start adding in some grains- about 2 parts ground wheat, oats and corn (easy on the corn) and one part protein: fish meal, small portion of canned cat food, chopped hard boiled or scrambled eggs. yogurt, cottage cheese, worms grubs and bugs. My children used to love hunting for the worms and bugs for the chicks. Then add 1 part greens - lettuce, dandilion, clover, spinach, weeds finely chopped. Add some ground eggshells for their grit. Save your egg shells and dry them in the oven. Pulverize and crush them. This makes fine grit for chicks.
After about 4 weeks, chicks can eat the grain whole.


If your chickens are confined, they still would love to eat greens. Hang a cabbage head in a wire basket, or old onion bag and watch them peck at it. You can also  get heads of cabbage and push a long bolt through one, put a washer and nut on the end and hang the bolt from a hook. The cabbage is good in antioxidants and other things in addition to being cheap entertainment for the
chickens and you as you watch them swing it back and forth.

The greens are what makes the eggs so nutritious and that beautiful orange color yolk.

Adult chickens are wonderful at eating your kitchen scraps. Peelings, sweet or sour milk, pickles, meat scraps. All the vegetables, banana peels, french fries and stuff from your refrigerator is also relished.  They don't particularly like onions or citrus. (Don't feel them anything moldy). I bring doggie bags home for my critters.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chicks- feed, shelter, necessities

Once the chicks are fully feathered, they will be about 4 -5 weeks of age. 

You will be feeding them the "starter" feed until about this time and can then begin feeding "starter/grower" 
You can can feed their chicks scraps, or worms and other bugs from the garden... Small amounts of vegetable/dairy  also bugs and worms should be fine for the chicks (and they'll love it!).Just remember that starter feeds contain everything chicks need to survive and thrive, and filling them up with too much of the "other stuff" can throw off their nutritional balance.
And give them as much feed as they want. They will eat as much as they need, and come back later for more. They are good at self-regulating their feed, unlike a dog is.

Chickens do not have "teeth" so they need grit. When they free range, they will find their grit. If they are contained, you will need to provide the grit.  For baby chicks, sand, parakeet gravel or canary gravel, available at your local pet store or grocery store pet aisle.


 When the weather is warm enough, and sunny, they can venture outside. Put them in a wire cage or erect some other temporary housing and place it in the sun, making sure they have access to water and shade if they need it. They'll absolutely love digging around in the grass. But don't leave them unattended! At this age they're good at flying and very susceptible to predators. Also, if it's windy they'll get cold - they'll let you know they're unhappy with their loud chirping.



 By the time they are full grown, they will come when they are called, and stay pretty close to where you have their shelter and food.  Make sure they have access to water at all times. 


 They don't really need much in the way of comforts. It is always nice to provide a chicken coop or they will lay their eggs anywhere they find a nice hiding spot. This type of chicken coop holds about 12 free-range chickens. They lay their eggs in the nest box and you don't even have to go inside to collect them. If you want to keep them contained with a small outdoor run, this coop will take care of about 6 chickens. Interested in starting a small flock? In general, you can have 3 hens (no rooster or crowing involved) and get 14 eggs a week! That's 2 eggs a day! 
Our first set of chickens didn't have a coop the first year. They would roost in the trees. When we had a snow, the following morning, they would shake the snow off and fly out of the trees to the ground. The weather didn't phase them. This is our chicken coop now, you can see that they aren't afraid of a little snow!  

                                      
Of course, during the winter you will have to provide food. They will scrounge around in the snow looking for tidbits - especially under bird feeders, but they need something of their own to keep their metabolism up and keep them warm. Your local feed store will have feed available for the winter.

Chickens will stick together. If you have a rooster, he will call to his hens to come and eat something special he might have found. 

Monday, April 16, 2012


It used to be that people would take Sunday drives. They would drive around, look at the countryside, stop to chat with friends. Sometimes chatting with friends would happen in the middle of the road! One going in one direction, another going the opposite way. The people would finally move when someone happened to come up behind them.


For years Jim and I have taken drives just to ride around the countryside. When we first met, we spent a lot of time in a jeep he had repaired... re-building the engine and then painting it. We would take the back roads of WV and be gone for hours, never really knowing where we would end up. 


 When we lived in Summers County, WV and school was called off for snow on the 11:00 news, we would head to the jeep and drive around aimlessly - just to be the first tracks in the snow. 


Driving around as much as we have over the years gave us a perfect opportunity to discuss everything of importance to us... our plans, dreams, fears. It has always been our way of re-connecting with each other.  I guess you would call this our hobby! I don't know that we passed this hobby on the kids. lol


We went for a short drive today... I suddenly felt the need to decompress and just breath in the Spring air.Unfortunately we won't be driving around as much as we used to with the gas prices. The inexpensive hobby has somehow become very close to being out of our financial reach!! :-/

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Getting started with New Chicks

Before you decide to keep chickens, be sure to check with the local zoning laws. Many towns are now allowing chickens to be raised, with some stipulations as to how many you can have, and whether a rooster is allowed (most probably wouldn't let you have roosters) But have no fear... you can have eggs without the rooster (he is only needed to fertilize the egg).

So where do you get chicks? To start off, check your local feed store (Southern States, Tractor Supply Company) they usually have a "Chick Days' where they will have live chicks in the store. This usually only happens in the Spring around Easter. The feed store may also know of some farmers that hatch out their own and are selling them. We sell our and advertise in a local paper. Many places are using Craigslist also.

If you are starting bigger, check out the poultry hatcheries such as Strombergs, Ideal, Cackle. You have to order 25 or more. There is a site called My Pet Chicken and they will sell just a few chicks (you need to buy a minimum of 3). Chicks are susceptible to cold, so the more chicks sent the easier to keep warm.

You will need to keep the chicks warm, so start them out in a small "brooder". A brooder is a box of some type that has pine shavings for bedding,  and a heat lamp. We add screen on top to keep unwanted cats from having a "happy meal" when we aren't looking.  We have had wooden boxes that hubby, Jim, has built, and plastic bins from Walmart. Something to keep them contained and without drafts, because they need heat. You can obtain a heat lamp from Lowes, Tractor Supply, etc. In a smaller bin, a 60 watt light may be warm enough if the bin is in the house and away from drafts.
 When we were living without electricity, we heated a large pot with hot water, wrapped it in towels and put it in with the chicks. They huddled close for warmth. You will know if it is too hot for them as they will be spread out all over the bin trying to get away from the heat. If they are huddled close to the light, they are too chilly. If they pile on one another, the ones on the bottom could get smothered.
Comfortably warm chicks

Chicks eat medicated chick starter. (Do not give this to any ducklings you may come home with, as it could kill them). Do not give them wild bird seed, or anything other than the medicated chick starter. As they get older you can give them table scraps, greens... just about anything. Chickens will eat everything with relish except citrus and onions.
Water is essential. Get a waterer specifically for chicks so they won't walk in it, or dirty it up.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Emu Eggs for sale

3 Beautiful Unique Shells for Crafts, Carving, Painting, & Etching! The emu egg makes beautiful jewelry 

EMU EGGS create wonderful works of art. 
The eggs have three layers. Outside-emerald green, middle-teal green, and inside-white.  
The eggs are approximately 13 1/2" end to end  and   10 3/4" around the middle
They have a small hole at one end. The hole is 3/16 inch. (very small)

These eggs are laid by our own  hen.

These eggs may have one or more of he following: blemishes, such as scratches, white oval stains,
natural blemishes, simply due to the hen. These will get covered up by painting, carving, cut-out work, or decoupaging.
All shells are blown, cleaned, & sanitized.  Colors, textures, & shape will vary.
They are not cracked or broken when shipped; but they are insured, if breakage should occur during shipping! 

For more information go to: Emu Eggs where you can order them!

Chickens

Chickens are one of the first animals people want to get when they are starting their homestead. They are  very easy to keep and raise. They eat very little if they are free ranging. They are great for bug control. In return they provide eggs, meat and feathers for fishing tackle. They are amusing to watch, a little violent in their breeding (for you first timers) and it is fun to hear the rooster crow and the girls talk. The rooster will call his girls over when he finds a tasty morsel. He will crow in the morning just to announce his domain. 

The girls gossip and chat to each other and will brag when they lay their eggs.


When the chicks are fully feathered and grown, you will see the "ear lobes" on the side of their head. The ones with the red ones will lay brown eggs, and the ones with the white will lay white eggs. After the first couple of eggs come, if you are observant, you will be able to tell which egg belongs to which hen as each egg is distinctive to that hen.

Each chicken will have their own personality. I have had a chicken that would always run to me and make her soft clucking sounds as if asking for a handout. She was always the first one to spot me coming out of the house.

    Interested in starting a small flock? In general, you can have 3 hens (no rooster or crowing involved) and easily get 14 eggs a week! That's 2 eggs a day! 
We have 15 hens and have eggs out the ears in the summer. What can you do with the eggs? You can have deviled eggs, quiche, custards,. You can pickle them, freeze them, add extras to cakes and other mixes. Have breakfast for supper at least once a week, and of course, sell them or give them to friends.



Advantages to chickens besides eggs: Chickens will eat ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, slugs, beetles, ants, maggots, grubs, caterpillars, grasshoppers, beetles, and even mice. This year I have heard the bugs may be overwhelming because the winter was so mild.

  
  
My favorite chickens are the Americana chickens - not to be confused with Araucanas. Americanas sold by hatcheries are  also called the Easter Egg Fowl. Most of the so-called Americanas in the US are mixes that carry some of the original genes and lay variously colored eggs: blue, green, or pinkish. These birds are sometimes (and more honestly) sold as Easter Egg chickens. The American Poultry Association recognizes a bird called the Ameraucana, which lays colored eggs and has muffs and a beard, not ear tufts, and comes in standardized color varieties, with slate colored shanks.


Easter Egger come in white  and vary  in a wide assortment of colors and types, black, buff, cinnamon, brown, red and white– along with various combinations of these colors. Some may have top knots, some have whiskers, and others have bunches of feathers growing from each side of the head near the ear region. They are good layers, with eggs medium to large in size. The colors vary in shade from pale to deep blue, green, pink, plus a few olive drab and an occasional antique gold. The Easter Egger is a hardy, vigorous fowl, resistant to disease and easy to raise. They seem to do well in all types of climate. A calm chicken, they are very easily tamed to become pets.


I'm sure my flock is a combination of the Easter Eggers and Ameracaunas. I also have White and Brown leghorns in the mix. And I'm excited to say I ordered Auracana eggs and will hopefully hatch out chickens with the ear tufts and blue eggs!


  

Brown eggs, blue eggs, white eggs and even some pink eggs are some of the fun of raising your chickens.



Here is an excellent page of a chicken breed chart to help get you started on choosing the chicken for you! click here

                       


   





 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Emu Egg Quiche

I made an emu egg quiche tonight. I have used our emu eggs in scrambled eggs before, but with left over ham from Easter, and swiss cheese, I had to make a quiche. It was very delicious. The emu egg was rich and light. 


The easiest way to blow an emu egg came from Jim Glick at Backachers Emu Ranch.  http://www.weduemu.com/
Into the small end of the egg, make a 1/8" hole with a drill. Using an air canister (such as the kind you get to blow the dust out of the keyboard of your computer) and giving short bursts of air, blow into the egg. 


 

The yolk will come out in a beautiful stream
One egg will equal about 10 - 12 chicken eggs. 


Blend the egg completely. I add a bit of milk to it (about 2/3) and get it frothy. Then I use a favorite quiche recipe. 


First I cheat with a store bought pie crust. If you get the regular, this quiche will make 2 pies. If you use the deep dish, it will make 1 pie.
Heat the oven to 375*, prick the pie crust and place it in the oven to brown the bottom a bit. 



QUICHE FILLING:


Emu Egg, fresh, or 10 large chicken eggs
Swiss Cheese, 2 cup, shredded 
Mushrooms, canned, .25 cup 
Cured Ham, 1  1/2 cup 
Onions,1/2  cup, chopped 
  2/3 - 3/4 cup milk


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.


Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pan and add onions, sauté until they begin to brown and caramelize.
 Remove onions from pan,  Heat mushrooms in same pan until water is released. .
Turn oven down to 350 degrees.
Sprinkle crust with 1 cup cheese, onions and mushrooms, then add whisked eggs.
 Cover with remaining 1 cup of cheese and bake for 30-40 minutes until center is set and top is golden brown.








I didn't have a brick of cheese, just sliced swiss cheese, so I cut it into strips and added it.