Spring Time Chores:
Chicken Pens, Drugs in Chicken Feed and Preserving Eggs
Spring time chores on the homestead
include chicken pen care, knowing how to preserve eggs, avoiding
commercial chicken feed and health benefits from lambs quarters.
The Luxuries of Spring
One thing that spring affords us
farmers is a chance to get back into shape with out paying those high
costs at the gym. I call it my farm girl aerobics.
There is the shoveling out the winter
barns heavy with muck that has been frozen down all year. Forget those
leg weights as walking through the mud with boots now weighing 20
pounds or more, does more then any strap on weight ever could. Pushing
wheelbarrows, carting in rock, grain and bags of lime leave that body
fat far behind. Leaving our fat-laden diets behind as well will do a
lot to help thin our blood and get us back into shape sooner.
Spring Time and Lamb's Quarters
The old cowboys used to literally bleed
out their horses in spring time so that they could handle the change
from winter to summer better. Now days our horses don't have to work so
hard, however we still do. One plant you may find wonderful is Lambs
Quarters. It is high in minerals, vitamins and even vitamin B to help
you stay awake and feeling better longer. Honey not sugar will also
find you having more energy since you have been doing little hiding in
that warm house most of the winter.
My favorite way to cook Lambs Quarters
is to cut up one strip of bacon, just enough for flavor, and find some
of those sweet walking onions you can now locate. Once they are cooked
to your satisfaction, toss in the Lambs Quarters and cover, steam long
enough they are dark green and wrap in a tortilla. For me a bit of
Picidillo gives a great finishing taste.
Spring Time and Preserving Eggs
Another thing you will find in the
spring time is you have more eggs then you know what to do with. Its
soon to take a chance on hatching them, as weather is sometime tricky
this time of year. However, you must do something with them and a
person can only eat so much custard, scrambled eggs and so on.
If you dip your eggs in paraffin and
store them in a cool place they will keep for over a year. Make sure
you have sealed the whole egg, no pores should be left open to breath.
Small end up is the best way to store.
Another fun thing is to use a strong
brew of your favorite tea. Lightly crack the shell so it has hairline
cracks all over. Then place your eggs, shell and all in a canning jar
with a spoonful of salt and even a bit of lemon. Cover eggs with your
strong tea and poof! You have canned eggs that will have a wonderful
and unique flavor later on. This is the not-so-gross version of 1000
year old eggs.
Spring Time, Broody Chickens and Chicken Breeds
If you are thinking
about hatching some
chicken eggs this spring time, even if you are using an incubator, you
going to want to make sure your brood hens are not going broody on you.
If they do, don't panic, golf balls are your friend. A hen will sit on
a faults nest for a long time if she is of a broody variety.
The breed I use the most here on "One
Sky Ranch" for brood hens are the tiny Partridge Cochin bantams. I
absolutely adore them. They are not only beautiful to look at, but are
fantastic mothers and setters. They are also gentle to be around while
being just flighty enough to free range and avoid predators. The
roosters can be used in quality soups or stews.
My next choice is the Silkie or Silkie
cross chicken. I don't find them to be as good mothers, or forages,
can't dispute their broody nature. If I could only own one breed of
chicken for meat, egg and brood hen, It would be the Orpington. They
have it all, however you will have to sort through the hens that are
not broody. The ones that are will make it worth your while. There are
that have wonderful reputations as mothers,
setters or both.
The wonderful thing about poultry is
the large selection of choices in size, color, behavior and more. There
is something out there for everyone, no matter what your taste.
Spring Time and Chicken Pen Hygiene
Now that you have picked out your hens,
you have their nest boxes clean and ready to go, and you have your
setters or incubators ready. You need to clean your pens. Filth is not
your friend and will ruin eggs and kill chicks and adults alike. Move
your birds to fresh ground if you can. If not, section off parts of
your pen and rotate.
Get leaves or what ever and burn on the
ground where your birds have been all winter, or use fresh sweet lime
and cover the ground. De louse your birds with dairy dip and use
peprazine in the water, or use Ivomec as a total control system, but do
worm and delouse now that the wild birds are flying in with lice and
other critters that are not good for your birds.
After you have cleaned the ground if
you can, replant some fodder plants. If you can't keep the pen vacant
that long, at least let the lime set 3 days before placing your birds
back in. This will sterilize the ground and remove any worm eggs etc.
Do this to your entire pen. Clean the coops and barns the same way.
Sweet lime is cheap and safe. I have fed it to cattle, goats, and sheep
as a calcium additive with excellent results.
Spring Time and Drugs in Commercial Chicken Feed
Something you may not know about your
production chicken feed is that there are drugs in it. Years ago the
speed freaks would shoot up chicken powder, as it was not mixed into
the chicken feed like it is today, and so one had to keep drug addicts
away from it. In short if you feed something to make your birds lay
more, you are feeding them Crack, or Methamphetamine. It's very
different to the type made in bath tubs today, but it still contains
To avoid this I save back my butchering
fat and meats that I would normally through away or mix in a grind.
This early protein is just what your birds need. Save all the fat you
can from what you butcher in the fall. Save fat and even extra guts
from butchered chickens. Freeze this and come spring, give them all
I keep two freezers, one for me and one
for my animals. It is well worth the added electric bill to run the
extra freezer. Cracked corn and a few oats will fill in the gaps along
with table scraps. If you can find some really flaky alfalfa that is
also a good addition to their feed. This will keep your shells hard and
your chickens healthy, and laying well. You will also notice the color
of your yolks getting almost red. They will be dark orange compared to
the lighter color they will be from chickens fed commercial feeds. This
healthier yolk translates into healthier chicks.
Duck hens especially Muscovy hens will
love you if you fish. They crave protein in early spring and if you can
find frozen fish on sale through the year or have friends that fish if
you don't. Freeze your extra for spring.
In my next article I will give a
detailed post on how to Caponize. Its not as hard as you may think. As
well as raising your baby chicks and how to avoid that new grass flavor
in your milk.
By Gypsy, our resident homestead blogger
from One Sky Ranch Gypsy's
Wanderings Homestead Blog
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