Season’s Greetings, Back in the Egg Business, & Surprise Snow!

Hello folks, it’s me, Lisa… remember me?  Once again I was gone from home and thus gone from the blog and I left you all in the lurch.  I do apologize for that.  First we were back East for a family wedding, then we got waylaid by the Eastern snowstorm and got home 24 hours later than expected and I had to do a quick one-eighty and headed back down the coast to California for the holidays.  During that time and the upcoming New Year, I hope you all have been and will be enjoying the celebrations with great gusto!

So, in total, I was away from daily life as I know it for about two weeks.  And here at the homestead some interesting things happened during that time.  First of all, the night we got home, I immediately went to check on the chickpeas.  I found them all safe and happy on their perches for the night and I found eight eggs in the nesting boxes!  Eight!  My first thought was that the neighbors hadn’t been by to collect eggs in a few days.  But, the water and food were filled to brimming, so that didn’ t seem possible.  In all honesty, my neighbors take better care of the chickens than I do… I fill the feeder and waterer every few days when they get really low.  They keep them topped off every single day.  I occasionally skip a day or part of a day on collecting eggs if weather and/or life gets in the way.  They go out to collect eggs often twice a day when I’m gone.  The only thing they don’t do is let them out to free-range (which I do religiously unless weather prohibits it).

Anyway, it seemed odd to me that they had skipped a few days. So, I ran inside and immediately sent off an email to my neighbor (who was still at work) and asked about the eight eggs.  Had it been a few days?  I always tell them they can skip a day or two no problem, but they never listen.  A little while later there was a knock at my door.  It was my neighbor.  She told me that they had been finding, two, three, or four eggs each day and that they had collected eggs at 11am the day before.  It must be a timing thing.  Some of the chickens laid that afternoon and then again the next day so it added up to eight eggs.  That seemed reasonable.

But then I left for CA the next day and that afternoon I talked to Brian and guess what?  He found SEVEN eggs!  Seven in one day!  And then eight the next day!  And so on and so forth.  The smallest egg day since December 20th has been 5 eggs.  I personally collected 8 yesterday and 7 today.  That means we have 8 out of 9 girls back in laying mode!  When we left only four were laying and I thought they might stop soon too, but no!  On the 8-egg days we get four blue/green, two dark brown, and two light brown.  That means only one EE isn’t laying (my guess is Shelley because she’s still molting).

today's eggs

But Blanche and Rory have all their feathers back and are looking lovely and are clearly laying.  Apparently the dark and the cold doesn’t bother them at all!  I was expecting several months of few to no eggs, so this is a nice surprise.

In the Words of Kelly Clarkson: Someone’s Gotta Go

Chicken Soup, foreground, Luke, background

On a less-pleasant note, the time has officially come to rid ourselves of a surplus rooster.  It can’t be avoided any longer.  When I got back here from Virginia, Luke and Soup put on a spectacular show of fighting for second-place rooster.  The one time I was with them to free-range before I left again, they fought basically the entire time.  Then I returned from CA late Sunday night and let them out Monday morning only to find Soup’s head and neck completely drenched in blood.  Luke had apparently ripped off a piece of the last point on the back of Soup’s comb and it bled like crazy.  He was fine, but it wasn’t pretty.  They fought while they were out then, and again today.  Today both of them were bruised and bloodied and they continued to duke it out pretty much constantly.

It must stop.  The girls and JB don’t seem to mind much but it can’t be fun when they’re fighting in the confines of the coop and run.  It’s loud and annoying at least… plus they run into everything because they don’t look where they’re going – they smash into the walls of the coop, fall off the garden boxes, run into my legs, land on top of other chickens.  They are oblivious.  Soup is still number 2 because he still gets to mate with some of the girls and Luke never does.  This is probably why it’s so important to Luke that he moves up in the ranks.

OK, so.  My opinion is that we should eat Luke.  He was always my least favorite anyway.  What do you guys think?  I want to learn to kill a chicken anyway because I want to someday raise meat chickens.  This would entail catching him and putting him in a separate cage for something like 12 or 24 hours (I would have to brush up on my reading) without food (and maybe water?  I can’t remember.) to clean his intestinal tract.  And then, basically, we hang him upside down or use a killing cone and slice the jugular.  This is quick, painless, instant death when done properly and is as humane as it comes.  We would let it bleed out, then pluck, gut, and then chill for a few days.  Then Coq Au Vin here we come. I think I can do this.

It would help with a number of problems… no more fighting (or at least less fighting) and possibly less over-breeding of the girls (though I’m not sure since he may never get to mate) so they can grow their back feathers back.  One less rooster to crow day and night.  One less mouth to feed… not to mention that he is the least-useful mouth that is being fed since we don’t need him for breeding or protecting and he doesn’t lay eggs.  I think  I can do it.  I want to be able to do it.  Any and all feedback on this topic is welcome.

But the Cat Rat Came Back, The Very Next Day…

I didn’t have my camera with me when I noticed it today, but the rat tunnel is back with a vengeance.  It is bigger and better than ever.  They were just kidding when they stopped using it for a few days.  Ha ha very funny.  Dumb rats.

On a Happier Note – Snow!

The forecast for today was heavy rain all day with a high of about 40.  The morning was clear as a bell, heavy frost on the ground.  By noon, it was 46 degrees and a little cloudy.  This afternoon (still no rain), I was free-ranging with the chickadees when I noticed that it suddenly felt way colder.  I looked at the outdoor thermometer on the coop: 36.  A little while later, as I was ushering them back into the run/coop, I thought a little white feather floated by me.  This happens all the time when one of the chickens shakes or flaps and a feather comes out and blows away.  A few seconds later, I saw another white feather.  By the time the third feather went floating by, I looked around… they were snow flakes!  Just a few of them, here and there.  I was happy to see them but I didn’t think much of it.  It would probably be rain within a few minutes, or maybe nothing at all.  The clouds looked light. But, by the time I got the chickens inside and I had gathered eggs, there were a few more flakes… small, but in a constant stream.  By the time I walked back to the house, it was a little more.  Then a little more and a little more.

It wasn’t long before it was sticking – first to plants, and then even to the pavement.  I wrote an email to Brian at his work to tell him it was snowing.  A few minutes later he called to say he was coming home early so that he wouldn’t get stuck in the snow (the City of Portland apparently only owns one snowplow).  The sky soon darkened and I had to turn the lights on in the house.

By the time Brian got home, things were looking pretty white.

And just now at 9:30 pm, I took a picture out our front door and I believe we have the better part of an inch on the ground.

This may not seem exciting to you, but this is pretty big snow for around here and it wasn’t expected… plus it’s the first snow of the year and I didn’t miss it!  The year we lived in Denver, I was out of town during the first snow and Brian called to tell me about it.  Same goes for our first year here in Vancouver.  So, this is very exciting to me to be here for the first (and possibly only) snow of the year!  Go with it.  Be excited!

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9 thoughts on “Season’s Greetings, Back in the Egg Business, & Surprise Snow!

  1. My sdad came out to help us on our first time. It wasn’t difficult, just different. We did the deed at just past dusk so he was pretty docile. The one thing I did learn is to let the meat ‘rest’ for a couple day before you try to eat it or it’s tough. Good luck and take pics.

  2. HI Lisa! I was hoping you were just busy and not ignoring us. :) j/k

    We had to kill off Clovis after I came home from the hospital in October. He had started going after my nieces before I got sick. We tried the various methods of trying to mellow him out. Separated him from the rest of the flock for over a week. Carry him around… etc.

    I came home from the hospital. Let the chickens out to free range, and as I was walking away from the coop to get them water, Clovis charged me.

    That was it… final straw.

    I made the decision that that was his last week on earth. Jeff did the killing. I did keep him separated from the flock for 24 hours. Mainly to keep him away from food.

    We opted to skin him cause I thought that would be less messy. You will be VERY surprised at how dark a rooster’s dark meat really is. I was.

    I decided since I had read many times that roosters can be tough that I was going to take all the precautions. I cut him into parts and soaked it in salt water for almost a whole week in the fridge. Then I made chicken stock. I cooked it at a very low temp for a really long time. Then pulled all the meat off the bones, and made soup. mmmmm

    It was probably the best chicken soup we’ve ever had. Just to get yourself used to the idea, you may want to watch some chicken butchering videos on youtube.

    And just for fun, thought you may enjoy this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1iTBgz7NN0

  3. Hey Jen! Are you the one filming that video of the rooster with the fake rooster? That is HILARIOUS! I laughed so hard. “I think you killed him, Reggie,” was the best part.

    And yes, chilling and brining the bird in salt water, I think are probably key steps. And then chicken soup or coq au vin (Julia Child says you should always use a “tough old cock” for coq au vin) will be the right way to go… long and slow cooking so he’s not tough.

    If I go through with it, I will take pictures and document the whole thing. Hopefully I don’t scare off any of my readers! It’s all a part of life, and I love knowing where my food comes from. Plus, I believe that if you eat chicken, you should be willing to kill one so you understand what was done so that you could have your food.

  4. HAHAHA! giblet smiley face! yessss!

    man, that hand-processing/butchering process looks quite involved – how long does it take, start-to-finish?? i think i could do it, but it involves a LOT more work than i imagined!! i say go for it!!!

  5. Welcome back. I hope you had a great holiday.

    Good luck with doing in Luke and then EATING him. You’re stronger than I am.

    When I got my first ten chicks back in Feb, I got dual purpose birds and didn’t name them with the thought that they would be just that – for eggs and meat.

    Until, someone posted a link on BYC’s showing this old guy culling chickens. I didn’t make it past the page showing the chicken in the cone and a knife to it’s neck.

    I desided then that my chickens will live out their lives after egg production slows and stops.

    If you do kill him, I’d appreciate a warning if you post pics so I can avoid looking. (just me)

    Happy New Year to you all – Nancy, Olympia

  6. My girls are coming back online too! We are getting more eggs each day.

    We had to get rid of our rooster. He wasn’t getting along with one of our favorite hens. He was picking on her constantly and she was looking terrible from all the stress. He was a pretty bird, but it just didn’t work out.

  7. Lisa! Oh my goodness. . . I read through the entire site for butchering and preparing your poultry. Lots of work, and I’m thinking it could take a half day! Funny how we just don’t think about these things. . . I wonder how this is done commercially? Surely some of these things have to be done by hand even in a commercial setting.

    Can’t wait to see the blog/pix when you do it!

  8. I did find out that there’s a place in Portland that does it all for 5 dollars a bird. A friend of mine took his whole flock there in the fall and then froze them. Have to say though, as part of raising them, it’s another part. An icky part like poopy butt syndrome :)

  9. Love your blog! I live in Vancouver as well. I was surprised this past week or so that my 8 hens have all been laying! They are 9 months old and doing well..we lost 1 Auracana this past week. So sad! We also took our RIR rooster out to our barn in the country. He was just plain mean and ornery! I got tired of watching my back all the time!
    I have 2 barred rocks, 1 red sexlink(she lays an egg every day and they are huge!) 2 BO’s, 1 RIR, 2 Araucana’s.

    Love the girls and the eggs!

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