Here in North Carolina, the days are longer, the breezes warmer, and the chickens chickenier. Or chickeneyer. I am going through a hard-boiled phase. I go through phases where I cannot stand hard-boiled eggs, and then come back to them. Because they are the very easiest of nutritious snacks in the entire world. When hungry, eat egg. Great way to get fit, healthy, and lose weight. So here is how I boil eggs:
Put six fresh eggs in a deep pan that fits them (not much larger). Cover eggs with cold water, filling pan as high as you can without overflow danger. Put on high heat. Set the timer for 15 minutes because I know I’ll walk away and FORGET about the eggs because Beethoven’s seventh symphony comes on the radio or something. In any case, pay attention. When the water is at a real boil, with the surface of the water roiling, put the lid on and remove the pan from the heat. Set the timer (again) for 16 minutes for extra large eggs. When it dings, pour off the hot water, fill with cold, and grab that old ice from the freezer and put that in, too.
When cold enough to handle, peel all the eggs. They will never be that easy to peel again. Since you cooked only six, you can eat them all in a couple of days. When hungry, eat egg.
Is there anything cuter than a chick? And if you buy an assortment of heritage or unusual breeds along with some standard Buff Orpingtons, Brown Leghorns, and so on, you have a rainbow of cute. Just listening to the “cheep, cheep, cheep” makes you happy.
One thing that is not cute is sick or dying chicks. So keep them at the right temperature, put additives in their clean water, and buy good starter feed. If you have an old broody hen to put in with them, all the better. Read this if you don’t know how: http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/chickcare.html.
This will be a spring without chicks for me, and that’s very sad.
Whenever the temperature soars to upper nineties or the hundreds, I know that chickens housed in cages and buildings will die … by the thousands. Nobody will ever know, because it’s not news. It’s just part of agribusiness. A cost of doing business.
But really free chickens can survive intense heat! They seek cool shady places and drink a lot of water. They walk down to the creek, where it’s at least 10 degrees cooler. And William puts ice in their drinking buckets.
William was working at a residence that had a small fenced area for chickens. He saw that one small rooster was being pecked to death by the others. He already had bloody holes, which excited further pecking and it was only a matter of time. The homeowner wasn’t there, but he had to do something. So he took spare cage-wire and created a separate wired-off area for the victim before leaving that day.
Who can say what perfection consists of in a chicken? Perhaps they pick on the weakest for good chickeny reasons. But I’m glad William came to the rescue, no matter how temporary. You do what you can.
One thing you can’t say to a hen is, “lay eggs faster!” For goodness’ sake, she’s already giving you an egg a day in exchange for a few kernels of corn, fifteen acres of hunting & pecking, and security at night. Hens are so wonderful and generous, one of the best creatures in the world. The problem we’re having is that the girls lay such beautiful rich eggs in all colors with dark orange yolks that they sell out at the store faster than they can lay.
It’s a controversial idea, but many people swear it works: You can “sex eggs” … that is, you can determine the gender of a potential hatchling by the shape of the egg. Pointed = rooster, round = hen. I bring this up because when chickens are free to do whatever they please, they are likely to hide a nest and hatch a clutch of eggs once in awhile. This happened recently, and William says he got a whole passel of roosters! If only he had culled the pointed eggs … I wonder if the problem could have been avoided. Because too many roosters soon become one big noisy problem!
The girls all agreed to get together and persuade William to buy hundreds of new cartons so he could sell the extra eggs. They researched retail outlets and chose Johnnie’s in Carrboro! Now you can pick up a dozen fresh, nutritious, and delicious eggs produced by 100% free chickens. All profits go to chicken feed! The Free the Chicken eggs are very popular and sell out quickly. Good news but not a surprise in Carrboro, a town that cares about where food comes from.
The entire nation is enduring a heat wave, and here in central North Carolina, we might break the all-time record today for consecutive days over 100 degrees. It has been just miserable. I’ve heard of caged factory chickens dying by the hundreds. (A loss always mentioned in the news as an economic tragedy.) Well, chickens can stand the heat if they are free to cool themselves. They search out the places that have not seen the sun, such as a spot in front of the back bedroom where not even weeds will grow. They dig up the earth to reach cooler layers. And they drink a lot of water. To help them out on 103-degree days, I empty a trays of ice in a bowl of water, and … if I can keep the dogs away … they all take turns dipping their beaks in and letting the cool cool water run down their throats.
They also stand with their wings out and pant. It’s very cute.
William went to collect eggs and got a surprise. Blacksnakes love eggs as much as we do. One had some in his belly and was resting in the nest. William has to move the snake into the barn where it belongs.
No wonder the chickens were laying in the new nest boxes in the other pen. I wish they could just tell us when something is wrong.
Snakes are beautiful and good, and we love the snakes. Just not in nest boxes.
The young chicks grew into pullets and finally reached a good enough size so that they could be released from their pen. It was a moment we had all been waiting for. With the door open, they hesitated. But the big adult Buff Orpington we had in their to be their babysitter showed them the way. She strutted out the door, all the time making mother hen noises to “her chicks” to follow, stay close, and do what I do. They obeyed. Soon they were all out in the yard, overwhelmed with the Big Beautiful World full of things to peck.
At night-fall they were all back in their pen, ready to be closed up for the night. Chickens are smart.
We have many different varieties, and this picture is of a Welsummer hen. I think she is gorgeous.