Chickenless

As of this morning at about 6.30, we are chickenless. Both remaining birds were attacked by a sex-link we had and had lost feathers in the process. The one bird grew everything back fine, but the other didn’t and got into a habit of picking herself. With a bare rump, she wouldn’t have made it through the winter, so she was dispatched along with her pal the white columbia.

Now the search is on for new birds, or we may wait until spring and get some eggs to hatch for our flock in our new incubator (apparently arriving by UPS today!).

Dove Update

Last Friday I was working from home and decided to release the dove that the cat decided to attack. A friend of ours was nice enough to bring us a proper cage the weekend before to keep it in. After a week of fattening it up for either release or dinner, it looked more likely to be enjoying a slightly less barbecued life. The only issue it seemed to struggle with after a week was an eye that was swollen shut. The cat must have swiped it across its face during their “game”. The winking eye helped solidify a name for the bird though: semi-colon.

Back to the release. I put the cage outside, opened the door and sort of expected it to peel out and race up to the skies. Nothing of the sort. It sat in the doorway for about twenty minutes and then decided to go back in for some food and water. Another hour or so later and it was in the garden flapping about and it eventually flapped its way out of our lives.

So there is either a winking mourning dove flying around our neighbourhood, or a satisfied cat that attacked one from its left side.

****Forgot to post this earlier. For anyone interested in cooking up some mourning doves, here is a really tasty looking recipe: http://www.grit.com/Arrows-and-Minnows/Game-Recipes-A-Dove-Recipe-for-the-Grill.aspx

New addition to the flock

Well not really a new chicken, and not really a bird we were expecting to keep. This morning I noticed the cat with her first (as far as we know) kill. When I walked up to congratulate her, I quickly took back my high-fives and “booyahs” as she hadn’t killed our new friend, the dove. At first glance it didn’t look too bad, no blood, nothing hanging off or twisted in the wrong direction so I took it off the cat.

I thought the eyes looked pretty. The cat thought they looked delicious.

After carrying it around for a while and calming it down I decided to let it go, to soar back up to the heavens, to sing its song once again….ah shit, can’t fly still. With the epic release spoiled by its injuries, I picked it up again and created a temporary home for it on the patio where is can rest up away from hungry cats and people trying to get it to fly.

I don't think we'll be eating this bird, so does anyone have any ideas for a name?

I’ll keep you posted on how it’s doing. Hopefully it’ll mend and be on its way.

The cat grows older

The message below is not authored by me, nor is the idea of celebrating the birthday of such an evil little animal. Must say though, I’d miss her if she was gone. The following from my long suffering wife:

“Happy 1st birthday* Gia!
*approximate date estimated by vet
A year ago she was a hissy runt from a feral litter with a nasty eye infection.  Today, Gia is a diminutive, anti-social cat with nasty stink eye.
Aside from ice cream sandwiches and tuna juice, she also shares our passion for home grown delicacies, such as this cat grass.
This will be her first summer at our house with full run of the garden.  We have high hopes of her terrorizing the squirrels that routinely dig up our plants. She’s been perfecting her ambush technique.”
So there you have it. The cat is older.

Personnel

I thought I’d add a little widget on the sidebar to keep track of the “personnel” we have, and have had. The red “x” means they were delicious! Hopefully the cat, as much as she is evil during beer and cheese making, won’t have an “x” anytime soon.

Giant Egg!

Just got back from another trip to Home Depot (we managed to visit only two locations this time) and had a nice surprise waiting for me in the nestbox. The egg on the left is an average large egg and the one on the right is beyond extra-large:

To give you a better idea of size, the one on the left weighs in at 57g, while the bigger one is 89g! I used a digital scale to weigh the big one as it bottomed out our egg grading scale:

We’ve had a few abnormally large eggs before, but this specimen definitely is our best. I wonder if it will be a double or triple-yolker? I think the barred rock that laid it deserves a rest and maybe a medal.

All in lay!

Finally, all birds are in lay. We have been waiting for the last of the remaining three to start laying so that the investment of feed and time would pay off. Got to love their first few eggs. This one is a football (in shape, not size)! Sorry, no pic, an egg is an egg really.

Here’s a quick camera phone shot of an egg from each bird:

From left, Barred Rock, Red Sex Link & Columbian Rock (finally!)

Bully Hen

A couple of weeks ago we went away for the night and left the chickens with plenty of food and water, and the neighbours next door with the task of egg collection. While we were gone, one of our original Red Sex Link hens decided to take her mild bullying of the other birds to the next level. We came home to find her pinning another RSL to the ground and ripping feathers and flesh from its back. One of our other birds had a wound on her comb that we assumed was also from the bully. It was definitely a gruesome sight to come home to. Excitedly entering the backyard, looking forward to seeing the hens again, cooing and  strutting, I found a nasty problem.

What to do with a hen turned cannibal? Emergency head removal surgery. Don’t worry, there isn’t anything graphic in this post.

The next day before work, I crept out in the dark, grabbed our bully from her roost, and dispatched her. 100% humane, not to worry.

Then the work begins. First, it’s plucking. This is the second bird I’ve had to dispatch (the first had a genetic disease, so it was a mercy kill), so I already had some knowledge of what to do. Plucking CAN be easy. Boil up some water, dunk the bird (dead of course) and then after a few seconds, dunk into a second bucket of cool water. This USUALLY helps loosen the feathers. This bird was defiant even in its current state of headlessness.

40 minutes, sore fingertips and a pair of pliers later, the bird was plucked and ready to be processed. I won’t go into the butchering details, but if you are interested, How To Butcher a Chicken (http://butcherachicken.blogspot.ca/) is a great step-by-step guide.

One note, as the above blog only butchers pre-lay birds, they don’t get to see a very interesting bit of the bird. Hens have multiple eggs inside of them at varying stages of development. Our bully had about a dozen that were mainly just yolks, ranging in size, as well as a hard-shelled egg. A few hours later and that egg would have been laid and brown in colour, rather than white in the picture below:

These eggs are edible, but as I was butchering, the bully had a last hurrah and defecated on the counter (my fault really, I pushed down on the wrong bits). Once contaminated, eggs must be disposed of. The meat on the other hand can be cleaned and still used. Here is the dressed bird:

After the meat relaxed for a couple of refrigerated days, we had a lovely soup. If you imagine the taste of chicken, as mild as it is, multiplied by four, you’d have the taste of the above. Not gamey or tough, although, five hours of cooking helped.

A friend of mine said that next time I dispatch a bird, I should do it in front of the other hens as a warning. Funny, but I’ll pass.

As for the victims, they were treated with the appropriate ointment and all are healing well.

New books!

I just ordered two new books to add to the shelves. Ordered on Saturday night, arrived this afternoon. I have no idea how Amazon does this, but I appreciate their speed.

First off, was Edwardian Farm (http://www.amazon.ca/Edwardian-Farm-Ruth-Goodman/dp/1862058857/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1332198391&sr=1-1) by Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands, & Peter Ginn. This is the companion book to the television series of the same name. From a quick scan through, it looks like a comprehensive journal of their year on the Edwardian farm as well as a lot of additional material not covered in the show.

Next book was Barnyard in Your Backyard (http://www.amazon.ca/Barnyard-Your-Backyard-Beginners-Chickens/dp/1580174566/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1332198609&sr=1-1) by Gail Damerow. A friend of mine (also a rural dreamer) recommended the book when we spent the weekend with them. I think I spent most of the weekend going through it and making a wishlist of animals and out-buildings to house them. It covers raising chickens, geese, ducks, goats, cows, rabbits and sheep. There is a huge amount of information on each animal and I purchased it as more of a quick reference guide. The illustrations are easy to follow, and all information seems to come from the author’s experience in her “Backyard Barnyard”. If you get the chance, look under “Non-contagious conditions” in ducks. Apparently drowning is classified as a non-contagious condition.

I’ll have to add more details on these books as I go through them more in-depth. Maybe I should post a reading list with reviews for those out there looking for similar literature.