Monday, April 30, 2018

I owe you

I owe you two posts: the menu post, which I did not get posted this morning, and the 18 for 2018 update, which I meant to do Thursday.

They're coming, friends, although the menu plan has broken down already (I needed to start making stew about an hour and a half ago in order for it to be done in time for the first wave of supper-eaters), so I'm not certain it's even useful anymore.

And I didn't cross much more off my 18 for 2018 list, so I suppose you could just look at last month's update (seriously.  All I did in April was send friend mail 4 more times).

But today I need to talk about something else.

Last night I asked my Bible study friends to pray for AKD and his EDD teammates as they presented their final Senior capstone project this morning.  I asked them to pray that the boys would be able to communicate their idea and process and product effectively.  And they did.  They prayed.  And the boys did, too.  They communicated well.

But at 2:17 a.m., I realized I probably should have asked my Bible study friends to pray for my chickens, too.  Last night was the first night the little girls spent outside.  They still have their little pen inside the chicken run, which I pulled away from the wall, so the littles can get in and out but the bigs cannot, and yesterday Hubby put up a little partition in the hen house for them.  After the bigs were roosting, I took the babies, one by one, and put them inside their sleeping area.  But they were having none of it.  Remember when they were in the brooder and I had to shove each of them under the heating pad at least 5 times before they were willing to stay?  This was so much worse.  Chick parts everywhere, and me trying to contain them with my two hands and a not-so-rigid barrier. 

While all this was happening (and thankfully the bigs stayed on their roost, ignoring the hulabaloo), I noticed that Hazel's beak was bloody and appeared to be cracked.  I didn't panic, because part of Toasty's beak cracked off when she was around 3 months old, and it grew back.  I didn't panic, but I was sad for poor Hazel, and I wondered how it had happened.  Did she hurt herself?  Or did one of the bigs hurt her?  Or did I hurt her as I was trying to keep her contained?  She's fine today, by the way.  Just the tip of her upper beak is missing, and I'm not seeing the crack anymore.

Finally (about 45 minutes later?), with the light gone, the chicks decided to stay put instead of trying to escape.  I shut the pop door, and went inside, figuring I could get outside early enough the next morning (this morning) that the natives wouldn't have time to be restless.  Then I realized, with sunrise at 6:01 a.m., I would have had to go open the door at around 5 a.m., which I did not think I would be awake to do (I was wrong, by the way).  So, out I went to open the door, and by the light of the full moon I saw Koko lying down in the doorway to the chicks' area, which put her head about 2 inches away from the pop door.

At 2:17 a.m., I woke to the sound of pounding rain.  And if the wind is blowing just right (or wrong, depending on your perspective), rain can blow into the hen house.  Right where Koko had been sleeping the last time I saw her.  Being wet can be very bad news for chicks who are just starting to regulate their own temperatures.  I was also worried about how the morning would go.

So I prayed through the early morning for my chicks, and I wished that I had others praying with me.

Why didn't I ask my friends to pray for the chickens? 

Well, because it seems a little silly.  Most people consider chickens to be food, or at the very least, farm animals.  And farm animals are, well, they're expendable.  They die, sometimes so people can eat them, sometimes because they get sick or are taken by predators, and sometimes for no discernible reason at all.

To me, chickens are pets, and I care about their welfare.  If one of them gets sick, or hurt, or dead, I don't say, oh well, it was just a chicken.

And here's the thing.  You might think it's silly to pray for chickens.  But God doesn't.  In the same way that I care about what my children care about, God cares about what's important to me.  And what's important to me, among other things of course, is chickens.

The other day Bubby's teacher mentioned that he was being more talkative than normal.  I responded that it was true, once he gets started talking it's hard to get him to stop, but I also said that we don't try to get him to stop, because we want to hear anything he cares to tell us.  God is the same.  He wants to hear it all.  The big stuff, the little stuff, the annoying stuff, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Here's how I found Koko and Hazel this morning.  They were on top of their pen, and not really sure how to get down, so I helped them.  Rocky and Esther were pacing on the ground below.

Integration is ... well, not going so well.  The bigs have not grown used to the littles.  They're still lunging forward as if to peck whenever one of the littles comes into view.  The littles are getting pretty good at squealing and running away whenever one of the bigs lunges at them.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, we have a hard deadline coming up soon, at which point the girls need to be getting along.  I'm worried it's not going to happen.  I guess we've got more praying to do, friends.

Also, I wonder if Hubby can make a second coop in 2 weeks.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018


Well, we did it.  We put together a pen for the little girls inside the chicken run, so the bigs and littles can see each other, but not hurt each other.

They've been going out for extended field trips daily since then.  I take them out when the temperature gets to be about 50°F in the morning, and bring them in some time after supper.  On the first day, at one point I saw the three bigs lined up on one side of the fence, and the three littles lined up on the other, just staring at each other for about 10 minutes.

The big girls have been quite vocal about the whole affair.  They flap their wings in their I'm-bigger-and-stronger-than-you way.  They try to peck the littles through the fence.  Chickens do not take readily to change. The littles have learned quickly to stay away. 

It's looking like the overnight temperatures over the weekend will be around 50°F, so I'm hoping to leave the girls out, in the hen house, overnight.  I'll decide later in the week, based on the bigs' behavior, whether to keep them behind a barrier or not.

I think the littles like being outside.  I've seen all three of them sunbathing, and they seem calmer when they're inside.  I'll keep you posted.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Menu plan for the week of April 23

What a difference a week makes.  Last week at this time, we had about 12 inches of new snow on the ground.  Today (Sunday), it's 62°F and sunny (and I bet I could still find spots with 12 inches of snow, but there's a lot more bare ground than snow now).  I spent some time sitting in the sun with no coat, and I actually felt hot enough to seek out some shade.  As much as I love snow, spring makes me so happy.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

  • Rice burgler, applesauce
  • Nachos with guacamole (of course)
  • Chicken tenders, cuties, carrots (it'll be quite an orange meal)
  • Tacos (using leftover shredded beef), taco toppings
  • Hamburgers, buns, chips, green beans
  • Steak, mashed potatoes, grilled veggie
  • Sunday night stew, mashed potatoes
  • Shepherd's pie (make extra to freeze), rolls, applesauce

  • Egg roll in a bowl (I didn't get around to making this last week)
  • Yogurt (the chickens love it!)
  • Muffins, maybe banana?  I still have a few bananas in the freezer that were leftover from last summer's Boy Scout camp.

Friday, April 20, 2018

When can my chicks go out in the big girl coop?

Y'all.  We need to get serious about moving our little dinosaurs into the big girl coop.  Our babies are 6 weeks (and a couple days) old, and they are huge.  Well, just Hazel is huge.  The others are more reasonably sized.  I was looking back at pictures of our first set of chicks, and I'd estimate that Hazel is about the size they were at 9-10 weeks.  She can touch the screen on top of the brooder without jumping.  She definitely needs more room.

The littles' first trip to the big girl coop
The big girls moved into the coop when they were just shy of 6 weeks old.  Of course, for them, it was June.  And we didn't have the winter that lingered forever.  I still worried about them.  I know I keep telling you that chickens don't need supplemental heat because they're built for the cold, and that's true, but the key concept is that chickens don't need supplemental heat because they become acclimated to the cold.  If the temperature suddenly dropped 30-40 degrees, they might be in trouble.

Our chicks are acclimated to 62-68°F, because they live in our house.  Putting them outside right now, when our lows are still going below freezing, without heat, could be dangerous.  I suspect they would actually be fine, but I don't think I would sleep.

In addition, chickens are territorial, and pecking order is a real thing.  They look all cute and fluffy from a distance, but they are ruthless.  If we put the littles in with the bigs right now, the littles could get pecked to death by the bigs defending their territory and resources.  Most of the information I've seen suggests introducing littles to bigs in a way where they can see, but not touch, each other.  That way, the bigs become familiar with the littles, and by the time they're put in together, the bigs think the littles have always been there.  The other option, of course, is to introduce the two groups when they are all closer in size.  That is not an option for us, because there is no way we can keep these chicks inside until they're 14-16 weeks.

Toasty Crunch (in the background) was quite vocal in her displeasure
A third consideration is food.  The big girls are eating a 16% protein layer feed, while the little girls are eating an 18% protein starter/grower feed.  The little girls shouldn't eat the layer feed because the extra calcium could damage their kidneys.  They also still need the higher protein because they're still growing.  The big girls could probably eat the starter/grower feed, but they need the calcium from the layer feed.

One solution would be to make layer feed available in a location where the littles can't reach it, and grower feed where the littles can reach it, but in my experience, if there is food, chickens will eat it, regardless of how difficult it is.  Another solution would be to serve an all flock feed.  It's formulated for poultry that is 7-8 weeks old or older, and has the higher protein of starter/grower feeds and lower calcium than layer feeds.  A third solution would be to serve chick grower feed to everyone with oyster shells for calcium on the side.

When the top is off, the girls like to hang out on top of the brooder
Right.  So we need to consider temperature/acclimatization, protection/exposure, and food.

The plan is to build a pen inside the hen house or run, so that the big hens and little chicks can see, but not touch, each other (we have a dog kennel on permanent loan from my parents to use for this).  We are taking the chicks outside daily to help them acclimate (and oh boy, is that a production), and will most likely put the mother hen heating pad in the pen turned to its lowest setting for at least a night or two--longer if we feel like it's needed.  The chicks will have water and chick feed in the pen, and when the littles move to the pen full time, I'll start transitioning the big girls to chick feed.  After about a week, we will attempt integration, possibly by putting a door in the little girls' pen that's sized so that the big girls can't get through.  That way, the littles can get out, and they can also get back in and be safe if they're being chased or picked on.

When we're outside, they like to perch on me.  They avoid me and perching when we're in the house.
So the bottom line: when can chicks go out in the big girl coop?  It depends.  You need to consider temperature, protection from bigger chickens, and food.  For us, we're hoping soon.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Menu plan for the week of April 16

Hey y'all.  It snowed again.  Yeah.

Here's what's on the menu this week:



Friday, April 13, 2018

Ice Cream Cake: A "Recipe"

Bubby wanted an ice cream cake for his birthday, so I made one. 
Bubby's 10th birthday, a long time ago
And then MC liked it so much, he wanted one, too.  So I made another one for his birthday. 
MC's 15th birthday, more recently
And then someone asked for the recipe, and I realized I hadn't shared it after Bubby's birthday.  (Side note: it amuses me when someone asks for a recipe like this.  I mean, it's pretty easy to figure out on your own).  So I'm sharing it now.  The "recipe" is very similar to this "recipe" for ice cream sundae cake, but the boys like chocolate more, and fruit with ice cream less, than hubby.

Ice Cream Cake

  • You can use any type of pan or container you like--I used a 9" springform pan for ease of serving (it's easier to cut and serve something if the pan doesn't have sides).  Add more or less of each layer to fit the size of your pan.
  • After adding each layer, put the cake back in the freezer for 30 minutes, then proceed with the next layer.
  • First layer: Mix cookie crumbs with melted butter and press into the bottom of the pan.  For my 9" round pan, I used ~3 c. oreo cookie crumbs and 1/2 c. melted butter.  You could also use graham crackers, nilla wafers, nutter butters--pretty much any cookie crumb will work.
  • Second layer:  About 10 minutes before the 30 minute freezer rest time is up, take ice cream out of the freezer to soften.  Spread the slightly softened ice cream on top of the cookie crumb crust, filling the pan to about 1/3 - 2/5 full.  Use a moistened offset spatula to smooth the top.  I used about 2 cups of moose tracks ice cream.
  • Third layer: Pour sauce on top of the ice cream layer, and sprinkle more cookie crumbs on top of the sauce.  You can use caramel sauce, hot fudge, peanut butter, strawberry jam, nutella, creme de mint--anything that will go with the flavors you're using.  You can use the same or a different kind of cookie crumbs this time, or use something else crunchy, like toffee chips or finely chopped nuts.  Feel free to heat the sauce up to make it easier to spread, and use as much or as little as you like.  I used caramel sauce and more oreo crumbs.
  • Fourth layer: About 10 minutes before the 30 minute freezer rest time is up, take ice cream out of the freezer to soften.  Spread the slightly softened ice cream over the sauce and cookie crumbs, filling the pan to about 2/3 - 4/5 full.  Use a moistened offset spatula to smooth the top.  I used about 2 cups of cookies and cream ice cream.
  • Fifth layer: Heat 1/2 c. heavy (whipping) cream to almost boiling (I heated mine in the microwave, but you could do it on the stove).  Pour over 8 oz chopped chocolate, and stir until chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth (keep stirring--it takes a while,and remember to adjust amounts to the size pan you're using).  I used semi-sweet chocolate chips, but you could use white, milk, semi-sweet, or dark chocolate or chocolate chips.  Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes--we don't want to melt the ice cream.  When the ganache is cool but still pourable, pour on top of the ice cream layer, and tap the pan on a flat surface a few times to smooth the top.
  • Decoration: Add any decorations you desire.  I added halved oreo cookies, and some more cookie crumbs on top, before freezing.  If you want to pipe decorations, I would wait until after 30 minutes in the freezer, so you're piping on a solid surface.
  • Freeze for at least 4 hours, or until solid, before serving.  To serve, remove the side of the springform pan, cut and serve.  You may need to run a table knife or offset spatula around the edge of the pan to help it release.  I did not have to let the cake sit out at all before serving (I did let Bubby's cake sit out for about 15 minutes before serving, and you can see from the picture that the ice cream was melting down the sides).
That's it!  What flavors would you use?  Let me know if you try it!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Eleven / One Month Chicken Update

Well folks, I have been a chicken tender for 11 months now.  The big girls are doing well.  The biggest news is, of course, that Esther finally laid an egg, at 10 and a half months of age.  It's not a world record, but she was definitely above average on point of lay.  In case you missed it, Esther lays green.

Rocky, Toasty, Esther
 Remember how I mused that perhaps Esther would have more confidence when she started laying?  Well, she does.  Esther's still at the bottom of the pecking order, but the others are less vicious in their pecking, and aren't excluding her as much anymore.

I am still buying eggs at the grocery store, but much less frequently.  Esther is laying consistently 2 days on, then one day off.  Rocky is laying around 6 eggs a week, and Toasty Crunch is currently on a 19 day (and counting) egg-laying streak.  She's a beast.  So we're getting about 17-18 eggs a week, which is enough for our family, if none of us goes on an egg-eating streak.

We did a little bit of redecorating in the chicken run.

 We added the xylophone that my friend Bert sent for the girls.  They haven't really gotten the hang of playing it yet, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time.

 We also mounted the grit and oyster shell dispensers.  The girls are loving the oyster shells.

Finally, we mounted this sign.  It makes me happy to see it mounted over the chicken pop door.

The run has been sponge-like this spring.  Or, it was sponge-like before the temperature decided to stay below freezing and it snowed again.  I have confidence that it will be sponge-like again.  We definitely need to figure out a way to divert melting snow around the run, instead of through it, for next year.  Of course, next year we won't get this much snow, and it won't be nearly as cold, so we won't have to worry about it.

The little girls are also doing well.  They're one month old, and getting so big, especially Hazel.  One of the reasons I got this group so early in the season (March) compared to the first group (May), was because of Esther being so late to lay.  I think she was ready much earlier, but because the amount of daylight had decreased by the time she was ready, she ended up waiting for more daylight.  I wanted this group of chicks to be laying well before lack of light would be an issue.

The problem with getting the chicks so early is that this has been a long winter, and it's been colder longer than expected.  I'm not sure when it will warm up enough for the chicks to go outside full time.  But they can't stay inside indefinitely because they keep growing.  Hazel can almost reach the screen on top of the brooder just by stretching out her neck.  By the time our first set of chicks were a month old, they had been outside at least a dozen times, and they moved into the coop full time when they were six weeks old.  That's not going to happen with this group, but I am hoping to have them outside by the end of May--they'll be 10 or 11 weeks old by then.

I did manage to get the little girls outside a week ago, but since then it's been cold or snowy or both.  We're in for some warmer weather this week, but with quite a bit of precipitation.  Hopefully there will be some warmer, sunny hours for chick field trips.  I hear we're supposed to get another 5-8 inches of snow on the weekend.

 Indigo and Hazel decided to use Bubby as a roost.  He tried to get them to go on that stick he's holding, but they were having none of it.

Indigo, Hazel, Koko
They were not sure what to make of the outside

 I did some redecorating in the brooder as well.  I took out the heating pad, and enlarged and moved the dust bath, which the girls then proceeded to be afraid of until very recently.  I also added a roost, which the girls have steadfastly ignored.  I took out the regular waterer, leaving only the nipple waterer in place, and I attached the waterer to the side of the brooder to keep it from tipping.  I also raised the food to help prevent wood shavings from getting in the food.

They still hang out in this corner most of the time.  It's funny how much they spread out when they lie down--Hazel is almost circular when she's lying down. 

Here are some updated pics--these were taken one month apart.  As you can see, all three have some comb development and they're mostly fully feathered.  Hazel is the farthest along, of course, but Koko isn't too far behind.




Monday, April 9, 2018

Menu plan for the week of April 9

MC turns 1.5 decades old this week.  He keeps saying, "I'll be 15 then," when we talk about dates in the future.  When is AKD's capstone presentation?  MC will be 15 then.  When is the Boundary Waters trip?  MC will be 15 then.  It's kind of fun.  Next week, he starts driver's training.  A year from now, we might have two teenage drivers in the household.  I tell ya, it is amazing having kiddos who can drive themselves.  Of course, it's only useful if the kiddos have a vehicle to drive themselves in...

Anyway, the kids keep getting older.  Every day.  Which means we have to keep feeding them.  Here's what's on the menu this week:

  • Chicken pot pie, salad, applesauce
  • Chicken tenders, carrots
  • Out to eat
  • Mac-n-cheese, mandarin oranges
  • Pizza, salad
  • Hamburgers, buns, chips, carrots
  • Grilled steak, mashed potatoes, grilled veggies
  • Sunday night stew (on Monday!), mashed potatoes


Monday, April 2, 2018

Menu plan for the week of April 2

Guess what happened, y'all!  Well, first, it snowed, and then it got cold.  Happy Easter Fools day to us!

Here's what's on the menu this week:


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