Posts Tagged With: eggs

Free-Range Chicks

The story of our free-range baby chick project.  Like most everything else in life, our chick project hasn’t been going quite as planned.  To recap I brought home three Buff Orpington chicks a few weeks ago, not because we needed more laying hens, but because my kids love them so much.

The difference between three chicks as pets and 25 laying birds is that my kiddos loved on those same three birds constantly.  And funny enough, those birds have gotten quite attached to my kids!

Which has lead to the problem of the free-range chicks.


The story of our free-range baby chick project.  We had chicks on our laps during movies, while playing games, and even during school.  And since this is not my idea of a “teacher’s pet,” it was time to move those girls outside!

 Free range baby chicksThey are more attached to Brett and Anna than ever now, since outside is an intimidating place.  I’m watching them through the window as I’m typing and the kids are trying to get a chick to stay in one place (no idea…) and the little bird is having none of it.  She is right there by their feet at all times.

So not as planned, but pretty great anyhow.

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

What They Mean, 12 Food Labels Revealed

Learn the secrets behind common food labels  {}

It’s bad enough that serving sizes are distorted (who drinks a third of a bottled beverage?!) and vitamin B has one hundred names, but then you must contend with things like “hormone free” chicken.  Sounds like chicken I want to buy, but did you know?  All chickens are hormone free.

That advertising was nothing but a gimmick.

So what can you believe?

Here a few common label mysteries revealed.

Fresh: Since 1998 the definition of fresh poultry means the meat has never been kept below 26*.  Since freezing is 32*, this means the meat can be frozen, but it won’t be rock-solid at that temperature.

Natural: This indicates nothing has been added, like coloring or preservatives.  It also means the product hasn’t been changed significantly, so it is much as it was when it was harvested.  A label saying “natural” should also tell you why it is natural; i.e. “no preservatives added.”  This label only applies to meat or eggs.

No Hormones: As I’ve already mentioned, the USDA prohibits the use of hormones in pork, poultry, and goats so this label isn’t allowed unless it says “federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.”  This label can be used on beef if the farmer can provide documentation to the USDA that it is true.  The same is true of No Antibiotics for all meat.

Organic: This label is made standard by the USDA.  There are products farmers are allowed to put on foods that are labeled organic, so don’t assume it means no fertilizers or pest control at all.

Free Range: This indicates that the animals lived in a building with constant access to food, water, and the outside.

Cage Free: Similar to Free Range, but without the constant access to outside.

No Chemicals: You should actually never see this label because it isn’t allowed.  Everything is made of chemicals.  Remember water– H2O?

Grass Fed: For this label cattle must get most of their diet from grass, but can be supplemented with grain.  It doesn’t have to be organic, so that would be a separate label.

Pasture Raised: This label means very little since there are no standards or certifications for it.

Humane: Again, a label that is not standard or regulated, therefore is up to the interpretation of the packaging company.

Locally Grown: Yet another non-standard label.  Look for more information, like the town, farm, or milage to verify this one.

Not all labels are equal.  While labels are monitored by the USDA, they allow for other programs with their own standards.  So if you wanted to make your own certifications for “natural” you could put that label onto food, but it would need to have your program’s name on it, like “Certified Smith Natural” or whatever.  Small farmers can also be exempt.  A neighbor with two steers can call his beef “organic grass-fed” as much as he wants to.

So be aware and Happy Shopping!

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Oh My Goodness, It’s Working!

I’m so excited!  Knock on wood, so far my newest experiment in backyard farming is WORKING!

If you follow me on Instagram (and you should, @daddystractor) you’ll already know we received an unusual-looking package in the mail yesterday containing baby chicks!  When they arrived we took them downstairs to the brooder and settled them all in with drinks of water and some chick feed.

How I got my broody hens to accept mail-order chicks.

They come in the mail– how crazy is that!

But then last night I got a little crazy. 😉

How I got my broody hens to accept mail-order chicks.

We use this cattle feeder as a brooder. It works for the first few weeks anyway!

We ordered 40 chicks this time around.  25 are “pan-fry” chickens I plan to raise to feed my family.  The other 15 are assorted bantams, destined to be pets for the kiddos.  I said yes to this idea because if you think baby chicks are adorable, well, you have to see a bantam chick.  They are a third the size of a regular chick.  Need I say more?

How I got my broody hen to accept mail-order chicks

They are all so cute, but why is it tiny things are even cuter!!

These bitsy chickens will someday lay tiny eggs, which we don’t really need since my other 28 chickens are laying hens and we currently get almost 2 dozen eggs a day.  So they are basically useless as far as livestock go.  (But again.  So. cute.)

Really they are just here to eat expensive food and take up time and energy.

So I came up with a plan to cut down on the time and energy, if not food.

Two of my laying hens have gone “broody.”  This means they keep setting on eggs, trying to hatch chicks.  Broody hens aren’t great on a farm because they tend to be more likely to peck and they stop laying new eggs in their attempt to hatch the ones they’re sitting on.  Conventional wisdom is to keep a broody hen away from the nesting boxes until she gives up on the idea, OR… get her some chicks to raise!

An experienced mama hen is a pretty amazing animal.  She will sit on her eggs for 21 straight days, getting up just once a day to eat and drink for a few minutes.

However, my hens are not experienced mamas.

Actually… they’re not all that bright either.

I gave a mama hen some eggs to see if she could hatch her own (how fun would that be?!) and she couldn’t keep track of which box was hers.  She’s been sitting on different eggs for almost 4 weeks.

How I got my broody hen to accept mail-order chicks!

The nesting boxes are a busy place!

Which makes my plan of putting bantams under these two chickens unreliable at best.

Last night Brett and I slipped the banties under the two hens–you can handle chickens more easily after they’ve gone to bed.  This morning I got up early to be out there just after the sun popped up and both mamas were sitting on 15 very quiet chicks.

I created a separate space for the new families in the part of the coop designed for storage, giving each mama a milk crate and straw nest on the floor.  (The nesting boxes are on the wall and the babies won’t be able to get in and out to get to food or water.)  I was really nervous about having to move everyone so soon after the introductions, but oh my goodness, it’s working!  As soon as they saw the chicks in the new nests both mamas moved right in and took charge of their little broods.

How I got my broody hens to accept mail-order chicks!

So far, so good! Yay!!

Quick, knock on wood!

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Farm Fun Valentines

Its February!  The thing I love most about February is that we’re just that much closer to spring, but Valentine’s Day is right up there. 😉  Just for fun I’ve made a free, farm-themed Valentine’s Day card printable.

Farm Themed Valentines

Click here to download Farm Valentines.

And happy closer to spring!

Categories: Family | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Strike is Over!

Both parties have been appeased! The strike is finally over!

No, no bus drivers or teachers here on the farm, just some disgruntled chickens. They wanted more daylight. I told them they’d have to take that up with a higher authority. But finally, after months of waiting, the workers are back.


I think the trouble started when my early spring chicks began to molt in their first year of life. Most chickens molt during their second fall. Well, these ladies didn’t begin molting until after Thanksgiving. Which I told them was a bad decision, but do chickens ever listen?!?!


At least they have now made a comeback. I’m not getting a lot of eggs at this point but I didn’t expect that in January anyway.

Now the biggest problem is collecting them from the coop before they freeze!

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Two Tips for Hard Boiled Eggs

I have soooooo many eggs right now.  Literally thirteen dozen in my fridge.  And more in the coop.  Of course, there will be more in the coop tomorrow and the day after, and the day after.

Two tips for hard boild eggs  {}

Which means I’ll be forced to workout this afternoon so I can take my farm fresh eggs to the Y to sell.  But, it also means I’ll be pulling out all my tricks for using eggs!  We’ll eat them scrambled, as omelets, in quiche, as egg salad, but my family’s favorite is deviled eggs.  Which is great.  Except that hard boiled eggs can be such a pain!

Thankfully, I’ve learned a few things about the science of eggs.  Nearly all of it has been confirmed by the girls at the Y too, so you can be sure these will work!

First, use old eggs.  A fresh egg is “full”, making it difficult to separate the cooked egg from the shell, but an old egg has lost water through evaporation.  This creates an air pocket at one end of the egg.  You can test eggs by setting them in water.  If they lie flat, the eggs are fresh with no air pocket.  If one end floats up at a diagonal this egg is older and will work great for boiling or baking.  If the egg stands perfectly on end, well, you’ve held on to that one too long!!!

Two tips for hard boild eggs  {}

Then place the eggs in a pot and cover them with cold water.  The water level should be at least one inch above the eggs.  Turn the heat on and allow the water to reach a rolling boil, then cover the pot with a lid and turn the heat off.  Set a timer for 12-13 minutes.

Two tips for hard boild eggs  {}

This is important!  When the timer goes off, don’t ignore it!  Its okay to finish changing the baby’s diaper and all, but don’t think that no burning = no foul!  Cool the eggs quickly in cold water.  Once they’ve cooled to the touch lightly crack the entire surface of the egg.  Under cold, running water carefully find the film under the shell and peel the egg.  Try to find that air pocket and start there.

Two tips for hard boiled eggs.  {}

If you are Martha Stewart or the Pioneer Woman and have a whole kitchen just for your food show, you will have a beautiful, smooth, perfect egg ready for deviling!

Two tips for hard boiled eggs.  {}

If you are a crazed, homeschooling, foster parenting, goat caring, chicken wrangling, blogging mom who didn’t bother to test the eggs and then left them cooking for 45 minutes, you’ll probably end up with something not quiet that perfect.

Two tips for hard boiled eggs.  {}

So that’s where my two best tips for hard boiled eggs come in.

First, let you kids peel the eggs so you can proudly show off your creations as something your adorable offspring accomplished.

Two tips for hard boiled eggs.  {}

And second, cook twice as many as you need and make egg salad with the worst ones.

There ya go.  Two tips for cooking hard boiled eggs, from my home to yours. 😉

Categories: Animals, Science | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

Baby Chick Theme Unit

I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, but Monday morning I realized we needed to started getting ready for our baby chicks, and hey! why not learn about chicks for school too?!  So that morning I scrambled about for a few minutes (thanks Google and Pinterest!) and came up with this baby chick theme unit!

The best resource I found was this one from Missouri Farm Bureau.  It is an online Egg to Chick Web Quest which shows pictures of chicks developing in the egg!  It also had a chart to fill out, which Brett loved doing since we printed pics from one of their links instead of drawing.  He loves glue, drawing– not so much.

baby chick theme unit worksheet

The Web Quest also provided an egg to print and label, which Brett did with a bit of help.

Baby Chick theme unit worksheet baby chick theme unit worksheet

Sorry about that last photo.  Please excuse the mom in me…

We also made chick cookies.

baby chick theme unit

We discussed “habitat” and what a baby chick needed to survive.  We set up a real brooder, but you could easily make a “brooder” in a shoebox!

Caring for Baby chicks, day 1

We watched many YouTube videos of chicks, chicks hatching, eggs incubating, and whatever else YouTube provided.  Seriously though, who videos some of this stuff?  You can watch OUR chick video we made last year– it really is stupendous 😉

I found this pic on Pinterest with no valid link, so if it belongs to you let me know and I’ll give credit where credit is due :-).  We haven’t made ours yet; hopefully we’ll get it done today!

Baby chick theme unit life cycle

This baby chick craft from Rockabye Butterfly also looks like fun, but alas, Brett isn’t into art and doesn’t want to make crafts.  But I’ll post it cause I really want to make one!

baby chick theme unit craft

We also wrote in our journal, checked out chick books from the library, colored a Little Red Hen page, and welcomed real baby chicks!  So overall the thrown together baby chick theme unit turned out to be one of Brett’s favorites.  Go figure, right?!

Categories: Animals, Science | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

You Can Raise Your Own Fresh Eggs

What you need to know if you are thinking about raising your own fresh eggs

I’ve wanted to raise my own farm-fresh eggs for years now, but the hens on our farm (and the delicious eggs we get from them!) are a relatively new addition.  Why?  Because I was not sure about actually keeping chickens!  Would I have time?  Would I get tired of them?  Would it be worth I?  So if you’ve ever wondered if you could raise your own fresh eggs, read on!

Photo of farm fresh chicken eggsAs it turns out, I LOVE having chickens!  Odd as it seemed at first, they are fun.  AND they provide wholesome food you can feel good about feeding your family :-).  Totally worth it!  Plus raising chicks was an amazing learning experience for my kids.  Still on the fence?  Let’s talk logistics!

To begin I’d say that having chickens is about as much work as having a dog.  Of course, if you are like my sister who spends hours each day with her spoiled well-loved golden retrievers, then chickens will be way less work!  Daily they will need food and fresh water.  You will check for eggs and scan to see that all is well.  You may open their door in the morning and shut it again at night.  Pretty doable really.

My best tip for quick care is to purchase two watering containers so you can fill one up in the house before you head out and bring the empty back in for next time.

Weekly I clean the coop a bit.  I use the deep litter method, meaning that by adding clean bedding over the soiled stuff, the decomposing straw adds heat to the coop.  How cool is that?!  Not everyone likes this method, so if cleaning out the coop is your thing, go for it.

Seasonally you will have other chores.  The down-side to deep litter is clearing it out in the spring and fall.  I winter-proofed my coop for cold weather and I don’t have electricity so when temps are below freezing I supply the girls with water often.  In the summer I fill a plastic pool for them.  Some people spend lots of time babying their hens– me, not so much!You can raise your own eggs

(Warning: once you have the chickens you will inevitably spend more time just watching them.  They. are. hilarious.)

The biggest investment in time and money is setting up.  If you can afford a pre-made chicken coop, that’s the route I’d take.  I spent a LOT of time making a cheap coop because I wasn’t sure of the whole thing just yet.  My project was more than I expected because I needed to rethink the design to thwart predators.  Still, it was fine for starting.

In the beginning you’ll also need to acquire and set up feeders, water dishes, bedding, feed, grit, calcium, scratch grains, and nesting boxes if they aren’t included in the coop.  Now that my flock is established all I really do is stop by the farm store once every couple of months and get a few bags of feed.

If you chose chicks instead of full grown hens there will also be several weeks of taking care of the fragile babies!  You can order chicks online and they come in the mail for you to pick up at the post office.  They need somewhat intensive care for a few weeks, but they are SO cute you won’t mind ;-).  Setting up a brooder in the house cuts down on work too.  Unless you have to send all your time guarding your chicks from the kids that is…

I’m hoping this break-down of the time and effort it takes assures you that you CAN raise your own fresh eggs.  Start by getting a how-to book from the library, or try this guide from Orscheln’s Farm and Home store.  After that the internet provides all the info you’ll ever want to wade through.  Or leave me a comment or question and I’ll be sure to answer!

Categories: Animals, Science | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Farm Fresh Eggs, Not what you’ll see in the grocery store!

Have you ever opened a carton of eggs at the grocery store and wondered: how are they all so perfectly identical?  Well, the answer to that question is simple.  Someone gets rid of all the eggs that look different!  Not that they go to waste mind you.  Unique or misshapened eggs can be used in egg products and such, but you won’t see them that way in the grocery store!

The fun of having farm fresh eggs is more than the excitement of finding them each day or even watching a chicken lay an egg (which is a very big event for the chicken by the way), but we also get to see all kinds of chicken eggs.  Real.  Just the way the hens lay them.

For example:

Farm Fresh Eggs, not what you'll see in the grocery store!

I collected these just the other day.  As you can see, that front one is a monster!  And as is usually the case with such eggs, inside it contained two yolks!

farm fresh eggs, not what you'll see in the grocery store

And it made the yummiest scrambled eggs 🙂

Categories: Animals, Science | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

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