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This is a first attempt, there’s tons of room for improvement.  Take the concept and run with it- specialize it to meet your brooding preferences and needs.  This is my first version, and I’ve just gotten chicks to legitimize it works 🙂

"ecoglow"-style DIY brooderWhat you’ll need:
A (seal-able) container, a string of mini Christmas lights, and some sand
Some wide tape and a utility knife
A way to suspend the brooder- some baler twine, heavy string (P-cord),  and a simple frame/table or shelf of wood, sturdy pvc, metal, whatever you have available

This is like an “ecoglow” in that it provides radiant heat/ direct heat that the chicks snuggle up to.
I looked into purchasing one, but it’s out of my price range and I couldn’t justify the cost, especially since I don’t brood very many chicks.
There’s a concept from Confederate Money Farm that uses bulb Christmas lights in a pipe to brood chicks- their “PVC pipe pet warmer”.  The other concept I drew from is from Jessie: Improved. The idea is using Christmas tree lights in sand under seedlings as a warming/propagation mat.

I started with a (roughly) 9×13 plastic lidded container from the dollar store.  I cut a hole in the top for the christmas lights to exit and spread the remainder in the container, then filled the container with sand.  I used clear packing tape and taped the hole inside and out where the lights exit, then taped the lid to the container on all 4 sides.  (Duct tape or something similar will do equally well.)

DIY "ecoglow"-style brooder light entry detail
Use a bigger container or make 2 if you have more chicks to brood.  This one provides plenty of space for 15 and I’m sure would easily accommodate 25 (it’s larger than the “ecoglow 20” that says it’s good for 20 chicks).

Guidelines here:  More lights= hotter.   If yours is too hot, here’s some options:
1) Use a dimmer
2) use a smaller strand of lights
3) pull part of your strand of lights out of the container before filling with sand
4) use a strand with a good portion of lights burned out
5) use a bigger container and more sand

Bottom line: Adjust your lights and container size, or use a dimmer to get the temperature you need, whether you need it hotter or cooler.
The chicks will also move around to find a spot with a temperature they like.  If it’s a bit hot in the center, they’ll move closer to an edge, or just hand out along the side, or hop up on top- just as you sometimes see them do to a broody hen.  I found half a dozen of them contentedly sitting on the top last night.

chick on top of my DIY "ecoglow"-style brooder

My first attempt was too hot- interior temp of the sand was almost 160, directly underneath was 110- too hot for chicks!  (Good thing I didn’t have any live subjects in the trial phase!)  I think this may have caused some of my lights to burn out.  But, that solved my temperature problem.

Next step is to suspend your brooder at the right height.  I used part of a shelf system, but a simple PVC frame could be used, or wood or metal frame.

"ecoglow"-style DIY brooder 2

Mine is high tech: suspended at the correct height with 2 strands of baler twine, taped on the bottom to keep if from shifting.  Please assemble and adjust your brooder BEFORE you put your chicks in!  You want it secure and safe so you don’t squish a baby with that heavy container full of sand!
To make an easy-to-adjust knot/hitch:  tie a loop on one end of your twine (I used an overhand knot on a bite).

loop for knot-hitch system

Put your knots on the top of the frame, run the twine under the brooder, back around to the top, and through the loop.  Pull the loose end of the twine back the direction it came.

loose end through loop

Once you have it at the height you want, pinch it at the loop so it can’t slide.  Tie a “slip knot” with the loose end at your pinch- pull a loop of the loose end close to the loop through- just as if you were tying a simple knot, but only using a small portion near the loop.

starting the slip knot

Tighten and repeat with the other twine.

slip knot complete  simple knot:hitch system from baler twine

Secure with tape on the bottom of the brooder.
If you have chicks of different sizes and want an uneven surface as you can with the “ecoglow”, you can tie one end of the brooder a little higher than the other.

Some other possibilities for suspension:
You could suspend with chain or small rope, either going underneath the brooder or attached to the rim of your container if it’s sturdy enough.  You may also be able to construct legs- perhaps threaded rod with nuts fixed to the corners of a frame supporting the lip of your container- to allow for twist-up or twist-down fine adjustments as the chicks grow.

You could just prop it up on blocks or bricks, but that uses up your brooding space pretty quickly.

I put mine in a corner of my brooder to keep it a cozy little heat-holding space.  I also built up bedding at one side, so it’s mainly one side that is “open” but they can get out another side if they need to.  chicks under my DIY "ecoglow"-style brooder

Advantages: cheaper (especially if you have materials kicking around), DIY, provides a little bit of light so the chicks can see to eat and drink at night, less power input, less fire risk, and a final benefit this booder has that an “ecoglow” or a heat lamp doesn’t have- A built-in reserve of heat.  If your power goes off or your light(s) fail, the heat that has been absorbed and stored by the sand will stay warm for quite a while, extending the time your chicks will survive, especially since they’re already used to snuggling down together under it’s semi-enclosed space- kind of like an ‘igloo”‘ in the ‘cold brooder’ models (see more about cold brooding at The Natural Chicken).
Disadvantages:  It’s heavy, you cannot see your chicks (just as with the ecoglow), it still takes some materials and time to assemble and tweak, and it’s not very refined (yet- but that means a benefit of flexing the concept to meet your wants and needs).

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Disclaimer:  Included in this post are photos of chick embryos.  Some may consider them to be graphic- please take that into consideration before you continue.  That being said, I in no way mean to dis-respect these little creatures.  I have taken photos of the embryos and details because I find beauty in the way God creates even the smallest details of simple animals.  It’s amazing and fascinating to me and I’d like others to be able to see that too.  All these embryos were from eggs that “quit” in the incubator- I didn’t start them and crack them open (and kill them) just to get some photos.

If you want to see pictures of chick embryos from each day of development (1-21)  I found this site.

incubator progress- a journal of sorts for the details.  My incubator start-up post can be read over here.

Eggs placed in the incubator on 3/11 in the evening; started with 61 including some older than 10 days from in the fridge (un-turned, point end up) and eggs from my flock, my uncle, and the lady I borrowed the incubator from.  Eggs from my uncle and friend were collected within a few days of incubating and stored “properly”.  I also am trialing a damaged egg.  I took a bit of elmers glue to one egg that had been cracked (pecked?) near the end of my egg collecting days.  It just broke the shell, not the inner membrane.  I found the idea online with parakeet eggs or something like that.  The big detail is to make sure you only put it on the crack so that as little of the porous surface is blocked. (And it worked- the egg didn’t hatch, but it fully developed.  See details later in the post.  Certainly a greater risk of introducing bacteria, though.)

3/19  I opened the first egg earlier today- one from the woman I’m borrowing the incubator from- that had only a small embryo that had “quit”- I wrote about that in my first post on incubating here.  The picture:

I opened 2 more this evening- both that I have never seen anything in (vessels or otherwise) when candling.  The shells were lighter, so I wasn’t concerned about having missed something.   Still no smell, although they’re runny and disintegrating a bit.  Neither looked like they had ever had any progress.  One was out of the fridge, and one was from my uncle.  So now all my remaining eggs in the incubator fit in to egg cartons- I’m at 58 and counting down.

3/20 I took out another egg this morning- one that showed no development when candled.  I had seen a bubble that would follow as the egg was turned.  This might not have been a concern if I could have seen other development, as I found some forum discussions where that was happening with developing eggs.  This one never showed an air space at the end of the egg, and had a crack in it that was visible when candling but hard to see otherwise.  I tried to take a picture, but you can’t see the air bubble in the pic.  No development when I opened it.  This one was a fresh laid/collected egg from my flock.

Another “clear” egg out in the evening.  No development when candled, none when opened.  Another that was freshly laid- just a few days before I started the incubator.

3/21 Another “clear” egg out in the morning.  No development when candled, none when opened.  From the dozen I got from my uncle.

3/22- A cutthroat morning at the incubator.  I candled 24 and took out 12.  That being said, I went through the fridge eggs.  I also took out several that had started to develop, but stopped.  7 from the fridge, 5 I had collected “fresh” for incubating.  Of the collected ones, one had a crack in the end and was fairly porous, and one was from the first day I collected- neither of these had any progress.

  

2 of the fridge eggs had started to develop and stopped.  These you could see the beak starting to develop and wings that were looking more like wings (not just buds) as well as legs developing, and I believe organs (outside of the body- they go into the body nearer to the end of development, if I remember correctly).  I can’t tell you what day these quit, but my guess would be somewhere around day 5-6

  

1 collected egg had a teeny tiny embryo- basically only the basic shape- no details could be seen.  Day 1 or 2?  It’s not just a fuzzy picture- that was really about all there was to see-barely.

2 of the collected eggs had started and progressed further before stopping.  Day 7-9ish is my guess.  You can see lots more detail on these- the 3 individual toes, a beak that can open, wings, and even the spots on the skin where feathers would be growing in later in development.  Organs, too.  If you know what you’re looking for, you might be able to tell what’s what.  I assume the dark red blood spot may be the heart?

     

A brutal night as well- 12 more removed.  4 from my uncle, 4 from the friend, 4 of my own (1 fridge egg).  Small embryos- less than a week, I’d say- in 3- two from my uncle and one from my friend.  The two banty eggs (mine- one fresh, one from the fridge) had a string of almost clear jelly ball type things- maybe a very early embryo?  They (embryos) are starting to be a bit more disintegrated now when I open them and find an earlier quitter.  I found blood rings in several.  Most of the eggs I pulled out this evening were darker brown shells or green shells- much more difficult to see through.  That and the blood rings- that look like something early on, especially to a beginner, make it tricky.  I am seeing a more pronounced thicker line around the entire egg (or most of it) on the eggs I find just a blood ring in.

  

The better news now, is that I saw movement in a large percentage of the eggs that I candled and left in the incubator.  More than half way done now, and 31 eggs remain in the incubator.  Some more will probably go when I can decipher better what’s inside.  The ones with movement I’m going to try leaving alone from now on.  I figure if they’re alive now, they probably won’t explode before the end, even if they don’t make it any further in their development.

3/23-  3 more out this morning that showed development when candled, but seemed very small and had no movement.  One of my freshly collected eggs and 2 from my friend.  When opened, 2 had small embryos (less than a week) and one had another clumpy string of clear jelly balls.  Down to 28 in the incubator, and I’ve seen movement in all but 7- those have darker shells so it’s difficult to see anything.

  

last 3 eggs removed from the incubator tonight.  1 from my friend that had a small (less than a week) embryo, 1 from the fridge with only a blood ring, and 1 freshly collected with only a blood ring.

That leaves 25 in the incubator, and they should all stay.  only 1 banty egg still has me guessing, and I THINK I saw movement- so hard to tell and the bits of light flashing in your eyes make it hard to tell in the dark between movement and eye spots in a very dark/green eggshell.  The 2 with only blood rings kept me guessing, too, they had porous shells in places, and when the yolk moves, it can leave you guessing.  I finally took the 3 out because they seemed to have more light space than I thought they should, and no defined movement.  And I thought I was only seeing that thick blood ring, no vascular development.

Egg yolks are very disintegrated and runny when opening them now.  The white has a clump that jells up in the pointy end of the egg.  Still no bad odor, though.

Hoping for most of the 25 to be hatching into lively chicks on April 1st!

3/27- opened the incubator this evening to check the temperature when I turned the eggs.  My nose told me something wasn’t right.   So I sniff tested the eggs to find the offender.  I hesitantly cracked it open to find a chick embryo that had stopped developing I’d say around day 9?  Stinky, but not as horrible as I’d expected it might be.  It was an egg collected the day before I started the incubator.

3/28- I thought I should check each egg over once more before lockdown, and (SADLY) pulled 6 more eggs out.  They had a lot more light coming through when candled than they should have at this point, and no movement that I could see other than the sloshing of the cloudy stuff that moves when you move the egg.  Several had what looked like a blood ring that looked clumpy and stuck onto the shell.  5 fresh laid, 1 from the fridge.  All with embryos developed to roughly day 8-15ish?  One looked pretty fresh- I’m hoping I didn’t open it in error!  (Update:  I found the eggcartonlabels post (mentioned above) with all the embryo pictures, and was relieved when it looked like too few and too short of feathers to be developed to the date we’re at today.  Whew!

18 left…

3/29- I put the incubator on “lock down” this morning- filled up the water reservoirs to increase the humidity and removed my block of wood that “turned” my eggs from under the incubator, so all sit neatly in their cartons, point side down now.  I kept 3 egg flats and distributed the eggs evenly.  I have 6 left from my uncle, 1 from my friend, 2 from the fridge, and 9 I’d collected- 3 banty eggs, 1 egg that was cracked and I repaired, and 5 others- some are from my black chickens and some from my chanteclers- it’s difficult to tell for sure, as most of the eggs are the same light brown color.  All the eggs I knew for sure where chants were removed 😦  If black is dominant over white, I should be able to tell my chicks apart.  but if white is dominant, there’s no telling for sure, since my roos are chants (and the banty, which is quite possibly the daddy for some of these chicks).  If I try again, I’ll be separating my chantecler girls for 2 weeks, then adding the roos for a week, then I’ll collect eggs solely from them (and probably some bantys since they’re fun and easy to tell apart) to put in the incubator.

3/31 My dear daughter(s?) raided the incubator! 😦 😡

One egg was completely smashed open.  A little white chick inside that was so close to being done… 😦 It was one of my fridge eggs.  Back in the incubator with everything else, including one egg that lost some pieces of shell, but the membrane was still intact.  I can’t express how upset I was at my kids!

4/1- 1 egg piped, slightly enlarged the hole, then died.  4 others piped and zipped, 3 from my uncle, one of my own that I collected.  The 3rd from my uncle seemed to be stuck- like dried in stuck.  I opened the incubator since nothing else showed signs of hatching yet, got the 3 out that were out of shells and dry, and freed the 4th- shell was completely stuck on it.  I only took off the top and left it in the incubator to finish getting out of the egg itself.  I added a bunch of water, since things were obviously too dry.  The egg with pieces of shell missing had something breathing in it, but not hatching.  I ended up taking out the 4th hatched chick after it was mostly dry and misted the eggs.  The chick that had piped and stopped I removed the eggshell from- a little black chick, definitely gone.

4/2- nothing happening.  Not sure if anything is still alive in the egg with shell missing- it’s been oozing some and I haven’t seen the movement lately.

4/3- 1 more chick from my uncle out this morning, with another from him piped and zipped (now out).  One of the chicks that hatched out from my uncle died.  No other action in the incubator, so I took out the two that hatched and cleared out the shells, etc.  Spritzed the eggs, added more water.  Took out the egg with pieces missing, as I was pretty sure it was dead (it was- another black chick).

4/6- I emptied the incubator this morning after giving the “float test” a try.  Mine all floated, but it seemed to be just the airspace above the water.  I candled and (hesitantly) opened them.  All were mostly developed, but hadn’t quite finished.  3 banty chicks, 1 white one of my own, one from my uncle, 1 black chick from my friend, and 2 black chicks of my own.  The egg that I had glued at the beginning was the white chick.  One of the black chicks of my own was a fridge egg.  I have too few results to be able to speculate much on the color gene dominance.

So:  I have 5 live chicks- 4 rhode island reds and 1 that’s half Chantecler of the 18 that made it to lockdown (17 that stayed in after the incubator was raided) and 6 that hatched.  My think my chantecler chick is likely half banty Americauna.  The wing feathers are coming in patterned.  We’ll see what it grows up to be.  Note:  The yuck on the chicks is a combo of crud from hatching and colostrum- I put in a dish shortly after they hatched and they flopped around in it. They gobbled it up, but it makes a sticky, nasty, clumpy mess before it’s gone.

    

What I’ve learned/reinforced:

1) a.  God makes amazing creatures and b.  He uses amazing processes to form them!

2)  Children are very interested in and amazed at #1

3)  I have to try again.  Note to self- stay AWAY from the bins of chicks a the feed store and tractor supply…

4)  Monitor humidity much more closely.  I don’t think a “dry hatch” is going to work for me.  That’s not what I was going for, but I really think I needed more humidity than I had.  I got a hygrometer to check humidity part way through, but never checked to make sure it was calibrated correctly.  I’ve found how to with the “salt method”, and need to do it before I try again.

5) Somehow I MUST keep my children away from the incubator for lockdown!  I assume that contributed a lot to my end losses.

6)  If I just separate my 2 banty chickens and my banty rooster, I will be able to solve this color thing…

7)  I’ll be a lot more confident in my candling the next round, and probably will leave them alone ’til something like day 10 next time.

8)  While fridge eggs can develop, the rates are lower, so I won’t use them unless I have to.  I did this time for experiemental reasons and because I had room.

9)  Glueing an egg can work if needed.

10)  I still have a LOT to learn!

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We’ve got life cycle lessons going on at the homestead.  I’ve been collecting eggs and put them in a borrowed incubator on Sunday the 11th.

   

I put a total of 5 dozen plus one in the incubator.  It’s a Hova-bator- the simple still air version with no automatic egg turner.  It’s my first time using an incubator and I’m experimenting a bit with the whole thing.  I’ve decided to try the egg carton method and I’m rotating the eggs by raising the incubator itself on one end, switching which end 3 times a day.  That way I don’t have to turn 61 eggs 3 times a day.  The 3 banty eggs on the top are the only ones I have to turn each time.

Some more experiments:  Due to my egg eaters (another post for another time) and maybe the cooler weather still, I struggled to gather many eggs in a 10 day timeframe.  I wanted to fill the incubator and make it worth the electric and time.  I bought a dozen fertile eggs from my uncle and got 9 more from the lady I borrowed the incubator from.  I also threw in a dozen+ that had been stored in the fridge, points up, unrotated, for more than 10 days… All no-no’s according to conventional incubating wisdom, although some people say it can be done.  I THINK that several of those are developing.

I took the first egg out of the incubator today.  I’ve candled it a few times.  There’s been a ring that rotates around, moving with the egg as I turn it, and I could see little else indicating development.  There’s several others I’m watching, but I took the plunge and removed one today.  To my relief (and contrary to my dreams last night- full of oozing, stinking,exploding eggs in the incubator) it didn’t stink yet.  Today is day 9 of 21.

Pictures of it on my homemade candler- note the ring going around the inside of the egg in both pictures:

   

A picture of it cracked open:

There was a tiny chick embryo (see the small whitish spot on the bottom of the yolk in the picture above), but this egg is clearly a “quitter.”  The embryo should be much bigger by now and there should be vessels and such.  Hard to see, but I’ll throw in the “closeup” pic of the embryo as well.  You can see a dot that is the eye and the buds for the wings.  That’s all I know to identify.

I’ll try to post pics of more of the progress as time goes on.  My candler (lamp in a box with a hole; 60 watt fluorescent bulb) isn’t that great- I need to find a better way (aka a good strong little flashlight).

My mom came over and helped me “cull” my extra Chantecler rooster that I’d kept over the winter.  He was just under a year old.  I would have had a harder time deciding between the 3, except this one volunteered for the stew pot.  He started to rush me and act like he was going to attack- never quite attacked, but I didn’t like having to watch my back every time I stepped into the chicken run- especially since I was doing it so often to collect eggs for incubating.

It’s been many years since my mom had chickens to dispatch- and I’m not sure if she ever had to do some of the parts we had to that day.  And my only experience was helping when I took my extra roos to the amish last fall (I wrote about it here).

I made a “cone” out of aluminum coil stock- and found it needs to be adjusted to allow the body of the chicken into the cone further for next time.

It took MUCH longer to process than I remember the amish taking.  I think there should be a warning somewhere, too, about year old roosters being much harder to eviscerate than 6 month old roosters.  My thought is that the connective tissues inside are much more established, as well as the bony structures.  I found it much more difficult to get my hand into the body cavity and the organs much more solidly attached.  I never did find anything recognizable as a kidney- I think they all just mushed through the connective tissues near the back bone.  And those white kidney shaped things along the back must be an item you find only in a mature rooster…

Either way, we got it done and I soaked him in ice water.  I neglected to weigh anything- I really need to get a small scale.

Then stuck him in the crockpot all day on low as in the recipe I found here at Wilke Farms.

This is the meat I picked off.  VERY dark meat- I was surprised at HOW dark it was.

I made stock out of what was left of the carcass and some veggies.  I tried the crockpot method, kind of like I saw here at Nourishing Days.

I’m not real excited about my stock attempts yet.  I’m going to try the method from my “American Classics” cookbook next time.  I’d love to have some flavorful, chicken-y stock.  I’m disappointed that I have to add chicken bullion to my chicken stock.  There’s just something wrong with that to me.

We had my parents over and enjoyed some “mean chicken and biscuits” for Sunday lunch.

Another lifecycle lesson to come- Norma the dexter cow should be calving within the next 2 weeks!  her “due date” is March 28.  Lannie, now the neighbors, had a heifer calf on the 9th (due date was the 7th).

All this while John prepares to leave for a missions trip to Haiti.  The calf will probably be here when he gets home, but he should be back in time to see eggs hatching (He’s not as excited as I am about it though!)

 

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I found some reasonably priced (aka cheap, although not quite free) laying hens on Craigs last week, so I brought home 10 to increase my egg production.  I’ve only got 4 chantecler hens and 2 banty hens, and only two (possibly 3?) of the Chanteclers are laying anything for me so far.  I also have reason to believe some of these new girls will be broody hens to hatch eggs for me next spring since some have done it before.  They’re all black, some are a bit smaller, likely a banty cross with a standard size chicken.  The only black chickens I know the name of are black Australorps, Jersey giants, and black broilers- I definitely don’t have giants or broilers.  I don’t know what these chickens are, so any guesses are welcome!  These girls just stopped laying so I won’t be getting any eggs until probably after the new year, but I guess I can be patient.  Eggs are pricy at the store right now!  Here’s one of the new girls:

Since I brought home more chickens, John reminded me that I REALLY need to get rid of a few roosters now.  Last week he stopped in at the Amish place we’ve heard about that will butcher for a reasonable price.  They told him I should bring them Monday (yesterday).

I brought four- three Chanteclers and a banty Ameraucana.  One had too large of a comb, one had crooked legs, one was not nice to my kiddos, and one (the banty) was leaning that way.  (If he’d been a nice rooster, he would’ve stayed and the other banty would’ve been processed because he has the wrong comb type, although better color.)  I still really have one too many Chanty roosters, but I’d like to grow three out a little further and see how they develop before I narrow it down to two.  I neglected to take a picture of the actual chickens I took, so here’s a picture of some I have left.  The first picture is a Chantecler hen, rooster, and the remaining banty rooster behind.  The second picture is a rooster and a hen (another hen behind).  They’re about 6 months old.

  

The weather was horrible (pelting rain and a thunderstorm), but they fortunately do most of the processing inside.  I waited for the school children to get home, since they were the ones who were to butcher the roos for me.  I wanted to learn how, so they let me help.  Two little boys took them out to the cones at the fence and dispatched them.  They let me hold the feet until the worst of the twitching was over.  Fortunately, there was a clearing in the rain and we didn’t get drenched outside!

An older sister was overseeing the project in the basement.  There the roos were dunked in a pail of boiled water (with soap added) for 15-30 seconds until the feathers would come off easily.  (The sister said they usually use soda in the water instead, but soap works, too.  It’s supposed to help the feathers come out more easily.)  We plucked on a table- WAY easier than I had imagined it would be.  And I didn’t notice any particularly strong or nasty smell, either.  Then we cleaned the birds off in a pan of water and took legs off at the knee joint.  Last was gutting.  I did the last one, and definitely took longer and made a bigger mess (yup- I busted a gut) and I missed the lungs.  I still have to find them… they offered to get them out for me, but I’d like to see them when I cut the chicken apart, so I can find them in the future.  Once the cut was made in the bottom and the fat from that area removed, It wasn’t much worse than having to get that little baggie of giblets out of the frozen turkey.

They told me I didn’t have to pay full price since I helped a lot.  But they were very helpful in teaching me/answering my questions, so I felt that more than worth a couple of dollars.  (Sorry no pics of processing.  Besides having my hands yucky, the amish don’t do photos).

So here’s the end product.  They’re for sure not CornishX, but a 6 month old dual purpose bird.  (Sorry, the pics are a bit odd- they’re sitting on the canner lid on the basement floor- that’s where the extra fridge is.  And necks are still attached since the amish family had broken the knife they use to cut off the necks.)  I’ll try to weigh them sometime and add that here for reference.  ETA:  Weights of my roos without giblets/feet, but with necks.  The banty was 1lb 12 oz, Chanteclers were  5lb 2 oz, 5lb 3 1/2 oz, and 4 lb.  The 4 lb was the roo with the crooked legs that got picked on.  They were all a few days shy of 30 weeks old.  

        

Based on that experience, I would have no hesitations in doing one myself.  I don’t know that I’d want to do a bunch (unless I had help), and I still wouldn’t be crazy about the dispatching part, but I think I could do it.

What did you do yesterday?

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First Chantecler eggs!

It seems like forever since I posted last.  It’s been a ridiculously busy summer.  I’m hoping to catch up a bit and post some of the projects I’ve been consumed with for so long soon, including some MOPS projects and maybe I’ll get to some of the VBS crafts I did.

I’d just about given up hope of seeing any eggs this fall.  But my Chantecler girls pulled through for me today, to celebrate turning exactly 25 weeks old!  I got 2 small light brown eggs today!  I’ve got 4 Chantecler hens (and 6 roosters) and 2 bantam Ameraucana hens (and 2 roosters).

I thought chickens all started laying at about 20 weeks.  Maybe the Chanteclers take a bit longer to mature, since they’re a heritage, dual purpose bird?  Either way, I was so encouraged to actually get eggs today!

ETA:  I had to include a picture comparing the INSIDE of the eggs too.  Guess which one is the home-grown egg and which is the store bought?

That deep orange means lots of good stuff in that egg… and I’m happy to report there was a decidedly different taste, too!  Yum….

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More progress has been made on our chicken coop and garden.

     

John has been putting the touches only a finish carpenter can on the chicken coop.  He has trimmed out the doors and windows to match the house (all 2 windows we have trimmed there…).  He’s also finished the cupola for venting.  It looks very nice, I think.  But it’s taken a lot longer than necessary for chickens!  He looks out the door and can enjoy it, though.  If it looked like a thrown together mess, it would bother him a lot!  Good thing I didn’t build it myself.

The coop is 8×12 with a 3.5×8 garden shed in the back and a 8.5×8 chicken section in the front.  It still will gain a window in the left hand side and eventually some insulation and a little electric for a lights and a couple outlets.

To review:  Our plan was to enclose a garden/chicken run.  It’s split in half, so that each year the chickens get one side for a run and we get one side for a garden.  We’ve pretty much completed the project.  A little dirt to fill in the trench where the chicken wire runs into the ground and the “panel” that can be opened to let in a tractor to till each year needs to be attached.  I let the chickens out in their side of the enclosure this morning to attack the weeds that have grown so well in there!  There’s also a small run off of the coop that will be fully enclosed for a most always accessible but secure chicken run.

Their favorite weed seems to be milkweed.  Weird.  I though it was mildly poisonous, but they’ve been eating it with abandon and choosing it to eat first for the past several weeks and have been doing fine.

The first rooster (my “pink” chick) attempted his crowing yesterday morning.  He’s the big one in the first picture.  I am suspicious that several more are roosters- they have a deeper red tone to their combs and around their eyes.  They seem to be larger as well, and one (“red” chick has small wattles now- need to check and see if that’s to Chantecler standards).  I haven’t tried too hard to count how many MIGHT also be roosters, because it’s still hard for me to tell and I don’t want to know how many expensive chicken dinners I’ll be having yet.  I am also pretty sure that two of the 4 ameraucanas are roosters- both with red feathers flecking their bodies.  The ones that are clearest in the photos here I think are both female.  The tiniest one I’ve named “Sparrow” as that what she reminds me of, both for her brownish coloring, her size, and her strong, constant chirping!  No one else has official names yet.  Just colors.  I’m still amazed at the size differences from “Sparrow” to my “pink” rooster.

      

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I ran across this the other day and gave it a try this morning.  It worked great, and you don’t have to remember to set aside eggs to be able to use them for hard boiled.  It’s at the Highland view pantry  and I’ll definitely be doing my hard boiled eggs (Fresh) this way from now on!  You steam them for 30 minutes instead of boiling them in the water.

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