Author Archives: Sara

Chicken Hatch Day 8: Candling

After waiting patiently for 8 days, tonight we candled all of the eggs to see how many are developing.

LF_EE

Of course, I snuck a peek at 3 of them last night, but that only amplified my excitement. So as soon as night fell, our friends across the street came over and we got started.

KP_developing

As much as I love candling eggs, it’s always such a stressful endeavor. Handling so many tiny, fragile lifeforms makes my fingers feel like they’ve turned to sticks of butter. But this time, at least we weren’t crammed into a pitch black closet with a growling hen.

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Chicken Hatch Day 7: I just couldn’t help myself

 

I peeked at 3 of them. It was completely necessary, though — my sister and I needed to test out the camera equipment, and the focus is different when you’re looking at veins inside the egg. Or something like that.

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Sunchoke Soup

We were all hoping for a foot or two of accumulation. But a day of heavy, slushy snow melting right into the ground was almost as sweet.

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Even sweeter were the sunchokes I dug the day before.

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Do you know about sunchokes? They’re also called Jerusalem Artichokes, and they have a flavor reminiscent of artichokes. But they’re actually related to the sunflower, and the “choke” is a tuber that grows underground and looks a lot like ginger root.

sunchoke_payload

Sunchokes are similar to potatoes, but much higher in fiber and with a subtle, earthy, nutty flavor. A little like mushrooms, a little like artichokes. Hard to describe, but totally delicious. Use them in place of potatoes, or in combination with them. Or eat them raw.

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Kale Frittata with Bacon

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Most of the eggs from my chickens have been diverted for other purposes lately, and I’ve been missing them. But now that the eggs are in the incubator, I’m back to eating the ones I collect from the coop every day. And when a few days’ worth stack up, this is what I like to do with them.

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Chicken Hatch Day 1: Sitting on my hands

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The eggs have been in the incubator for about 24 hours, and their contents have already begun resembling chick embryos — with the beginnings of a digestive tract, vertebrae, a nervous system, a head, and an eye. In about an hour, the heart will start to form. At least, I hope this is what’s happening in there.

I can’t actually see what’s going on inside each egg for about 5 days, and I’m planning to “candle” the eggs to check for development around day 7. Until then, I wait.

Chicken Hatch Day 0: Setting the incubator

Tonight’s the start of our (21 day) incubation process! The eggs are now coming up to temperature, and we should start seeing some action the weekend of April 26th. I’ll be posting periodic updates as I check the eggs for development and get ready for hatch day.

I let the eggs rest overnight in their cartons, with the fat end up (this helps the aircell attach.) I ran the incubator overnight too, making sure it was holding steady at 99.5 degrees Farenheit and around 45-50% humidity. Then, I checked out the eggs with a flashlight to weed out any that might not be viable.

This is called “candling,” I guess because in the old days it was done using a candle. And it’s really fun, though probably not so much in the old days when you had to worry about cooking the egg. I’ll be doing it again around days 7 and 14, so that I can pull out any eggs that stop developing (and also watch the embryos moving inside.) But this time, I’m just looking for things that might decrease viability — like blood spots, or rolling air cells, or extremely porous shells.

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This is a reject egg from Salty, my Light Brahma — note the thin spots in the shell. Salty tends to lay thin-shelled eggs, so she didn’t contribute many to this hatch.

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Hatching Something New

I’ve raised chicks twice before: The 14 day-old chicks that my sister and I got from a feed store three years ago, and the three chicks that our broody hen hatched last September. And in less than a month, my third batch will be here.

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The Eggs Have Arrived

I spent way too much time today on the road, gathering some extra eggs to fill up our incubator. And of course, I ended up with just a few too many, but that will give me room to choose the best of the bunch.

I got 11 eggs from my friend Claudia, who adopted our extra rooster a while back. He is an Easter Egger (EE), which is not really a breed — just a mutt chicken that carries the blue egg gene. EEs are often sold from hatcheries and feed stores as “Araucanas” or “Ameraucanas” but my (limited) understanding is that 99% of the time, they are neither. Most of them are mutts, and any bird that lays a green egg falls into this category (true Araucanas and Ameraucanas lay blue eggs, along with a whole host of other very specific traits.)

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Mislabeling aside, Easter Eggers are some of my favorite chickens — they come in all different colors, they’re productive layers, and mine have been some of the prettiest (and friendliest) hens in the flock. Not to mention their lovely mint-green eggs.

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An unlikely mother

KP

Kung Pao went broody in August — meaning she decided to stop laying eggs, and start hatching them instead. In chickens broodiness is a hormonal change, and some breeds are genetically predisposed to it while others (egg-factory hybrids like KP) virtually never go broody. Kung Pao is a hybrid known as a Black Star (or Black Sex-link, because males and females hatch out in different colors.) She’s probably a cross between a Barred Rock hen and a Rhode Island Red rooster, and she’s most definitely bred for egg production.

So we never expected KP to go broody. But exactly two months after a fox decimated most of her friends, she decided it was time to replenish the flock. She had all the classic symptoms — refusing to budge from the nest even at night, picking out all her chest feathers, and growling when I tried to move her. Just goes to show we can only control nature so much.

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My first flock

Three years ago this week, my sister and I brought home 14 new companions: Day-old chicks from the local feed store. And so I began my life as a chicken keeper.

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Before we got our own chickens, I’d never actually been around any. And so I knew nothing of the lovely, comical creatures that they are. In my mind, chickens were farm animals of the worst sort — smelly, noisy, and not at all friendly. Definitely not the type of creatures you’d want as pets. I was so wrong.

Parmesan_1week

Once I got hooked on fresh eggs from my local farmers’ market, I found myself on a slippery slope. When Fall arrived and the farm stand started selling out of eggs within 15 minutes of opening, my sister and I joked about getting a few chickens for our small backyard. The following Spring we moved into the old farmhouse, complete with a large chicken coop, and there was no excuse. We drove home with a box full of fuzzy, furiously chirping chicks just a few weeks later.

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Our chicks were all sexed as “pullets,” or female chicks, but we read enough to know that there’s about a 10% error rate. So knowing that we might end up with a rooster and shouldn’t get too attached, we chose to name them all after food — Tikka, Tandoori, Sesame, Kung Pao, etc. It kept things light, but it didn’t keep us from getting attached.

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