Tag Archives: Incubating Eggs

Green Chile Bread Pudding (+ an update on the chickens)

getting_their_wings

After a busy weekend, I looked at the chicks and realized they’re getting their wing feathers already. They’re nearly a week old now, and they’ve also mastered scratching in their feeder and in the clumps of grass I put in the brooder; seconds after I place them in the freshly cleaned box it’s trashed again.

6_day_old_chicks_trashing_the_brooder

They’re adorable though, and all eight appear to be thriving and will shortly be moved to their private quarters in the chicken coop. And then this Saturday, incubator #2 is due to hatch so we hope to have a few more joining the fun.

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welsummerXfaverolles_just_hatched

The big chickens have also been going through a lot of changes this week. We found our first tiny pullet egg this week, and the rest of the girls from our April hatch should start laying anytime. And of course, the young roosters found their voices and started trying to put the moves on the ladies. It’s been an awkward few weeks, steeped in rejection, frequent ambushes, and plenty of dominance battles. Visiting the coop was like being in middle school again.

Ideally, the ratio should be 10 hens for every rooster. And as the boys matured, I learned firsthand that chickens aren’t meant to live in equal numbers. Our once-harmonious flock grew edgy and out of balance as the hormones kicked in, and we knew it was time.

With this flock, we planned from the start to harvest all but one of the boys. And so on Saturday morning, we followed through and butchered nine beautiful roosters. It was hard and sad work, but ultimately gratifying to see an entire shelf full of meat that we raised with care, from egg to freezer. Most roosters never even have a chance at life, they’re just an unfortunate byproduct of egg production — for each of the 18 female chicks we’ve purchased from hatcheries, a male chick was sent off to a rendering plant.

And so I think it’s more ethical to hatch my own laying hens and raise the roosters for the freezer, because I can ensure they’re well cared for and treated with respect. Even so, I get the occasional comment to the effect of “I wouldn’t kill a good looking rooster like that, send him to a nice farm!” (Actually, I’m pretty sure we are that farm). Butchering is bloody, brutal work to be sure, but I consider myself fortunate to be part of the process and know that my birds are treated with respect — really, I feel like I had more blood on my hands back when I was buying factory-produced chicken and eggs without acknowledging the source.

Butchering includes several steps, and as novices with nine roosters, my sister and I had our work cut out for us. Fortunately, our wonderful neighbor came over to help and even recruited her three houseguests to join us — maybe not what they were expecting on vacation, but they were excellent sports.

With six people on the line, the work passed quickly and the emotional burden felt a bit lighter too (or at least, having other people around helped me keep the water works under control). After just a few hours, we were all freshly showered and drinking a champagne toast to the boys, who were cleaned and chilling in the fridge.

I put brunch together the night before, since the kitchen would be devoted to packaging chickens and I doubted I’d feel like cooking afterwards. This dish is one of my go-tos when I’m having people over, because all I have to do in the morning is pop the pan in the oven. It’s usually improvised in my house, sometimes with bacon, sometimes with jalapeños, always with cheese — so just think of this recipe as a template for your own creation.

Green Chile Bread Pudding

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 4-6 servings

Green Chile Bread Pudding

A perfect dish for those days where you've promised someone you'll feed them brunch, but really want to sleep in.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium loaf of crusty bread, about 300 grams
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite green chile sauce, or roasted and peeled anaheims, or a small can of diced Hatch chiles
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3 slices bacon (optional but highly recommended)

Instructions

  1. Cut bread into chunks about 1" thick and arrange in a 13x9 glass baking dish.
  2. Beat eggs with milk, and whisk in salt, chiles, half of the cheese, and bacon (if using).
  3. Pour egg mixture over bread and press down on the pieces to coat them.
  4. Sprinkle remaining cheese across the top and cover; refrigerate at least 8 hours (and up to 24).
  5. In the morning, let the dish come up to room temperature on the counter (about an hour) then bake in the middle a 350 degree oven until the cheese is browned and bubbly, about 25 minutes.
http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/green-chile-bread-pudding-an-update-on-the-chickens/

 

Day 20: First pip! (and how to follow the hatch)

firstPip#18

It’s happening! After 20 days of waiting, we got our first pip at about 10 this morning, and I’m starting to hear a lot of muffled peeping from the incubator as I type this. It could be another 24 hours before this chick hatches, or things could progress fairly quickly like they did last time.

first_chick

The first chick from the April hatch, who popped out much faster than expected

If you’re on Facebook, like The Homegrown Gourmet to receive the latest updates as they happen. If not, you can still read our recent posts in the column to your right. And of course, you can watch the live video stream from the incubator here!*

*To view on mobile devices, download the (free) Ustream app and search for “fall chicken hatch due 8-21-13”

Thanks for hatching with us!

It’s that time again…

eggs_for_hatching

After all the fun we had with the hatch last spring, I’ve been itching to get the incubator out again. And now, it’s finally time to get started on the fall hatch. So last night, I set the eggs. It’ll be barnyard mixes again this time, but I got my eggs from different sources.

I have six lovely dark brown Welsummer eggs, from a lady that I met on an incubation forum when I was planning my last hatch. I’m really excited about these — I’ve been wanting dark brown eggs for a long time, but Kung Pao rejected the first ones I tried, and I got 0/2 from the dark eggs in my last hatch.

So to up my chances, I got another four Welsummer eggs (with speckles!) from a local farm, plus a few Leghorns (white) and Easter Eggers (green). That flock includes a Cochin rooster, so most of the chicks should have feathered feet — which I find really cute, until it rains.

One of the pretty speckled eggs was cracked a bit, and I decided to take a chance and put it in anyway because there’s plenty of room (I’m splitting the eggs into two incubators this time, so that the chicks have more room to hatch and also so there’s a backup in case one fails).

wax_patch_job

I sealed the egg by lighting an unscented candle and dripping a bit of melted wax onto the crack to seal it. And then I accidentally poured wax halfway down the side of the egg and had to pick some off, probably ruining any chance that egg had of hatching.

I also put in 4 eggs from my neighbor, who has mostly red sex-links (which do not produce more sex-links, unfortunately). And because I saw Cordon Bleu attempting to molest Cutlet the other day, I put a few eggs from our flock in as well.

Finally, I filled in the balance with some eggs I got from a lady on Craigslist, which (I think) are from Buff Orpington and Rhode Island Red hens crossed with a rumpless Araucana (or is it Easter Egger?) rooster. So we’ll have some interesting genetics this time around.

incubator_running

There are more eggs in the mix than last time (55 versus 41) because there are quite a few that probably won’t hatch, and I’m not sure of the fertility rate for others. It’ll be an interesting experiment for sure, and like last time I’m planning to broadcast the hatch on Ustream starting around August 20th. Details (and candling photos!) coming in the next few weeks.

Chicken Hatch Day 21: Brooder Buddies

first_three

The first 3 hatchlings: Easter Egger x Speckled Sussex in the center, flanked by Easter Egger x Rhode Island Reds.

We’ve got 15 chicks now, with more still hatching in the incubator. The early birds spent most of their first day sleeping, eating, and stretching. Must feel great to be free after spending 21 days in an egg.brooder_buddies

stretch

 

Most of the chicks had no trouble whatsoever, but so far we’ve had three that got stuck in the shell and needed a little help.

shelly_hatching

This little one was having a hard time last night, but finally got out of the shell this morning with some help. It’s still in the incubator, and recognizable by the piece of shell still stuck to its back. We normally name all our chicks after food, but this one earned a special non-edible name: Shelly (or Sheldon, as the case may be)

 

 

Chicken Hatch Day 20: First Chick!

first_chick

The first chick hatched about 7:30 this morning. It’s a Rhode Island Red x Easter Egger from our friend Claudia, and I really hope it’s a girl.

We’re starting to see a lot more action in our eggs! I think this little one will have company soon. You can view the hatch live here.

 

 

Chicken Hatch Day 18: Lockdown

ready_for_lockdown

(photo by Anne Dirkse)

Tonight the eggs reached another big milestone: Lockdown. This means we’re in the home stretch, and we took the eggs out of the automatic turner and laid them down on their sides so the embryos can get in position for hatch. We may even see them start rolling around a bit in the next day or two as the chicks move inside. So, we’ve started up our live stream (via Ustream) to keep an eye on the incubator.

high_tech_tripod

The main thing about lockdown is that the humidity requirements are higher, especially at high altitude. I’ve been weighing a few of the eggs to track how much liquid they’ve lost (chicken eggs should lose about 13% during the course of incubation.)

weigh-in

They seem to be pretty much on track in terms of weight loss and air cell size, so we’ll increase humidity to around 70% from now on. (We’ve been keeping it around 50%, but it should be higher during lockdown so the shell membranes don’t dry out and “shrink-wrap” the chick.)

fill_the_wells

(photo by Anne Dirkse)

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(photo by Anne Dirkse)

The other thing about lockdown is that we’re not supposed to open the incubator from now until the chicks dry off, so it’s going to be a long (and possibly anxious) few days.

locked_down

And just to keep things interesting, it looks like we might get yet another late season snowstorm tomorrow. That’s 3 Mondays in a row now, and I’m convinced it’s because I have eggs in the incubator (Colorado, you can thank me later.) But the generator’s ready, so bring on the snow. I might even wash my car tomorrow.

 

Chicken Hatch Day 14: Candling #2

It’s hard to believe, but we’re already 2/3 of the way done with our incubation. In just about a week the chicks should be getting ready to make their appearance!

We candled the eggs again tonight, and the chicks are big enough now that it’s hard to see anything going on inside. Especially with the darker shelled eggs, there’s not much to see besides a few veins:

Candlingd14_LFEE

 

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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.

CutletDay7

 

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Chicken Hatch Day 1: Sitting on my hands

incubating_away

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.