Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What's in that carton of eggs?

This graphic explains the confusing labels on egg cartons. The best response is to simply raise your own. Then you'll know for sure what's in there.

A Guide to Understanding Egg Carton Labels

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Cooking heritage chicken

Steve Pope, who works with Frank Reese out in Lindsborg, Kansas, has a terrific web site that explains heritage cooking methods.

I've worked with Steve and am grateful to him for his work. Cooking methods for industrial chicken simply won't produce good results with heritage breeds. It's an educational process: heritage breed chicken is so different from industrial chicken that it must be treated differently. After all, if it were the same, why bother?

Steve came to San Luis Obispo where he demonstrated cooking heritage chicken. Think longer, slower cooking, moist heat.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring Chicks, part 2

Eventually, four of the eight eggs hatched. We gave the remaining four two more days to hatch, but they didn't. When we checked, one had developed but never hatched, one had started to develop but quit, and two had never even started. I felt that was a good outcome, from eggs shipped from New Jersey to California.

They were soon up and about. I let them get settled in their new box under a heat lamp before adding food and water. They were eager and active, all good eaters from the start.

The black and white one is the smallest. She hatched with a crooked wing that hangs down, but I wouldn't consider her unfit. She may not ever be Show Quality, but this isn't a recognized breed anyway.

Kermit describes their heritage:

The great grandmother of these chicks is a tiny white colloncas hen named Lima that came from an agricultural college in Lima Peru. The father, Raisin, is a tiny violaceous basket bantam of the colloncas type. He looks like a violet black sequin.  Raisin's maternal great grandfather and maternal grandmother were closely-related  Rapa Nui colloncas- violaceous- tailed, the progenitors that the Dutch took to Europe and turned into Quail Bantam, but the Rapanui equivalent, violaceous and flighty.  Raisin's maternal line was bred in a more or less closed gene pool, only descendants of little white Lima and the old violaceous rooster from Rapanui. He came fromYamamoto, Raisin's paternal line. That line comes from a similarly closed gene pool with black colloncas Iwamiya brought back from Peru bred to Wallikiki basket-bantam, an Oceania equivalent of the Rapanui basket bantam, but the Wallikiki is not violaceous. The females are orange breasted orange birds. So we had two distinct lines of Colloncas X Basket Bantam. Their composite is Raisin, these chicks' father..

The mother of the blue eggs was an Andes, a tailed Colloncas, Tiny.  The white eggs were from  a Paco hen descended from Chilean stock. 

Regardless- you've  a composite of very rare cultural monument land races - "Incan Basket."
They stayed in the plastic storage container for two weeks, until they were wild to fly around. They are very active. The container had to have a wire mesh top on it at all times. They were soon ready to fly out. Then they went into a larger plastic container, still with the wire mesh cover. With a stick to perch on, they had a few more things to do.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring chicks!

I vowed I wouldn't do it again -- hatch eggs or raise chicks in the kitchen. I didn't mind getting the two-month-old pullets last spring. They were pretty much self-sufficient already, fully feathered and ready to go.

But here I was last month, setting up the incubator on thee kitchen counter. It's the best place because it's protected but well heated, not too much variation in the ambient temperature. Close to a water source, to keep the humidity channels full. The eggs arrived the next day, so it was well warmed and ready for them.

It started a week or so before, when Lady Fanny, my Speckled Sussex, indicated an interest in being broody. She's my best broody hen and has hatched chicks the past three years. I was alert to the possibility that she would want to set some eggs again, and I wanted to get her some nice ones. I've decided to add two or three pullets to my flock every year, to keep egg production up. If Fanny wants to hatch them, I'm happy to help her.
Lady Fanny with a turkey chick in 2013
That afternoon I heard loud squawking, and after ten minutes or so of it, went out to check to see if some predator might have made its way into the coop. No, it was Fanny, settled in the favorite nest box and loudly berating her sisters about their attempts to join her to lay their eggs. This is it, I thought. She's getting ready.

I put a notice on Facebook and my friend Kermit Blackwood stepped right up. He had some nice Colloncas he'd be happy to share. He collected eggs for a couple of days and shipped them off.

In the meantime, Fanny changed her mind. That one day was the sole indication that she wanted to raise a brood this year. I knew the eggs were on their way, so I unpacked the incubator and get ready.

The eggs arrived, perfectly packed, three lovely blue eggs and five small white ones. I let them rest a day before putting them in the incubator. It helps them get organized after being jostled through the delivery system.

We were in the midst of the only storms California has had all winter, which is good, but the weather was violent. I feared for a power outage, but the eggs were here, no turning back. I figured I'd think of something if the power went out. Maybe the library would let me plug in for a few hours in an emergency.

That never happened. The incubation was uneventful. The first chick, a black one from one of the white eggs, was followed by a white one from one of the blue eggs on March 21. By the next day, three of the white eggs had hatched: one all black, one black with a touch of white, one black with a white chest and underside.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Rare Breeds Show in May

Garfield Farm in LaFox, Illinois, is preparing for its annual Rare Breeds Day, May 18 11am-4pm. Breeders from around the Midwest display rare and historic types of livestock.  Member participation by the Livestock Conservancy.  $6/$3.

Garfield Farm's Java breeding program was responsible for re-discovering the White and Auburn Javas, varieties that had been lost to neglect. They also keep Narragansett turkeys and other heritage breed livestock.

This is always a terrific event for poultry. Bring birds to show and sell, or come and admire them.

From the web site:

Garfield Farm Museum holds its annual rare breeds livestock and poultry show each May.  The only show of its type held in Illinois, looks at the loss of genetic diversity amongst domestic animals that humans have depended upon for food, fiber, and work for hundreds of years. For many visitors to the show it is the first and perhaps last time in their lives they might ever see some of these highly endangered breeds.
In today's market, very few breeds are used in modern farms. Those that are tend to have very small gene pools as artificial insemination makes it possible for one prized male animal to father thousands of offspring. This leads to a lack of genetic diversity. Genetic resistance or hardiness to disease might be absent in such a line. A disease could strike that could eliminate such a breed. Breed diversity is not only a novelty, it is a necessity.
Oxen at Garfield Farm
In times of economic uncertainty like the one we are in, any threat to our food sources could be disastrous. Should a disease or other factor make the breeds currently used not viable, food would become harder and more expensive to come by. What genetic diversity does is provide the option of a different genetic strain that may not be affected by the same things as the modern commonplace strain. Should the currently used breed be effected the heritage breed may not.
There is also the matter of taste. Many of the currently used animals are used because they can grow to a desired size in a relatively short amount of time. Some older breeds may take longer to reach maturity, but they have a flavor to their meat or eggs that is missing in the genetically narrow market.
Breeders are invited to exhibit their animals at the museum with a chance to meet other breeders and prospective buyers. Pens, water, and bedding are provided by the museum just bring feed and any information, displays, products, demonstrations, or lectures related to the breeds being shown. There are no registration fees for exhibitors. Exhibitors must have appropriate health paperwork on their animals.

    In addition to seeing the animals, visitors and exhibitors can tour the 1846 Teamster Inn and Tavern, watch demonstrations of sheep shearing, wool spinning, or enjoy refreshments.