Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cluckers, Eggs and Pixie Houses

Ok, first things first. Think these little pixie houses are super cute? Go over to Alpha Stamps immediately and learn how to make your own! I've put together a little 'how to' for this fun and easy project, perfect for gram-ma's and kidlets to make together (or crafters on the run).

P.S. The Gnomes & Birds Collage Sheet I used on this project is one of my faves. So stinkin' adorable!

Now, on to the chicken news...

We've had our hens (or 'the girls' as Mr. Pixie calls them) for around 3 years. Over the past year they have decided that it is time to retire from all this laying business and have been quite stingy with the eggs. Whittled down to one egg a day with Christmas baking looming?!?! Panic! So the mister brought these girls home last night.

These lovely ladies belonged to the Thai vineyard workers. They are leaving to do seasonal work elsewhere and so we greedily happily took them in. They seem to have settled quickly too because this morning 6 warm beautiful brown eggs were waiting in the nesting boxes.

There are very few things that can compare with holding a warm fresh laid egg in your hands. These are a wee bit smaller than our other girls were providing us with... but I think we'll manage :P

Finally, here are a few answers to the questions we are most commonly asked about our chickens.

Don't you need a rooster for eggs?
Nope. You need a rooster for fertilized eggs that will produce chicks. For plain old eating eggs, hens are all that are required.

How long do chickens lay eggs?
Most hens produce well for two years then their production begins to decline. Our hens each provided us with an egg every day for two years, then a little less over the past year, until finally we were only getting one egg a day from the whole bunch of them.

What do you feed them?
We buy chicken feed purchased at a farm supply shop. We also give our chickens treats like vegetable scraps and, their favourite, grapes. They will eat almost anything including bugs, mice and (if desperate) their own eggs!

What do you do with them in the winter?
Our hens live in a hen house for the winter. It is not heated (think of the birds you see in the winter months who do not have people caring for them) but inside there is loads of hay and they keep each other warm. They do come outside and sit in the snow. We toss a mix called 'scratch' in with them for them to... well... scratch and peck at.

How long do chickens live?
That depends. Some chickens can live up to 15 or 20 years! Chickens can (and do) get sick and are a tasty snacks for things like coyotes and foxes.  Being a chicken can be dangerous!

We keep the birds we raise for food for just 7-8 weeks. That may seem cruelly short but their breed, after that short period of time, have gone from being cute fluffy chicks to big white eating machines. They live in a pen that is moved daily so that they have access to fresh grass to scratch and peck at, but prefer to sit next to the feeder and eat. Their breed habits make them susceptible to certain health problems so it is important to 'harvest' them at the appropriate time.

What do you do with the hens that don't lay anymore?
Our hens that have decided it's time to 'retire' become soup chickens. They can be eaten but they do not provide as much meat and are generally tough and a bit stringy.

Don't you feel bad about eating them?
Our family eats meat and we appreciate that it comes from a living thing. Knowing that the food on our plate has had access to fresh grass, straw, clean water is important to us. While enclosed to protect them from predators, we like to know that the animal that gave it's life for our sustenance has had space to scratch and a place to roll in the dust. We do not feel badly about eating them but we do respect that they have given their life to provide us with food.