Backyard Chickens: Candling Eggs

Backyard Chickens: Candling Eggs

So you’ve got chooks and a rooster and you want some chicks. But how do you know if the rooster is doing his job? 

The way to check eggs to see if they are fertile is called “candling”. Candling involves putting a bright light behind the eggs to see what is inside. It’s really easy to do and great to see if you’ve got chicks. 

 
There are some particular detailed signs to look for at all stages of growth inside the egg, but at the later stages of development it is very easy. It is as simple as looking for a part inside the egg where light does not pass through. A growing fetus will be opaque while the reminder of the egg white and yolk will be translucent. 

      

The image above is around 10-12 days since fertilisation. A egg will normally take around 18 days to hatch. 

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Backyard Chickens: Wing Trimming 

Backyard Chickens: Wing Trimming 

We’re visiting my wife’s family in the city. They have a few chooks which enjoy the odd escape attempt. Not good when the suburban fences are only 4-5ft high. The answer, which is sometimes controvsial, is to clip their wings… or build higher fences. 

Clipping the chooks wings doesn’t hurt them at all, however some people still don’t like the idea of cutting away naturally growing parts of a live animal. I don’t clip our chooks, not because I am against it but simply because it’s unnecessary in our backyard chook run where there are plenty high enough fences. 

And if you want to know how to do it, here is how: 

  

Using 2 people, one to hold the chook and wing, the other to cut the feathers, cut away around half the length of the first 10 flight feathers using sharp scissors, nail scissors/clippers or another suitable cutting tool. You can cut only one wing, with the theory that the bird will be unstable and unable to fly, or both wings to make sure they won’t escape. And that’s it! It is an easy job which takes seconds. 

  

When the wing is cut, the bird naturally tucks the cut feathers under the wing when it is folded so that it is barely noticeable. But you may need to keep an eye on those feathers when they start to moult and trim the new feathers again when they re grow. 

– Jono

The Hungry Season: Winter Veg Recipies

The Hungry Season: Winter Veg Recipies

Winter is, for obvious reasons, slower in the garden. But the produce that we pick can be just as delicious!

We’re not as self-sufficient over winter as the array of veg and the speed at which they grow makes the quantity of produce lower until early spring. However, along with some beautiful backyard eggs, beetroots, some leafy greens and broccoli, great dishes can be made.

We had a wonderful surprise two days ago when I pulled out a frosted, self sown potato from the summer potato crop. Underneath this single plant was 2.5kg of hidden gems!! A great find during the hungry season!


Here are a couple of our favourite ways to cook winter veggies.

BEETROOT, WALNUT & FETA SALAD

beetroot salad

This is a winter salad which can be served warm. Roast chopped beetroot (bite sized) in some olive oil and balsamic before tosses it into a baby spinach leaf salad with chunks of feta and some crushed walnuts. Add a bit more olive oil and balsamic to dress the salad.

KALE CHIPS

Kale-chips

Kale is a wonderful and versatile veg that can be steamed, stir-fried, added to dishes and even baked! Kale Chips are a delicious baked snack or side dish and it’s easy to do.

We flavour our Kale Chips with sesame seeds, olive oil and sesame oil and then just pop them into a hot preheated oven until they are crispy (which doesn’t take very long). They go a dark brown, or even a black colour, but the taste is terrific and they just dissolve in your mouth!

FRIED EGGS WITH STIR-FRIED GREENS

 

This is a simple dish which is great for a light meal, breakfast or lunch. Stir-fry a mix of winter leaves (Kale, spinach, beetroot leaves, chard, silverbeet) in some olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. Place on a crusty piece of toast and top with fried or poached eggs cooked so the centre is still runny. If you’re able to find some field mushrooms, this goes great with the kale leaves and egg!

Winter!! Doesn’t have to be the hungry season!

Jono

Backyard Chickens: Moulting

Backyard Chickens: Moulting

In possibly one of the coldest weeks in the Australian Autumn this year, one of my chooks decided to moult. Well, at least I thought she was moulting. The only problem was she lost ALL of her feathers… and it was on wet, windy days with maximums of just 12°C (54°F).

 

Susie Chook looking ready for the pot!

 

As it turned out, “Susie Chook” was moulting and not sick or diseased. She lost all her feathers save those on the very top of her neck and face, but there was no sign of lice or mites on her body. In a few days she had new feathers growing and within 7-10 days she was completely grown out with new feathers. The other chooks in the run also moulted around this time but none of them moulted as severely and quickly as Susie.

Susie Chook’s new feathers

 

This sort of moulting where a bird loses all their feathers at once is not overly common. A bird will usually moult in late summer or autumn. You can tell if your chickens are moulting when you see old feathers littering the run and lack of feathers or scruffy feathers around the body and particularly the neck. This is usually a longer gradual process than poor Susie Chook’s effort this autumn. If there is a particularly severe moult it will typically be only the neck feathers which will drop all at once.

Birds generally stop laying during a moult and if it is late in autumn some may not lay again (or only lay periodically) until the days warm and lengthen in spring. Birds may also require some extra protein in their diet to cope with the moult.

When a bird begins to moult, it is a good idea to check them for lice, mites and other problems to ensure that the reason why they are dropping their feathers is due to an annual moult and not some other stress or disease/pest related issue.

Jono