More Nutritious Eggs

With thanks to this month’s Mother Earth News…

You can now see what we all guessed, tested out and verified:

Eggs from hens raised where they can eat seeds, grass and bugs are far more nutritious than eggs from confined hens in factory farms.

Read the full nutritional profile:

Mother Earth News Research


Gran speaks “Cluck” & other news

A Guest Update from Carolyn:

I finally overruled Gran and came out to the farm today.

As is often the case, it’s a different day in Terra Cotta than it is in Toronto. As we cruised down Roncy for a quick hit at Cherry Bomb, we saw lots of joggers and kids shucking outerwear in the warm sun. Mark wanted to head back to 18 Radford to bike out to Stone’s Throw, but we were running short on time.

By the time we hit the King Side Road it was all whiteouts and wind and the dashboard temperature readout was minus 2. The kids quickly agreed to wear their ski jackets after all, and Mark conceded it was probably a good thing he hadn’t been on his bike.

I think we’re the first visitors they’ve had at Stone’s Throw in a while. The dogs, Cailey and Meadow, were particularly thrilled to see us, and Angus, who will be staying here the week we are away.

Gran managed a “Hello” and started coughing like mad. But I can report there’s life in her yet. I think she’ll make a full recovery after all.

Unlike three of her chickens, who contracted her cold and died. Apparently this happens. One that didn’t make it was an Auraucana, which means a few less blue eggs. Her supplier from Washington State, who was supposed to send her a new line of Speckled Sussex, emailed to say he had to cull most of his breeding stock this year because of a respiratory disease. Ouch, sad! Who would want to be a farmer? It’s tough!

Despite this, we will be returning to the city this afternoon with 17 dozen eggs.

The other news is I’ve hooked Gran’s blog up to Twitter and WordPress. She’s also acquired an iPhone 4 so she can more easily post from the barn. Mark’s doing a little IT work to get all that up and running for her.

Up at the barn, the surviving chickens are getting a stockpot of oatmeal every day, warm. And Gran is homegrowing sprouts by the gallon to feed them — i helps increase their egg production and boost their immune systems.

The chickens tell Gran they’d like the snow to stop. They do this by crowding into the one bare area under the tent, which is about to cave in from the snow, and clucking disapprovingly at the snow.

Told ya Gran speaks “Cluck.”

Gran at home

Not Gran's best look


Snow Coming

I couldn’t resist the 2 lovely ladies, Light Brown Leghorns, sharing a nesting box. Obviously they couldn’t wait to lay their eggs. Note the white ears which means that they lay white eggs!

Time has been spent today getting them ready for the cold and snow. They had their hot oatmeal yesterday with yogurt and milk ( 2 gallons in 10 minutes ). Lots of fresh straw piled up for them to snuggle down into. I will give them some Rowe Farms suet to help keep them warm.

The roosters have their new heat lamps that son Brian zipped up, and their space is now nice and warm – no more frozen water. The girls LOVE to come to visit them. They cluck and twitter -very flirtatious for lack of a better word. Just two more weeks, and some of them will be housed together again.

It really is very rewarding working with these birds, and knowing that I am supplying healthy food that is ethically and happily, raised. Lucky me.

Oh, What to do

Well, it seems that there is a market for free range, organic eggs. Who knew that they could be this popular?

I should have known, since that is why I bought 6 hens – I couldn’t guarantee myself a fresh supply of eggs from others. Then, as documented, I liked this breed and that breed and…

Then some of my friends liked them, so I bought a “few” more chickens. Then Carolyn said that her friends would love to have any extras. So, now I have (at last count) 63 hens, and not enough eggs for everyone that wants them.

There are a few variables affecting the egg supply here at Stone’s Throw.

One is room constraint. I only have one chicken coop. It would be nice to build another one for roosters and to brood chicks, but do I really want to do that? That’s a lot of coop cleaning!

The second issue is the Egg Supply Board that limits me to 99 laying hens, unless I want to buy a quota. Of course, the smallest quota is for 2,000 hens. Not likely.

As well, the supply goes up and down naturally. Chickens go broody: they stop laying and sit on a nest as if there were eggs under there to hatch. It is very difficult to persuade them to change their minds. You can see that they come from stubborn dinosaurs originally. They puff up and glower and screech when you try to move them.

Some of the hens’ eggs will be diverted to breeding chicks. Not a huge number, but it will impact numbers in the spring.

Late in the summer or early fall they moult, and stop laying. They are putting their energy into producing new feathers. I have read about fellow poultry breeders who have 300 hens and no eggs. They have to buy eggs themselves. It is quite embarrassing.

So, what to do to keep everyone happy?

I am thinking about it. I have to have the right number of chickens to be able to do things the way I want to.

For example, I am now looking at 3 large trays of wheat grass that are going out to the chickens today. Lest I forget, there is the yogurt and the bananas and the cabbage and the squash…

I have ordered extra hens – in fact I will have about 180 birds come summer. That would include turkeys (about 36) for Thanksgiving/Christmas, Redbro meat birds (number to be determined) and the various laying breeds, some of who will be roosters. Unlucky roosters, unless they’re especially handsome.

But that should help. In the meantime I ask for your forbearance as we try to make sure everybody gets some. Perhaps not every week, but with some regularity. Spread the joy around.

UPDATE: 3 large flats of wheat grass – 5 days to grow. 30 minutes to eat down to the dirt.


Oh Carolyn, what have we done?

Grandad and I decided that we would concentrate on household stuff and chicken stuff this weekend.

Carolyn called to see if she could stop on the way back from Hockley (I thought to see us), and was quite fearful when I said “Not this weekend”.

Fearful, you say? It’s the High Park egg eaters – they will be so upset! They might mob! Ah, but if they can wait till Tuesday when I come to the city all will work out just fine.

This did remind me of an article that I read in the Globe last year. It made me laugh at the time. Little did I know………. says it all.

Chicken stuff today – planted 3 large trays of wheat grass for the chickens. They will be demolished in minutes. 5 days to grow and 5 minutes to eat. Gotta love those chickens. I put up a nonelectrified electric netting fence to keep out coyotes. They will only be out when we are out and about, so hopefully this will keep them safe until spring when I can electrify again.

I started to weigh the chickens that I am considering for breeding.

To say the least, they were quite unhappy.

First they get put into an empty feed bag, then they get hefted up by a fish scale, then they get banded, usually for a second time. It’s amazing how they can get the bands off.

It’s going to be cold, cold, cold tonight (not as cold as my friends get out west but..), so I added a few more bales of straw for them to dig down and bury themselves in if they don’t take advantage of the heaters. As a friend keeps telling me, they wear their own down, stop worrying. I worry.

Our teenage Light Sussex, about 11 weeks old and 3 lbs 14 oz


Bah Humbug

I came home from a morning in town, dragging the groceries for the hens – 8 large containers of yogurt, 6 heads of lettuce and 10 honeydew melons. And what did i find – feathers and blood right inside the chicken yard. The poor chickens were herded inside ( albeit with lettuce and sunflower seeds ), and will remain there until we get the electric netting fence up somehow in the snow. The bear banger is also coming out of hiding. It is the only weapon I am allowed to have given my VERY poor eye-hand coordination.

To make myself feel better I took some pictures of the girls. Let’s see if I can actually post these.

It's Mama, let's go


Princess, the Speckled Sussex

The girls laying eggs - note that the majority are on the floor stuffing themselves with lettuce and sunflower seeds

Spring Fever

So much news from our corner of Terra Cotta.

I went out to the “coop” last week, and suddenly realized that there didn’t seem to be as many chickens covering the floor. After a head count ( not easy with bustling chickens), I realized that the coyotes must be in evidence again. At least 5 missing chickens. Back on with the electric fence. at the same time our friend and neighbour Grant mentioned that he had seen a beautiful shiny coyote by his bird feeder. My comment was that of course he was shiny – he has been eating organic chicken again!

The roosters have all been put away for the next 4 weeks. It will take that long for the hens to clear from all extraneous “genes”. They will then be paired with their respective hens for breeding groups.

I am primarily going to concentrate on breeding the Light Sussex and the Speckled Sussex groups. Improvement of the breeds is a necessity since they have been neglected since the advent of hybrids. They have become too small for their breed requirements, and have lost their niche as dual purpose breeds since the advent of hybrids. I will also breed Buff Orpingtons since they were my first “show quality” birds. I am negotiating to bring in new blood lines of Light and Speckled Sussex from the United States. I have been trying for over a year, and I think that I may actually be successful this year. Perseverance pays.

With eggs in mind, I have just placed my April hatchery order for chicks – Americaunas for blue eggs, Cuckoo Marans for dark brown eggs, and Wellingtons for dark brown speckled eggs ( for Alexandra). My own breeding groups will provide the various light brown and white eggs.I  ordered turkey poults for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

My next telephone call will be to Quebec to see if I can place a small order for “Redbros” a Label Rouge chicken from France. They grow more slowly than the hybrid Cornish Rock cross that is the prevalent commercial meat bird and therefore will have more flavour.  I will try these out, and see what happens.

Off to visit the chickens. I will gather my new best friend, an Australorp, from where she comes to the front door to wait for me every morning – through snow and rain. Funny girl.