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How to Make Deacon’s Famous Omelets!

Growing up, my dad traveled a lot. He was a traveling salesman who worked so hard to provide for his family, as well as grow the family business. There were times when he’d be gone for 2 weeks or more at a time. Our family sacrificed a lot during those years, but looking back, we wouldn’t change a thing.

My mom stayed at home and kept us three kids in line. Our mom is an excellent cook and baker. However, back in those days her skills were often put to the test with our tightly limited budget. Without a doubt, if you asked any of us kids what our favorite supper was, “eggs and toast” would be in the top three. I suppose part of that meal was convenience as well. There was nothing fancy about it. It was simply 2 over easy eggs mashed up with a fork and 2 pieces of toast with mom’s homemade jam. So, if you think that dinner idea will satisfy your family, read no further! But, if you’d like something with a little more thought, read on.

Recently, our youngest son has taken up the idea of making omelets. I love omelets, but I’ve never taken the time to learn how to make them. So, this past Saturday, Deacon took the time to teach his old mom a new trick. We made omelets and they were delicious! Throw a side of bacon or sausage and a piece of toast and you’re set.

Deacon’s Famous Omelets

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs/omelet

  • Toppings of your choice (bacon bits, sausage, mushrooms veggies, cheese, salsa, etc)

  • Medium sized frying pan

Directions:

Preheat the frying pan on medium/low heat. Crack your eggs into a bowl and whisk. Carefully pour into the heated pan (spray if necessary). Let the eggs sit and cook (2-3 minutes).

When the eggs start to look firm, place your toppings in the middle and let sit again (1 minute). Carefully fold over one side and let sit for 30 seconds to 1 minute and then fold over the other side and repeat the 30 seconds to 1 minute.

With a large spatula or even 2, lift the omelet out of the pan onto a place. Garnish with your favorite toppings. Enjoy!

Deacon took the stress out of learning this new skill by making me feel like I can do anything. Anyone else feel that way? “If I can conquer making an omelet, I can do anything!”? Haha! Well, it’s that easy. And, by adding in some healthy ingredients, you have a protein and nutrient packed supper that will leave your family feeling full and satisfied.

Until next time,

–The Wing Lady

Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Keeping Your Flock Comfortable in Chilly Conditions

Winter weather is quickly approaching here in northwest Indiana, so this means it’s time to prepare our coops for the season to come. Now, surprisingly enough, chickens are very cold hardy animals. If you think about it, all those feathers act like little down jackets. While your flock may not like the cold and snowy conditions, they can easily survive in blistery temperatures – especially when you set them up for success from the get-go. Here are a few of my favorite ways to winterize your coop and ensure that your flock stays comfortable this season.

Start from the inside – When it is flat-out miserable outside, your chickens may choose to hangout in the coop rather than deal with the conditions Mother Nature has brought upon. With that being said – have you ever heard the expression “being all cooped up”? Take a second and reflect on how that affects you when you’re cooped up somewhere. Is it enjoyable? Do you have everything you need to keep you satisfied? Now take those questions and apply them to your flock. If your flock seems to be hanging out inside more than usual be sure that their food and water are accessible from the inside. If you have some extra room in the coop, consider some “chicken approved” activities – extra roosting poles, hanging treats, and other boredom busters are all great options to help pass the time!

Prevent cold drafts – Does your coop allow cool air inside through any holes or cracks? If so, keep in mind that cold air drafts will quickly chill the chickens inside. Plan on sealing any holes the best you can. There are many ways to prevent cold drafts. Plywood, tarps, and strong plastic sheeting are all sufficient draft stoppers! Your chicken coop’s roof should already be waterproof, but if you notice any holes, seal those up to the best you can, but be sure not block off the ventilation openings.

Proper ventilation – Good ventilation is an absolute must all year around, but during the winter months is especially important. Poor ventilation can cause stagnate moist air inside the coop. A combination of ammonia and moisture from their droppings will increase the risk of mold inside the coop. This can cause respiratory infections and also frostbite on their combs and wattles. So, please make sure your coop maintains good ventilation and low humidity.

Added insulation – Through the colder months, I like to place additional insulation inside and outside of the coop. For the outside of the coop, I line the exterior with bales of straw to help as a barrier to the wind and any drafts that may enter without it. It also helps keep the heat produced from your flock inside the coop. On the interior, I like to add a thick layer of bedding to the coop floor such as shavings. You can also choose to follow the “deep litter” method, so rather than regularly cleaning out the coop, continue to add more fresh bedding on top of soiled bedding. This provides extra insulation, and also produces some heat as microbial activity increases to breakdown the waste. If you choose to follow this method, do note that it can increase the level of humidity in your coop.

Adequate roosts – Your coop should already be equipped with roosting poles, but if not, make sure you add some before the cold arrives! Roosts are essential to helping keep your flock warm. Make sure they are placed at least 2 feet above the ground, this keeps them off the cold floor. Roosts also give chickens a place to fluff out & snuggle up to their friends. Also remember, there is warmth in numbers!

Outdoor space – In addition to winterizing your coop, winterizing their run or other outdoor space is also a great idea. Just like the coop, tarps and heavy plastic sheeting can be used to cover the top or sides of the run. This provides great protection from rain, snow, and wind. You can also lay down straw in the run to give them a place to romp around comfortably. Their feet are susceptible to frostbite, so make sure to do a routine check on the flock.

Lighting in the coop – Cold weather can definitely reduce egg production, but darkness is the main reason production drops off in late fall. Chickens lay best when they receive at least fifteen hours of sunlight per day. To get the best egg production during the shorter days, adding artificial sunlight to the coop is a great option. You can achieve this by hanging a light, controlled by a timer, near your nesting area to add “daylight”. This is an easy solution to increase egg production through during shorter days!

With a little bit of preparation, you can now go into winter confidently knowing that you have met all the needs of your flock this season! I hope these tips are as beneficial to you as they are to me! Have the BEST day!

Egg Laying Tips to Keep Up the Egg Production

If you’re looking for egg laying tips to keep your chickens laying beautiful eggs all year, you’re in the right place.

 

Nutrition is Key

Feeding a quality food and snacks is the first place to start when it comes to egg production. Chickens need to start from day one on a high quality, high protein feed to prevent long term problems. One they reach 16-20 weeks old, you can switch them to a lower protein feed. Certain snacks are also useful to encourage chickens to lay eggs.

Meal worms, bugs, black sunflower seeds, scratch grains, and watermelon are all snacks that can help encourage egg production. Make sure they’re getting enough calcium by feeding them cooked eggs and eggshells. A good nutrition foundation is paramount to chickens laying eggs. It’s the same in people – eat a healthier diet, be a healthier person.

Other Ways to Encourage Egg Laying

Next, make sure your flock stays healthy and parasite free – check for mites, lice, and fleas periodically. These problems stress your flock, and a stressed flock does not lay as many eggs.

Your chickens need consistent access to clean, fresh water to lay their beautiful eggs, and hopefully they can access fresh air and dirt as well. Keep the coop and nesting boxes clean and smelling nice.

Also, understand the natural chicken laying cycle. Egg production naturally slows down during the shorter fall and winter days due to less light and because of the feather molt during the fall. Hanging a light in chicken coop as the days become shorter is one way to keep your chickens laying.

Some people think the chicken’s natural laying cycle should be respected, and some people think chickens should not be freeloaders. Who knew that hanging a light in a coop is actually a very controversial topic? It’s your decision to hang a light or not hang a light. I tend to give my chickens a bit of a break during the fall and then turn on the light in late December. I don’t think hanging a light for part of the winter will be too detrimental to my chickens’ health.

 

Chicken Math!

And one of my favorite ways to keep egg production up? Keep replenishing your flock! Chickens have a productive lifespan of 5- 10 years, but their production slow down as they age. Older chickens always have a place on my farm, but young chickens lay more eggs. Adding new spring or winter chicks that won’t be molting at the same time as older birds is always a good idea! See – chicken math does have a tangible benefit!

 

These are all tips for keeping up the egg production in your backyard chickens. Do you have a tip I didn’t share?

My Favorite Ways to Eat Eggs

Growing up, I wasn’t much of an egg-eater.  In fact, I can clearly remember several times that eggs made me sick first thing in the morning.  The fact that I keep about 30-40 laying hens at any given time may not make much sense.  Although I wasn’t a fan of eggs as a kid, I’ve learned to enjoy them much more the older I’ve gotten.  Eggs are packed with protein and farm eggs are packed with nutrients like carotene and vitamins.  Here are my favorite ways to eat eggs that will please even the people that don’t care for eggs.

Omelettes

If I’m in a hurry and want something filling and full of flavor, omelettes are the perfect choice.  I start by cracking 3-4 eggs in a glass jar and whisking them up with a fork.  I’ll add some shredded cheese, salt and pepper.  A pinch of garlic powder is also good to whisk in.  Melt a little bit of butter or olive oil in a pan and pour the whisked eggs into the skillet.  I add some chopped vegetables and meat into it.  Chopped bacon or lunch meat adds some extra flavor and protein.  Spinach, arugula, bell peppers and onions are also delicious to chop up and add in.  Omelettes are a quick win when you’re craving an egg-heavy, fast and nutritious breakfast.

 

Mediterranean Egg Sandwiches

If you’re not a fan of the egg, you might really like these.  Mediterranean egg sandwiches are full of flavor that isn’t egg-y.  Start by cooking up a couple of pieces of bacon and chop them up.  Pre-packaged bacon pieces works also. Chop up a few sun-dried tomatoes and whisk them with some eggs. Scramble the eggs and tomatoes, and sprinkle with feta cheese.  If you have an avocado, thinly slice one half of it up.  Tuck the avocado slices, eggs and bacon into a piece of pita bread.  Add some pesto or herbs to taste.

 

Hide Them!

I mentioned that I’m not always a fan of eggs, but, due to the large flock of chickens I always keep, we usually have an overflow of eggs.  Part of the way that I combat this is by using egg-heavy recipes.  When I make cakes, brownies or other baked goods, I use recipes that call for 3-4 eggs, instead of 1-2.  Not only do these recipes usually have a better texture and flavor at the end, but I can use up more of our eggs.  *Note- most recipes that are from scratch, rather than out of a box, generally call for more eggs.

One of my favorite go-to dessert recipes is for fudgy brownies.  The recipe calls for 4 eggs to make one pan of brownies!  Most boxed brownie recipes call for one egg.  I use an Amish recipe for a chocolate cake that also calls for four eggs instead of just one or two like many boxed mixes do.

There are many ways that you can eat eggs.  When you find yourself stuck on how to use your eggs up, get creative.  Look for egg-heavy recipes.  Think about how you can incorporate some of your favorite flavors into an egg recipe.

 

Nana’s Cornbread Chicken and Dressing

With turkey shortages on the rise this year, why not try a recipe with chicken instead?

Northerners make stuffing, Southerners make dressing.

Although both are delicious, I may be a little biased towards the Southern classic. Chicken dressing is actually a very popular Southern dish and is served all times of the year. That being said, it is absolutely a Southern Thanksgiving staple! I hope y’all can give it a try this year!

Chickens specifically bred for meat production, such as Cornish Cross or Rudd Rangers work great for this recipe. However, you don’t have to have a special breed. At my home, we occasionally cull excess roosters and use them in any recipe that calls for chicken.

Chicken Preparation:

Cook a whole chicken in the crock pot or roast it the day before.

Reserve all shredded meat and save the stock left behind. This will really add a wonderfully rich flavor! (Store bought rotisserie chicken works fine as well!)

 

Cornbread Recipe:

  • 1 cup self-rising cornmeal
  • ½ cup self-rising flour
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs; beaten
  • 2 Tb vegetable oil

 

Preheat in 400 F oven, and cook until done and brown on edges.

 

Dressing Recipe:

  • Cornbread (as prepared prior)
  • 7 slices oven dried white bread
  • 1 sleeve saltine crackers
  • 8 tbsp butter
  • 2 cups celery; chopped
  • 1 large onion: chopped
  • 7 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tsp salt; careful not to add too much
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tbsp poultry seasoning (optional- if you’re using meat from a farm raised bird, this will not be necessary)
  • 5 eggs; beaten
  • Shredded meat from one chicken (dark and white)

 

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • In a large bowl, combine cornbread, dried white bread slices, and saltines. Set aside.
  • Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add celery and onion; cook until transparent, 5-10 mins. Pour vegetable mixture over cornbread mixture. Add the stock, mix well, taste, and add salt and pepper to taste, sage and poultry seasoning. Add beaten eggs and mix well. Reserve 2 heaping tablespoons for gravy.
  • Pour mixture into a greased pan, 9 x 13 works great. Bake until dressing is cooked through, for about 45 minutes or so.

Notes:

Mixture should be consistency of uncooked cornbread.

After about 15 minutes, stir dressing down from sides to cook uniformly.

Optional; add can of cream of chicken soup for added flavor.

Try using some of your own, farm raised meat this year or next! You’ll enjoy the reward of serving a farm to table dinner that impresses your friends and family! It pairs wonderfully with cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, and turnip greens!

Poultry Watering Systems

Poultry watering systems come in many shapes and sizes these days, and your local feed store will have several options. So, which one is right for you?

There are advantages and disadvantages to any product, so choose the one that is best suited to your situation. As I tell any farmer, beekeeper, or gardener: “Do what works for you!”

Some of your choices for watering systems are:

-Metal founts

-Plastic founts

-Water troughs

However, my personal preference is poultry nipples. While the founts work, I found not only did they have a tendency to get dirty, but they would also often develop a tiny leak that would cause the whole thing to dump out, leaving a wet spot in the coop. If we didn’t catch it on time, the flock would run out of water. If you are going to use a fount, I recommend building a stand to keep it up off the ground and minimize some of the contamination issues.

The main advantage to poultry nipples is that the water you are giving your birds stays clean and cool as long as it stays in a shady place where the chickens can have constant access. They are also inexpensive and can be installed in a variety of ways to suit your needs.

For mobile coops, you can simply install them on the bottom of a five-gallon bucket and suspend it inside your coop. This setup should be sufficient to keep a small flock of backyard birds well-hydrated for a week without needing to refill.

If you have a larger flock in a mobile coop, you can attach the nipples to a PVC pipe by drilling the recommended size hole and screwing them in. I like to have at least one nipple per six birds, spaced out every 12 inches along the pipe. This pipe can then be attached to a 30- or 55-gallon drum as the water source. Fill your drum with water weekly and your chickens will have plenty of cool clean water to drink.

For a more permanent coop, you can use a set up a similar system using a PVC pipe attached to a water supply. If you are going to go this route you will also need a pressure reducer to take your pressure down to below 1 PSI. These are available to order, just be sure to look for the reducers specifically designed for poultry nipples. For the DIY enthusiasts, you can also build an inexpensive reducer by putting a stock tank float in a five-gallon bucket. Then hook the PVC pipe up to the bottom of the bucket and allow the water to feed into the line using gravity.

A few recommendations I have no matter which system you choose:

-Always plan on having a way to clean out the system. For the PVC pipe design, this can be as simple as a ball valve at the end of the line that allows you to flush the system. I like to run a bit of bleach through the lines at least every 6 months to keep things sanitary.

-In colder climates, plan on keeping your system from freezing by using heat tape.

-Train your birds to use nipples from the youngest age possible. I put them in the coop along with a fount when the birds are about a week old, then I raise the bucket as they grow and can reach up higher.

-Make sure your waterer stays in the shade on hot summer days.

-Have fun raising your birds, take time to observe their daily activities, watch and listen as they peck at the watering system to fulfill their needs. They are fascinating creatures, especially ducks!!!

Drew Erickson is Farm Manager for Rodale Institute Midwest Organic Center in Marion, Iowa. Learn more about Rodale Institute and their work in the Midwest at RodaleInstitute.org/Midwest.

Chicken Combs Aren’t for Grooming

Chickadees, sparrows, and most other birds go through life with just feathers on the top of their head. Some, like cardinals, have gaudy crests. Chickens are different. They have fleshy combs on their heads with wattles dangling below.

What good are combs? No one is completely sure, but they are impressive. Combs may play a reproductive role.  A rooster might prefer cozying up with a hen sporting a tall single comb. Or he might prefer one with a more subtle pea comb.

Combs help chickens regulate their body temperature.  Warm blood circulating in a comb releases body heat into the air. Breeds originating in hot climates, like Leghorns and Minorcas, usually sport the biggest combs. That helps them keep their bodies cool during an Alabama summer but likely makes them uncomfortable during a frigid Maine night.  In contrast, the tiny combs of Brahmas and Wyandottes hardly ever suffer winter frostbite.

(Rose Comb)

There are at least nine types of chicken combs based on their size and shape.
They are:

Comb Type            Typical Breed

Buttercup             Sicilian Buttercup

Carnation             Penedesenca

Cushion               Chantecler

Pea                      Americana, Brahma and Buckeye

Rose                      Hamburg

Single                  Many breeds

Strawberry          Malay

V-shaped            Crevecoeur and Polish

Walnut                Orloff and Silkie

 

Genetics determines the type of comb a chicken has. Consider how varied people are.  They may have blond or black hair, see through blue or brown eyes, and show dozens of other traits caused by their genetic makeup. People have but 23 pairs of chromosomes, while chickens sport a whopping 39 pairs.  It’s no wonder chickens vary so much in appearance, personality, and productivity.

(Pea Comb)

Over hundreds of years chicken breeders used the bird’s vast genetic diversity to create breeds to look a certain way, lay lots of eggs, or gain weight quickly.  A tiny Serama bantam rooster weighs only 12 ounces, while a Jersey Giant can tip the scales at 13 pounds, yet they are the same species!

It’s ironic that the single comb is most common but is a recessive trait. Mate a single comb chicken with a pea or rose comb bird, for example, and none of the resulting chicks will have single combs. If all chickens freely mated it is likely single combs would be rare or even extinct.

Chickens are amazingly tolerant of different climates, but comb type is important when choosing which chicks to buy.  A Leghorn rooster’s huge single comb might freeze on subzero nights, while a Brahma’s tiny pea comb hardly ever suffers frostbite. Free ranging chickens with pea combs might be best suited to northern Minnesota, while big combed Leghorns easily handle Florida’s heat.

(Single Comb)

A fun part of keeping chickens is the great diversity different breeds show in size, color, personality, and type of comb.  When placing a chick order it’s easy to choose birds that have different types of combs.

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