Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Food Glorious Food!

Get that?  From my thesbian days---Oliver! 

Panorama Natural Feeds
Vernon Burkholder
85 Mud Run Road
Oley, PA 19547

You won't find a web page nor much more information other than this on a Google search.  I found a review on this place on by another local woman, who, like me, was looking for an organic product using no soy and no GMO's.  Today I ventured over to check out the place.

I pulled up to a typical Old Order Mennonite farm (Wenger's, as my newer order Mennonite neighbor's call them).  Equipment everywhere, but no rubber tires.  At first, I wasn't sure where I needed to go.  There was a sign on the same side of the road as the house and barn.  It said Panorama Natural Feeds and had a logo on it from a popular Natural/Organic company that now for the life of me I cannot remember!  I saw a large population of hogs in the barn.  Across the road from the house was a steel building with an open door and truck and trailer pulled up to it.  I figured I'd try there first.  Sure enough, I was at the right place.  The gentleman in the truck was helping to load huge plastic tubs, each filled with a different ingredient.  Cracked corn, grains, etc.  They had a huge mixing bag and were dumping things in and filling up other tubs.  I finally got to meet Vernon.  Now I am not sure what all Old Order men are like, but having dealings with the family down our road, I can say that the man is definitely the quietest.  His wife is very chatty and outgoing, the kids are sweet and always talk to me when I pass them by.  But I don't think the man of the house has said boo to me!  ((Ok, maybe because I when I see them I'm usually wearing shorts/tank tops and work out clothes!))  But anyway, Vernon was a lovely man.  Very sweet and smiling.  He took afew minutes to answer my questions and then got back to work. 

I figured out by talking to him that I will need the Organic Soy Free Layer feed.  It comes in an 80lb bag and costs $31.99.  The Purina Layena I currently buy is $17.99 for 50lbs (and all protein is soy (non-animal) and all corn is GMO, of course.  The Organic is no GMO's and no soy.  Protein is all animal based.  Chickens really are omnivores, they eat bugs and worms, their own eggs and feathers.  They are pretty much their own compost bins.  So the fact that Purina is saying they don't need meat based protein sounds pretty crazy to me.  Anyway, divide it out and here's what it costs:  $2.77/lb for the Purina Layena and DRUM ROLL PLEASE!!!!  $2.50/lb for the ORGANIC, GMO FREE locally grown and milled feed.  Hmmmmm....yeah, I know we are making the right decision.  Funny how when I asked at the feed store about their organic feeds (months ago) I was told their organic feed is about 2 times the price of the Purina.  Little did I know similar quality can be had sourcing out your own, locally mixed feed!  So exciting.  I combined the bags of Layena we had and we have almost a full bag at this point, so I would think I am looking to start the organic product in a month or 2.  I figure I have bought 1 bag medicated chick starter, 2 bags unmedicated chick starter, and 2 bags of Layena since May.  That's about $100 worth of feed (not including a bag of Scratch Grains and small bags of gravel and oystershells).  We may have gotten about 4 dozen eggs so far, 5 tops.  That's some expensive eggs!! 

I'm just glad that I know my chickens are spoiled and happy and are having a great life with us.  Everytime I drive past a commercial chicken operation (or Turkey farms that are off the turnpike in the Lehigh Valley), I think of all those poor creatures that live in tight and horrible conditions.  They never will know what it's like to be danced to by their protecting rooster, stretch their wings and legs and run/fly up the sand mound in search of bugs/greens and the neighbor's slop pile in the back of their yard.  Our birds are so sweet and each has their own personality.  Everytime little Rosa defends me to that mean ol' Lila, I just melt.  I think hanging with the flock definitely lowers your blood pressure and relaxes you.  Even when you have to block the evil one from vicious attacks!  ;)

Lovin' life on our mini-farm. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Tisket, A Tasket, A Multi-colored Basket

We are enjoying finding eggs everyday!  We think we have our 'blue egg layer' pegged as Prissy.  We have seen no signs of Grun and Flower laying at this point.  Hopefully soon!  Prissy lays an egg a day for afew days, then skips a day or two before starting up again.  Weiss is pretty steady for an egg a day, and Rosa will occasionally skip a day.  At this point, we can pretty much expect 2-3 eggs per day.  We will never tire from finding our blue eggs.
2 Breeds of chickens lay blue eggs:  Araucana and Ameraucana.  Araucana are 'rumpless' chickens:  do not have tail feathers.  Ameraucana's are known for their muffs or beards.  Our Ameraucana's came from a hatchery and according to breeders of these birds, hatchery stock are most likely mutts.  That means the Ameraucana was bred with any old chicken resulting in 'non breed standard' colorings etc.  As long as a bird has the 'blue egg gene', it will produce colored eggs.  These mutts are referred to by Chicken People as Easter Eggers.  One other interesting thing I have found out is that pure breed Ameraucanas or Araucana's will produce a light blue egg.  If the chicken is mixed with a brown egg laying breed, the brown is actually over the blue which makes the egg 'green'.  Upon inspection of a cracked egg, I can confirm that the inside of our green eggs really are blue.  You can really see the brown in the egg that makes it appear green when you compare the inside of the egg to the outside of the egg.  In order to get pure blue eggs, you most likely will have to seek out a breeder.  
"The Ameraucana Breeders Club defines an Easter Egg chicken or Easter Egger as any chicken that possesses the blue egg gene, but doesn’t fully meet any breed descriptions as defined in the APA and/or ABA standards. Further, even if a bird meets an Ameraucana standard breed description, but doesn’t meet a variety description or breed true at least 50% of the time it is considered an Easter Egg chicken."  Ameraucana Breeders Club website

Another thing to note for those who have never seen a blue or green egg.  Egg shell color does not mean anything in regards to nutritional value.  Brown vs White vs Blue.  You pay more for brown eggs only because brown egg laying breeds don't produce as many eggs as frequently as a white laying egg breed (that would be used in commercial operations).  Many of these breeds are hybrid chickens bio-engineered to produce a high number of eggs.  The thing about raising your own birds is that you can select a lovely mixed flock of heirloom breeds that will compliment your yard and your egg carton.  Plus we won't have to color eggs at easter!  Au Natural!

Our 2 Easter Eggers are also the lowest girls in the social ladder.  They get picked on by the Barred Rocks and the Rooster.  Everyone seems to get along, but if you really watch them interact and see who sleeps where, you can figure out who's who in popularity.  It's quite facinating!

2 more girls to go!  Can't wait!


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Observations from a Beautiful Day!

I spent most of this beautiful day in my kitchen doing what I like open, incense burning creating some wonderful things to eat.  I made and iced cupcakes, made a huge batch of meat spaghetti sauce..(I'd share that recipe, but I'd have to kill you!  Acutally, I was given a guideline to follow when I first started making it and now I pretty much do my own thing.), then I made kale and beans (another new favorite...first time trying it with kale...I used broccoli rabe the first time).  As you can expect......I spent my day throwing all the scraps to the birds!  Everytime I went outside, I had a little something to share with them!  Kenny spent his day shooting his new BB Gun and later, cleaning the entire coop out.  He even scrubbed the walls inside.  Those birds are messy and we figure this could be the last warm spell we get for a long time.  The birds were out all day and we noticed that it delayed their laying.  Our first egg today was from the Easter Egger....I'm pretty sure it's Prissy who's laying it.  Later, Rosa did her thing....and much later we found Weissy in the box.  3 eggs today!  Prissy skipped yesterday.  Hope she keeps an every other day schedule.  I do not expect her to lay as often as the Barred Rocks. 

The girls were fun to watch today.  They were all bathing in the dirt.  At one point, 3 of them were all crowded around Prissy's spot together (from pic the other day).  Needless to say, all of this bathing and scratching is starting to wear the yard.  It's going to be a long winter!  We have had no chicken destruction thus far, but all the books warn you.  I think this time of the year is just bad as grass and things are pretty much done for the season.  I took the opportunity to sprinkle some Diatomacious Earth in the spot so they would cover themselves with it and help if they have any lice or mites.  I haven't noticed anything with them, but I figure it would be a good preventative.   

We watched the girls scratching up their garden and watched closely as Rosa uncovered a worm and quickly slurped it up....just like a spaghetti noodle!  Genny and I were impressed with her hunting ability and Genny said, "She's so smart!".  Indeed she is!  I remember when they were chicks in the brooder.  The kids and I would scour for worms after the rain and bring them for the birds.  They would go nuts fighting over them.  Glad to see they are now finding their own worms.  :) 

Lila was also his pain in the butt self today.  He came after me afew times and also bit Genny.....most likely because I was nearby.  He cannot be trusted.  Kenny was tempted to put a BB to his head!  hahaha  He was put in the pen early (due to his misbehaved self) and when it was getting dusk, I heard him making his alert call.  He was calling the girls to bed, but they couldn't get in the coop because the door was closed!  I opened the door and they all rushed in to scramble for their spot on the roost bars.  Just as I said goodnight, the party lights came on!  Party in the in the coop!  I just can't help getting exciting when the solar rope lights kick on!  hahaha

Productive day in Chickenville!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

And then there were 3!!!

I love surprises...but I hate waiting!

Once you get over the fact that the girls are all subject to their own biological clocks and their own genetics, it's a little easier to check the nest boxes every day without going crazy for the next girl to start laying.  It is disappointing enough to go from 2 eggs a day back to 1 for a few days.  It seems like Weiss is the most reliable layer.  Rosa does ok for afew days, then misses a day or 2.  We've also had afew shell-less eggs here and there.  Yesterday when I least suspected anything different, I checked the box to find 3 eggs!!!!  Rosa and Weissy's light brown eggs PLUS A GREEN EGG!  Not sure if it came from Prissy or Flower at this point, but so excited to see it and boy is it beautiful!  No one has laid yet today, so not sure if it will continue.  The Barred Rocks are a heavier layer than the Ameraucana's, so I'm not expecting an egg a day from them.  We'll see how it goes! 

Rooster woes.

Lila has become a monster.  He is down right evil.  I'm trying to give him a chance, but he is just aggresive and constantly attacking me.  The other day, Kenny got home from work just as I was in the shed getting some scratch.  All the girls followed me and were waiting just outside the door for their treat.  Lila was pacing behind them giving me the evil eye.  I was scared to leave because I knew he'd come at me.  When Kenny got there, he chased him away and the 2 of them were over at the entrance to the coop.  I thought I was safe and started walking to the side of the coop so I could throw the scratch in the run for them to pick at in there.  That quick, Lila came flying from the backside of the coop and attacked me.  It caught me so off guard that scratch went flying everywhere as I tried to fend him off.  It was my wake up call.  I did nothing to provoke him and in fact was no where near him when he started his attack.  It makes me sad that he cannot be nice.  Today, I barely cracked open the door to slide in a bowl of treats and he came at my hand and left a mark with his claw.  I've been watching alot of youtube videos on culling chickens these days.  I think I could do it.  Butchering Lila would open a whole opportunity.  I can envision buying some broiler chicks next year, raising them for 10 weeks and butchering them all for the freezer....hmmmm.  Well, I keep wanting to give Lila a chance, but he is just a mean and nasty bird.  The girls really seem to like him, but the other day, as punishment, I let all the girls out of the coop and made him stay in.  I didn't want to fend off more attacks.  He was pissed and paced back and forth like a raging bull making his little pissed off noises.  The girls didn't wander at all and stayed near the coop foraging (made easy by the scratch I spilled during the attack the day before).  They are so sweet and come to me when I call them.  I think he is just one jealous creature. 


I love giving the chickens kitchen scraps depending on what I am cooking for us.  I will not give them moldy or spoiled things, but I waited too long to use my asparagus last week and I gave them all the soft stalks and end trimmings.  Things like that.  I also refrain from giving them breads and other 'processed' food items.  I finally made a trip to my favorite discount grocery place.  It's called Amelia's Grocery Outlet.  It's a small regional chain that buys closeouts, expired or expiring items from other stores, overruns, seconds and more.  It's one of those slightly sketchy places where you need to be diligent about checking dates on things.  I don't mind things that only recently expired....but if it expired a year ago, forget it.  Also, most of their dairy items are really sketchy and I usually don't buy much because of it.  BUT....I do know that expiration dates on dairy...more specifically yogurt are really conservative.  So I do not throw away my recently expired yogurt, I eat them.  But I don't buy it already expired.  I went today with a mission of restocking my pantry with cereal (excellent deals on cereal which is just way over priced in regular grocery stores!), canned tomatoes and things I use to make pasta sauce, plus other odds and ends.  I also had a bag to donate to a canned food drive for the boyscouts, so I picked up some pasta, jarred sauce and some cans of veggies to donate.  I was hoping to score some chicken when I got to a rack of marked down items and found 2 cauliflower heads marked to 99 cents because they were slightely browning, I picked them up.  Never gave the girls cauliflower so was hoping it would be a hit.  Then, as I continued into the dairy section, I kept my fingers crossed for some cheap expired yogurt.  It's good for their guts, just like ours and I gave them some Chobani I found in the back of my fridge that had expired a month before I found it.  They loved it.  Imagine how giddy I was to find the large containers of PLAIN for 50 cents each!!!  I bought 7 of them!  I really wanted plain to avoid all the excess sugar in the heavily processed glad I found some!!!  Here are some pics for the feedy frenzy.

Rosa with yogurt beak.
Mean old Lila.

Prissy takes the opportunity to take a dirt bath.  She's very cute to watch as she clears the hole she makes and settles in.  Fluffs her feathers in the dirt, then tidys up the area around her.  Chickens are adorable! 

Closing note on behavior....

I bought a new chicken book, which is by far the most candid and comprehensive book I have found to date.  Everythiing is covered even a full pictoral of the killing and butchering process.  The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An All Natural Approach to Raising Chickens and Other Fowl for Home and Market Growers.  This book is totally worth a read and has tons of info from preparing for your chicks to how to butcher and dress to instructions for a dust box.  I recommend it to anyone interested in venturing into their own chicken rearing. 

Anyway, according to the author, alot of modern Roosters have lost the instinctual moves they should have in ways of mating.  He actually will not let any rooster who doesn't 'dance' for his mates reproduce and most likely, they will end up in his stock pot.  Years of breeding to make chickens meatier and 'better' for people have put a damper on their natural instincts.  I'm happy to say our rooster (jerk that he is) is a wonderful dancer and courts all his girls just like he should.  It's very cute to watch him do is thing.  His little stomps just make me smile.  Even more funny is when he does it to Genny!  Now....if only I could convince him I'm not the enemy here.  I have my work cut out for me.

Failing Rooster Tamer

Saturday, November 3, 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different

Well, I promised some recipes and I'm finally doing something worthy of sharing!  I'm stepping out of my comfort box today and trying some new things.  We got up early today and hit afew farmers markets/flea markets.  In our travels, we passed the orchard down the street from my office.  So we stopped in and picked up about 12 lbs of 'seconds' for $4.  The woman actually mixed varieties specifically for my applesauce idea!  I decided to try 2 different recipes.  The first one is Cranberry Applesauce.  Lucky for me, I found cranberries at the market!  The benefit for the chickens?  CHICKEN TREATS!  They get the cores and scraps.  GET THE RECIPE HERE!

Straining the cooked sauce. 
I will also be making regular sauce for the kiddos.  Trent liked the slightly tart cranberry apple, but Genny said she did not.  The recipe called for 2 cups cranberries, and the bag held about 3.  I didn't beef up the sugar because I don't like lots of sugar in my apple sauce.  Here is the recipe I am going to make with the remainder of the apples:
This time I will peel the skins so I can just mash.  I prefer a chunky style sauce.  The strainer did work great and I'm glad I tried it! 
The other project I did today was make some pickles!  Here is the recipe I used:
I made two 1/2 gallon jars of it (2 recipes).  I added more vinegar to the jars to completely cover the cucumbers/onions just to be safe.  The only thing it didn't specify is how long to let them cure before eating!  I guess I'll keep having taste tests!  I'm the only one who eats pickles in my house....lucky me!
Yes, I did hand slice them and all my fingers are still intact!  BONUS!
Finished product.  Got 2 jars and still have 2 cukes left.  They are think there is no way you will have enough but as you start cutting it's as if the whole thing starts expanding!
My final word for today is this.  My husband is going through some kind of crisis.  Today he spent $22 on a bb gun (for himself) at the flea market.  Then he bought Trent a $2 toy air rifle.  Trent hasn't put it down all day.  I'm not so into the guns thing.  Wasn't raised with them and think they are dangerous and not for kids.  BUT....if that stinkin Lila comes at me one more time.....he's gonna take a bb to his arse!!!  Genny was holding him today and I was checking him out.  He took the opportunity to peck me on the forehead and of course, it is a minor flesh wound.  This means war.

Going to disinfect...I don't know where that cock has been.....  ;)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thar She Blows!

Hope everyone is doing well and not hit too hard from the hurricane!  I was very worried for our feathered friends.  Monday, when the storm was scheduled to hit, I went to work to get some time in.  I left the birds in their run and figured I'd close them up in the henhouse when I got back.  By the time I got home from work, the rain had already started and I spent alot of time rounding them up.  As I'd get them into the henhouse, another would try to jump out.  It was a vicious cycle and the last to go was Lila.  I was trying to coax him up with the girls and he kept coming at me.  (It's getting old)  I think I spent 1/2 hour out there trying to get they all shut in.  At least, it felt like a long time!  Meanwhile, their feathers were all wet from being out in the blowing rain.  I guess they aren't too smart.  I figured they'd put themselves away when the weather got bad.  Now I know!  Anyway, worried about them all night in the high winds.  Not only did the coop not falter, they seemed all too excited to come out when I left them out later the next day when the wind died down to a dull roar. 

Production Update

We are still averaging 2 brown eggs per day.  Every now and then we skip a day or 2 of the second egg.  I have gotten one more soft egg and another that was softer than normal, but you could actually pick it up and the shell was calcified.  Wishing the other girls would start laying, but we'll take what we get.  I haven't had to buy eggs since they started laying and we've even taken some to share with our camping friends the other week.  I've still been using the same carton as I've been using as they've been laying.  So much for the huge pile of cartons I've been saving since the chick days!  Hoping at some point we will have more eggs to spare.  Would like to be generous with our gifts! 

The party lights have been turned off.  We noticed that they actually stay lit all night.  I'm doubting that it affects their sleep, but Kenny turned the switch off.  Once the clocks change this weekend I will think about turning them on again.  We'll see how it goes. 


One of my high school friends graciously gave me an open bag of Purina Layena she had purchased to feed a white turkey who was living in her neighborhood.  The turkey met an untimely death as dinner to a fox.  Since she knew about our chickens, she asked if I wanted it.  Being the same feed they are currently on, we accepted.  That will delay me starting them on their organic diet.  When I am ready for more feed, I will definitely be hitting up the Amish man down in Oley.  I'll definitely try to document that expedition.  :)

Thanks for checking in!