This is the time of year when new bee keepers and seasoned experts alike are starting to regularly inspect their hives, so here are a few inspection tips for those newer to beekeeping:
1) Watch the Front Door – it’s very important to regularly inspect your honey bee colonies (this means taking off the top and going into the colony), but the colonies should be visually checked daily too. During the daily check, watch the hive entrance (front door) – you’re looking to identify healthy hive activity like lots of pollen coming in during spring, this means that there’s lots of protein coming [...]
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Chickens will eat insects, fruits, vegetables, greens, and just about anything else – including their own eggs (they’re omnivorous). But having chickens that eat their own eggs is obviously a problem for chicken keepers – we want the eggs!
Chickens can develop a taste for eggs in a number of ways, perhaps they lay a weak egg, or they are startled and accidentally break an egg, or they become calcium deficient and try supplementing their diet with egg shell. However it happens, they can quickly learn that the inside of the egg tastes great. Once one bird learns to intentionally break and eat [...]
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The Swiss chard is looking beautiful in the fall garden, and this homey fritatta makes delicious use of it. For filling a fritatta like this, chard is one of our favorites for color and flavor; but other greens like escarole, frisee, collards, dandelion greens, arugula, and spinach can also be used. Greens always go well with salty bacon, but they also go exceptionally well with onion and garlic. If using the garlic, start the saute with the onion, then add the potatoes and greens, and add the garlic at the end so it doesn’t overcook and become bitter.
Another thing that I like about this recipe [...]
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The day-old Golden Buff chicks that we started raising on May 10th are now old enough to combine with the main flock (hopefully we’ll do that this weekend), but everyone wants to know why we’re adding more chickens. Well, it’s because the adult Golden Buffs that used to lay an egg nearly every day, have now slowed to a few eggs each week. They’re over two years old, and are running out of eggs.
Chickens are born with a set number of eggs available for them to lay over their life, and depending on the breed (see a handy breed comparator here), [...]
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I had to look this definition up, because we ordered “pullets” from the feed store in Amish territory and expected to pick up young hens – instead we picked up day-old peeps! The definition for a pullet from the dictionary is: a young hen; specifically : a hen of the domestic chicken less than a year old. So I guess that leaves it pretty much wide open.
When we think of a pullet, we think of a female chicken that’s just old enough to start laying eggs. But that’s not what the definition is in Amish territory in Ohio – there it’s [...]
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It’s springtime – the best time of year for raising chicks! So, it’s a good time to collect eggs for incubation and hatch the baby chicks yourself (or give them to a broody hen to hatch). High hatch rates and healthy chicks start with proper egg collection and storage.
Collecting the Eggs
Chicken egg incubation temperature and humidity are ideal for the growth of bacteria; so it’s essential that eggs collected for hatching are clean. However, hatching eggs ideally should not be washed, as this removes the protective egg bloom (see Egg Bloom). The egg bloom protects the egg from both bacteria and moisture loss. [...]
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I never really gave it much thought before raising chickens; but to sell eggs in the US, they have to be marketed according to the grade and size standards established by the USDA. The established sizes are Jumbo, Extra Large, Large, Medium, Small, and Peewee (I never knew there was a peewee size!). Sizes are classified according to minimum net weight expressed in ounces per dozen as follows:
In addition to size, all eggs sold at the retail level must be Grade B or Better, with the allowed Grades being AA, A, and B. There is no nutritional difference in the grades; it’s the [...]
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At Bramblestone Farm, we keep both Golden Buff and Buckeye chickens; but, people often ask why we bother with Buckeyes – they don’t lay as large an egg or as frequently as the Golden Buffs, so why do we keep them?
Well, Buckeye chickens are an old breed developed to thrive in Ohio’s weather; and were once very popular backyard birds. However, with the demise of the backyard flock during the 20th century, Buckeyes became endangered (less than 72 known breeding birds in 2003). Then in 2005, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) began a program to recover the breed’s original characteristics [...]
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With a little knowledge and planning, the number of eggs produced by chickens can be controlled to be somewhat consistent throughout the year. Although the number of eggs a chicken produces each week depends on many things; it’s most dependent upon day length. Increasing day length in the springtime signals a chicken to start producing more eggs; and if she has the natural instinct for it, to go broody and raise chicks. Conversely, shortening day length in the fall signals the chicken to slow down on egg laying, molt, renew nutritional stores (depleted by egg-laying, setting, and chick raising), and grow new feathers. This natural cycle favors the [...]
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The two Buckeye hens that went broody this summer both successfully hatched three chicks; and today we have five chicks left that are growing up amongst the flock. All of the chicks that hatched seem to be extremely healthy, and we haven’t needed to provide any special care for the them at all (i.e. no brooder box, no pasty butts, no heat lamp, etc.). We’ve given them chick starter feed (where the big chickens couldn’t get it) and water, but that’s it. The broody hens have been excellent mothers and the only calamity was when a hawk got one of the three chicks from the first broodies clutch (hazard of raising chicks that free range).
1st Broody [...]
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I love making this omelet after we’ve dug potatoes in the fall, and have little ones to be used - they’re so fresh and earthy tasting. You can vary the meat, herbs, or vegetables being used in this omelet; and make wonderful variations on the basic recipe, which comes from the Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics Cookbook by Ina Garten. Serves 2.
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 slices thick bacon, cut in 1″ pieces
1 cup unpeeled Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into approximately 1″ pieces
5 large eggs
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350º F. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in an ovenproof [...]
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The eggs under our broody Buckeye hen (see Building A Broody Box) were due to hatch starting yesterday (Tuesday) when it would have been 20 days since we set eggs under her; so we were shocked on Saturday when this showed up: Naturally, we then expected more eggs would be hatching shortly - but nothing on Sunday, or Monday, or even Tuesday. We almost gave up. Then today, another chick finally showed up (it’s under her left shoulder):And, a little while later, it looks like there are two more under there:
We’re waiting on the final count, but it appears that [...]
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Broody Buckeye Hen – Sitting For 10 Days & Counting
As of yesterday, our broody Buckeye hen has diligently been sitting on 15 eggs - for 10 days. She gets out of her nest box only to eat, drink, and relieve herself; and has only once signalled a desire to leave the broody box (see Building A Broody Box). We let her out and she took a quick dust bath in the pasture; and then climbed right back into the broody box and back onto the nest. So far, she’s exhibiting all the behaviors of an excellent mother hen, and we couldn’t be [...]
Continue reading Candling Broodies Eggs
We inspected the hives for the third time today; and were really happy with what we found. When establishing a new hive, it’s obviously extremely important to have a queen that’s laying eggs, workers that are feeding the resulting larvae, and new bees that are emerging. Today, we found lots of eggs (the little white things in the bottom of the cells below):
There were eggs that had matured to the larval stage (the larger white things in the bottom of the cells in the lower left below):
Many larval cells had been capped off; which means new bees will be emerging soon (actually some may already be emerging):
And the [...]
Continue reading Third Hive Inspection