Sunday, September 27, 2009

Flock Increase

I wrote earlier this summer about the surprise our little Miss Golden Laced Cochin bantam hen presented us with one morning.

Our poultry has daily access to a half-acre fenced in pasture including a heavily wooded area, and we don't take a head count of all the chickens each night when we shut them in their house.

Apparently this little gal made a nest in the woods and hatched out her own little family of chickies.

The chicks are now about six weeks old and completely feathered out. (Too bad their natural coloring makes for such good camouflage this time of year. It's hard to get a good picture of them.) They're about four to five inches high . . . little energized wind-up chicks scurrying around the poultry yard.

Here's the proud papa . . . who shows absolutely no interest in his brood.

Out of curiosity after we discovered the chicks, Roy went on a search through the woods to see if he could spot Mama Hen's nest. He never did find it but did come across one other little chick that apparently was born too weak and didn't make it. So she hatched five eggs, out of which these four have grown hale and hardy indeed.

We've always kept a couple/few bantams along with our regular sized birds. The banties lay more eggs than the bigger birds in proportion to the very small amount of chicken feed they consume.

No question about it, bantam eggs are much smaller as you can see by the above picture. Regular sized egg on the left, little marble-sized bantam egg on the right. If you had only bantam eggs, it would be difficult to determine how many of them to substitute when a recipe called for, say, two large eggs. I don't hassle with that. I never use the bantam eggs for baking as I have the regular sized ones readily available. But no reason the bantam eggs can't be used for scrambled, poached, or fried eggs. I regularly take a couple dozen eggs to a friend that I barter with and she is pickled tink to get some of the bantam eggs. Her little nieces visit regularly and they love hard-boiled eggs. She uses the bantam eggs for these treats and her nieces think the tiny eggs are especially for them. (And they are!)

Another point in favor of the bantams that we like is the fact that they tend to go broody often (which means they want to sit on and hatch out eggs) and are super-good mamas after the chicks are hatched. Sure makes it a lot easier for us than having to order (and pay for!) day-old chicks and keep them in a brooder in the garage for weeks and weeks (cough-cough, chicken dust all over EVERYTHING) before being able to put them outside. Bantams will sit on just about any egg you put under them. We've had them hatch out full sized chicken eggs and duck eggs. Goose eggs are juuust a bit too big . . . the banty hen keeps falling off them. (Seriously, she doesn't fall off, but there's just not enough little banty body to cover and incubate them sufficiently.)

So you go, Little Mama Bantam. You're earning your keep on this little homestead.


beth said...

i had fun reading your post again! i hatched eggs once here in the city with an incubator for the kids, since I was homeschooling them at the time. It was very interesting and I found out I liked having chickens and the eggs that go with them. But... we live a little too close to neighbors to have all that noise in the morning, so i had to give the chickens away. Sad day.

Mama Pea said...

Hi, Beth - What a shame that your neighbors found your chickens too "noisy." I think the sounds of chickens doin' their thing is calming and delightful. And what can be more cheerful than hearing a rooster crowing? But . . . different strokes for different folks. So sorry you couldn't keep them. Weren't the eggs wonderful?

Jo said...

We've always ordered day-olds from hatcheries, never hatched anything at home. But I think I am going to pick some banties up at the feed store next spring, just because of their broodiness. The thought of no chicken dust in my basement is certainly appealing! It certainly does cover everything within five feet!

Mama Pea said...

Jo - We've had really good luck with chicks this year. Besides our Mama Bantam, we've had two regular sized hens hatch out batches, too. But the bantams are the old reliables.

It's always amazing to us to see the mother hens with their day-old babies out in the cold, wet grass first thing in the morning when we're so very C-A-R-E-F-U-L for so many weeks with the chicks from the hatcheries inside under the brooder lamps. Nature's way is definitely best.

Glad you're going to try the bantams.

Jody M said...

I just cannot wait til we get our own chickens. I won't get anything else done, I'll just sit and watch them.

Mama Pea said...

Hi, Jody - You're right. Chickens and all their antics are a hoot to watch. But just wait until you taste your own fresh eggs! You'll never be able to eat "store bought" eggs again. The flavor, the freshness, the color . . . well worth any trouble keeping chickens might be.

RuthieJ said...

What pretty little banties you have Mama Pea. Someday I hope to get a few chickens for my backyard too.

Mama Pea said...

Ruthie - You would absolutely LOVE having chickens! And home grown eggs are like nothing you can get in the store.

Can you have them where you live now? A very small house can adequately take care of just a few chickens.