Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Cleaning your Eggs

Emerging from the other side of the "Storm of the Century" (perhaps a somewhat premature moniker as there are still 87 years to go), with the exception of bountiful piles of leaves everywhere and the occasional branch, Flyte so Fancy HQ survived the great wrath of St Jude's Storm. What we will be recovering from in the next few weeks is the mud of the chicken field, after a deluge of epic proportions.

Flyte so Fancy Maggie's Twenty Four Hen House

With our wellies pulled high, everything is going to be a little bit muddy for awhile. This is going to make the job of  keeping the inside of the Maggie's Dozen and the Maggie's Twenty Four (that our hens, ducks, guinea fowl and geese live in) clean and keeping the freshly laid eggs clean too, all the harder. Keeping the nestbox clean and and dry is probably one of the simplest and easiest ways to keep your eggs clean too, meaning you wont have to wash your eggs. However, you might find that no matter how hard you try, at this time of year, everything gets a little bit grubby. 

If you have a small flock of a few hens pottering around the back garden, then a quick rinse under the tap will probably get the job done. What you should never do however is leave eggs to soak in water. The porous nature of the shell on a freshly laid egg means that if left to soak, it will draw the water into the membrane of the egg, along with any bacteria on it.

Egg Wash LiquidTo ensure that you kill any bacteria or germs living on your eggs, then you will want to use an egg wash. Biolink Egg Wash, is a highly economical anti bacterial egg wash for use on eggs. For use in machines or hand washing, this highly effective liquid is a great wash for your eggs and proven to be highly effective at killing of bacteria (don't tell anyone because its a secret, but its on offer at the moment too at £6.49). Equally effective is Net-Tex Ready to Use Steriliser & Egg Wash. As simple to use as it sounds, its just a case of giving the egg a spray, leaving it and finally giving it a rinse off. Designed to kill even the hardiest of bacteria, it is a great little item to have ready in the cupboard.

If your passion for poultry has gone a little overboard (ours most certainly has) when it comes to cleaning your eggs in a machine, Chicktec Egg Wash Powder. A combined egg wash and bacterial powder, it is perfect for use in an oscillating machine or for a hand wash. 

DEFRA does have rules about egg washing, and while most of it doesn't apply to us humble backyard chicken keepers, it is good information to know. EC Egg Marketing legislation does not allow for Class A eggs to be washed, the feeling behind it being that eggs of this quality should be clean enough to begin with. Class B eggs and those for processing are ok to be washed.

Yummy Eggs from the Flyte so Fancy Hens

Clean eggs are important for a mess of reasons. If you are incubating your eggs for a new generation of chicks, then if you have not sterilised the shells, you will find more often than not the chicks either do not survive for very long, or are very sickly. Leaving bacteria and poo on the outside of the egg is hardly desirable if you have your eggs on display (and why wouldn't you?) and of course you do not want it left on the shell, as over time it will permeate into the egg. 

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Autumn Thoughts on Chicken Care

I headed down to the local town this last weekend, where they are filming a new adaptation of Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd in front of the beautiful town Abbey, to have a look as the town was transported back in time. With my wellies on and the peak of my cap pulled down down to beyond my nose I braved the weather. Walking home and feeling a sudden childish liberating urge to jump into a puddle, I quickly paid the price, as the depth of the puddle far surpassed the height of my wellies, forcing me to continue home with soggy toes.

Luckily my three hens avoided all these problems last weekend due to some added protection, done during the standard Saturday morning chicken chores and hen house clean. As well as the usual cleaning out of the old bedding and the weekly regimen of red mite treatment, I also gave the small chicken shelter that I have within my larger run, a once over. As well as being somewhere dry for the hens to hang, the shelter is where I store my poultry feeder and drinker during these wetter months, so it is vital that it will stay dry when in there. Wet feed is wasted feed, so I always triple check that it will avoid getting damp within the shelter and of course once within the shelter the chances of the feeder getting blown over are taken away.  

Secondly, one of my hens is persisting in her moult at the moment. As feathers are made of protein, I have been making sure over the last month or so to keep her diet nutritional. As such they all get a healthy serving of mealworms (the perfect source of protein for a bird) as an afternoon treat. The moult is an annual occurrence, lasting around a fortnight and often disturbs egg laying. The uneven nature of a moult can leave your girls looking straggly, but with plenty of protein and a bit of a rest, they'll soon be full feathered again and laying as normal. 

Lastly, I got some extra woodchips put down in the run. It doesn't take much rain to turn a poultry pen in to a quagmire of mud, so I always like to put down a thicker layer down to keep my girls high and dry and out of the mud. Made from hardwood (not bark, which will quickly turn to mush in the rain), the new layer of woodchip will sit happily in my run over the winter creating a protective layer for my girls and keeping them from the mud. If needs be I can also wash the woodchips down with a disinfectant or just turn the hose on them, although if the weather persists like the weekend, it would seem unnecessary. As winter goes on I will occasionally top up of the run with a bag of woodchip here or there, if it looks like it needs it.

These three little Autumn jobs meant that when I got home on Sunday (soaked to the skin and with sodden feet) and squelched down the garden path to check on my three chickens, having  feared for Huey, Louie and Dewie in the monsoon of water falling from the sky, I found three very dry and happy hens sitting in their shelter and enjoying a light afternoon luncheon of mealworms. 

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Away with the Birds

A long time ago, Monty Python's Holy Grail taught us that the African Swallow doesn't migrate. In fact while some winged wonders, shake a tail feather and take to the skies for a warmer clime, here at Flyte so Fancy we always turn our attention to those; too small, too weak or too lazy to make the trip. As such, its time to stock up on the wild bird feed and watch as terrified as Tippi Hedren, the sparrows accumulate on the hedgerows.

Blue Tits garden bird feeders

Of course, here at FSF we have everything you need to keep those garden birds happy and to help them through those cold British winters. We would especially hate to see our resident robin, Brian, catch a cold as he flits around the FSF garden.

No Mess Wild Bird Feed
Garden Bird TablesWe've started this year, by going around and making sure all our bird feeders are in fine fettle. We have an array of feeders around FSF HQ but near the oak tree, where a particularly vexatious squirrel lives, we have some of the brilliant anti-squirrel feeders. With their outer cages as protection, the feed within remains secure for the busy beaked birds and out of the hands of others. This also cuts down on the mess that feed-filchers can cause while raiding the supply of peanuts or seeds. Further away from the oak tree and around the garden we have some multi-ported feeders set up, making it easier for the garden birds to grab a snack.

We also checked that all the hooks and feeding stations are all in tip top shape. Sometimes when a swarm of garden birds land on one side, they can begin to resemble the leaning Tower of Pisa. We also gave our teak bird tables a once over to keep them looking smart, (which are currently on a super special offer by the way) we all know how easily the dining experience can be ruined by a shoddy surrounding. So, our solid teak bird tables are given the Michelin star treatment, to make sure even the fussiest of birds will stop in for a bite.

Garden Birds Fat BallsWhen it comes to dinner, make sure that you have an all round feed that is going to be beneficial to your garden birds. We love throwing them down some mealworms too (a handful has to go to the chickens also otherwise they scoff the lot) but giving them an all round feed mix or a no mess mix if you like your lawn, is best for their staple diet, and Nature's Grub have a fantastic range of wild bird feeds. Sunflower hearts and Niger seed are a great source of protein for little garden birds in cold times too.

Having got it all sorted and the garden birds ready for winter, we retreat back inside to work out the jobs we need to get started for our hens to be ready for winter too. Unfortunately as the feeders of nuts, seeds and no mess mix go down, the sparrows are slowly joined by three crows, a lazy blue tit and a couple of collared doves, all just sitting outside the window and staring at us. Time to go fill up the bird feeders again.

woodpecker eating peanuts


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Yummy Recipes For Using Your Own Free Range Eggs

Autumn has long been my favourite time of year since I was a young child. I don't know if it's due to the almost golden sunlight, the russet ochre of the trees or running through piles of crisp leaves, but Autumn will always be the season for me. However, for us poultry keepers it can mark the time where our chickens, tired from a long and productive summer of egg laying take some time off to put their feet up, and the abundance of fresh eggs each morning can dwindle.

Freshly Laid Eggs from the Flyte so Fancy Hens
Freshly Laid Eggs from the FSF Hens
So for a last hurrah before Winter arrives, we turned to the source of all things yummy, scrummy and good for the tummy; the Flyte So Fancy HQ Head of Cakes and Pastries, Grandy. She has supplied us with some cracking recipes to use the last of our eggs and the expert advice of "clean palms, mucky fingers" (whatever that means?).

First off, a brilliant breakfast treat

Dropped Scones

Preperation 10 mins. Cooking time 3 mins.

225g / 8oz self raising flower
2.5ml / 1/2 tsp salt
15ml / 1 tbsp caster sugar
1 egg
300ml / 1/2 pint fresh milk
25-50g / 1-2oz butter melted
Butter, Jam or Honey to serve

Sift the flour and the salt into a bowl, then add the sugar. Mix to a smooth creamy batter with whole egg and half the milk. Stir in the remaining milk. Brush a large heavy frying pan with melted butter, then heat. Drop small rounds of scone mixture, roughly 12 in all, into the pan. Cook until bubbles show on the surface, usually around 3 minutes. Carefully turn over with a knife, and cook for a further 2 minutes. Pile the scones on a plate to keep warm and then serve immediately with lashings of butter, jam and honey. Delicious!

A little savory snack now, perfect for a picnic or in a lunchbox.

Stilton-Filled Eggs

4 eggs, hard boiled and shelled
50g / 2oz blue stilton cheese
5ml / 1tsp paprika
30ml / 2tbsp fresh single cream
salt and freshly ground pepper
60ml / 4tbsp mustard and cress
small slices of tomato to garnish

Halve the eggs length ways and carefully remove the yolks. Place yolks in a bowl and mash finely with the Stilton and stir in the paprika and cream then season to taste. Pile back into the egg white halves. Cover serving plates with mustard and cress and then place egg halves on each. Garnish each with slices of tomato and chill lightly before serving.

Finally, a brilliant tasty pudding that will have people queuing for thirds before they have had seconds.

Queen Of Puddings

Preparation 25 mins plus 30 mins standing. Cooking time one and a quarter hours.

100g / 4oz fresh white breadcrumbs
25g / 1oz caster sugar
5ml / 1tsp grated lemon rind
450ml / 3/4 pint fresh milk
25g / 1oz butter
2 egg yolks
30ml / 2 tbsp raspberry jam warmed

Separate the yolks and whites of two eggs.Whisk the whites in a dry, grease-free bowl until soft and peaky. Gently fold in 75g (3 oz) caster sugar with a metal spoon. Put the breadrumbs, lemon zest and the remaining caster sugar into a bowl and toss to mix. Pour the milk into a saucepan. add the butter and heat gently until the butter melts (do not boil). Pour the milk over the breadcrumb mixture, stir well. Beat the egg yolks and fold in. Leave to cool for about 30 mins. Spread into a 900ml (1 1/2 pint) greased oven proof dish. Bake in a preheated  oven at 170 C (325 F or Gas Mark 3) for 30 mins or until set. Remove from the oven and spread the melted rasberry jam over the surface of the pudding. Cover with meringue mix swirls. Return to the oven and bake for a further 30-40 minutes or until the meringue is a pale golden colour. Serve hot on its own, or serve with double cream.

Some lovely recipes to use up the last of your eggs and have a real feast at the same time. If you have some great recipes of your own that you're willing to share, why not post them up in the comments below. We're always in search of new exciting recipes here at Flyte so Fancy.