Sometimes the Best Laid Plans Don’t


Sometimes the best laid plans don’t work. After building an incubation suite for the hen who went broody, I tried moving her into the suite Saturday night (March 29), but Sunday morning, she wanted out. She was determined to get back to her original brooding site.

Once she was on her original brooding site, I placed ten eggs for her to hatch. The due date is April 20, and we’ll see how she does. Through the process I did find out that this is one tough hen. She won’t have a problem keeping other hens from trying to use her nest while she broods. This hen can peck!


Chick Adventure in the Wild

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What a morning for these five day old chicks. When their mother tries to lure them through a stream, they panic. The water is too deep for them. Separated from her, the chicks chirp loudly, begging her to come back. One even falls into the stream, and valiantly struggles up the steep bank. Others clamber over a mountain of a bush to reach their mother.

After the wild and terrifying adventure for these chicks, they get a well deserved rest under their mother’s warm feathers.

I laugh when I read of those raising chicks in broilers talk about enrichment programs for their chicks. These enrichment programs consist of providing bales of hay, perches, and objects for the chicks to peck. They certainly don’t include outdoor adventures such as fording streams or trying to keep up with Mother as she forages through rangeland.

Cherry Blossoms are for Eating


What does a cherry tree full of blossoms look like to a chicken? Manna from heaven? The taste of things to come? Each spring, the chickens enjoy a feast of cherry blossoms. Did the chicken you buy get a chance to taste cherry blossoms? Do the hens which lay the eggs you buy, get to pick fresh fallen cherry blossoms?
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All It Takes Is a Little Sunshine


All it takes is a little sunshine to make the cherry blossoms explode. What a pleasant surprise after many days of clouds and rain.


All it takes is a little sunshine to bring out all the chickens. And what are they up to? Are they just out enjoying the late afternoon sun? Are they looking for some treats? Out showing off their Sunday best?


Why Chicks Deserve a Mother – Reason #2

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Another reason chicks deserve a mother is that with a mother, they get to go outside at a very early age. These chicks are just four days old and they are having the time of their lives scratching around outdoors with their mother. From now on, they will be spending most of their days outdoors. Farmers who raise their chicks without mothers would never consider putting such young chicks out to pasture. Most wait until the chicks are three, four or five weeks old before putting them outside. For example:

What these farms are doing is understandable. Without a mother to guard and provide warmth as needed, putting chicks outside after just four days would be cruel, if not a death sentence. But with a mother watching over the chicks, going outdoors at just four days old, even in cool weather, is no problem. The earliest I’ve seen a hen take her chicks outdoors is at day two, and the latest at 14 days. Most of the hens have their chicks running around outdoors within a week of hatching.

Why Chicks Deserve a Mother – Reason #1

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Imelda is curious about the new chicks. The last few days, she’s spent a fair amount of time hanging out with the new mom and her chicks. Is she wanting to hatch eggs of her own? Does she think the chicks look good to eat? I don’t think so because she’s never shown any aggression toward the chicks. She just seems to enjoy hanging out with them.


Another Dominique hen has gone broody. Today I prepped an incubation suite for her. She’s been sitting on two wooden eggs for the last two days. Tonight, when it is dark, I’ll move her into the incubation suite and put 10 to 12 eggs under her. Hopefully, in three weeks, I’ll have another clutch of chicks. Moving broody hens is risky. Some will take to the new nest without a hitch. Others will want to go back to the nest where they were brooding.

This is the first time I’ve made an incubation suite. It will give the brooding hen, a safe, quiet place to sit for three weeks without being disturbed by the other hens. Besides having a dark, spacious nest inside the barn, she’ll also have a small yard to eat, poop, and stretch her wings.


Often, when hens are incubating a clutch of eggs, other hens will insist on laying eggs in the same nest. Some hens stand their ground and won’t budge an inch. However, all brooding hens leave their nest at least once a day to eat and poop. During the twenty to thirty minutes they are off the nest, other hens can hop on the nest to lay an egg. If they are still on the nest when the brooding hen returns, chaos often erupts.

Hopefully, the incubation suite will solve these problems, and give the brooding hen a carefree brooding experience. If she wants to go outside and enjoy a sunbath, I can slide open the side for her and close it while she is out, to keep her eggs undisturbed. Perhaps I should think about temporarily placing a RFID tag on her and wire a door so it would open and shut only for her.

Which brings me to my ultimate dream device: a tiny automated stamping device I could implant in a hen’s vent so that every time she lays an egg, the egg would get a timestamp which includes the hen’s name and GPS coordinates. The device would also have a super fast DNA decoder which would instantly determine which rooster fertilized the egg and stamp his name on the egg as well. Or if the egg was not fertilized, it would note that too. And of course, the device would send a text message with all of this information. Then I would instantly know when and where each hen laid an egg.

More Chicken – The Other Red Meat


This probably isn’t what comes to mind when you think of chicken. You probably don’t associate such a dark, red meat with chicken. But when roosters get to live outdoors, courting hens through pasture and woodland, breathing fresh air all day, roaming far and wide in search of love, and standing guard over their flock, they develop large, healthy gizzards.

The first time I butchered a rooster, what shocked me was the vibrant colors of his internal organs. Gizzards of healthy, exercising chickens have a beautiful blue hue on the outside. That first rooster’s gizzard was an especially brilliant, cobalt blue.

The gizzard is a strong muscle surrounding a pouch with a tough lining. Inside are bits of gravel and small stones. The food a chicken eats passes into the gizzard from the crop. The muscles of the gizzard churn vigorously, grinding the food and gravel together, turning the grain and grasses and bugs a chicken devours into a mash. The gizzard does the job our teeth do when we chew.

As a result, the gizzard of a healthy chicken is tough. Slice it thin, fry it gently in butter, add some white wine or sake, a bit of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce, and in a few minutes you have a wonderful appetizer. What makes this meat exceptional is the texture. It has a crunch you don’t associate with meat.

A Very Safe Place


The wonderful thing about letting mothers raise chicks is that you don’t need to keep the chicks under heat lamps. Whenever the chicks need to warm up, they can duck under their mother’s warm feathers for a rest. The other four chicks are in there somewhere.

For a chick, being under a mother’s feathers is a very safe place from which to peek and check out the world.

Coq au Vin – Chicken, the Other Red Meat

Usually, you don’t think of chicken as a red meat. But a year old rooster has meat as red as beef. The pictures below are of the roosters thigh and legs, and breasts. Using Julia Child’s Coq au Vin recipe from page 263 of her Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume One Fortieth Anniversary Edition, this 4 pound 9 ounce rooster, came out tender and beefy. The one difference is that her recipe calls for simmering the bird in wine slowly for 25 to 30 minutes. Instead, I simmered the rooster for three hours.

You’re never going to be able to walk into your local supermarket and walk out with a year old rooster, or chicken with such rich meat. It takes many months for a bird to develop such hearty meat. The only way you’re going to be able to enjoy Coq au Vin like this, is to make arrangements with me, or another farmer dedicated to raising these magnificent birds.


Below are links to others who have made Julia Child’s Coq au Vin recipe:

All of the examples above use your average store bought chicken. Though you really need a grown rooster to savor the full richness of this dish. After all, the name of the dish is Coq au Vin not Poule au Vin.

The Lucky Ones

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This is a sure sign of spring, the first chicks of the year. They hatched yesterday, and this is their very first morning. These are the lucky ones. The tiny, nearly infinitesimal percentage of chicks born each year which develop in their eggs listening to their mother’s comforting heart beat, which hatch beneath their mother’s warm breasts, and grow up under her tender care.

According to the USDA, in January 2014, 717,153,000 chickens were slaughtered in the USA along, and in February 2014, the number was 675,901,000. None of those chickens had a mother. Neither do the tens of millions of hens which are raised each year by the egg laying business. When you buy my eggs, or my chicken, each one of them was hatched and raised by a caring mother.