Sunday, November 20, 2011

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Right? Well I hope so, cuz it's been a really long time since I've posted.

How are you? How's the brood? Here at Baker Ranch, we've had a busy summer and fall. There's been moulting, egg eating, and all kinds of terrible that I haven't had the heart to post about. However, it's fall, and the ladies have grown back their feathers and appear to be more or less on good behavior.

I promise I'll post something interesting in the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cabbage tether ball.

As promised, I thought I'd share about the wonderful world of chicken leisure activities.

 The ladies get bored from time to time just scratching the dirt and straw all over our yard, so it's important to provide outlets of entertainment, lest they remember that they make tasty snacks

I've compiled a step-by-step guide to making a cabbage tether ball, that the chickens gleefully volley back and forth in the run, catching small mouthfuls with each peck.

Step 1: Get a medium head of cabbage (green or purple*), and slice it in half.

*purple cabbage, used with varying success to dye Easter eggs, imparts a blue pigment to various types of matter.

Step 2: Use a chopstick or other pointed object to pierce a hole in the cabbage. Alternately, Mr. Baker likes to drill though a whole cabbage using a long drill bit.

Step 3: You'll want to feed a string through the cabbage in order to tie it up. Shove a straw through the hole and create a passage through which you'll feed the string.

Remove the straw while keeping the string fed through, and tie the string around the cabbage, knotting the ends together.

Step 4: Tie the cabbage up to the top of the chicken run, and get ready for hours of chicken amusement.

Several hours later you'll find nothing more than a cabbage nub. Coming soon, Mr. Baker has video footage of the buffoonery. Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

One at a time ladies. One at a time.

I'm happy to report that Garuda and R.E.D. have been getting along much better.


Today I opened the back hatch to the nest box to find this silliness, and felt it was necessary to share. Apparently, when you've got to lay, you've got to lay. I'm guessing that Garuda got to the nest box first this morning. R.E.D. may have been crowning and decided that if she couldn't beat her, she'd join her. 

They seemed pretty comfy in the 10"x 10"x 10" nest box, and seemed unimpressed and completely disinterested in vacant nest box to their left. Cuddle puddle!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Chickens make their own snacks

I have some disturbing news to report regarding egg production: It appears that the chickens have discovered that they create their own tasty treats.

Last month, Mr. Baker and I discovered that toward the beginning of the month that egg production was unusually spotty. Since Garuda started laying in April, we'd had especially consistent laying, with R.E.D. and Garuda coughing up just about an egg a day, and Checkers trailing closely behind. (As an aside, it appears that I track my girls' cycles more closely than my own...ahem.)

We theorized at length about the disrupted production. We'd seen an errant feather here or there. Were they starting their yearly molt we'd heard so much about? Surely not. Most of the literature clocks the molt to happen around fall/winter (at which time, we will surely submit photos to this contest).

Mr. Baker and I'd seen the chickens (well mostly Checkers, that troublemaker) rolling the eggs out of the nest from time to time, and thought little of it. Then, one terrible day, I walked out to the coop to find shards of egg shells in the run area with the ladies remorselessly smacking their beaks, braying for more treats. They'd discovered what we've known all along: they produce tasty snacks. Since then, we've employed some modest approaches to squelching their negative behavior.

I knew they were beyond most behavioral training and therapeutic techniques I'm familiar with in my day job (cognitive behavior therapy? solution-focused? electroshock??), so we looked to the internets for guidance where we discovered that they probably needed more protein and/or calcium. We'd recently bought our second bag of layer pellets, and apparently the ladies were not having the new brand, so Mr. Baker trekked across the greater bay area to find the preferred pellets. Since the hens have constant access to high-protein pellets and oyster shells for calcium, we tried adding some gourmet supplements to these staples. Long blogpost short, we essentially started spoiling the little brats to bribe them into saving their eggs for us.

Their new, improved higher-protein diets consist of the following delicacies:

-daily multi-seed scratch (pffft. cracked corn is SO middle-America)
-frequent offerings of cabbage tether ball to quell boredom (post coming soon)
-daily King meal worms (that's right, we hand-feed the little brats worms)
-occasional cups of milk (which they guzzle down until their necks are milk-streaked)
-fancy table scraps (pasta with fresh organic peas anyone? cooked lentils?)
-home-grown bean sprouts (again, post coming soon)

Alas, the remainder of the month was spotty still (though sixty-five eggs in May is nothing to sniff at). Mr. Baker is a Negative Nancy, insisting that every day we get less than full production is a day of chicken cannibalism. I'm more optimistic that their slowed production is simply in protest to the cold weather (clearly summer has forgotten about San Francisco this year). At any rate, humans have still done far more disturbing things with the dregs of the reproductive process, as seen here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

These hens lay eggs.

Just a quick review.

Step One:

Step Two:

(Don't mind the messy coop and nasty fake egg in the adjacent nest)

Step Three:

That pretty much sums it up. Please check out our current egg production stats on the right side of the page. These girls are busy!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Our little girl is all grown up!

I was recently contemplating writing a post about how much Garuda has grown. She's much bigger now than when we first brought her home. This picture is not the best for scale, but she has really filled out! She is still a MASSIVE fraidy cat and at the bottom of the pecking order, but she is quick on her feet and definitely a survivor. Personally, I think she's the prettiest of the group.

But today I have something much more exciting to share: a blue egg! Actually, it's a very pale blue-green to be specific. This Easter egg is just in time!

Friday, April 8, 2011

The tiniest egg ever!

We either have a new layer or something is amiss in chicken-town.

These are three of our hens' eggs, the one on the right just fetched today. The far left egg is from R.E.D., the middle one is from Checkers and the freakishly small egg on the right is either from a quail that snuck into the nest, from Checkers and she's having a moment, or perhaps Garuda finally started laying. Now, I'm halfway hoping it's just a fluke from Checkers, because Garuda is supposed to lay eggs that look like this or this (and in case you were wondering, an egg is NOT a chicken's abortion).

In any case, the egg I found this morning was ridiculously tiny. That is all.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Production has doubled!

We have a new lady on the block who's earning her keep, y'all.

Checkers has started laying smallish, buff eggs which appear to be slightly speckled. At first Mr. Baker thought R.E.D. had just laid an unusually small egg. When we had two eggs in one day, we knew it was Miss Checkers. Welcome to womanhood, girl!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Yolk tales...notes on food

When I created this blog, it was not only to showcase the buffoonery and hilarity of raising chickens. Yolk Tales is also and more importantly driven by the hunger for tasty, tasty eggs. The original impetus for getting chickens was heavily based on a desire to have fresh, organic eggs. Alas, as time marches on, they've become a delightful part of my life and my precious pets. But let's not forget that they need to earn their keep (sorta), and that my obsession with cooking and my desire to know exactly where some of my food comes from is the point of all this. That said, I hope to make food-related posts a more regular fixture here.

A few weeks ago, I decided to use our fresh gifts to make baked eggs. I found an easy recipe here, and it came out pretty darn tasty. Thanks R.E.D!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bathing beauties

I know many of you lie awake at night pondering the age-old do chickens get clean? Cats use their tongues, lizards shed their skin, and dogs require significant hosing and scrubbing. Surprisingly, hens use dirt to wash those men right outta their hair, er feathers. Some chicken keepers employ dust boxes, but here at Fort Baker we force the ladies to get creative.

Here we see Garuda and Checkers rolling ecstatically in a small dirt pile they extracted from the corner of the yard through much scratching and bug-hunting.

This picture of Garuda is especially amusing. I think she looks like quite the dino-chicken.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Chickens ARE the new black.

I think it's safe to say that the ladies have officially been welcomed to the neighborhood. 

And as style icons, no less! The lovely folks as Bernalwood all but cemented three tiny stars on the Cortland walk of fame for our little hens. Okay, well maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but I'm certainly delighted at the attention. It won't belong before we see their names in lights, but for the time being let's keep those eggs coming! Thanks Bernalwood!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

And then there were two.

The second egg has arrived! It's a little bigger than the first, and let me say... I had to work for it.

I was opening up the coop this morning to fetch the newly laid egg, and Checkers darted out into the yard. With sleep in my eyes and my pajamas still on, I chased that little bird around the yard for a good five minutes before grabbing her and tossing her back into the run. I'm sure it would've been rather amusing had there been an audience. I love having the ladies roam around in the yard, but they get a taste of freedom and crave more and more. And they're fast.

At any rate, Mr. Baker and I had a ceremonious feast for our first eggs. We fried up some Niman Ranch center-cut bacon and fried those huevos preciosos in melted butter.

The eggs were scrumptious. And we're certainly not biased. At all. Rich, buttery and yolky: NOM!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lay, lady, lay.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have lift off! This afternoon, I was introducing my mom to the ladies, and lo and behold, I found a little gift. I sorta knew something was up, because R.E.D. was screeching her head off all morning. Mr. Baker and I will share a tiny feast tomorrow for breakfast. Very tiny.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

You've lost that laying feeling...

Mr. Baker and I are some well-read parents when it comes to the little ladies. We recently came upon some sage advice about how to encourage hens to lay eggs. I have been known to say that the hens had better put out, or get out, but as the days go by I'm becoming surprisingly attached to the little pea-brains. So in an effort to help encourage that laying feeling, we placed a little encouragement in the nesting box yesterday.

Alas, this is NOT a real egg. It's a wooden egg (lemons included for size), which the hens immediately shunned as an impostor and rolled out of the nest. Rascals!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It's official. We're free ranging up in here.

We let the girls out for a few hours today, and while they first had to be booted out of the coop, they were in hog heaven after they realized the bounty of weeds and bugs to be nommed.

I also managed to get the fraidy cat, Garuda, out. She was coop-bound, taking the rare opportunity to gorge herself on the unguarded feed while the larger ladies were roaming around.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Meet the Motley Crew

Last Sunday, we started a family. We picked up our three little ladies in Livermore at the Bay Area Hay and Feed, brought them home in the back seat of my car (in a cardboard box, of course), and let 'em loose in their new home.

Without further ado, let's meet these hot chicks:

This is the Notorious R.E.D. She's a Rhode Island Red and about a year old. She's a thug and the queen of the coop. She doesn't like the other birds even looking in the general direction of her tasty treats.

This is Checkers Gridiron Baker. She's a Barred Plymouth Rock and around seven to nine months old. She's really curious, and is itching to explore the back yard.

Then there's Garuda. <sigh> She's the coop bitch at only five months old and 2/3 the size of Notorious. She's a purty Ameraucana, and will supposedly lay blue-shelled eggs (if she doesn't die of starvation or pecking by the other two hens). She's a bit of a fraidy cat (with good reason), and is seen here jumping to the rafters of the run to get out of R.E.D.'s way.