Monday, April 11, 2011

Little Mother, Big Babies, Cold Spring and Rhubarb

My broody hen is proving to be a terrific mother. She is a Buff Orpington and I love that breed. They are good egg layers, lay well in the dead of winter, and are gentle friendly birds. They do seem to go broody too often for my taste but I just keep taking them off the nest and separating them from any thing that even resembles a nest for a couple of days and they get over it. I find there is a lot of information about brooding chicks artificially and very little about hens that brood chicks naturally. So far I recommend letting a hen raise chicks. You save a bundle in electric bills cuz mom keeps them warm. That 250 watt light has always put a spike in our bill. The mother also takes care of introducing the babies to the rest of the flock. A definite advantage. You do need a separate area that is dry and shielded from the elements where the family wont get bothered by the rest of the flock. I am using a dog crate located in the other half of my coup. I guess the down side of it is the chicks will be less people friendly but I am making a point of handling them to see if that makes a difference. And she lets me because she has been handled by me since she was a chick. Sure she still puffs up like a balloon and even gives me a peck once in awhile but then sometimes she doesn't seem to mind at all. There are a few things you have to do with a hen that is setting tight on a nest. Make sure you get her off the nest once a day to eat, drink, and do a poo and watch to make sure they do because they will try to get right back on.They will set until there is nothing left of them and even if you get them to take a daily break you will
Mom showing babies how to take a
a dust bath. 

find that they lose an alarming amount of weight. Even after the chicks have hatched (or you have slipped chicks under a hen in the dead of night) you have to get her off the nest once a day. She wont leave the nest until she thinks her brood can or will follow. That takes a few days.

So in a previous blog I mentioned that I was going to try sweet potatoes in the garden this year. However, everything I have read about growing them says you have to go to a lot of effort to warm up the soil in northern gardens before hand. This wouldn't be a problem normally except we are having the coldest, wettest spring since 1954. I am having a problem just trying to get the garden ready for peas and lettuce. We even had two days of snow (it didn't stick around long) last week. So maybe next year. I have started tomatoes even though my pessimistic brother says I won't get any of those either. I will prove him wrong unless our "Climate Change" (AKA-global warming) dumps a blizzard on us in July.

My goslings and ducklings are growing inches every day. I now have behemoth birds with downy fur that still can't be turned outside in the cold wet weather. Even though they are big they have no protecting oil coated feathers yet and get easily chilled when wet. It's a good thing they don't jump or perch on the side of their box or they would be out of it a long time ago. This box is at least 2 ft. high and they are still peeking at me over the top. I let them out for a romp and some grass mowing in between showers but it hasn't lasted very long.

One of the things I look forward to in the spring is rhubarb pie. I have a type that is pink all the way through and sweeter than the green kind. I make jam and freeze some of it raw for winter and there is never enough. If you aren't a fan try this recipe. It will change your mind about rhubarb. The secret is the egg. You may need a little more sugar if you are using the green type of Rhubarb.

Rhubarb Pie
4 cups rhubarb, in bite size pieces
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
dash of salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Make a double crust pie pastry from your favorite recipe. Mix sugar, eggs, flour, salt, and cinnamon and toss with rhubarb. Put filling in pie crust and top with second crust or lattice crust. Place pie on a cookie sheet to catch drips. Bake 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 and bake 30-40 minutes or until fruit is tender when tested with a fork. If crust browns too quickly cover lightly with a piece of foil.  This makes a great cobbler too. Just omit crust and use a crumble type topping before baking.


Modern Day Redneck said...

We should have the goslings any day now. Three momma geese are sitting and they have almost 60 eggs between them. The first set should be coming any day now.
I guess i am lucky with being in the South. Our soil temps made it where the sweet potatoes were planted two weeks ago. Next year you might want and try a hoop house with soil warmers but then you would have to really want sweet potatoes to go through all that.

sista said...

What kind of goslings? And what are you going to do with that many? My family eats a lot of sweet potatoes and not just at the holidays. I was going to do the hoop house thing and mulching with black landscape fabric to warm the soil. But I think its futile this year. Two years ago it would have worked because our spring started mid-January. Thanks for the comment.