Saturday, July 02, 2011

Eggs, Eggs, Eggs.....Chicks!

We've been getting lots and lots of eggs from our awesome family of chickens (of varying sizes as you can see below).  Occasionally we get one that is so big the carton won't even close!

A while back we added to our family of chickens with ten new additions, including (we thought) one rooster.  He was a good looking fellow and he strutted around the place until he started crowing, at which point he went into the slow cooker.  Yes, it's a cruel world on the McMillin urban farm but we decided that learning how to process a chicken was an important part of the whole experience.  Well, turns out we were sold not one, but three roosters and we learned a lot about how to tell the roosters from the hens, which isn't as easy as it might seem when they're young.

The roosters began a new chapter in our adventures in animal husbandry because it meant we were starting to get fertilized eggs.  We figured, if you have lemons, make lemonade - if you have roosters, make chicks.  Below is the "highly specialized" cardboard box incubator that Brian created.  You can see the heat lamp, a bowl of water to add humidity and a thermometer. 

The eggs need to be kept at a fairly constant temperature of 99F or 37C.  The humidity also has to be maintained at a certain level and the eggs must be rotated at least twice per day.  Keeping all of the variables within range was not as easy as we had thought it would be especially given the temperature fluctuations throughout the day and night (-4 to 16C).

After precisely twenty one days (if all went well) you begin to hear peeping.  Later that day the chicks begin to break out of the egg - very very slowly.

You're not supposed to help the chicks to get out of the egg at all as it can kill them.  Because the humidity in our incubator wasn't perfect, we gave the chicks a bit of help to get out in the end and out of about a dozen lovingly incubated eggs, we got three chicks! 

Sadly, we nearly had four chicks but one of them didn't make it in the end.  Interestingly, just before the chick hatches, the yolk, which has provided all of the nutrients for the growing chick, gets sucked up into it's abdomen.  In the photo below, you can see how it looks before the yolk is assimilated. 

One day old, the chicks have just fluffed up. 

Riker meets the chicks for the first time:

Kissing or licking, I'm not quite sure:

Riker LOVES the chicks!

We've been amazed at how fast they grow.  Check out the wings after just two weeks!  Even after one week, the wing feathers were mostly in place. 

At two weeks, they've learned to perch and Papa Brian is very proud. 

Parmesan Crusted Salmon

We just ate the best meal I've prepared in some time.  Probably the best fish dish I've ever made in fact.  Since it was just so pretty and I happen to have this nifty 'cuisine' scene selector on my camera, I thought a photo was in order.

I skinned the salmon and salted it well, then put a handful of fresh breadcrumbs, a smaller handful of parmesan cheese, a few sprigs of parsley, some pinenuts, fresh lemon juice, a splash of olive oil and some pepper into my super blender (courtesy of Grandma Betty) and whizzed it all up. Then I coated all four sides of the salmon fillets with the breading and popped it into the oven on a baking sheet for twenty minutes at 200C.  Meanwhile, I made roasted potatoes and red (capsicum) peppers with steamed broccoli. Yum.

Oh, and we learned that Riker will readily eat broccoli if the eating is accompanied by looking at a Baby Einstein picture book that has broccoli featured in amongst all the other foods. Yay.