“I don’t have any chickens at home. Because we butchered them all. To make macaroni and cheese. I got poo poo.” - Judd, our 3 year old son’s contribution to storytime/share last week at pre-school.
Wow. I hardly know where to start with a tale such as that… the scatological declaration, the sentence fragments, the obvious misunderstanding that butchered chickens and mac & cheese have precious little to do with one another, or that our son caused one of those neck-craning responses from his pre-school teachers when he revealed that we slaughtered the flock. Let it be said that our son does at least have an awareness of where his food come from.
Judd’s confessional to the rest of the class, the first step on his road to being “one of those weird kids,” is based in fact. An aging flock that had fallen out of production was in fact deposited in the deep chest freezer a few weeks ago. A few have since made it into the crock pot for some of Rachel’s amazing chicken stock-based recipes, along with some yumlicious chicken enchiladas. Not sure how he got the idea chicken made its way into mac & cheese around here. But then again, he’s 3.
The fallen flock will be replaced this spring, we hope, with a new flock of birds – hatched from our newly purchased incubator. We were blessed with 35 eggs to place in our Hova Bator (42 egg capacity) from friends and a student. A variety of birds produced the eggs, everything from Copper Marans to Wynadottes to Olive Eggers to Campines, as well as an assortment of mixed breeds with Rhode Island Red and Orpington genetics. Should be quite a fun little mix of birds upon hatching.
An obvious question might be why so many eggs… 35 eggs could potentially be 35 chickens running ’round the yard. A few variables are at play with those numbers. Hatch rates for chickens vary. Everything from 0 – 100% can be expected, depending upon age of egg, how they were handled, how well the incubator maintains a constant temperature for the 21 days till hatching. A fertile egg is best incubated when it is no more than 10 days old. Older eggs can be hatched but at lower rates. Eggs shipped (15 of ours were) can be jostled through the postal system and scrambled beyond viability. And the incubator itself can be a tricky proposition. We have a foam model, basically a squat styrofoam cooler with a heater and egg turner. Maintaining the 99.5 degrees is a tricky business. Thus far, we’ve managed to keep the temperature at about 100 with a brief rise to 102. And that’s assuming the Wal Mart thermometer and hygrometer (to measure humidty) are accurate.
And of course, if all 35 hatch, the stats say half will be roosters. Except for those we might keep for maintaining purebred stock, the rest will find their way into the deep chest.
And of course, the incubator full of eggs has increased the urgency for us to build our new chicken coop… but that’s for another post.
Twenty more days, and we’ll let you know how many chirpy chicks we have skittering around thecookhousegarden.