Saturday, December 24, 2011


Now there is a farm puppy!

Happy Holidays from the Booth Boys Barn!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Egg Sorting

Cartons all lined up
nested one inside the other
Since we're now getting about a dozen eggs a day, I have a new daily task! Sorting & cleaning eggs.

When you're selling from home/farm-gate you don't need to size or grade your eggs, but I find it's a lot easier for customers. We have 4 carton sizes

Jumbos: +72g
X-Large: 64g+
Large: 57g+
Small & Medium is anything below and I don't sell anything less then about 45g.

I also don't sell anything more then 80g, I just find they are too big and break too easily.

We don't wash any of our eggs. I only remove any stray feathers or small amount of dirt with a dry cloth.

Little bit of dirt on this egg
Using a commercial egg wash, or a bleach solution is good for cleaning eggs but it also removed the natural 'bloom'. This is a thin layer on the outside of the egg that prevents water loss and bacteria. So un-washed eggs last longer.

If you'd like to clean them you can wash them as soon as you get home with a bleach solution = 15ml/4 litre standard household (5%) bleach.
Sand paper marks

Most of the eggs come out of the coop clean, those that have a tiny bit of dirt or dis-colouration I just take a bit of sand-paper and remove that.

Anything that's really dirty (like an egg laid on the coop floor) becomes a lovely treat for the dogs. In fact they are so into the eggs they follow on my heels as soon as I leave the coop until I'm finish grading eggs. I've had a few eggs stolen out of my un-attended baskets as well!

It's a good idea to give your eggs a quick wash with water or dish-soap before you want to eat them. I generally don't, depending on what I'm using them for.

Natural Speckles
Our eggs are fertilized, at least they are supposed to be, we have a lot of hens for two roosters! That does not change the nutritional value or taste of the eggs in any way. The eggs are collected several times a day so they never have a chance to develop.

Once the eggs are all cleaned up & weighed it's time to candle them. I do this with a flash light and a little stand I made from a toilet-paper tube. You can see the egg in the picture is beautiful! You want to make sure the egg is fresh (no large air pockets) and is free from internal spots. Sometimes a little bit of blood or protein gets inside an egg as it's forming, they are fine too eat, but unsightly so I try very hard to make sure none of customers end up with any of them.

If you're unsure if your egg is fresh or not, place it in a small glass of water.
If it floats chuck it out! 
If it sinks, it's good to eat.
Mother Earth News did an egg study a while ago showing you could keep unwashed fertile eggs on the counter-top for 6 months and still eat them. Please don't do that!! But our farm-fresh eggs should be good well past the time it takes you to eat them up.

Our house carton is always interesting, it's full of the largest, smallest, wrinkly, speckled, ugly eggs.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chickens 101: Lights in the Winter?

Some backyard chicken keepers feel that the practice of keeping lights on in the winter to "force" the chikens to lay is cruel. I asked my birds, they don't seem to agree.

I believe most organic standards (at least in Canada) say you can not keep lights on for more then 16 hours a day, and you should only need 14 hours to keep them laying. You can't keep the lights on any longer that that because chickens are pretty simple creatures. Light on means you should be awake, light off means you should be asleep.

The COS (Canadian Organic Standards) also say you should fade the lights on & off, and while I think this is a nice idea, haven't quite figured out how to do it in our coop. I think the best way would be having two separate sets of lights on different timers. I've never found it to be necessary as our chickens all seem to know when lights out is and they settle down long before the lights go out.

During the winter we have our lights turn on around 6 in the morning, then turn off around 7:30 when the sun comes up. They turn on again around 3:30 (when I do my afternoon check) and turn off around 9pm.

This has had the added benefit of switching most of the chickens from mid-afternoon layers, to at least half the eggs being laid before noon. Our spoiled chickens also get checked on 4 times a day and eggs collected pretty soon after their laid.

The weather seems to dictate whether or not
they actually go out.
The chickens are let out first thing in the morning to roam around, then come in the coop in the evening when it's dark out, and eat and socialize for a few more hours before they settle in to go to sleep.

Chickens, like people, only have so many eggs in their bodies. So once they've laid them all, they can't make any more.

Chickens kept under lights in the winter will start laying around 6 months, starting with very small eggs and working their way up to a large. Then after a little less then a year, they'll stop and start moulting. Depending on breed they may moult for 12 weeks to a few months, then start laying again. Once they start laying for a second time they will lay less often, but much larger eggs.

If you don't keep the chickens under lights they'll go through the same cycle. They'll moult in the fall as the light changes, and depending on the breed may or may not continue to lay over the winter with out extra light. (Breeds like Barred Plymouth rocks will keep laying)

If you don't use extra lights your chickens will lay for "longer" but they will not produce any more eggs then if you keep them under lights. If you're going to keep chickens as pets there really is no reason to waste the electricity unless you want eggs during the winter too. 

You can freeze eggs for use over the winter, I've heard they aren't great for breakfast but fine for baking.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ah! Winter...

 The best way to convince goats to come in the barn... lock them out!

We had a bit of freezing rain all day so the horses are in the barn warming up, it's also supposed to rain again in the next few hours then clear overnight. So they'll stay in until about 10pm then they can go back out.

I let the ducks out, but the chickens stayed in the coop all day & I can't believe how much warmer it is in there! Because we only have people & not "chicken" doors, the doors stay open most of the day & the chickens go outside & running around. Looks like I've got really good reason to keep them in on really cold days (when they don't really want out anyway). It's nice our coop is so big they can still run around when locked in.

 The de-icer that got left here by former owners works great! This thing was frozen so solid this morning I had to get a rock, about 2 hours later & it's clear! Beautiful, saves me from having to buy one.

This hose on the other hand... is not coming out until Spring. It was really muddy and warm one day (and one of the cows must have stepped on the hose, it's DOWN there!) and then froze solid the next day. I've tried buckets & buckets of boiling water, but it is stuck

The Joys of Winter...
At least all the mud is gone!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Looking for a Horse for Christmas?

While the decision to add a new horse to your farm should never be taken lightly (they are big, expensive, though beautiful & amazing creatures). If you're already in the market please check out:

Need You Now Equine on Facebook

Tracey Thompson-Hoogeveen is purchasing horses from a local feedlot in hopes they can have one more chance and finding a great home. The horses come from a wide variety of backgrounds, from youngsters not even halter broke, to ex camp horses dumped off, to well broken oldies.

There is an endless stream of horses from across North America going to slaughter for as many reasons as there are different horses. From inconsiderate breeders to premarin farms to families who struggle & try there best but just can't afford to keep their beloved animal any longer.

A member of the group recently reported her trip to the Ottawa Livetsock Exchange she saw everything from mini-ponies to yearlings to trained horses go for cents on the pound. 

Tracey re-sells for the same price the feedlot wants, so you can find a new riding partner for around $500. If you're in the market for a new horse, have the experience or help to give one a second chance check out Need You Now Equine. 

And while you're on facebook, it'd be much appreciated if you can give us a 'like' as well
Booth Boys Barn

Happy Hanukkah!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cook: Beef Jerky

Jerky's in the oven!
 Long story short, I had some top sirloin steaks de-frosted that were very lean, too lean. So they're sitting in the fridge while I try to wrack my brains about what to do with them. Right when I'm thinking I'll marinate over-night and bbq the next day, I think, marinate, what else have I marinated meat for? JERKY!! I haven't done this since the last time we bought a 1/4, and it's been awhile.

Now, I'm no expert, AT ALL, in fact this is the 3rd time I've ever made it. We were given the smoker by my lovely in-laws because they don't use it very much in GTA Toronto. The first attempt at jerky was a nasty salty disaster, the second was a little better, this time I think I've done it!

If I could change the name of this
vaguely racist product I would....

I used a really simple salt, sugar & water recipe for the marinade. I've got to reduce the salt again for next time, or just remember to rinse off the meat before smoking... which I always forget.

I know there is a little bag of hickory chips floating around the house somewhere, but unable to find it & unwilling to drag the kids out to Walmart, I improvised. Using just hardwood firewood we already had, I got a better smoke, and even though we don't have the flavour, the jerky is great! Maybe for next time I can just buy a log of hickory or something?

So I'm feeling a little more adventurous now, perhaps even enough to try smoking salmon again, or even a whole chicken! Stay tuned for further smoker developments...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wheeee! Space to run!

Love that Megs like "com'on Maddie! Let's run" and Maddie is like "no... I'm going to eat"!

He did go for a tiny boot before I got the camera out, but it wasn't much.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Enough with the mud

Okay it's not straight!
At all...
 I finally got fed up with the mud, the horses' feet are wet and muddy, and while there is a dry patch, this just isn't fair to them. It's mid-December! The ground is supposed to be well frozen, maybe even a little snow.

So I got together a few step-ins and some tape & hopefully the cows won't test it. The horses can't go out into the big paddock because the big bales are still out there & they are still too fat.
 We'll keep this open to them for the whole winter if the fence will stay up, but it's really not very high Mads could step over it if he wanted.
Once it snows the whole thing may come down. When we replace the fences we've already decided we're going to expand the sacrifice area, this looks like a good amount of space.
Maddie is very happy to eat the "grass"

Megs went for a good little boot.
Took me about 20 minutes to wait for her
to settle so I could take her blankie off.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Coop Upgrade/Date Night on the Farm

Yeah date night now consists of catching up on farm chores together, it's very romantic.

Anyway, the chickens finally have a night roost! It's a little lower then I was planning, but the chickens seem to love it & I think this might work out better anyway.

It's 89" wide, the same as the back of the coop, about 2' tall & high (maybe a little less).

So no more pooping in the nest boxes, hopefully! Instead they can all sleep on the roosts here, and be able to get up high enough to sleep on the backwall (which none of them do).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Murder Most Fowl!

One of our little 6 week old chicks was killed in the coop, so if you're soft at heart you may not want to see the next picture.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Bonnie you are an evil, evil, goat enabler!! :)

Yankey didn't fit in so well at first, she was fine the first few days, and then decided she was top-goat of this pack of wimps (which she really really is!) and like any dictator started taking it too far... In fact I put her in an Ad up for sale.

But things have settled down now, the boys have accepted she's queen of the barn and Harry is just head over tail in love with her! Too bad for Harry he lost his balls quite a few months ago...

So when Yankey starting showing heat signs today, and Bonnie let me know she had a cutie-pie (!!!) little Alpine who was looking for a home... Well!

Here is Survy!

Struttin' his tiny stuff!

He's almost 6 months old, a June baby, so
around the same age as the other boys

Who are terribly jealous!

But Yankey likes him! That's all that matters.

Harry is most jealous of Survy's balls!

Doesn't he have a sweet face??

Actually he's just perfect for Yankey, I
think they'll make a lovely match.
Even if he doesn't catch her on this heat he'll get her on the next & soon enough we'll have a lovely pack of goats just bouncing around off the walls and sneaking out under the fences.
Megs is impressed with the new arrival,
Maddie couldn't care less and with Megs
distracted didn't want to take his head
out of the hay...

So Hares still keeping a good eye on his lady
friend but I've put on a little Barry White
in the barn and hopefully we'll have some
early May kids!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fall Hatch Report

Dear Santa, I'd like an incubator for Christmas.

The ladies did not do very well, we'll have to compare with any spring/summer hatches and see how they do then.

Coco  between 7 to 14 eggs (after the girls snuck in & laid more eggs for her), 0 hatched.

EE #1 7 eggs 4 chicks (1 DNS - my fault)

EE #2 11 eggs 3 healthy chicks (at least 2 DNS premature?)

The remaining 6 are very healthy, and are starting to have all their feathers come in. The Maraan baby* and one of the EE babies are the largest and I'm expecting those two to be full sized birds. 

*Looks like a roo! & we have a Lenny Jr.

The funny thing is that EE#2, miss nasty, has stolen all the chicks! EE#1 will still come to the defense of her chicks but it's #2 who cares for them during the day, cuddling all 6 under her wings.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cook: Dijon Tenderloin

This is one of my favourite, hubs & the kids, not so much.

1-3 tbsp Dijon (adjust to taste)
1 tsp fennel (")
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Mix thoroughly then coat your tenderloin. Bake as normal, quite delicious!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Magic hour on the farm

3 inches more snow please, then we can just stay like this all winter.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Sick Chicken

Busy with a sick chicken so I'll have to cover this week's craft project later.

It's a chicken kitchen!
Uh, kitchen chicken!
 I found her in one of the nest boxes this morning and could tell something was seriously wrong when I lifted her up to check for eggs and didn't get any protest at all, she barely opened her eyes. So she's been in the house all day & doesn't seem to have gotten any better.

I took some online advice to give her a bath, didn't think it would make things any worse.
You'd think an old laying hen would get
a little more upset being stuck in hot water...

Actually she was almost falling asleep.
Or dieing, I'm not sure

It seemed to really help
warm her up a bit.

Clearly I've lost my mind...
I've settled her in front of the fire place where she's been having a nap for about an hour, staying nice and warm.

I have no idea what's wrong with her, no idea what to do to 'fix' her and not overly confident she's going to get better; but we will try.

Update from later in the day:

After a nice little nap she's had a GIANT poop on what is definitely a farm towel now...  and has perked up a bit. However, she may continue and 'fake' it just to stay in front of the fire which she seems to really be enjoying.

Looks like she's ready to go back out into the coop. I'm going to keep an eye on her & maybe bring her back in for the night, but she's a lot more comfortable out with the other chickens.

I'm also really worried I might have heard some raspy sounds. The coop didn't get winterized until late last night so there have been some cold nights in there. Hope it's nothing too serious but seems we'll have to wait & see.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Checking out the nests

Thinking about it!

Can't stop talking about eggs!

First of all, we have duck eggs!!
I hope the gif is dancing
He's supposed to be dancing

Duck egg!
I've been waiting for them to start laying because they are under the lights with the chickens. Winter isn't really the best time for little ducklings to be born, but the coop is quite warm at night with all the chickens in there so I think we can do it. I hope we can.

For now I'm collecting the eggs and we've got a few people interested in purchasing them to eat. I haven't had one yet, but I hear they are richer then a chicken egg, and don't give you the egg burps. I have already heard people who are allergic to chicken eggs can eat duck eggs, but please don't take my word for that one!

The other thing I want to talk about is our Marran eggs. We still haven't really determined that our girls are real marrans, and if they are they are 'poor' quality ones because their eggs aren't dark enough. One BIG bonus I will say about them, over the black/red stars, is that their eggs shells are so smooth!

I don't know if this is a diet thing, or just a genetic thing, but the marran & polish eggs are incredibly easy to clean, the dirt just slides right off. With the black/red eggs, who have rough shells, I have to scrub away at the shells with sand paper to get the dirt off.

We don't wash our eggs for sale because doing that removed the 'bloom' from the outside of the egg. That is a thin layer on the outside of the egg that helps to keep is fresher longer.

Sandpaper marks
Mother Earth News did an egg study showing they could leave unwashed chicken eggs on the counter at room temperature for up to 6 months and they were still edible. Again, don't take my word for it, and please don't try it!

So I gently wipe off the eggs with a dry cloth, sand paper any stubborn dirt, candle, sort & store. I'll do a whole post about this to show my process soon.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The end of the world as we know it?

We're one of the lucky ones, hubs with a really stable job in a growing & busy industry. But with all the economic doom and gloom what are some simple things you can do to help your family become more self-sustaining?

1. Buy Chickens
6 months - for 2 years you should get 6 eggs/7 days out of a healthy hen. Yes, there can be bi-laws if you live in the city, but most of these are changing. Hens generally do not make a lot of loud noises (although some do sing after they lay). It is also very possible to keep chickens indoors in a large enclosure. Quail are generally not banned anywhere because they are not chickens, although you may need a special permit. Layer feed costs about $12 for a large bag, and you can (and should) supplement your chickens with kitchen scraps and weeds. Bantam chickens are small, they produce smaller eggs as well, but they also need less space & less food.

2. Start a Garden
$100 worth of seeds from a large internet provider will supply you with a huge garden with tons of varieties and more produce then your family can eat. You don't need to spend even that much money, you can get last year's seeds from the dollar store or big department store, for very inexpensively. You won't get as high a yield (not as many of them will be 'good' seeds) but the veggies won't be any different. You can also ask any veggie gardeners you know, and yes you can grow from things you buy at the grocery store. Once you've got your garden going, you can learn to save seeds and not have to buy year to year.

3. Learn to Cook
Want to make bread for less then $1 a loaf? Something that is fresher and tastier then you can get at the store. Cooking is time consuming especially when you're first learning, but when we can go to McDs for $25 for dinner, or I can make a huge, simple, steak dinner for less then $15; what would you rather eat?

Lastly, as the holiday season is quickly approaching, many people appreciate home made gifts. Just make sure all the wood for your cutting boards doesn't split because it dried out too fast leaving you with a last minute scramble...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

In the coop again

New Egg Cartons
Very impressed with Berry Hill! Our order & shipping were carried out really quickly, they're in Canada too and we got our cartons only a few days after I ordered them.

We bought 50 regular egg cartons, but they do hold the xls just fine, the jumbos are stretching it a bit.

So we're selling a few dozen eggs a week already!

The new waterer
Set us back about $70, but I really like our new waterer & wish we'd bought one a long time ago. Definitely worth the money!

It's very easy to fill (as long as you read the instructions first...), the chickens love it because the water stays clean, and it holds a lot of water so I don't need to re-fill every day even.

I really like this one because it's deep enough for the ducks to easily drink out of it. We bought the 7 gallon (their last bucket was about 2.5 gallons).
New leg Bands
Along with the egg cartons I got some leg bands so we can tell some of the chikens apart.

Momma EE #1 and #2 are now really
EEs #1 and #2
One of the new black stars
I found the trickiest part was catching the chickens & getting the leg bands on right side up. These are the wrap around kind that don't require any special tools.

The green ones are a tiny bit too big for the chickens, I should have gotten one size down; but none have fallen off yet.  The blue ones fit the little EEs perfectly.

I banded our 4 EEs as well as the 5 black & whites (4 marrans & 1 BPR) and the 3 black stars. I didn't band the red stars because they're all going into the stock pot (we may keep one or two, we'll decide that later).

It's already been great because I can tell which ladies are laying eggs! (If I catch them in the act)
Don't they look cute!?

The chick creep

I did this when we got our first chicks too, it provides the little guys a safe place to get away from all the adults, as well as feeding them the chick starter where the adults can't steal it all. Momma EEs have already figured out this is a safe place where the chicks can get feed, so they've been leaving one at a time to go eat themselves, while the other chick-sits.