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Posts Tagged ‘chicks’

Popcorn is the chicken in the bottom of the picture. Check out her

So about four weeks ago, June 9 to be precise, I got a small package in the mail with five loudly peeping chicks in it. I should have blogged about it immediately, but it was all I could do get a few lousy blurry photos that whole week – I was consumed with chicken care and worry, their box was lit with a red lamp that is horrible for shooting photos, and they were at all times moving WAY too fast for snapshots, especially snapshots in a dim red light. That’s my excuse. In case you’re curious, I got 5 different breeds, and I got them at My Pet Chicken – a great website for browsing fun photos and descriptions of dozens of crazy heritage breeds.

In the meantime, they are growing by the minute and changing every day. It’s high time I got them up on this blog, since they will be an integral part of my kitchen garden, after all. So instead of trying to tackle a summary of the whole lot of them in one post, I am going to go the route of posting profiles for each of them. While this may seem extreme, I think that they are developing enough personality by now to justify the attention… and according to the amount of chicken activity out there on the web, I am NOT alone in thinking that this is one cool pet. Worth writing about. So here goes; first up is:

Popcorn

Popcorn is a Polish Crested chicken, a Bearded Gold Laced Polish to be precise, and she is really just here for fun. Polish aren’t supposed to be great layers, and they’re apparently not even all that hardy in the cold – two criteria I had set for all the other girls in the lot (the third criteria was a calm personality, which all 5 breeds were described as having, though it’s all relative I guess… I ended up with a couple of slightly bizarre characters). But for pure entertainment value, you can’t beat this chicken.

From the beginning Popcorn was both the most mellow and the most curious chick in the lot. In the first couple of days, when I picked her up, she instantly fell asleep in my hands. That’s pretty cute stuff, but it turns out that all day-old chicks will do that if you hold them a few minutes – it’s the warmth of your hands I guess. They need lots of sleep – and Popcorn was getting more of it than the rest. This chick was always sleeping. She was always getting rudely awakened by other chicks trampling over her, and we worried that she was a little too lazy and maybe something was wrong with her, but I think it’s just her personality. In the following weeks, while two of our other chicks quickly began flying up to the rim of their cardboard box and perching, Popcorn slept on – she had all the feathers and wingspan and no motivation. I don’t think she even really tried until about a week ago. Now she’s flying just fine. Some chickens just need a little more time, I guess.

Popcorn’s curiosity also stood out – she was always the one to crane her neck up and cock her head to look at us when we approached the box. Everyone adores her – between her fancy headdress and this adorable head-cocking behavior, she gets all the oohs and aahs. While she doesn’t hop onto my hand or into my lap as readily as my Ameracauna, Sesame, she is quite tame and when I set her on my leg, she’ll often just settle down and stay put. She also doesn’t squawk and run around in fear when I get too close; I can stroke her feathers when she’s passing by my hand without setting off alarms. She’s often a bit of a loner, doing her own thing while all the others cluster around a new object or head off as a group to check out a new area of the coop (where they are spending just a few hours a day at the moment). And she doesn’t say much. Some of these chicks just will not shut up, and one (Tipsy) cries loudly in the most vaguely stressful of situations, but Popcorn is a pretty quiet chicken. She’s basically a sweet, gentle and slightly eccentric girl with really silly hair.

I’m including a few photos of her at different ages along the way. The best is definitely yet to come; these birds feather out into a truly dramatic topknot and I just dare you to keep a straight face when looking at one. You can see one here – though it’s a different color than Popcorn, it’s a gorgeous picture of what I have to look forward to.

Popcorn at one week old. Still sitting calmly in my hand.

Popcorn at one week old. Still sitting calmly in my hand.

3 weeks old. This gives a slight idea of her cute

3 weeks. Trying to be tall for the camera.

4 weeks. That’s Sesame on the right: “Whoa! Get a load of her hair!!”
Blurry, but the only decent side shot I have. That is a mullet!

Blurry, but the only decent side shot I have. That, my friends, is a mullet!!

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We had a little party for our 5 new baby chicks last night – they are one month old and getting ready to move out to their new digs in the garden, so we called it a “coop-warming party” and invited all our friends. Everyone was quite entertained by the idea – one couple, who it turns out also has 3 chickens of their own, thought it was the coolest party they’d ever been to: proof that other “normal” people have chickens too. 

In addition to tours of the just completed chicken coop and plenty of time for everyone to pet and play with the chicks, we served up a buffet of summer patio fare: in addition to the obligatory brats and whole grain rolls, we had salad of watermelon, feta cheese and red onions, grilled tricolor bell peppers, zucchini and yellow squash, grilled polenta cakes, orange cream cheese frosted brownies, a white balsamic custard tart with fresh fruit that went over very well indeed, and cream cheese with fresh chives and garlic from the garden stirred in. The most popular item of the evening, though, appeared to be the chard and onion quiche (I’d made two in the hopes that we’d have generous leftovers to enjoy this week – both were polished off in their entirety, so we will have to cook again tonight – too bad).

1 pie crust

large bunch chard, stems trimmed off and chopped separately, leaves roughly chopped

red onions, sliced – I used several small ones, but I’d say 1-2 large ones would work

grated Pecorino-Romano cheese (again guesstimating, I grated about a saucer full)

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup milk (I used 1%)

1 cup cream (I used table cream that was left over in the fridge)

 a few toasted pine nuts

salt, fresh ground pepper, dash nutmeg and dash cayenne pepper

Directions:

preheat oven to 400 degrees

Saute chard stems in olive oil until softened; set aside

Saute chard leaves in olive oil, seasoning occasionally with salt and pepper, until wilted and tender; set aside

put onion slices in pan with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and a generous dash of sugar; over medium heat let them cook until well softened and beginning to caramelize; try not to stir much to allow the caramelization to begin to take effect

line a pie plate with pie crust and fold over edges

fill bottom of pie with onions

layer chard stems and leaves on top of onions

sprinkle most of the grated cheese over the chard

mix together cream, milk, eggs and season with salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg

pour egg mixture into pie crust

top with remaining cheese and sprinkle with pine nuts

bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes

lower heat to 325 and bake for 35 more minutes, until golden brown and slightly crusty

let sit for a while before serving – at least 30 minutes, but quiche will taste fabulous hours later or the next day

I was paid the highest compliment on this quiche when a native French woman had some and pronounced it truly excellent; she commented on people’s tendency to overbake theirs until the eggs turned runny, and on the excellent flavor of the vegetables. You might as well just call it “garden quiche,” because it could just as well have had any other combination of greens and veggies in it; this is just what was ready for the taking yesterday. I can see by my fast-growing vines that we will soon have the opportunity to try cherry tomato and zucchini quiche, for example. Any good cheese and any tasty combination of vegggies, sausage or other kinds of meat would surely be just as wonderful. Let your imagination run on this one – as long as you have the basic base down, you can’t mess up a quiche!

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