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Posts Tagged ‘coop’

The girls (Popcorn, Tipsy and Sesame) checking me out on a sunnier day.

Three of the girls (Popcorn, Tipsy and Sesame) checking me out on a sunnier day.

I’m probably too sentimental to have chickens as pets. These are barnyard birds after all (or at best backyard), apparently with little need for extraneous things like light, warmth or comfort. Except of course that they appear to crave those things, if you really watch them. Which is why I turned the light back on.

I was so proud of myself, and my little girls (who just turned 8 weeks old), when I finally stopped plugging in their lightbulb this week and let them find their way into their house and to safety on their own in the dark. They’d been getting themselves in there very predictably the last week or two, and all I had to do was go out and shut the door; but whenever I then also tried to unplug their light for the night, they’d scream bloody murder, so I always just plugged it back in and figured I’d wean them off it slowly. I gradually went from a 100-watt bulb, to 40 watts, to 25. Still, I plugged it in around dusk every day because I thought they needed it to “lure” them into their house (which initially they did, actually; one night, when I wasn’t home before dark to plug it in, I found them in a pile outside by the gate – but that was in their first 3 nights outside and they clearly now know where home is). And after that, of course, I couldn’t unplug it again without setting off a terrible screeching. Which is probably not the way to endear your odd choice of pets to the neighbors, if I had to guess.

Anyway, last weekend I was discussing this dilemma with a more experienced chicken keeper and she just looked at me and said “Why are you unplugging the light? Just don’t turn it on in the first place!” Well duh. I guess I just didn’t spend much time thinking THAT one through; it seems pretty obvious now. So that’s what I did. They were on their own at dusk, no guiding light to lead them to their doorway. Lo and behold, they quickly (in 3 nights) graduated from being piled just inside the coop door – with their heads hanging out over the threshhold in the dark – to getting all the way inside and sleeping in the corners, to actually roosting on their pole tonight. Except tonight I turned the light on.

It was raining cats and dogs. We just got through breaking all previous records (set way back in 1906 or something like that) for longest heat wave – 23 days straight in the upper 90s and 100s. And today the skies opened up and it has been raining, then pouring biblically, then raining. Everything is soaked. The new ‘rain garden’ that Tomas and I built in front of the house next to a drain pipe is a giant lake. The vegetables are drooping drastically and some plants are just flat. During a drippy interlude, the chickens were out and about, and I was visiting them just to see how they handle the rain. Their whole coop, the plants, the air, the ground, all of it was just so damp and chilly that I felt terrible for them. Who wants to go to bed in the damp and cold and dark? Not me! I HATE being cold. Damp is even worse, and both is just awful. I thought it would be nice to plug in their lamp for a bit to sort of warm up their house and maybe even create a little area of drier, comfier indoor air to hang out in, instead of a dank, cold, poo-smelling shack. So I did, and went inside to do other things.

Well, before I knew it it was dark… so now they are roosting comfortably in their LIT house again, since of course I want to bet that pulling the plug on them at this hour would cause a ruckus. Maybe I can just alternate for another couple weeks – give them light and warmth on wet, chillier nights and leave them to their own devices on the more typical summer evenings. They are only 8 weeks old, after all. Babies, really.

Goodness only knows what I will be like when it really gets cold and dark. And snowy. And cold…

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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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