KW Homestead

Emma & Jason's pasture raised poultry, homesteading thoughts, and wild adventures.

Tag: eggs (page 1 of 3)

Incubating Pekin Eggs

Last year we didn’t have great luck with our incubation… Our incubators malfunctioned in various ways and we were only able to hatch out a few babies. This year we’re hoping for a different result. We’ve calibrated the incubators to be sure that their temperature is reading true (this was our biggest issue), and the nicer incubator we have is now in a spot where the cords won’t get bumped or jostled (this was disconnected the incubator and totally ruining our hatch).

We segregated the adult Pekins from the rest of the layer flock, thus collecting only Pekin eggs… Which are usually a bit larger.

The ideal temperature for incubating ducks is 99.5 degrees F and the ideal relative humidity is 55%. Duck eggs incubate for 28 days, a whole week longer than chicken eggs. Amazing, right?! We are all set to place the eggs in the incubator in the next few days, and we’ve made sure to rotate the eggs every day so that the eggs don’t start to settle or stick to one side of the shell. Wish us luck this year!

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We have 2 of the Little Giant incubators with trays that slowly swivel and rotate the eggs over time.

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We have one incubator from Incubator Warehouse that worked wonders two years ago before it became electrically sensitive. The egg turner turns the eggs partially every 6 hours (or less or more if you change the settings).

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How Do You Cook Duck Eggs?

Oftentimes we are asked how duck eggs should be cooked. One of the great things about duck eggs, is that they can be cooked in all the same ways as classic chicken eggs. If you’re interested in seeing a nutritional profile comparing duck eggs and chicken eggs, visit this page on our website. Here are a few more tips:

Fried Duck Eggs

We usually fry our duck eggs over-easy, but duck eggs shine as fried eggs no matter how you cook them. The only difference in cooking duck eggs is that cooking them on medium heat is more effective than high heat (as folks often do with chicken eggs). Since duck eggs have a higher fat content, cooking them on high increases the risk that you might burn the eggs before they’re fully cooked. Another great thing about duck eggs is that the yolks hold together very well when flipping them, so you rarely get a busted yolk. Perfect!

Fried Duck Eggs

Fried Duck Eggs

Scrambled Duck Eggs/Duck Egg Omelettes

Jason particularly enjoys our scrambled duck eggs and omelets. Duck eggs are great for cooking in this way, especially since they hold up better than chicken eggs and retain more texture and flavor when cooked omelette-style. Duck eggs are significantly more flavorful than chicken eggs, and creamier in texture. They’re extra delicious when you add veggies and other yummies to your omelette.

A Lambsquarter, Purple Potato, and Duck Eggs Omelette!

A Lambsquarter, Purple Potato, and Duck Eggs Omelette!

Boiled/Deviled Duck Eggs

Boiled duck eggs are one of Emma’s favorite ways to eat our eggs. We boil them a bit longer than chicken eggs, but we know everyone has their own recipe for boiling eggs. We usually boil them for about 10 minutes and then leave them in the warm water with the pot’s lid on for about 10 more minutes. We always check an egg afterwards just to make sure they’re cooked to our preferences.

In case you love deviled eggs (like Emma does), you’re going to love deviled duck eggs even more! The natural creaminess of the eggs makes all the difference when you devil them! This is Emma’s mom’s recipe for curried, devil duck eggs… The BEST deviled eggs around!

Baking with Duck Eggs

Duck eggs are often touted as being the very best for baking, and it’s totally true! Since we only eat duck eggs these days (no chicken eggs for us), we’ve baked with duck eggs for a long time. The creaminess of duck eggs makes baking with them simply amazing! When you’re baking, you can substitute duck eggs for chicken eggs 1:1.

Duck Egg Drop Soup

This is perhaps the easiest and most unique way to enjoy duck eggs. We make a delicious broth with our chicken bones and make sure that the strained and ready-to-drink broth is very lightly simmering. Then we crack a few duck eggs into a bowl and whisk them so that when we slowly pour them into the simmering broth, they are easily stirred into small pieces with a fast-moving whisk. The whisked duck eggs cook in a matter of minutes and then we like to add peas and other yummy spices! Try this simple and easy recipe for a delicous treat.

Duck Egg Drop Soup!

Duck Egg Drop Soup!

There is always a way to enjoy nutritious and yummy duck eggs!

 

 

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Cayuga Ducks for Sale: Your Own Backyard Duck Eggs!

We currently have a small flock of Cayuga ducks for sale. About 15 ducks (females) and 3 drakes are available for your family!

The Cayuga duck is a heritage breed that has been recognized by the American Poultry Association since 1874. The breed is an American breed, originating in New York state. They are prized for their plumage… They have black feathers that are iridescent green, purple, and blue! Such beautiful birds!

They are a duck unlike other ducks. As they age (even during their first year) and they loose feathers and grow new ones, their feathers grow back white (like an aging human!). Often by the end of their life span, they are all white, with black beaks and feet. Males are a little larger than females, and they have a curly tail feather that females do not have. Males are also much quieter (sometimes voiceless), and the females are thought to be less noisy than other common breeds of ducks like the Pekin.

Cayuga ducks

A Cayuga drake (back) and duck (front). Photo courtesy of www.purelypoultry.com

Their eggs are black or gray, and the pigment generally fades as the laying season continues. By the end of the laying season and as the years go on, your Cayuga duck might be laying eggs that only look off-white in color.

With all this information, you may be wondering…

Why Should I Raise a Few Back Yard Ducks for My Family?

  • Duck eggs are more nutritious than chicken eggs.
  • Ducks are easy to keep in a fenced backyard. They can only fly a few feet high, unlike chickens. They are also super easy to herd from place to place, like sheep. They often think as a unit and like to hang out with other duck buddies.
  • They are great for gardens because they do not scratch up your ground or yard. They simply mat the grasses down as they walk around.
  • They are great for pest control. They love slugs, bugs, and even larger critters!
  • Males are not aggressive, like roosters. You can have a small breeding flock of ducks without worrying about a rooster attacking you or making tons of noise!

So, now you’re interested in having some ducks of your own. Fantastic! But now you might be wondering…

What Do I Need to Care for My Ducks?

  • A space to close them in at night to keep predators away. Preferably not a house, since they much prefer to be under the open sky with a small rain cover. The rain doesn’t bother a duck, of course!
  • Duck food! We sell the Non-GMO Feed that we use for our laying flock. Ask us about it!
  • Lots of water! Ducks not only drink a lot of water, but they also love to play in it. We recommend a nipple water system for drinking (so they don’t get it dirty) and a baby pool for playing in!
  • A place to lay eggs. Some cozy straw laid out in their enclosure should suffice. Ducks tend to lay in the early hours of the morning so you should find your eggs when you go to let them out each day!

Who wouldn’t want some family ducks, am I right?

If you’re interested in purchasing Cayuga ducks from our homestead, email us (ourochreway@gmail.com) or give us a call (336.419.0724)! Cayuga heritage ducks are $30/bird.

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Black and Gray Duck Eggs: What EGGactly Do You Mean?

As you know, we raise a variety of duck breeds. Some of our ducks are raised for meat and others are raised for egg production. When you look out over our land, you see white ducks (our meat ducks, called Pekins), dark brown ducks (egg ducks, called Khaki Campbells), light brown and multi-colored ducks (egg ducks, called Golden Layers) and black and green iridescent ducks (a multi-purpose breed, called Cayugas).

I was drawn to the Cayugas immediately. Seeing their beautiful green feathers and learning more about their breed, intrigued me! The most amazing thing about them is their eggs! They lay dark colored eggs but the color of their eggs change over time.

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Black and gray Cayuga duck eggs. Photo courtesy of https://www.pinterest.com/cmwannabe/

Their first eggs are generally black but they can also be dark gray. The more they lay eggs, the lighter their eggs become. And the very interesting thing about the pigment of their eggs is that the pigment isn’t as permanent as colored chicken eggs (like the green egg laying Americauna birds). With chicken eggs, the pigment stays on the shell even after eggs are cleaned. The pigment on Cayuga eggs, on the other hand, can be partially wiped off during the egg washing process, leaving you with an egg that has gray smears on the outside, rather than an all-black egg.

The end result looks funny, but the inside of the egg looks just like any other duck egg and tastes delicious, just the same!

Now that our Cayuga ducks have started laying eggs more regularly, we are offering our Cayuga eggs for $8.50/dozen and $5.50/half-dozen. These eggs are a novelty to cook with, and kids love looking at the crazy shades of gray that appear in their dozen! Don’t forget to try dying these multicolored, gray eggs for Easter… Your end result might just look tie-dyed!

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A Turkey Nest for Every Turkey Butt…

Our first broody turkey is still sitting on her eggs, and while we wait to see if any of her eggs hatch, we’ve given two more hens their own nests. These hens were likely the ones who wanted to share Mama Hen’s nest because they are so committed to sitting on their own nests!

We decided to turn a small, gated area inside of the turkey house into a brooding area. Originally we built this area to use as the access point to utilizing the upstairs and for storage of grains and food. Up until the other day, we hadn’t actually ever used the little area for anything, so it sat empty and sad.

Until now! The space is small and cozy but still has enough room for 5 turkey nest boxes, their own food and water, and a little foot path.
The two hens that we’ve put in there were picked based on the same requirements that I mentioned in my last post about our broody hen. In each of the 5 nests we put some decoy eggs and marked them so we would know they weren’t freshly laid. Then we caught the hens and put them inside the space, letting them choose which nest they liked best. The first hen to pick chose very quickly, and within minutes settled down on a nest in a corner made even cozier with cardboard walls. The other hen took longer to settle down. At first she seemed concerned to be away from the rest of the flock, but once we left she chose a nest in the middle of a few others nest options. She stole all the other eggs that were not under the other hen, and gathered them together in her spot.

When we returned and saw her devotion/thievery, we traded all of the decoy eggs under each hen for fresher, probably-fertile eggs. Now they each sit on 15 eggs. The eggs in each nest are marked differently so we will know if one hen tries to steal from another.

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Can you see the hens? One sits so low to the ground that she is hard to see, and the other is only visible because her tail is sticking out from behind the cardboard corner. Go mamas, go!

And… Now we wait. We check on them everyday, making sure that they have enough food and water and that they continue to be committed to the cause. Sometimes when we look in their space, the hens are so low to the ground that you can’t even see them. They huddle over their future babies, already feeling protective!
It’s going to be an exciting year for baby turkeys!

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Our First Turkey Nest!

We started this winter off with 15 turkeys as our breeding stock, all Bourbon Reds. They are nicely set up in their large and spacious converted shed and they have nice-sized fence that opens up into the greater woods beyond, for free ranging.

We only have 13 turkeys now–two we lost during early winter to predators in the night. The turkeys who return to their house at night are super safe (almost as safe as if they came inside to sleep with us) but two hens decided to hide and sleep deep out in the woods. Those two hens were eaten by raccoons (we think). We found them the next morning by following the feather trail. Not a pretty picture.

We are left with 3 toms and 10 hens. And we are expecting babies any day now!

They started laying eggs a few months ago, and we get about 7 eggs a day. We’ve been collecting some and saving them for incubating, which we should begin in a few days. But… For the past few weeks, one of the committed hens has been incubating some herself! She is our broody star!

Turkey

Over a month ago, we noticed that she wouldn’t leave the house and she was moving around and sitting on any laid eggs she could find. After finally settling down to one corner–only leaving each day to eat and drinks–we decided to test her resolve. We went over to her and collected her eggs and she didn’t run away. We reached under her to grab the eggs and she didn’t budge. We had to pick her up and scoot her over to get the eggs!

This meant she was ready to sit on her own clutch of eggs. It seems that turkeys don’t fight you over eggs like broody chickens do, but they display the other symptoms of broodiness:

  • Commitment to one location
  • Commitment to one group of eggs
  • Turning the eggs periodically
  • Protection of eggs
    • It didn’t seem to be in her nature to worry about us, but another hen literally rolled some of her eggs to another nest, trying to steal them, and she went over and stole them back!

Eggs

Currently she is sitting on 16 eggs. There were two more but they busted over the course of incubation–this is not abnormal. There are a lot of variables at play that must be in alignment in order for the eggs to hatch:

  • They have to be fertilized (let’s hope the toms are doing their job).
  • They have to have been turned properly.
  • They must have stayed warm enough.
    • While their mom’s body heat is usually enough, we have had some pretty cold nights!
  • They have to be viable.
    • Sometimes eggs won’t hatch or poults won’t live even though the other variables are in alignment. You never really know. Life is tricky!

If all goes well, a few other hens will soon prove to be broody enough to start sitting on eggs! Some of the other hens are preparing–often when we look in the house there are 3 other hens piled in next to Mama Hen, trying to help!

With luck, all of the Free-Range, Heritage Turkeys we offer this year will be born and raised of our breeding stock!

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Free Ranging Chickens (Going Everywhere From the Pig Pen to the Woods!)

We recently have set our chickens free!

And I mean REALLY free!

They are free to go anywhere on our land that they want to, except the garden (which is why we’ve electric fenced the garden out) and the carport (just because it gets on my nerves)!

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Electric fencing around the garden.

The reason we made this choice is because we were tired of having to move their house and pen every week or so, and our flock is growing and we don’t want to expand the size of their space.

So, we decided to set them free and move their house way across our front yard to the edge of the woods.

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You can see the chicken house in the distance behind the duck fence!

They still get locked up in their house at night, since ground predators are a threat, but so far the aerial predators have not taken any standard sized chickens. A bantam has gone missing, but we expected that we might loose more chickens when we gave them free range of the whole property. We think it’s a risk that chickens would like to take, considering how much happier they are! We’ve kept 3 of our hybrid roosters, in addition to Rex, so that they can help protect the flock in the case of an attack. We’ve started calling these roosters the Musketeers, since they often stick together.

We are really happy with our choice to allow them to be completely free range, except for one thing… The eggs! Only a few of them are still laying their eggs in their house, and we have had a really hard time finding their other rouge nests. Even when we find one and replace some of the eggs with golf balls (so they don’t know that we found it) they still abandon that location and look for new places to lay eggs.

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An old nest spot was in the monkey grass under this oak tree.

At this point, we’re only finding about 5 eggs a day, and even though this isn’t enough to sell any, we still feel like it’s all worth it. Because they are free ranging we feed them so much less food, so they are almost free to keep around!

The funniest thing about having them free ranging everywhere, is seeing the places they choose to go. One hen always sleeps in a tree in the backyard, and many of the younger hens like to hang out with the pigs all day! The Musketeers high-tail it over to the backyard in the morning to get some of the leftover turkey food that the cleanup ducks missed! I just have to watch out for Rex when I’m outside, since he’s started attacking me again lately!

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Two of the Musketeers are hanging out in the backyard with the turkeys!

Three cheers for free chickens!

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Angry, Broody, Bantam Hens: Look Out!

‘Tis the season for hens to start getting broody, and since we have noticed that our bantam hens are naturally more interested in sitting on eggs, we weren’t surprised to find one of our favorites, Cleo, sitting on eggs. She is the most dedicated of the “sitters” and never gives up! The other hens often wait until you reach for them ,and then explode out of the nest box with murder on their mind! Not Cleo, who sits patiently and fusses at you, pecking at your hand.

The video below shows one such event… and is a great resource to help you tell if you have a broody hen. It is also important to keep in mind that being broody doesn’t necessarily mean they will be committed for the whole 21 days. To be sure, the hen should refuse to give up, even when you reach under her to snatch eggs. If you can also feel that she has no feathers on her chest, and it feels like bare skin down there, then she’s probably in it for the long haul. Hens pull out their own chest feathers to ensure that there is skin-to-egg contact during the incubation period.

Check out the video below to see an example of 2 broody hens… One feeling broody but not yet committed, and one ready for the real deal!

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Goose Nest!

We found a secret goose nest the other day, filled with 10 eggs!

The eggs were completely covered with leaves and partially buried in the pebbles and leaf mulch surrounding our front porch!

goose nest

Goose nest right by the front porch!

The only reason that I noticed the nest at all was because China was laying in the leaves, totally flattened out as if she were dead. Since she’s usually very wiggly and noisy, I was surprised about how quiet and still she was! She didn’t move when I came close to her, and didn’t even blink. I watched to see if she was breathing, and I didn’t see any movement at all. I suppose she was holding her breath, but I was worried she was hurt (or worse)!

I even poked her with a stick and she refused to move.

I walked away to see if she would act normally once I left, and later I could see that her head was up and looking around. An hour later when I was back inside, I looked out the window to see her walking around the yard as usual.

That’s when I realized that she had to have been sitting on a nest! Geese will sometimes try to “lay low” by being still and quiet if they think danger approaches them and their nest.

When I checked out the nest I counted 8 eggs, and a day later there was 10!

Unfortunately the geese have not been sitting on them consistently (they trade off) so we don’t think they are viable eggs. But, we’ll see! Such an exciting springtime surprise, anyway!

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First goose eggs of the year!

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The Eggs are Back in Town!

This winter our flock of barred rock and buff orpington chickens experienced a significant drop-off in egg production. 1 egg days were common and 3 eggs in 1 day was a cause for celebration. This was due in part to the changing of the seasons, with the short and cold winter days translating to less egg production. This is pretty standard for chickens, but did not account entirely for our huge drop in eggs.

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This winter, our chickens went through their first molt. Molting is when chickens lose all of their feathers and then regrow new ones. This takes a great deal of energy, and during the molt, chickens gradually stop laying only to pick back up after they have grown back all of their feathers. Chickens will go through their first molt at about 18 months, and then once every year after that.

So, for the past couple of months we were pretty low on eggs, and even had to stop selling to our loyal customers. However, the eggs are back in town! The chickens have come home to lay eggs again! We started getting 2-3 eggs everyday about 2 weeks ago, and now we are consistently getting 5 or 6 standards and an equal number of bantams everyday.

To me it feels like another sign that spring is actually coming and that soon the grass will be green, the clover will be blooming, and the trees will leaf out.

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