Category Archives: Urban Homesteading

Meet Fuzzy Feather: Our New Incubator-Hatched Baby Bird

We have a new addition to our backyard chickens! “Fuzzy Feather” is here! (You can see more adorable baby birds here and here.) We have seen the birth of lots of chicks, but Fuzzy Feather is our first incubator hatched chick.

incubator hatched baby bird

Out of our dozens of hens, there is usually at least one broody hen able to sit on fertilized eggs when we come by them. “Broody” means the chicken is wanting to sit on eggs to keep them warm and hatch. Before we got our hens in 2010, I though all hens did that, but apparently, it is bred out of most egg-layers. When they are broody, hens lay few eggs, because they are focused on hatching the ones already laid. Heritage breeds, such as Auracana (who lay pretty blue eggs), are more likely to get broody, and most of our broody girls have been Auracanas or Easter Eggers.

incubator hatched baby bird

If you live in an area, like San Diego, that allows for backyard hens but forbids roosters, you can still hatch chickens! Sometimes a friend gives us fertile eggs. This time City Farmers gave us a few for free. (Smart — for the cost of a few eggs, they gain customers to buy chicken feed!) I have even heard of people hatching the “fertile eggs” from Trader Joes and other grocery stores. I plead the Fifth Amendment as to whether there has ever been an illegal rooster on our property.

Our First Time Using an Incubator to Hatch chicks

incubator hatched baby birdAs I mentioned, we have hatched chicks many times, but have always had a momma, or adopted momma, hen do the work. This time none of the girls were in the mood, so when Papa Bird brought home some fertile eggs, we ordered an incubator.

Can you see Fuzzy Feather’s cute face though the condensation? I put a video of the freshly hatched chick on my Instagram story, but it’s disappeared. (I love me some IG, but I still don’t really like stories.)

Chicken Incubators and Supplies

Disclaimer: I’m an Amazon affiliate, meaning some purchases made through links on this site may result in us being paid a small percentage. That being said, here are some supplies we like and you might find useful:

Since hatching was just for fun, we ordered a relatively cheap incubator. You do get what you pay for. Out of three fertile eggs, only one has hatched. Papa Bird explains that temperature is relatively easy to regulate, but humidity is harder. If you get more serious about hatching, or want to have better results, check out this incubator. We haven’t used it, but it has better reviews. You can also add a separate humidity monitor, which is what Papa Bird did.

Have You Ever Hatched Chicks in an Incubator?

What was your experience? Did you get a Fluffy Feather Butter Butt Cotton Tail of your own?

incubator hatched baby bird

Green Eggs and Ham

“That’s not how my school made green eggs and ham,” Little Bird was quick to point out. No, probably not.

We had ham leftover from Thanksgiving. And the basil she planted from seeds from a Mother’s Day fundraiser at Green Acre is still going strong, so we made a hand-chopped pesto and served it over fresh eggs and the leftover ham.

green eggs and ham

Little Bird was happy to cut some of her basil.

cutting the basil she planted from seed

Our youngest hens have just started laying.

backyard eggs

I wanted to try hand-chopping the pesto. I saw someone in Italy do that once on a show several years ago. I used a curved knife and chopped the dry ingredients first and then stirred in the olive oil. The ingredients were the same as from my pesto recipe here.

hand-chopped pesto

To make a more complete dinner, we ended up eating all of this over spaghetti. And we added avocado, because, well, we eat avocado at almost every meal!

New Baby Birds: Guinea Keets!

Our backyard birds are expanding with Guinea fowl! In addition to our eleven chicken hens and chicks, we now have three brand new Guinea babies (called “keets.”) They arrived in the mail, only a day or two old. As you can see, they are about as cute as can be.

 guinea keet

What are Guinea fowl?

Purely Poultry, from whom we purchased the keets, explain: “Guinea fowl are native to Africa. They are known as pest controllers and wonderful backyard guard birds due to their loud noises and wild behavior. They make a great addition to the backyard flock if you are looking for a tick and bug eater and a clown like character to enjoy.”

Why Have Guinea Fowl?

Papa Bird was most interested in having them protect our “Little Birds” (human) and birds from rattlesnakes. Here are 5 more reasons from Guinea Fowl: Your Overlooked Backyard Buddy – Modern Farmer:

5 Reasons To Have Guineas

1. Watchdogs. Guineas do a great job at guarding your property, sounding a halting alarm when something unfamiliar approaches. Hawk, hawk, hawk!

2. Nutritious eggs and meat. Unlike chickens, who produce eggs throughout the year, guineas typically lay large a couple of times a year. Don’t let their tiny size get you down (two guinea eggs equals one large chicken egg) The flavor is more delicate. Guinea meat is darker and richer than chicken, with less fat and lower cholesterol, and considered a delicacy in Europe and some trendy American restaurants.

3. Sustainable Living. These low-maintenance birds helpfully protect other farm animals and are free from poultry diseases that are troublesome to most farmers. Their nutrient-rich manure can be composted and used in the garden.

4. Pest Control. Working as a team, guineas will eat any pest they can get their beaks on, but unlike chickens, do so without tearing and scratching up your garden. Since they free-range, they will hunt ticks (or beetles, fleas, grasshoppers, crickets, snakes) all over your property. They are a more natural option to control the insect pest population than pesticides.

5. Entertainment. What great personalities! What beautiful plumage! What strange looking feathers! You can see them in colors ranging from pearl grey to lavender, royal purple and blue. They’re very curious and fun to watch.

guinea keetHow Do Guineas Help Control Pests?

The University of Maine has a nice article regarding how to use Guinea fowl for insect control.

How Can I Learn More about How to Care for Guinea Fowl?

Check out the Guinea Fowl International Association‘s website.

Where can you get Guinea Keets like ours?

Check out Guinea Keets for Sale. We have three Royal Purple Guinea Keets, purchased from here. We are not affiliates, or profiting in any way by recommending them. Just passing on the info of where we found them!

Want to See What They Look Like When They Grow Up?

Subscribe to Baby Birds Farm and I’ll be sure to update on their growth!

Apple Wood Smoked Salmon from the Master (and Father’s Day Gift Ideas)

If you have seen the post on home smoked salmon, then you might remember my Uncle Bobby was the inspiration and originator of smoking salmon on the PK Arkansas Cooker (aka the “Bobby Grill.”) He recently sent me a picture of three pounds of apple wood smoked salmon.

Apple Wood Smoked Salmon

Yum, right?

He shared, “Twenty minutes soaking in rum, four hours curing in salt & brown sugar, thirty minutes cooking in apple wood smoke, three weeks eating.” Bobby added his latest tweak for perfecting home smoked salmon: “I buy these large three-pound fillets which have fat parts and skinny parts. I separate them with a knife (that’s why there are four pieces) and the skinny parts smoke for twenty minutes and the fat part for thirty.” Papa Bird prefers the skinny parts. Although a large piece of salmon was pretty in this post, the skinny fillets get more of the rub and smoke flavor. But, could be personal preference…

You can read the full details of how to smoke salmon here. And with Father’s Day around the corner (June 21st), is there a grill master in your life that might enjoy a classic 50’s style grill/smoker that does both indirect and direct cooking? (Note, I am not affiliated in any way with the grill maker. I do receive small percentages of purchases on Amazon, but since they have literally millions of products, be confident that I only mention ones I truly recommend.)


7 Ways to Celebrate Strawberry Season

To celebrate Papa Bird’s birthday this year, the four of us went strawberry picking again. Strawberries are in peak season and are super sweet. We picked a flat of strawberries and enjoyed them every which way in the week that followed. Here is a round-up of ways to celebrate strawberry season.

organic u-pick strawberries from suisie's farm

First: Go strawberry picking!

strawberry picking at suzie's farm

Susie’s Farm is still our favorite place to pick. The berries are organic and a super sweet variety (Albion.) The above flat was $36. We also met up with some of Little Bird’s friends since she was a little baby. My mama tribe has such a close place in my heart. We are all so busy these days, so it was nice to reconnect with a few.

My heart just about melted seeing Little Bird running with two of her friends… and “Littler Bird” chasing after them.

2. Strawberry, Dark Chocolate and Brie Grilled Cheese

strawberry, dark chocolate and brie grilled cheese

Melt a little butter on a griddle or pan, add bread layered with thick slices of brie cheese, sliced strawberries, and shaved dark chocolate. Top with another piece of bread, flip and enjoy the messy, gooey, tangy warmth.

 

3. Strawberry Balsamic Pizza

strawberry balsamic pizza

The farm stand at Suzie’s had par-baked flatbread from Sadie Rose, which made me think semi-homemade pizza would be an easy dinner. I didn’t yet have the strawberry jam made, but inspired by the recipe in the link, I cooked down a cup of ripe strawberries, balsamic vinegar and sriracha for the sauce. Yum!

4. Top and fill a cake with strawberries

chocolate cake with strawberries

Little Bird loves baking as much as me. For Papa Bird’s birthday we made a chocolate sponge cake with chocolate orange buttercream frosting. Can you guess how old he turned? The filling was strawberry jam and whipped cream. Other cakes just begging for strawberries: Baby Bird’s Healthy Smash Cake, and Tres Leches.

5. Strawberry Shortcake and (healthier) Chia Strawberry Shortcake Parfait

Chia Strawberry Shortcake Parfait with Very Vanilla Pudding

We took slightly sugared, sliced strawberries up to my sister’s along with shortcakes and cream. It was easy to assemble traditional strawberry shortcakes and a sweet way to celebrate my niece’s birthday.

For a slightly healthier take, try this parfait version which features vanilla chia pudding. If you are mindful of the sugar you add, it easily doubles as both breakfast and dessert.

 

 

6. low-sugar strawberry jam

canning strawberry jamSugar helps fruit break down and get softer, but is not necessary for preserving. If you cook the fruit long enough, it will still get soft. You can also use honey, or another sweetener. Pectin isn’t needed, either! Using super sweet berries, all you need is a little lemon juice. This year I overcame my fear of my steam canner, and canned for the first time.

7. green strawberry pickles

green strawberry picklesIf you love the idea of adding home-fermented foods to your diet, green strawberry pickles are an easy way to start. My kids like them, too.

Here’s a bonus way to try them: Strawberry Salmon Salad with Green Strawberry Pickles.

Canning the pickles and jam is a classic way to extend strawberry season. Having produce preserved is a great way to enjoy produce at its peak all year round.

How do you like to enjoy strawberry season?

Please share your ideas and link your recipes in the comments!