Friday, March 28, 2014

Coronation Sussex - Is This The Breed For You

This will be my final breed to cover here on the blog, I'm out of breeds until we decide to expand and bring in more.  I would need new barn to do that and really hate the thought of building again.
So let's talk out the majestic Coronation Sussex. This breed was imported by Greenfire Farms about 4 years ago, I watched on the internet as the first pair of Coronations to be offered to the public here in the US sold for $5000.00 a pair. I was totally amazed!  I kept this bird in the back of my mind and watch and waited as the prices began to drop to a point where a small farm like ours could consider obtaining this breed.  About 3 years ago I purchased my first pair of Coronations and you would have thought the Royal couple themselves had arrived to the farm.  When I opened that box and seen those two beautiful fluff balls that resembled cotton candy, I fell in love!  We kept those two birds locked away so tight they hardly seen the light of day.  My mother convinced me that they needed some day light.   She said, "Angie they look a little pale they need some sun light" I said "mom, you don't understand this is his Majesty and her Highness, I can't just let them run around the yard." I finally did allow them to see day light, I just didn't take my eyes off of them.
It wasn't the cost of the bird that amazed me so much as it was the bird it's self.   The size, color and disposition. The Coronation Sussex are a gentle giant.  This breed is so large that they will not roost up high like most poultry. They are happy to sleep in the coop on a pile of straw.   This big bird can be kept confined with a fence no taller than 18 inches, they are so large and lazy they would never consider jumping up high to roost or jumping over a small fence.  They do need a large nesting box on the ground also.

The Coronation Sussex originated in England where it was created for King George. Although the Coronation are rare in the US, it is even more rare in England where it is believed that only 50 birds of this variety remain.
The Coronation is our top bird recommended for butchering, it was created for the King's table so what more proof do you need.  They are fast growing and require plenty of room. The chick pictured to your right is about 10 weeks old and just beginning to get the lavender coloring on the neck.  Even at this age they are a good sized bird.

The Coronation Sussex are very sweet bird and make great pet's and do well with kids.  They are good layers of a cream colored egg, we have several hens that lay a double yolk.  They have pearl white feathering with a lavender mane and lavender tail.  The hens and roosters are both very docile, friendly and curious birds.   The hens will become broody and want to raise chicks.  I don't recommend this breed for people who live in really hot climates.  We do have very hot summers here in IL and the Coronation require a fan during those times. They will just stand in front of the fan all day with wings spread.  You need to be willing to provide a fan.  They seem to be fare weather fowl.  They will only come outside on perfect days, not to hot, not to cold, not to windy.  They do a lot of looking out the barn door wondering if it's nice enough to go outside today.  Although the Royal family can do as they please.
This must have been a perfect evening, not to sunny, not to cloudy, not to windy, as the royal family decides to take an evening stroll.
I really enjoy this breed, the hens have a playful disposition that just make me laugh to watch them.  So funny to see these fat girls run with wings out spread as they attempt to catch grasshoppers.
Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Light Sussex - Is This The Breed For You

The Light Sussex can be traced back thousands of years and believed to have been brought to England by Roman invaders.  In 2007 Greenfire farms imported this beautiful bird to the US along with the Coronation Sussex and caused quit a stir in the poultry industry and their popularity continues to grow with each passing year as more and more people become aware of this rare bird.
The Light Sussex is a dual purpose breed, meaning that it can be used for eggs and also a great meat bird.  It didn't take us long here on the farm to find out which birds are the best for dual purpose. I know that thought can be offensive to some people who only keep chickens as pets but the truth is, we live on a farm and we grow a lot of chicken one of which is half roosters, most customers don't want a rooster, so what do you do with all of those unwanted roosters?  Well, they go to good use.  All of our poultry are raised humanly and those that are used for food are killed humanly.

The Light Sussex is a very striking white bird with black tail, lacy black collar and pearlescent legs. They are good layers of a pinkish cream egg.  They will go broody, we have had several Sussex hens raise chicks here on the farm and they make great mothers.  Nothing better than watching a hen with chicks.

They are an extremely friendly, curious, docile bird. Even from the first week of life this is the breed that will run up to your hand in the brooder box while the other breeds are running away.   I'm sure these are the attributes that have kept this breed around for hundreds of years. Who doesn't want a bird that is both a good utility bird and friendly. If you happen to need a quite hen this is the bird for you, the rooster on the other hand is not, if you need a good alarm clock he's the guy for you.  The roosters are also very friendly and docile, one of my favorites on the farm to photograph, they will get up close, look right into the camera and pose for me with absolutely no fear.  If your looking for the perfect chicken pet for the back yard, that will also be good with kids look no farther than the Light Sussex.

Love those fat bottom girls!!
Have a great weekend.

Friday, March 14, 2014

French Black Copper Marans or French Blue Copper Marans - Is This the Breed For You

One of the most sought after breeds in the US at this time is the French Black Copper Marans. Popular for the dark chocolate egg they produce.  Black Copper Marans are said to lay the darkest egg of all the Marans breeds.  The only Marans I have are the Black and the Blues so I can't judge them against any other Marans.  I will say the Blue and Black Marans both lay a wonderful dark egg.  The French standard for this bird calls for feathered shanks, the English standard calls for a clean leg.  We breed to the French standard.
Marans egg color is a very misunderstood topic. Egg color can vary  by individual bird, time of the year, diet, and free range versus confinement.  Many things can effect egg color. Something as simple as all hens wanting to use the same laying box can effect the color of the egg.  If the hen is being rushed to lay an egg the color of the egg will be lighter.  The color on the Marans egg is painted on the egg the last 10 centimeters as it passes slowly down the oviduct.  If the hen is rushed at this point in laying, the egg will not have the nice dark paint. This paint dries quickly and becomes part of the shell.  It can be smeared or rubbed off before it dries.   Once the paint is applied to the egg and is dry, it has a very slick non porous surface and believed to keep harmful bacteria out of the egg.
Keep in mind it is unrealistic to expect every Marans in your flock to lay a dark egg at all times. There is an official Marans egg color chart to judge the egg color you are getting from your hens. Our hens lay anywhere from 4 to 7 on the chart.  You will rarely ever find a Marans that can lay a 9 on the chart. They are good layers and will produce approximately 150 eggs per year.  Our Marans are good winter time layers and non broody.  They are cold hardy and also do well in the heat.
The standards for this breed are strict, we've bred The French Black Copper Marans and Blue Coppers for about 7 years now and it's not a easy bird to achieve those high standards with.   Many people think they can order 16 chicks and then they will have a breeding flock, it doesn't work that way.  It takes breeding hundreds of birds to get those that fit the standard and are worthy of breeding.  Which is the one basic reason I hate to see the big hatcheries start offering this breed. They breed for mass production and not quality.
Black Copper Marans and Blue Copper Marans can be bred together and you will still have a pure Marans. Black and Blue Marans are the same bird.  The Blue Copper Marans has all the same traits as the Black but are more rare and less recognized.  In my own opinion I really love the Blue Copper they are so very pretty. Both of these breeds are very friendly, curious, yet cunning birds.  I think out of every breed on our farm this birds learns the quickest.  Each day we try to let one breed out in the yard to free range and only if someone is able to keep an eye on them.  Well it didn't take the French Black Copper long to catch on that this is a special day.  When I walk into the barn to gather eggs it's as though they work as a team to distract me as 2 or 3 of them run between my legs and off they go to free range.  They know that if a couple of them can manage to push by me then I will let them all out.  They never try this with the farmer only with the farmers wife...
Like I mentioned earlier the Blue Copper Marans is a very overlooked breed.  There has been so much hype about the Black Copper that not to many people consider the Blue, what a mistake that is.  I have found I much prefer the Blues, they seem just a bit more friendly, not sure why and so much more beautiful! 
If you happen to order some French Black Copper Marans this year from us, have us put in a few Blues also I promise you wont' be sorry.
Here on the farm we breed our Blues and Blacks in separate pens and don't run them together.  When we breed Blue Marans to Blue Marans in each hatch we get a few birds that are called Splash Marans, which is another over looked beautiful bird.  The Blue gene is a dilution gene in that it dilutes the blue out to a white. So we hatch a couple of splash chicks in each hatch.  A splash bird is white in color and has blue and copper splash markings.  They also lay a dark chocolate egg.  Another interesting breeding tip is that if you breed a splash Marans rooster to Black copper Marans hens you will hatch 100% blue chicks.

One of the large hatcheries just recently started offering the French Black Copper Marans, like I've mentioned before about other rare breeds they get their hands on, I really HATE to see this happen.  The Black Copper Marans is a bit of a tricky bird to breed and strive to keep the standards correct on them. This is not a breed that can be mass produced and end up with good standards.  Once again buyers beware!! Find a reputable breeder not someone who is into mass production.
Here's a funny little story.  A man called the farm one day and said "I'm looking for the bird that lays the egg James Bond orders in the movie."  I said "excuse me, I'm not sure I understand what your asking for."  He said "you know in the movie he orders an egg."  I said "a Marans egg?"  He said "yeah I need some of those birds."  Apparently even the fictional character James Bond knows the most incredible edible egg.
Have a great weekend!!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Grilled Flat Bread Recipe

Hey guys this is Melissa and I am going to share a delicious flat bread recipe with you all today.  We had great weather today so I decided to grill our dinner.  The more bread that I make to go with our meals the more that I crave it.  Since I was grilling, and did not want to turn on the oven, I decided to try my hand at grilling flat bread.  It turned out great and went perfectly with our meal of grilled chicken, potatoes and baked beans.  This recipe will be perfect when it is 100 degrees this summer and I do not want to touch the oven.

The recipe is simple:

3 cups flour
3/4 cup of warm water
2 tsp of active yeast
1 1/4 tsp of salt
2 tsp sugar
2 TBS oil

Place the warm water in the mixing bowl and then add to it your yeast and sugar.  Let that set for about 5 min while the yeast dissolves, and starts to bloom (it will look a little bubbly).  Next add the flour, and the rest of the ingredients.  Mix this with a dough hook until a smooth and somewhat stiff dough forms.  I let it knead the dough for about 5 min.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl, then cover it.  Let it sit and rise for about 30 min and then divide it into 4 equal parts.  Roll out each smaller piece of dough like seen in the picture below.  I rolled the dough out until it was about a 1/2 inch thick. 

Do not get caught up in trying to make the dough perfectly round,
this is hand rolled dough and should look that way.  At least that is what I am telling myself!

Allow your grill to get to about 400 degrees before you put the flat bread on. As you can see in my picture rather than place the flat bread dough directly on the grill grates, I put an iron skillet on the grill and cooked my flat bread in it.  Ideally, I would have liked to cook the flat bread on the grill grates, but my grill is needing some new ones.  I was afraid it might stick to the rough spots.  The iron skillet worked great, but was one more pan that I had to clean after dinner.  Grill the flat bread for 4 min on each side or until it looks golden brown.  

The flat bread was delicious dipped in a spice and oil mixture that I made.  In the near future I plan to use this same recipe to make some grilled pizzas.  This is definitely one of those recipes that can be used in many different creative ways.  Try it out and then comment to let us know how your flat bread turned out!


Friday, March 7, 2014

The Olive Egger - Could This Be The Breed For You

About 4 years ago we decided to do an experiment here on the farm, I had heard of crossing chicken breeds to get different egg colors and found it fascinating.  So we decided to cross the Ameraucana with the Black Copper Marans.   One breed being a blue egg layer and the other a dark chocolate egg layer.   Finding out what your end product will be is a very long process since it takes a chicken any where from 6 to 8 months or longer to produce that first egg.  So the waiting began....
I had seen green eggs before and thought them to be beautiful but wasn't sure what to expect of the cross we had produced.  You can obtain different shades of green depending on the breed you are crossing.  A lighter brown egg layer will give you a lighter shade of green, a darker brown egg layer gives you a darker green.
I must say when we finally got our first egg from our cross breed it was magnificent!  It was one of the most impressive eggs I've ever seen.  It wasn't a pale washed out green, it was a deep Olive green.

I shared with you  a couple of weeks ago about the Ameraucana and how the blue egg layer colors the egg all the way through, the inside of the shell is the same as the outside.  Well the Olive Egger colors the egg blue and a puts a brown over lay on the outside, and brown over blue makes a beautiful green. When you crack the egg open the inside is blue.  It's really pretty amazing.  It's difficult to see in this photo with the lighting.

The Olive Egger  can take on the characteristics of the Ameraucana or the Black Copper Marans or both.  Some will have feathered legs like the Marans some do not.  Some will have coppering on the heads.  Others have the puffy cheeks like the Ameraucana.   We have blue or black Olive Eggers. This black hen has slight coppering on her head.
The Olive Egger is a very good layer of a large egg. I think they are better egg producers than the Black Copper Marans.  This most likely is simply because it is a cross breed.   They can be slow to mature like the Ameraucanas.
 I think the Blue Olive Eggers are just beautiful, she has some very nice puffy cheeks.  The Olives here on the farm are a skittish more stand offish bird than a lot of the other breeds.  I said this a couple weeks ago about the Ameraucanas also.  Although once again I don't hear this from my customers.  They always tell me they are the sweetest bird they have and absolutely love them.

If your looking for amazing egg color, look no farther than the Olive Egger. 
Now you can have green eggs and ham.
Have a Great Day!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Oh I had a little chicken who wouldn't lay an egg!

Good morning friends!  I am having a hard time believing that it is March 5 and we have more snow on the ground in Southern Illinois.  I am pretty certain that my hens are having a hard time believing it too.  The girls had just started to lay again and then the appearance of more scary white stuff caused them to take another little break.

A few months ago my mother-in-law taught my girls this song to sing to their hens.  The song offers some advice on how to get your girls to lay their eggs.  It should provide you with at least a giggle!

Ella is a little hard to understand so here are the words to the song.. so that you can sing it to your hens of course!:

Oh I had a little chicken who wouldn't lay an egg
So I poured hot water up and down her leg
Oh that little chicken hollered and that little chicken screamed
And that little chicken laid a hard boiled egg!

A boo-diddy-dada- Some Chick!

Sing this to your hens and then be sure and let us know what kind of results you get!

Have a great day!