I have a whole bunch of firsts here now that we live on a real working farm. A few months ago we used an egg incubator and hatched 15 eggs. I cannot tell you how excited we were that morning we woke up to find tiny cracks in all but one of the eggs.
Over the course of a few hours 14 baby chicks popped out of their eggs and made me love them (they forced me, they must have). I spoiled these tiny chicks in the worst way. I kept them in my laundry room for a few weeks before moving them out to the barn into what I call the teenage chicken house.
For those weeks I walked around the house holding a chick most of the time. They became so accustomed to being held they would escape from their brooder box and come looking for me. Penelope (the indoor pig) did not enjoy having baby chicks wandering around the house at all. She would run up and down the hall barking like a dog trying to scare them back into the laundry room!
For those of you who don’t know, chicks grow shockingly fast. On that final day in the house I walked into the laundry room to check on my babies to find them all on top of my washer screaming because they couldn’t get down. The amount of poop they left on my washer was just gross.
As it turns out Penelope the pig was right…those chicks had to get out of the house. Once I moved them out to the barn they really started growing fast! It was only a few more weeks before they were too big to keep in the teenage house. I finally let them out to roam with the older chickens but I really did worry about them. For the first few days I checked on them every 30 minutes or so.
Yes, of course I’m ridiculous. I can’t help myself.
At first the little chickens didn’t have the courage to even stick their heads out of the main hen house. As days passed they would dart out and run right back. It took about a week but they eventually did feel safe enough to roam the barnyard with the older chickens. They were so happy!
I try so hard to keep my animals safe and well looked after. I probably have the cleanest farm you will ever see. I literally clean my animal pens 3 times per day. My point being, I am out there….A LOT. Imagine my shock to look out the window and see a fluff of feathers about 5 minutes after I came back in from cleaning the pens. I knew what that meant but didn’t want to believe it. I ran outside barely getting my shoes on my feet!
I was too late. My heart sank. A neighbors dogs had come onto our property and killed most of our chickens. Everywhere I looked there were dead chickens. Most of the chickens I had hatched in the house were gone. We have 3 left from the 14 we hatched. From the 40 chickens we had total we only have 18 left.
Two of the hens were so badly injured we had to end their lives ourselves just to stop their suffering. Mrs. Homemakers son came and helped with that. Thank goodness. I cried for two days. I had failed to keep them safe, even with all of my watching and fussing over them. I had failed.
We called the police and have hopefully resolved the wild dog issue but for so many here on this farm the damage was done.
Mrs. Homeowner came up the very next day with 4 baby chicks and a whole bunch of eggs to hatch. I was so thankful. In about 2 weeks we should have brand new hatchlings. But….in a twist of things….life on a farm finds its own way…
One of our original chickens who has survived repeated dog attacks (same horrible dogs) became broody and has not moved from her nest in days. I collected a few more eggs and tucked them under her fluffy little butt. One of our larger hens really badly wants to lay her daily eggs in that nest. I have had to drag that big hen off of my tiny bantam broody mama several times.
Today she finally got her way, she kicked broody mama off of her nest and layed her egg there. Poor broody mama stood outside and cried. I didn’t know chickens could do that. I went back in to get that big mean hen off that nest only to find broody mama happily tucked back into her nest sitting on an extra egg. She’s setting on 6 eggs only 1 of which is actually hers.
I was so sad with all the loss here, but now we have so many reasons to be excited. We have eggs hatching inside the house and broody mama working hard to hatch a clutch of eggs all by herself. I can’t wait to see those chicks hatch. To see broody mama being an actual mama!
In a few weeks Grace the goat will be going off to be bred. There will be all sorts of new life here. I am just thrilled. Country life is for me. It’s hard to imagine being happier.
I can’t wait to share all this with you!
Let’s bake cake….while we wait for all these babies!!!!
Austrian Pound Cake ~ Adapted from Kaffeehaus by Rick Rodgers (2002)
1 1/4 cups of butter ( 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons) at cool room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar separated
5 large eggs separated
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
pinch of salt
1 cup mini dark chocolate chips
Place the rack in the center of the oven and pre-heat to 350 degrees.
Brush melted butter on the inside of the gugelhupf mold and coat with flour, tapping out all the excess. (My pan is non stick but I sprayed it with pam anyway) Use an 8″ pan. Not larger.
Beat the butter in a standing mixer at high-speed until smooth, about a minute.
Add 3/4 cup of the sugar and beat, scrape down the bowl as needed.
Beat until the butter is very light in color about 4 minutes.
Add the vanilla. One at a time add the egg yolks, beating well after each addition.
In another bowl beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
Gradually beat in the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar.
Beat the egg whites until the form stiff shiny peaks. Fold the egg white mixture into the butter mixture.
Sift the dry ingredients (flour, cornstarch and salt) together.
In two additions, fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture.
Fold in the chocolate chips being gentle, to avoid deflating the egg whites.
Spoon the batter into your prepared pan and smooth the top.
Bake until a toothpick comes out clean (about 50 minutes) In my convection oven the cake was done in 45 minutes.
Cool the cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert and un-mold onto the rack and cool completely.
I simply dusted the top with a bit of powdered sugar. You can drizzle with a glaze if you prefer but it’s just perfect like this. Not too sweet with a lovely texture. Make a cup of coffee, put your feet up and enjoy!