Our poor POP…..Popped!

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On Sunday afternoon my little farmer came crying down the hill from our coop. “Pop is dead,” she sobbed. What? How can that be? We walked over to investigate and there she was, our plump Buff Orpington lying on the ground stiff as a board. Just that morning, she had been picking the corn out of her feed to her hearts content. There was no sign of a struggle whatsoever. No feathers scattered on the ground and no holes in the fencing made me wonder if she were ill. Was there a disease in my flock? After finding a Vet that would perform a necropsy on a chicken (Yup, they do that) I packed her into black trash bags and was instructed to keep her cool until Monday morning when I could get her to the Vet’s office. Into a brown Maggiano’s bag she went before being placed in the back up refrigerator overnight. (Insert a few sick jokes here…)

The next morning, I put her in a cooler on ice and drove around the beltway to deliver her to the Vet. They were so thoughtful at the office, calling her by name and saying they were sorry for my loss. I sort of giggled on the inside but when the took her body away I shed some quiet tears. She was our most loving hen and the most gentle with the children. She didn’t mind being held and could come sit on my lap when she was young. No doubt, I was going to miss her.

In a few days the office called with the results. Hepatic Lipidosis was the official diagnosis. Hepatic Lipidosis occurs when too many calories are consumed and the chicken produces too much fat. In addition to being stored in the stomach, the fat is also stored in the liver itself, making it very fragile (or fryable) as the Vet described it. A fryable liver means that any trauma (bumping into a post, or being pushed by another bird) could rupture the liver causing her to bleed out. So as my loving husband pointed out, Pop Popped. (sigh)

WARNING – GRAPHIC PHOTOS OF POP’s LIVER

Stop scrolling now if you are at all squeemish. These are the photos from the necropsy showing the fat in her body cavity and the fatty liver. I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see the photos myself. Feeling guilty that I may have over fed her, I began to research the condition and found that Orpingtons and predisposed to Hepatic Lipidosis and Pop is not the first Orp. to meet the big chicken in the sky this way. I suppose now that I look back at her picture, she did seem a little rotund. She picked out the high sugar bits of feed (corn) and left the mineral mash behind. Essentially, she picked the marshmallows out of her luck charms and died of obesity. I will say that the entire experience has helped motivate me to eat a low carb diet.

LAST WARNING BEFORE GRAPHIC IMAGES…

 

Below is a very small section of health liver for comparison:

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Lacerated Liver:

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I may have over done it…

So, the minimum order for chicks in February is 15 from most hatcheries. Feeling fairly confident that a few would “self deport” in transit, I ordered 14 hens and 1 Roo thinking I would likely wind up with 8-10. Well, the postman called this morning and we hustled to the post office to pick up a very loud box of birds….

I don’t know if you could tell, but ALL 15 birds were alive and kicking! In addition to the 6 mature hens we already have (Gibbles Rest In Peace) we are now up to 21. Gulp.

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The chicks are in their brooder which will be too small in about 2 weeks. I’ll worry about that tomorrow. For now, its changing water, refilling food, monitoring temperature, and handling the chicks as much as possible so they become comfortable with the kiddos. Stay tuned…more crazy to come.

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The Turkey-Off…or is being broad breasted worth it?

The idea was simple, compare a Butterball with a Heritage Turkey and see if there is any distinguishable difference in taste. Acquiring the Butterball was easy and cheap. ($19 for a 13 pound bird in any major supermarket.)

Lucky 13 lb Butterball

Lucky 13 lb Butterball

This is where is gets complicated…I researched for weeks looking for an authentic heritage breed turkey farm that delivered to the DC area. I found a farm in Maryland that was taking orders for Narragansett turkeys and would deliver to Bethesda the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I ordered a 13 pound bird online and agreed to pay the hefty $9 a pound. Securing the bird (or so I thought) I began to research cooking methods. Initially, my intention was to cook them exactly the same (same seasonings, same temperature, same container, etc.) but I soon realized that broad breasted birds and heritage birds need to be cooks differently to bring out the best in each. It was decided that we would cook each bird in its ideal style and then compare.

Picking up the bird at the Farmers Market

Picking up the bird at the Farmers Market

Tuesday comes and I cross state lines in pouring (freezing) rain and arrive at the outdoor farmers market. I’m told that the birds were larger than expected this year and all they have left is a 21 pounder. I take it and pay $150. Right before leaving the market, I asked in passing about the name of the breed. That is when I was told that my bird was a cross between a broad breasted bird and another breed I can’t remember. I can’t remember because when I heard the words “broad breasted” my heart started to race, my stomach sank, and panic set it. (Yes, I realize how ridiculous this sounds but its true). Broad breasted anything was exactly what I was trying to avoid! I just paid $150 for a big boobed turkey and at this late date, had no other options. I asked the folks working the stand and was told that they only had a few heritage birds and they sold out early in the AM. Wasn’t that the whole point of pre-ordering online?

21 lb. Cross-Breed Turkey

21 lb. Cross-Breed Turkey

13 lb. Butterball

13 lb. Butterball

I continued on with the experiment. A friend has volunteered to cook the Butterball and I’m cooking the cross breed, but I have to admit that the endeavor is scientifically flawed for a number of reasons. First, the heritage turkey was a cross-breed, the turkeys were significantly different weights (13 lbs and 21 lbs), I overcooked the heritage bird because that’s what drinking mimosa’s does to you, and I may have accidentally sabotaged the other bird by setting the over temp too high. (Sorry Karen!)

All of our guests were blindly served a serving of each. The Butterball won 6 to 3. However, I must note that the “foodies” in the group all voted for the heritage bird. The children and “others” voted for the Butterball.

In general, the heritage (cross-breed) was dry due to overcooking (blame it on the mimosas). Flavor was mild and pleasant. The Butterball was accidentally cooked at too high a temperature, but was more moist and one taster noted that it was more “gamey” as well.

In the end, the experiment was a complete flop. At this point, I think I might just raise my own turkey for next year so I know exactly what it is. In the future, if I’m going to spend $150 on something that is broad breasted, maybe it should be a deposit on plastic surgery.

 

An egg is an egg, right?

Mounting evidence suggests that there are significant nutritional differences between conventional eggs and pasture raised eggs.

Pasture raised eggs have:

• 1/3 less Courtesy Mother Earth Newscholesterol
• 1/4 less saturated fat
• 2/3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene

Why such a difference? Well, we all know you are what you eat and the same holds true for chickens. Although the USDA uses tricky language to try to deny the difference (not good for the Poultry industry if people knew their eggs were less nutritious than they should be)

True free-range birds eat a chicken’s natural diet — all kinds of seeds, green plants, insects and worms, usually along with grain or laying mash.

Factory farm birds never even see the outdoors, let alone get to forage for their natural diet. Instead they are fed the cheapest possible mixture of corn (GMO), soy and/or cottonseed meals, with all kinds of additives.

Think you are doing better because you buy organic / free range eggs? Look a little closer. The term Free Range is not regulated by the USDA. Free range simply means that birds have “access” to the outdoors. Often this criteria is met by having a small door on the side of a commercial chicken producers warehouse that the chickens may or may not even use. Frequently there is only dirt or concrete outside the door, not the lush green fields depicted on the egg carton label.

For more information on the differences between store eggs and pasture raised eggs see our blog post on Egg-speriments!

How do you feel about the cost of pasture raised eggs? Are you willing to pay up to $7.99 in the grocery store for a dozen eggs compared to $1.69 for the conventional non-organic caged eggs? Why or why not?

Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/tests-reveal-healthier-eggs.aspx#ixzz2lQeMTORX

The EGG-speriment

Today we put our farm fresh eggs to the test. What are the differences between store bought eggs and farm fresh eggs? Farmer Seychelle explains.

Bliss Farm Falls eggs go head to head with Organic Valley Eggs from the supermarket.

Bliss Farm Falls eggs go head to head with Organic Valley Eggs from the supermarket.

The first difference was in the color of the yolk. The Organic Valley eggs were a pale yellow (on left). Bliss Falls Farm eggs were a deep yellow / almost orange color.

The first difference was in the color of the yolk. The Organic Valley eggs were a pale yellow (on left). Bliss Falls Farm eggs were a deep yellow / almost orange color.

Whipped with milk.

Whipped with milk.

Scrambled in a pan. The Organic Valley eggs were very light in color and had a "watery" consistency.  Bliss Falls Farm Eggs were "firmer" and had contrast between the yolk color and the white even after being scrambled.

Scrambled in a pan. The Organic Valley eggs were very light in color and had a “watery” consistency.
Bliss Falls Farm Eggs were “firmer” and had contrast between the yolk color and the white even after being scrambled.

Stay tuned for our BLIND TASTE TESTING!

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That was a peck…

Meet Night, our black silkie. She recently started laying small cream colored eggs. Watch what happens when farmer Seychelle catches Night in the nesting box. The poor little hen just wants a little privacy.

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A serious foodie rates our eggs

Let’s see what this foodie has to say about our eggs…

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