Thursday, February 28, 2013

Adding to Our Flock Through Incubation

 A friend gave us a still air egg incubator last year because I wanted to try to hatch out some chicks this spring.  Surprisingly it was much easier than I thought it would be!

This is the way I did it:
  • I gather the eggs from each day while they were still warm.  In pencil, I marked an X and an O on opposite sides of the egg and I noted the date it was laid. 
  • Then I placed it in the incubator.  I had set up the incubator on my bathroom countertop because it suggested a "humid" and centrally heated location was best for optimizing incubator hatch rates.  Our incubator also had a shallow well that we had to keep filled with water to keep the inside humid, but some incubators are different. 
  • I turn the eggs one to three times per day to ensure the chicks would develop properly. 
  • I continued adding eggs until I had about a dozen in the incubator. After about 10 days, we went in a night and shone a bright flashlight under the eggs.  If there was a "dark spot" where we could tell blood vessels were forming we put it back.  This meant it was in fact a fertilized, growing embryo.  We pitched the unfertilized ones.
  • Then after another week, we looked again with a light.  Those fertilized eggs had become completely opaque so that the only light from the flashlight we could see was through the chicks "air hole" at the large end of the egg. 
  • At this point, we stopped turning the eggs allowing the chicks to be able to orient themselves in preparation for hatching. 
  • Then we started LISTENING!  Day 21 is when they are supposed to hatch but I have found that it is a bit more variable than fixed.  The first sign of life should be the chicks weak peeps coming from the shell.  Once this starts, your chick should start "pipping" out the shell with its beak in about 24 hours.  If it takes longer than this I would consider gently helping break out a piece for it, but I have not had this happen yet. 
  • With about an hour of "pipping" the chick will start "unzipping" itself by pecking the sides of the shell out until it can free itself. 
  • Once the chick is out you should let it dry itself in the incubator for another 8 hours or so. 
  • Then take it out and place it under your warm grow light in the brooder with fresh food and water. 

Now you just keep them warm and fed and water and in a clean cage and they should grow like little weeds!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Homemade Pizza Dough

We love homemade pizzas and we are one step closer to having a completely organic, made-by-my-own-two-hands, all homemade pizza.  We have already canned our own pasta sauce from our garden last summer and I am currently learning how to make my own cheese, but tonight I wanted to share my easy pizza dough recipe. 

First in a large bowl, add one packet of dry yeast, one-half teaspoonful of brown sugar and one and a half cups of WARM water to a bowl.  This is "proofing" the yeast and it takes about 15 or till it looks foamy. 
Then add 1/2 teaspoonful of salt and 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Mix well then stir in 2 & 1/2 cups of flour with a spoon.  Now take of your watch and any rings and bracelets.  SERIOUSLY this stuff is super sticky, don't  repeat my mistake!  Now get your hands all flour-y and begin kneading the dough by folding it into itself.  I keep mine in a large bowl and knead it in there but if you want to have fun and make a HUGE mess, do it on your countertop!  Add the flour to it by handfuls and keep adding until it no longer sticks to every bare patch of skin it touches...I hate that feeling. 

Finally when you have it in a nice pretty ball schmuey some olive oil over it, that's the not so technical term for it, and put it back in your bowl. 
Then cover with a damp cloth and let sit for one hour.  During this time it should double in size. worked!

Now punch the dough back down into a tight ball.  Let it "rest" for a minute, then roll it out onto your pizza stone or pan.  I like to let it rise for another 15 minutes here then put all my toppins' on. 

Put it in the oven and bake at 425 for 15/20 minutes.