Ladder Snake

Ladder Snake (Zamenis scalaris)

Juvenile Ladder snake

Juvenile Ladder snake

This is a juvenile ladder snake that our cat caught. This snake is the most common at the cortijo. The one in the photo above is a young one. It is about 30cm long. When the snake gets older there are 2 lines along the whole length of the snake.

This type of snake grow up to around 170 cm long. They are non venomous because their teeth are Aglyphous (lacking grooves) which are not adapted for injecting venom.

This snake moves about 100m per day, the average home territory of an individual is 4,500m2. Adults may sometimes be found in out  buildings hunting for rodents.

They eat mammals such as mice and shrews, spiders, insects (especially grasshoppers) and a few birds.

Featherless Hens

Featherless Hens: Supplementing their diet with egg yolks and eggshells

 

 

 

PROBLEM: a featherless hen

I have decided to see whether it is possible to supplement a hen’s diet with egg yolks and eggshells in order to improve the amount of calcium she consumes so that her feathers can grow back.

Although this hen does not have many feathers, she is a good layer and generally lays an egg a day. I thought her feathers would grow back when two of the other hens who had been picking on her and pecking her died but I’m still waiting. Although some feathers did grow back, she is still a long way from full feather form.

I have in the past given her crushed up calcium tablets but that hasn’t seemed to work. So I decided to try an experiment. My theory is that she is using all her calcium resources on egg production and so I would try to replenish them by feeding her egg yolk and eggshell.

POSSIBLE SOLUTION: supplement her diet with egg yolks and eggshells

The experiment started today (29th May 2019). I ground up some eggshells in a spice blender. I then mixed an egg yolk and a teaspoon of eggshell in a jam jar lid and fed it to her. 

A hen is at the peak of her laying life when she is 35 weeks old. She will normally consume 4g of calcium a day. She consumes most calcium in the early hours of the day but also a small amount throughout the day.

0.5g of her daily calcium intake is indigestible and is lost through faeces, 0.4g is lost through urine and 0.1g is used for bone regeneration. The remaining 3g is used in the egg process: 2g for the eggshell and 1g for the yolk and albumen.

The photo at the top of the page shows her today. The photo below shows her and some of the other hens finishing up the leftovers.

 

The Eggstractor Homemade Autonomous Egg Collector

One of the problems with having chickens is what to do if you want to go on holiday.  Water and food are fairly easy to solve but collecting the eggs is more difficult.

Sarah designed the Eggstractor which is basically just a crate with a way of decelerating the eggs so that they don’t smash. We have been using this system for almost 3 years and it works perfectly. As far as I know it is not possible to buy one or even buy a similar product which would solve the same problem. 

Being able to see the chickens over the internet is a good idea. One time we were in a storm crossing the Bay of Biscay in a ferry and we were able to watch the chickens getting onto their perches. 

 

Using a pressure cooker to hard boil young hen eggs

HARD BOILING YOUNG HEN EGGS

Hard-boiled fresh eggs can be hard to peel but eggs laid by young hens are almost impossible. This year I had to replace my entire flock. It was especially frustrating to discover that even when the fresh, young hen eggs were left for 7 rather than the normal 3 days before hard-boiling, they were still impossible to peel.

An egg has an inner and outer shell membrane. Since the egg shell is permeable, as the egg ages, carbon dioxide and moisture are lost through the shell. This causes the two membranes to separate and the air sac to expand. As a result, the older the egg is, the easier it is to peel. 

My normal method of hard boiling eggs was to place them in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. The cooking time depends on egg size. I wanted a quick method that would ensure that relatively fresh eggs could be hard boiled and easily peeled. My Internet search lead me to the prairie homestead page. Although they were not talking about the problems of hard-boiling young hen eggs, they did mention the idea of using a pressure cooker. I am a huge fan of pressure cookers and believe that no kitchen should be without one. I have a number of different sized cookers and use them all the time to make soups, stews, casseroles and other dishes in a fraction of the time. They can even be used to can tomatoes and other vegetables.

 

For the experiment, I chose four eggs that had been laid on consecutive days. The egg on the right labelled 1 day old was laid on the same day, the 2-day old one the day before, etc.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Put 1 cup (250ml) of water in a pressure cooker and bring it to the boil.

Place the eggs on a steamer and lower it into the pan.

Close the pressure cooker lid and bring it up to full power. Turn down the heat and leave it for 5 minutes.

At the end of the cooking time, if your pressure cooker has a quick release mechanism, quickly release the pressure by placing the pan under the running cold tap. Transfer the eggs to a bowl of cold water, running and change the water until the eggs are completely cool.

RESULTS:

I then peeled the eggs and these are shown in the photo below. The results are conclusive and show how the eggs are easy to peel, and even the freshest egg could be peeled with care.

 

Chicken Run 2

2016-07-12 20.14.25

This year I have put three of the hens in a pen in the bottom field. The idea was that this would be their final resting area but I’ve since changed my mind. Two of the hens are from the eggs that I incubated by crossing our hens with the neighbour’s rooster and I’ve become attached to them so they’ve been granted a wildcard to old age.

The white posts mark the borders of the pen and you can see two of the black hens together. The lines of vegetables to the right of the tractor are potatoes.

In their summer residence, they are protected by an electric fence surrounding a walnut tree and have free range of the first hen house that John built for them. Although they were reluctant to venture in at first, they are now happy to lay their eggs in one of the partitions. They tend to sleep, however, on some of the branches of the tree above it. This is good news and makes me happy. The other day on our morning walk to Marchalejo, we saw a pack of three foxes and then a single fox so it is good that we have the three types of fox-protection: electrocution, canine and flight.

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