Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Deep Litter Method aka Chicken Coop Winter Composting

The first few winters we raised chickens, I would trudge down in the cold and ice to clean out the coop every other week or so.  I would remove all the straw bedding, then sprinkle DE (diatomaceous earth) and replace the straw with new bedding.  The old soiled bedding would sit, partially frozen, in our compost pile until spring.  I didn't enjoy doing it, it didn't seem practical and I knew there had to be another way.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Nutrena Re-usable Egg Carton

Please help me welcome our newest sponsor Nutrena.  I have been feeding my girls Nutrena layer crumble for more than a year now since our local feed store started carrying it and they not only love it but they are all healthy, happy, good layers.  

And what's really exciting is the news that Nutrena Poultry Feed has a new promotion starting March 1st and running through May 31st where you can get a free re-usable egg carton when you buy 3 bags of their poultry feed.   Here's the link for complete details:

Nutrena Poultry Feeds sent me a free sample of the egg carton so I could try it out and let you know what I think….

Well, I really love it!  I love that is dishwasher safe so it can be really well sanitized. I love that it's made out of recycled plastic AND is recyclable.  I love the green color and the fact that it's perfect for camping or transporting eggs to a friend. 

I love that it latches shut securely...and I love that my duck eggs actually fit into it also.  

The lid doesn't shut over the duck eggs but at least I can store them in the frig inside the carton.

If you are already feeding your chickens Nutrena feed then you know what a quality product it is and how much they like it.  Now is a great time to stock up and get your re-usable egg carton.  If you aren't currently feeding your chickens Nutrena feed, now is a great time to try it out.   I don't think you will be disappointed in the feed or the egg carton.

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Blueberry Bread Pudding with Maple Syrup and Blueberry Sauce

My husband and I love Maine. We would move there in a heartbeat if he could find a job there. We love the cold snowy winters and the crisp fall days with the beautiful foliage. We love the warm summer days and cool summer nights. We also love blueberries, lobster and maple syrup. This easy recipe combines blueberries and maple syrup...and uses lots of eggs.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Weeds 101: A Nutritious, FREE Treat for your Backyard Chickens

Chickens love weeds....

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sour and Impacted Crop in Backyard Chickens - Symptoms, Causes and Natural Treatment

As many of you know, Yvette lost her beloved hen Lily to sour crop this past January.  Even with the help of her vet, she was not able to save Lily. 

This prompted her to research sour crop in an effort to try and prevent it from happening again - or to be able to successfully treat it the next time if it does happen.  We hope that you will find this post informative.  If it saves even one chicken, Lily's death will not have been in vain.  It is so hard to lose a pet, and a chicken is no different.  

Sour Crop ~ What it is & how to identify it.

The chickens' crop is located beneath the neck and just to the right of the center of the breast area.  When chickens eat, the food goes directly into the crop, which will become engorged until the food continues through the digestive system.  The entire digestive system is roughly twelve inches long with the mouth at 1 inch, the crop at 3 inches, the stomach at 5 inches, the intestine between 6-11 inches and the rectum at 12 inches. If there is an infection or blockage anywhere along the digestive tract, the chicken can end up with a stopped-up crop.

The process of fully emptying the crop can take several hours, and generally happens overnight, depending on the amount of food ingested.  Each morning, the crop should be empty, and the extended crop should not be present.

(normal full crop in the evening)

Sour crop is caused when the crop does not fully empty.  This may cause the contents to become fermented, resulting in a bacterial / yeast infection within the crop.  Long grasses, excessive amounts of bread and pasta, moldy feed and inadequate amounts of grit can all contribute to sour crop, as can the chicken inadvertently swallowing pieces of plastic, rubber bands or other indigestible substances.

As with most things, prevention is easier than a cure. Prevention of sour crop includes limiting access to long or tough plant fibers, adequate fresh water with apple cider vinegar added several times a week (in a ratio of 1T/gallon of water) to keep the body alkaline versus acidic, and plain yogurt or probiotics on a weekly basis, as well as providing plenty of grit to aid in digestion.

Sour crop can also be a side effect of any illness that causes dehydration. Unfortunately crops swollen with food will draw even more water from the bloodstream, leading to further dehydration and more food backup. Therefore liquids are extremely important in treating sour crop and clean, fresh water is a necessity in the run at all times.

(normal full crop in the evening)

Sour crop is best identified in the morning.  If the crop is extended and feels squishy, not hard, then the crop has not emptied as it normally should.   You also will notice a ‘sour’ smell coming from the beak of the chicken and in some cases a foul-smelling liquid may also leak out of the chickens mouth.   Your chicken may show signs of being lethargic. She may isolate herself – not eating or ‘scratching around’ as normal chicken behavior.  She may vomit and her skin may appear red instead of pink.

(Note: a hard crop can signal impacted crop which is a slightly different issue, also caused by large items in the crop that can't pass through the digestive system.  Impacted crop can be treated by lubricating the crop/digestive tract with vegetable oil in an eyedropper through the mouth and massaging the crop to try and break up the blockage, or in extreme cases actually slitting the crop open with a scalpel and removing the blockage. An impacted crop can actually press against the windpipe of the chicken and suffocate the hen.) 

If you suspect sour crop, isolating your chicken in a warm,quiet area, massaging the crop in the direction of the head or carefully trying to induce vomiting, encouraging yogurt, olive oil and water with apple cider vinegar is a great way to start. Apple cider vinegar is an antifungal, and often avian vets will recommend for cases of sour crop IS an antifungal to know down what is basically a yeast infection.

 If after several days of home remedies the crop still seems abnormal, it is probably time for a visit to your vet.  There are several options that can be considered for treatment, including fluid injections and/or antibiotics, however it’s best to seek direct advice from an Avian Veterinarian.

The pharmacy at the
 Virginia Beach Veterinary Hospital
Many thanks to Yvette for doing all the research and writing up this information to share with you.  

Sources: The Poultry Pages/ and  

Here is a wonderful resource for more information:


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Product Review: Nature's Best Organic Feeds

I admit that although I try and raise my chickens as holistically and naturally as possible, I haven't been feeding them organic feed.  They get Nutrena Layer Crumble into which I mix a bunch of other good stuff, including DE and probiotic powder, to make their Breakfast of Champion Layers.  It does get a bit costly to purchase all the additives and then time-consuming to mix them into the feed, but I think it gives the bagged feed a nice boost.

All my chickens are healthy and happy and good layers, but organic feed is certainly something I have tossed around in my mind more than a few times over the years, although never really pursued it.  That is, until now.

One of our local feed stores now carries the Nature's Best line of organic horse feed and said they could order some chicken feed for me if I wanted (find a Local Dealer near you).

So I started to research organic feed a bit and have decided to give it a try.  After all, the healthier our chickens, the more nutritious their eggs.  Organic farming uses natural methods such as crop rotation and vinegar, instead of traditional pesticides, herbicides or fungicides which really appeals to me.

In conjunction with my new-found decision, I would like to introduce you to our newest sponsor Nature's Best Organic Feeds. I am very excited to have them sponsor our blog since I know a lot of you DO feed your chickens organic feeds and Nature's Best is now available around the country at many feed stores.

Nature's Best is the brand of feed that Martha Stewart feeds her horses, donkeys, chickens and geese. I feel confident that she can afford to feed her animals the VERY best - and the fact that she has chosen Nature's Best Organic Feeds speaks volumes for the company.

~photo courtesy of

Nature's Best Organic Feeds graciously agreed to donate a bag of their organic chicken feed to my girls to try.  The feed contains a mix of organic corn, wheat, oats and other grains, as well as Diatomaceous Earth, limestone and Probiotics, plus vitamins and minerals.

It is a bit more expensive than non-organic feeds but since it already has DE and probiotic powder in it, that will save me a bit of money since I won't have to purchase and add those supplements myself.  Organic feed may look the same as non-organic feed, but is less likely to contain pesticide residue and is also higher in complete amino acids and antioxidants.

All incoming organic ingredients are tested for GMO’s and if they get a positive reading, Nature's Organics will reject those grains. This insures the customer is getting certified organic ingredients. No other process in the feed industry like organic certification traces the grains all the way back to farm and has paperwork to prove it. Nature's Organics will provide any of their customers with their Feed Mill Organic Certification and the Organic Certification for the Organic Feeds. 

They proudly identify each bag of organic bag feeds with the USDA Organic symbol. 

Nature's Best Organic Feed is part of Kreamer Feed, Inc., a family business located in Pennsylvania started by George Robinson in 1947 and now run by his children.   They carry a full line of chicken feeds, for all stages of your chickens' life, including Starter, Grower/Developer, and Layer feeds, as well as Scratch Feed, Barley, Flax Seed, Oyster Shell and Granite Grit.

They have been making organic feeds for over 20 years and have extensive experience in manufacturing these products. They have their own poultry farms of organic broilers, organic turkeys and organic layers and the rations they recommend have been proven “down on the farm” before they ever sell these feeds to anyone else.

Nature's Best Organic Feeds recently sent me a bag of their layer pellets to try.  I was eager to see the girls' thoughts on not only switching feed brands but switching from crumble to pellets.

The bag arrived and I opened it up, interested to see the difference in feel, smell and appearance from non-organic feeds. The difference was immediately visible.  I could see little specks of all different color and texture grains. The feed smelled very fresh and almost like something I would pour into a bowl, cover with milk and eat myself. Almost....not quite, but almost !

But the real taste test was yet to come...the girls had to give it a try.  I set up two identical feeders side by side, filled each with a different feed and let the girls at them.  As you can see, it was pretty much a split decision !  I was actually very surprised that they would immediately take to a brand new feed - as well as the pellets, since they are used to crumble.  But they dove right in.  The ducks especially seemed to prefer the Nature's Best feed - I wonder if it contains some ingredients that they particularly like ? 

In the end, about the same amount of both feeds was left.  Although Praline couldn't resist going back for one more mouthful of the Nature's Best Organic Feed !   

I love that the feed is organic since we're eating the girls' eggs and the more healthy they are, the better for our health also. I also love that the feed already contains DE and probiotic powder which would eliminate the need for me to add it separately.  And the girls have spoken  -well sort of !

The decision to feed organic feed or not is certainly a personal one for each chicken keeper. We each need to weigh the cost/convenience factor against the GMO/pesticide factor and decide what works for us, our flocks and our families. Nature's Best Organic Feeds certainly makes the decision alot easier.

 Check out Nature's Best Organic Feeds for yourself. Their website has alot more information, including a complete ingredient list and list of distributors.  Ask your local feed store if they can order some for you if they don't regularly carry it.

If you already feed organic feed or have been thinking about it.... and please consider Nature's Best Organic Feeds and tell them we sent you !

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bacon Corn Mini Brunch Tartlets

About the size of a silver dollar, these mini tartlets make a perfect addition to any brunch menu. Filled with cheese, corn and bacon they are sure to please.

(makes 12 mini tartlets)

1 Sheet of Puff Pastry
3 Eggs
2 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
1/4 Cup Corn (fresh, canned or frozen)
2 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Salt, Pepper & Tarragon (fresh or dried)


Cut circles out of the puff pastry using a scalloped biscuit cutter or cookie cutter. 

 Press pastry rounds into a mini muffin pan and prick holes in the bottoms with a fork.

 Bake at 400 degrees for 7 minutes.

 Meanwhile whisk eggs and heavy cream in a small bowl. Season with salt & pepper.

 Divide corn, bacon and cheese between the cups.

Pour egg mixture into cups (don't worry about a bit of overflow, you can trim the tartlets once they are cooked).  Sprinkle tarragon on top.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or until set and slightly puffed.  Cool on a wire rack for ten minutes and then using a sharp knife, neatly trim around the edges and lift each tartlet out.  

Set each into a mini muffin paper.   Bon appetit !

This recipe is shared at Thursday Favorites. and Carole's Chatter

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chickens & Gardening

Chickens and gardening go hand in hand.  It's all part of being more self-sufficient and sustaining your family from what you can produce.  I had been growing vegetables and herbs for years before I started keeping chickens, but it wasn't until we got the chickens that I felt the circle was truly complete.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Converting a Dog House for Ducks - Easy DIY Project

~Next time I wouldn't even bother with the nesting box since they don't use it anyway~
When we had only two ducks, they happily slept in the chicken coop with the chickens in a wooden box on the floor.  But when we got 5 more ducklings last spring, I decided it was time for the ducks to have their own house.  Fortunately there was an old wooden doghouse at the edge of our property that had been sitting empty since we bought our house.  I swept out the squirrel and mice nests and all the cobwebs, dragged it down to the run and set about converting it into a duck house.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Basic Duckling Care - Raising Healthy Happy Ducks

Congratulations! So you have decided to raise some ducklings! If you have brooded chicks before, you will find that it's basically the same. In fact, my very first batch of chicks included two ducklings that we raised in the brooder box along with the chicks and all thrived and grew up to be happy and healthy. But in addition to the fact that ducklings grow much faster than chicks, there are also a few other differences between brooding ducklings and chicks.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Hanging Treat Feeder - Easy DIY Project Repurposed from an Embroidery Hoop

If you have five dollars (or less if you can repurpose things you already have) and about five minutes, you can make a cute hanging treat feeder for your chickens to help beat the winter blahs.  Fill it with scratch, seeds, cereal, grains (even their regular feed) and they will have a ball trying to grab a bite.

Boredom can cause pecking, feather eating and other behavioral issues in your flock, and winter is the prime time for boredom due to a lack of grass, weeds and bugs for your chickens to find.  A hanging feeder like this will keep them amused - trust me - and it's very amusing to watch.

Here's what you will need:
A wooden embroidery hoop (any size will work)
A piece of old window screen (just a bit larger than the hoop)
Four feet of chain
Three small eyehooks
A metal ring (like a key ring)
A carabiner 
Needle-nosed pliers
Wire Cutters
Wire or string (optional)

Cut the screen into a circle 1/2" larger than the hoop

Sandwich the screen in between the two hoops, trim any excess and tighten the screw to secure

Twist the three eyehooks in between the two hoops, equidistant apart from each other

Cut the chain into three pieces - two 12" lengths and one 24" length.  Open an end link on each length with the needle-nosed pliers and then attach one to each eyehook.

Open the opposite ends of the two shorter lengths and attach to the middle of the longer piece of chain to make three equal-length 'legs', leaving a 12" length at the top.

Using the keyring and carabiner, hang the feeder from the top of your run (using string or wire for additional length if you need to), so the feeder hangs about 6-8" off the ground.  Fill with scratch, seeds, cereal, grain or another dry treat, stand back and watch the fun.

~idea adapted from the Kid-Friendly Bird Feeder featured in Birds & Blooms Magazine~