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.

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.

Fresh Eggs Daily on Facebook

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.

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

Chickens love weeds....

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:


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

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.

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.

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.

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~

Mini Valentine Heart Tinted Iced Shortbread Cookies

This post isn't about chickens and the recipe doesn't even use eggs, but these little cookies are so good, they're a perfect way to grease the skids, so to speak, if you need help talking your significant other into agreeing to more chickens in the spring.

Building a Chicken Coop ? Some Things to Consider

Several years ago when we decided to start raising chickens, I knew that our six chicks would eventually grow out of their brooder box and need a coop. I starting looking at pre-made coops, coop kits and coop plans, but couldn't find exactly what I wanted. I researched the different elements that good coop designs encompassed and I decided to design and build my own, using the different aspects from a few different coops.

This is the coop I ended up with and I love it. It's perfect inside our completely enclosed run. It has a hinged roof for easy cleaning, three nesting boxes with an exterior hinged lid and tons of vents that can be opened or closed depending on the weather. It was the perfect size for our six original chickens - with room for more as we expanded our flock (or so I thought at the time). 

A Rainbow of Egg Colors

When we first decided to try raising chickens, the breeds we chose were based solely on what the feed store had. We said 'we'll take two of whatever you have' and ended up coming home with two Buff Orpingtons, two Silver Laced Wyandottes and two Rhode Island Reds.  

Cute chicks, beautiful chickens, wonderful layers...and they all laid brown eggs.  Which was fine with me. 

Crushing Eggshells as a Free Calcium Source for your Chickens

Like anything else relating to raising backyard chickens, there seem to be lots of different opinions about feeding eggshells back your chickens. But what everyone does agree on is that laying chickens need a lot of calcium to ensure strong eggshells.  If they do not have enough calcium to create the shell, it will result in very thin-shelled eggs and calcium will start being leached from the hen's bones. You can buy commercially packaged crushed oyster shell, or you can save money by processing your eggshells to feed back to your hens.

A Duck Tale

Once upon a time (last April) a very lucky farm girl got four ducklings for her birthday from her husband - two pekins and two mallards.

Which Came First ? Understanding Where Chicken Sayings Came From

I used to wonder where all the old farm sayings came from, "Wait 'til the cows come home", "Hold your horses", "Madder than a wet hen".....well, since having a horse and the chickens and ducks, I wonder no more. It doesn't take too long being around animals before you realize the sayings came into being and have now become part of our vernacular because they are so universal to animal behavior.

The day I told our horse "hold your horses" as he was literally "chomping at the bit" to get his breakfast, I knew that I was a bona fide farm girl, immersed in the lives of our animals.

Here are some of the more common expressions that have been plucked (pun intended) from the world of chickendom...