Each December, I like to go back and make a list of the most-viewed blog posts from the previous year. I find it so interesting which posts end up being the most popular. It's such a roll of the dice when I write a post, not knowing if it will be a runaway success or a dud. I never know when I'm deciding on a topic if you, the readers, will enjoy reading it, share or pin it - so I learn a lot from these lists about what interests YOU and hope it will make the blog better in the coming year.
Much as I love all the preparation, baking and decorating that goes into Christmas, I admit I'm always glad to have put it behind us each year so I can relax a bit and make plans for the new year. 2015 is shaping up to be even more exciting than 2014, so I hope you all stick around for the ride!
Of course the animals are oblivious to all the holiday craziness, and I envy them that. They just enjoy each day as much as the last - although everyone did get new toys, extra treats and, of course, lots of holiday love!
Most of us end up with leftovers after our Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter feast - that's part of the fun of the holidays. I am asked all the time what is okay for chickens to have and what's not. Of course, any of these foods should be treated as 'treats' and fed only in limited amounts, but go ahead and share some of the feast with your feathered friends.
This week brought our first blue eggs from our spring Ameraucanas! What a nice holiday surprise! The excitement of checking the nesting boxes for all the colored eggs never gets old! Enjoy a peek at the rest of our week.
A blood spot on the yolk of an egg doesn't indicate fertility, chickens will still lay eggs with no rooster present and feeding a chicken garlic won't make her egg taste like garlic. Read on for more facts and fiction about eggs.
December is marching along, and with it has come some temperatures into the 20s overnight, but the chickens are nice and cozy in their coop each night, the ducks in their houses, while Bella and Winston and Linus, the indoor/outdoor barn cat, enjoy the comforts of the house with us. Our tree is up and decorated, adding a cozy brightness to the living room. Come take a peek!
Several months ago I shared my Top Ten Favorite Blogs HERE. I'm sure many of you were surprised there was not a single chicken blog on the list! But believe it or not, much as I love my chickens, I do have other interests - like cooking. crafting, DIY, healthy living, etc. - and I do follow a wide range of blogs. However, I promised to share a list of my favorite chicken blogs with you all. So here it is.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks I run into trying to encourage others to raise their flocks naturally, without chemicals or antibiotics, is being asked Where's the proof? Where are the scientific studies? How do you know this works?
This past week was all about holiday decorating! Even though our chances for a White Christmas are slim here in Virginia, one can always hope, and I always try to bring as much holiday spirit into our home as possible regardless! New holiday banners are up on the blog, Facebook pages and other social media as well, so enjoy! I'm off to decorate our tree!
Chickens tend to be cold-hardy in general, handling the winter months far better than the heat of the summer. But certain breeds, such as those with large combs and wattles, those with smaller body masses and some of the more fragile breeds don't do as well in the winter as those breeds considered cold-hardy.
Since we've begun raising our own chickens, I'm constantly amazed at how many eggs we use a week! I mean, before we got chickens, we used to have a big breakfast most Sunday mornings centered around scrambled or sunny side up eggs, and I would make omelets sometimes, but since being blessed with a seemingly never-ending abundance of fresh eggs, it seems that eggs creep into nearly every meal - and make every meal so much tastier! Case in point, this Classic Eggplant Parmesan recipe.
After making a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving last week, I was left with half a can of pumpkin puree. Not wanting to throw it out, I stuck it in the refrigerator figuring I would give it to the chickens. Then I had a thought. I remembered having had pumpkin ice cream years ago and thought ... hmm, maybe I should try making some.
I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving with family and friends. We enjoyed good food and conversation with friends and then brought home two huge 'doggie bags' for the chickens and ducks to enjoy. Here's a glimpse at our week. Enjoy!
Boredom is always a concern with chickens being cooped up during long, cold, dreary winters. Boredom can lead to pecking and bullying, so I work hard to keep my chickens busy. I'm always looking for new ways to amuse them, so imagine my delight when Hentastic® Treats contacted me and asked if I would like to try out some of their products.
The cold weather has really set in here in Virginia. We've got our coop and duck houses piled high with fresh straw and vented with plenty of air flow up high, we've been carrying warm water down to the barn each morning for all the animals, and everyone is taking it in stride, although laying has pretty much slowed except for the ducks. So we're enjoying duck eggs and letting everyone else take a winter break. Enjoy this peek at our week!
So of course on my way to the feed store yesterday morning, I had to stop and try one of Starbucks' new holiday Chestnut Praline Lattes. It was delicious. But between the $5 price tag, the 8 mile drive to the nearest Starbucks, and the reality that the Starbucks latte probably contains some ingredients I really don't want to know about, I decided to try making my own.
While I do enjoy the luxury of spending an afternoon making bread by hand, I have to say my bread machine is a lifesaver for when I can't devote several hours to breadmaking. This honey spice egg bread is light and airy, with just a hint of sweetness and spice. It's based on a basic egg bread to which I have added some of my favorite spices. It has become my go-to bread recipe.
I recently asked the Fresh Eggs Daily® community about questions they had about diatomaceous earth. Some are concerned it can be bad for chickens if they inhale it, others just don't understand what it is and what it can do. So here's the scoop.
This week was an exciting one. I was featured in our local newspaper (front page of the second section no less!) in an article about my book and raising chickens, and I was on the Dave Parker Show on WNIS 790AM Thursday morning again talking about chickens (go figure right?!). I also spoke with the producer of a national reality show about the possibility of being involved in a show next year - not sure about that one, it would have to be exactly the right look and feel for us to sign on the dotted line. And last but not least, my book has been chosen as one of Amazon's editors' choices for Best Books of 2014!
In between my moments of 'fame', I scrubbed water tubs, mucked horse stalls, cleaned coops, harvested the remaining herbs from the garden and got everyone ready for the below freezing temperatures that have arrived here in Virginia. Enjoy this peek at our week. And stay warm where ever you are!
Being very low on the food chain, and adhering to a very strict pecking order within a flock, chickens have been programmed to hide their symptoms extremely well, and by the time you even notice something is wrong, it's often too late. But by spending time with your flock, and being able to recognize what 'normal' behavior is, you can spot even subtle changes that might indicate someone isn't feeling their best.
Chickweed is one of the most prolific, and nutritious, weeds that you most likely have growing somewhere on your property. It loves moist, shady areas and grows nearly year round in much of the country. Here in Virginia it does best in spring and fall and our chickens gobble up every bit they can find. Chickweed is a great addition to your chickens' diet - and they love it!
Typical week here in Virginia weatherwise. Shorts and tee shirt weather one day and a frost the next night. The garden is booming and I'm picking tons of salad greens every day for us and for the chickens and ducks. I go back and forth from closing up the chicken coop windows at night to opening them wide on warm days. The animals all seem to take the wide temperature swings in stride, although our horses and ducks have grown in very thick fluffy coats this fall....hmmm, I'm thinking they know something we don't and we're in for a longer colder winter than usual.
In the years since, I have learned lots more about the healing power of herbs, so when I discovered one of the ducks we recently adopted with the telltale black scab, I decided to make up an all natural treatment plan using some herbs thought to have the power to 'cure' a staph infection - which is basically what bumblefoot is.
If you have chickens, then there are predators keeping a close eye on your coop. No matter where you live - be it an urban, suburban or rural setting - there is something lurking that wants to eat your chickens, and whatever it is, it's just waiting for the chance. Coop and run security should be first and foremost on every chicken keeper's mind.
Fall has arrived to Virginia. We and our animals are loving the cooler temperatures, and although most of our older hens have quit laying due to the shorter days and molting, the new spring chicks are laying up a storm. We've been collecting some gorgeous Marans eggs all week.
The highlight of the week definitely was the blueberry pie that my visiting father-in-law baked for us using blueberries he picked from his farm up in Maine. We sent him off with a dozen fresh eggs as a thank you!
The cold crop garden is flourishing and we've harvested some romaine and spinach already and are looking forward to more greens for us and the ducks in the coming weeks. Enjoy a peek at our week.
Fresh eggs make everything better, including pancakes. My favorite pancake recipe uses vanilla to give the pancakes a yummy, comforting flavor. They're so easy to make ... why not whip up a batch this weekend?
I hate to throw anything away, even if it's an old broken fence board. I love this DIY project because you can make the sign any size you want to, paint it any color you want...depending on what you have available. And it makes a really cute sign for your coop or to advertise your fresh eggs.
Life can be stressful and move way too fast at times. Sleep can be elusive. It's hard to turn off your thoughts at night when you have ideas for new blog posts swirling around in your head, baby chicks hatching, or you are trying to juggle, work, home, family and animals. Enter my Lavender Vanilla Sleep Salve to help calm your thoughts and allow you to drift of into a peaceful sleep.
I love fall! The cool crispness in the air in the early morning insists I put on socks and a sweater to do chores, and makes that cup of hot coffee taste even better, but warms by afternoon to a glorious sunny day to enjoy outside with our animals. I'm busily harvesting herbs to dry for winter, and we're picking the last of our berries, while our fall crops are starting to sprout in the garden. I've got the itch to bake again and cook simple comfort food for dinner. Evenings when the chill returns, a cup of hot tea hits the spot as I curl up with my knitting under a soft throw (and we can actually sleep with the windows open and the air conditioning off) What's not to love!
We were happy to enjoy a quiet week at home this past week with our animals, fixing some fencing and just relaxing. Autumn is in full force, but this year I'm really going to try to keep my garden going as long as I can. Some fall crops of beets, chard, kale, broccoli and more are just sprouting and we still have basil, parsley, mint and dill in the herb garden. Come take a peek at fall in Virginia.
Egg production naturally slows as days get shorter. Of course you can light your coop to artificially stimulate your hens to lay, but I like to give our girls a much-needed rest in the winter. Recently I shared instructions on freezing eggs to use through the lean months, but here's another simple way to preserve fresh eggs, for a year or longer.
Fresh herbs play an important role in both my home cooking and chicken keeping, so I plant a large herb garden each spring - and harvest herbs by the handful as I need them all through the summer. I also dry any excess to use through the winter, but with temperatures hovering in the 40s at night lately, it's about time to bring some of the plants indoors so I have fresh herbs through the winter as well.
All chickens really need to be perfectly fine and lay you eggs is good-quality layer feed and fresh water. But the addition of just a few inexpensive, natural supplements can really boost your flock's overall health and result in better egg production.
For someone (me) who doesn't leave our property much, except to buy groceries and chicken feed, and up until now has lived a pretty private life on our farm, this past week was really a whirlwind. I returned from P. Allen Smith's farm on Sunday, appeared on a local television show on Tuesday and then Friday spent the day posing for my first professional photo shoot. Add to that signing a whole bunch of books and getting them mailed out, I barely stopped to catch my breath.
It was all so much fun, but I'm looking forward to a far slower-paced next week - and some quality time with my husband and our animals. It's fun to be a jet-setter, but there IS no place like home. Oh and did I mention our spring Marans have laid their first eggs! Sweeet!
I was recently contacted and asked to film a segment for The Hampton Roads Show about backyard chickens. (Think the Today Show with a local community flair - sort of a lifestyle, sports, celebrity, fashion trend show with recipes from local area restaurants thrown in) Naturally, I immediately agreed and extended an invitation to come out to our farm to do the taping.
I am sorry I missed posting my weekly farm photos this past Saturday. I was at Moss Mountain Farm outside of Little Rock for a couple of days last week giving a workshop on natural chicken keeping at the bi-annual Poultry Workshop, so I thought instead of photos of our farm, I would share some photos of P. Allen Smith's beautiful farm and chickens. I had some time after the workshop to stroll around the gardens and farm taking photos. Enjoy!
According to legend, during the Black Plague in Europe a band of thieves roamed towns and villages pillaging the homes and graves of plague victims, protected from falling victim to the Bubonic plague themslves by an herbal concoction that one of the thieves who was an herbalist had concocted.
We are so excited to partner with The Original Muck Boot Company for a fun giveaway! We agreed to help them launch their new fall line and they agreed to send a pair of boots to each of two lucky winners!
During the summer months when egg production is at a high, we often find ourselves with excess eggs. In order to ensure we have enough eggs for holiday baking and other recipes through the winter when production drops, I have started freezing eggs to save them for the lean winter months so we don't have to go buy icky store bought eggs.
What a wonderful week! The weather was perfect: cool and sunny - so I was able to get the garden prepped for my fall crops of broccoli, kale, chard, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, spinach - basically a duck's dream garden! Enjoy these photos of our week!
Borage! I was so excited to see this month's Seeds of the Month Club assortment included this pretty flowering herb. I've been reading quite a bit about borage lately and meaning to plant some in my herb garden for ages. So here the opportunity was dropped right in my lap.
As planting season comes upon us, it once again becomes important to protect small plants from the chickens' scratching feet and their nibbling on the tender leaves and stalks. An easy way, of course, is to fence in your entire garden area, but if you just have individual plants here and there you need to protect, these chicken wire cloches are the answer - and so easy to make. These are great to keep plants from being trampled by your ducks, nibbled on by bunnies and generally safe until they grow a bit larger.
Animals are cute, funny, beautiful, curious and smart. They are fascinating to watch, especially watching the different species interacting. I derive so much joy from our farm and all our animals. I love spending time outside gardening or building something, and of course having a pasture full of animals just makes any day better. Despite lots of rain, we had such a pleasant week with our feathered and furry family members. Take a peek!
During the fall molt season, your chickens will benefit from additional protein in their diet to help them grow in nice new feathers for winter. Since many of you are vegetarians or otherwise don't feel comfortable feeding your chickens meat or fish scraps (although chickens are true omnivores and will eat all kinds of animal protein on their own including toads, lizards, snakes and bugs), I thought I would share a list of plants and herbs that are high in protein and will provide your flock the much-needed nutrient during their molt as a healthy alternative to meat protein.
As Fresh Eggs Daily® becomes more popular and well-known and I am beginning to field more and more offers to write and speak and appear, I am finding the delta between my personal life and 'professional' life narrowing and often times downright colliding! The daily dichotomy just makes me shake my head. I go from cleaning horse stalls while speaking with tv producers in New York, to making travel plans for speaking engagements with my hands sticky from kneading bread dough. I often speak with editors and publishers wearing mud-splattered muck boots, with a pocketful of eggs and straw in my hair.
I often have to stop writing an article to take a puppy play break, or pause from working on my next book to bring the chickens a treat. I've done many podcasts and interviews with the chickens clucking in the background because its feeding time; and have signed on new sponsors with a cacophony of ducks playing in their pool in the background.
Sunup to sundown, I find myself writing and rewriting, snapping photos and editing them, jotting down new ideas, going through photos on my cell phone as I stand filling water buckets, or working on a blog post as I stir a pot on the stove with the other hand. But I do love it (most of the time!) and feel so fortunate that all of these newfound opportunities allow me to share what Fresh Eggs Daily® is all about and promote natural chicken care to an ever-widening audience.
It is true that when you love what you do, you don't work another day in your life. However, I make sure I take time to relax and knit, bake or read for pleasure on a regular basis because these are the things that feed the soul. And of course country living is the absolute best destressor. Enjoy this peek at my week - and thanks for coming along for the ride.
Earlier in the year, my husband tilled a new garden for squash and melons. The area measures roughly 20x28 and I planted a variety of squash, cucumbers and melons in the nice rich soil that had been fertilized by our horses for more than a decade. Fenced in, our garden was safe from deer and rabbits. Although we practice organic gardening, our bug damage was minimal and we enjoyed quite a nice harvest from our little garden.