Water Belly or Ascites in Backyard Chicken Flocks

Ascites, or "water belly" as it's more commonly called, isn't a terribly frequent occurrence in backyard flocks, since it tends to be more prevalent in fast-growing broilers or meat birds, but if you notice your chicken's abdomen is swollen and distended, it's something to consider.

Take a Peek at my Week - June 18th - 24th

This week was a typical week here in Maine. A few thunderstorms and some rain, and then nice cool temps at night (great sleeping weather!). Our garden is growing like gangbusters, the chickens are happily laying eggs, and we've got eggs under a broody hen that should hatch next week. Enjoy this peek at our week!

My Trip to Texas A&M and a Crash Course in Black Soldier Fly Larvae

I have corresponded with faculty at the Texas A&M poultry science department in the past, but it was a bit of a surprise to be invited several weeks ago to travel to College Station, Texas, to meet with Jeff Tomberlin who is with the Entomology Department there. Dr. Tomberlin has a Ph.D. in Entomology and is an Associate Professor and Program Director of the University's Forensic and Investigative Sciences Program, which he helped to develop. 

Take a Peek at My Week - June 11th - 17th

It was nice to be home all week this week, despite the three-day heatwave that held Maine (and most of the rest of the country) in its grip. But everyone made it through - without air conditioning! - and life went on. It's amazing what a difference just a week makes in the garden. We're already enjoying our first radishes! 

The Five Best Summertime Treats for Chickens

Chickens struggle as the mercury rises, but with these cooling, water-laden treats, you can help them get through the hot weather more comfortably. Like most animals, they handle the cold far better than heat, and heat exhaustion is a very real thing in backyard flocks.

Take a Peek at my Week - June 4th to 10th

This week was all about enjoying all the green grass, flowers and shoots poking out from the garden, before I had to get packed and jumped on a plane, heading down to Texas to Texas A&M to visit the Poultry Science Department there (more about that later!).  I managed to get some landscaping done in the run and weeded the vegetable garden during the first part of the week. We also saw our first snake (just a harmless milk snake) ...so I guess that means it's not winter any longer here in Maine! Enjoy this peek at our week.

Controlling Aphids in the Garden Naturally

When we moved to Maine, we inherited a beautiful perennial flower bed full of lupine. I had never grown lupine before, so it was a bit of a surprise to me that first summer to find them completely inundated with aphids. The aphids ignored every other plant in the garden, but our lupine were just covered with them.

Take a Peek at my Week - May 28th to June 3rd

While it was nice to be home all week, I can't say I relaxed. We had a busy week filming a new episode of my TV show early in the week (you can catch season one here if you missed it!). Shooting with the film crew is so much fun, but it makes for a really long day and I'm wiped out by the time they pack their gear and head back to Portland. Not to mention all the prep work before they arrive, making sure everything is mowed and scrubbed and trimmed and all the props are assembled. 

7 Tips to Help You Sell Your Farm Fresh Eggs For More Money

The continuing trend of raising backyard chickens has had an unintended negative effect on those selling their extra eggs. Due to a steady supply of fresh eggs from backyard flocks and small local farms at markets, roadside stands and feed stores, egg prices are being kept artificially low. But there are some things you can do to help you sell your fresh eggs for a bit more money.

Take a Peek at my Week - May 21st to 27th

I feel like the tip of an iceberg. Just calmly floating along, but with so, so much underneath the surface that isn't visible. Or a duck. Yes, I feel like a duck, just floating along placidly on the pond, but underneath the surface my little legs are paddling as fast as they can!

How Long Does It Take a Chicken to Lay an Egg?

Many of you likely know that a hen lays an egg just about once every day. But how long does it actually take a chicken to lay an egg? 

Take a Peek at my Week - May 14th - 20th

This week was a roller coaster weather-wise. We endured temperatures over 90 degrees around mid-week, but then by Saturday night, it dipped down close to freezing.  Regardless, it's a beautiful time of year. The lilacs are just beginning to bloom, and we've got radishes and some lettuce peeking out of the garden soil already!

How to Make Homemade Electrolytes for Chickens

Having electolytes on hand in your chicken first aid kit is a good idea. Administered in cases of heat exhaustion, stress or dehydration, they could be the difference between life and death for an ailing hen or baby chick.

Take a Peek at my Week - May 7th - 13th

Hard to believe we've only lived in Maine now for just under two years. I feel like I've lived here forever! There's still so much I want to do (and we need to do!), but I'm happy with our progress, especially outside. Right away we planted some strawberries, plus raspberry and blueberry bushes, and I divided the gorgeous lilac bush that stands to one side of our front porch. I'm excited that all the cuttings seem to be doing great, so we should have lilacs and berries everywhere in a few years! 

9 Reasons to Break a Broody Hen

When you have a broody hen sitting on eggs that will never hatch (i.e. you don't have a rooster, or don't want more chicks so you're collecting all the eggs daily) it's best to break her of her broodiness - for her own good as well as for the good of the flock. 

Take a Peek at My Week April 30th - May 6th

Spring might take it's sweet time coming to Maine, but when it arrives, it arrives with a vengeance! There are flowers and blossoms and new growth and green everywhere! We have eggs overflowing out of bowls and baskets. I was off jet-setting again the beginning of the week, but got home late Wednesday night and have really enjoyed spending the last few days at home!

5 Easy Steps to Feeding your Chickens Crushed Eggshells

Even chickens fed the best-quality layer feed will benefit from being offered a calcium supplement to ensure strong shells on the eggs they lay. Crushing eggshells and feeding them back to your chickens is the easiest, most economical way to give your girls some extra calcium.

Take a Peek at Our Week - April 23rd to 29th

This was the first week in a long time that I've been home all week. It was nice to wake up in my own bed, wander downstairs for a cup of (good!) coffee and then head outside to feed the chickens and let them out. Signs of spring are everywhere! We spent some time cleaning up the yard and gardens this week, but had plenty of time to just put our feet up and enjoy the warm -almost shorts and tee-shirt - weather here in Maine! 

Can Chickens Recognize Each Other?

Have you ever wondered whether or not your chickens recognize each other? Or recognize you? Could, say, pick you out of a lineup? Or wondered if - treats notwithstanding - they are actually happy to see you when you come home from work? Well it turns out that not only do your chickens recognize YOU, they can also recognize up to 100 other flock members - as well as the family dog.

Take a Peek at My Week - April 16th to 22nd

This week was a bit of a mixed bag. I was home for the beginning of the week, enjoying muddy spring in Maine and then headed off to a top secret location for a few days to work on a brand new project that I'm really excited about! I can't share any details yet, but be sure to subscribe to my newsletter so you'll be the first to hear about it! I think you'll really love it. Very, very exciting the future of backyard chicken keeping. But that's all I can say right now. In the meantime, here's a peek at my week.

Why Does Perdue Feed Parsley, Oregano and Thyme to their Chickens?

When I wrote my first book Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens Naturally back in 2013 about using herbs in my chicken keeping, there weren't many scientific studies being done that proved the benefits of feeding herbs to chickens or that really focused on any homeopathic methods.

Take a Peek at our Week - April 9th to 15th

It's so true that there's no place like home. As much as I LOVED being on the road for Chick Days, it was so nice to spend a few days at home this week - especially because spring has finally arrived to Maine! This is where I belong. Out in the country on our farm, collecting eggs and cleaning the coop, watching the chickens during free range time.  Tossing sticks for our dogs, hiking through the woods, canoeing on the lake, watching beavers built their dam and spying wild turkeys at the edge of the tree line.

What is a Fairy Egg and Why Do Chickens Lay Them?

Fairy eggs, also called "wind", "witch", "cock" or the fairly crass "fart" eggs, are merely a glitch in the laying process that is fairly common in backyard flocks. Smaller than regular eggs, usually rounder and containing no yolk, these eggs generally occur either very early in a hen's productive life before her hormones and reproductive cycle are fully formed and working properly - or sometimes very late in a hen's laying life as her hormone production is winding down. They can also be the result of stress or a disruption of routine.

Take a Peek at my Week - April 2nd - 8th

I just barely had time to unpack from my trip last week, get some laundry done and catch up with my family before it was time to head to Vermont. But in the few days I was home, I enjoyed a late spring snowfall, suspect we have a possible broody hen (c'mon Charlotte, if you hang in there - I promise to give you some fertile eggs to sit on when I get back!) and celebrated an early birthday/wedding anniversary with my husband and a few close friends.

5 DIY Seed Starter Cup Ideas on a Budget

In Zone 5b, where I live in Maine, typically the last frost date is around May 15th, and the first average frost date in the fall is around October 15th, leaving me just 150 days – give or take – to get seeds planted, sprouted, grown, and harvested.

Take a Peek at My Week with Tractor Supply Co. and Blue Seal Feeds - March 26th - April 1st

I'll be heading home to Maine tomorrow with mixed feelings. I've been gone for almost two weeks, visiting Tractor Supply Co. and Blue Seal Feed stores from Michigan to Connecticut and sponsored by Manna Pro, and while I've had such a blast meeting so many of my fans and readers, signing books, hanging out with baby chicks and meeting all sorts of other animals, I'm really eager to get back home!

Plant a Natural Wormer Garden for your Chickens

Even healthy flocks likely are carrying a certain amount of internal parasites. The parasites are found in the ground, in earthworms and in infected wild birds and mice that expel them in their feces. Your chickens naturally come in contact them as they scratch in the dirt and eat bugs and worms. But a chicken in good condition with a strong immune system can handle a normal load and will be able to flush worms out of their systems without negative effects. I believe in lots of preventives to keep my chickens healthy, and protecting them from worms is a major concern. 

Take a Peek at My Week at Tractor Supply Co. Chick Days - March 19th-25th

This week I'm in Michigan. it's only my second time visiting this state, so I'm really enjoying doing some sightseeing and sampling some of the local cuisine.  But the real reason I'm here ... I was asked by Tractor Supply CompanyManna Pro and Blue Seal Feeds to help promote this years's Chick Days, so I'm visiting a bunch of stores in the Grand Rapids area this week and then next week I'll be heading to Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut to finish up my trip. 

I'm featured in the Special "Martha" Issue of Down East Magazine!

One day last summer I was contacted by Down East Magazine about being featured in their magazine. As a new subscriber to the magazine since we moved up here to Maine in August of 2015, I knew it to be an extremely well-respected, well-written regional publication that's very popular in the state.

Brooding Chicks on the Cheap - How to Get Started Raising a Flock For Less

Chickens, a coop, run, fencing, feed, supplements, waterers, feeders, first aid supplies ... the costs can add up when you're preparing for your backyard flock. But getting started with baby chicks doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg. Here are a few clever hacks to help you get started for less...but you'll need to start stockpiling some things (if you don't already have them around the house) in advance of bringing your chicks home this spring.

Take a Peek at our Week - March 12th - 18th

You would never guess that spring is right around the corner. We got another foot of snow dumped on us earlier this week, along with most of you who live along the northern part of the Eastern seaboard. But that's why we moved to Maine, right? For the snow. We got the snow cleaned up and are now enjoying sunny, warm(er) days.

How to Make an Edible Infused Bouquet from Floret Farm's Cut Flower Garden + Enter to Win a Copy!

I've been an avid follower of Erin Benzakein's gorgeous floral-centric Instagram feed Floret Farm for quite some time now, so when I first heard that she had a book coming out, I was excited. I was even more excited to be asked to participate in the virtual book tour for Cut Flower Garden

Garlic-Infused Apple Cider Vinegar for Better Chicken Health

I've written a lot over the years about the benefits to chickens of adding apple cider vinegar and garlic to their water on a regular basis. From better respiratory, immune system and digestive health to increased calcium absorption, natural antibiotic properties and protection from parasites, both ACV and garlic are considered cornerstones of natural chicken keeping.

Take a Peek at my Week March 5th - 11th

It was soooo nice to be home this week and be able to take some time to relax and catch up with everyone. Despite continuing cold temperatures, things are bustling all over the farm. Egg production has begun again due to the slightly longer days, which is always so exciting! Bits of green are poking up through the dirt, heralding the arrival of the various perennial flowers, herbs and other plants we have around the house. 

Get Started Gardening Earlier with ShelterLogic Greenhouses

-This post is sponsored by ShelterLogic-

Here in Maine with such a short growing season, we try and do anything we can to extend the season on both ends. In the spring, starting seeds in the house is a great way to get a jump on planting, while keeping the seedlings safe from the unpredictable spring weather. It's not unknown for us to get snow right through April!

Take a Peek at my Week February 26th - March 4th

First of all, I want to apologize for not getting last weekend's blog post done. The last two weeks have been a whirlwind around here and I'm just now able to finally start to catch my breath, but I did want to share some photos of my recent trip with you. So here's my last two weeks packing into one really long post! 

Plant a Nesting Box Herb Garden for your Chickens

(information partially excerpted from my book Gardening with Chickens: Plans and Plants for You and your Hens, Voyageur Press, 2016)

Birds have been observed in the wild lining their nests with all kinds of weeds, flowers, grasses, and herbs. Clearly they innately know something about the benefits of the plants to their newly hatched babies. Often we can enhance our chicken keeping as well as our own lives by mimicking what animals do in the wild. That’s one reason why I love using plants like the ones in this garden in my chickens’ nesting boxes.

Take a Peek at my Week February 12th - 18th

This week was all about snow here in Maine. First we were hit with a near-blizzard early in the week that dumped about two feet of snow on us over the course of two days. We barely had time to get it all shoveled and plowed, when the winds picked up and blew everything back into the paths we had made. Then we got almost another foot. And then Mother Nature decided that wasn't enough, so she gave us another few inches! 

Seven Homemade Chick Brooders You Can Set Up in a Pinch

I confess. I've done it. I think we've all done it. We innocently set out to the feed store one warm spring morning intending to just grab a bag of feed and maybe the latest chicken magazine, and instead we pull open the door to a cacophony of baby chicks peeping and are unable to resist. And just like that, we've got babies again!

Take a Peek a our Week - February 5th - 11th

What a fun week I had this week! I headed to Virginia for the Rockingham Cooperative Market Showcase where I gave a couple of chicken keeping presentations. I also recorded a radio show for the On the Farm program (WSVA) and a television segment for PBS which will air later this spring.

Keep Your Chicken Water Clean with a DIY Pallet Feeding Station

Chickens, like all animals, need constant access to fresh water. But as all you chicken keepers know, keeping their water clean can be a bit of a challenge between the dirt, straw and shavings they kick into it. And if you raise ducks also, then the challenge is a thousandfold more difficult. I tried all the various waterers on the market and wasn't completely happy with any of them. But finally I have solved the problem and my chicken and duck water now stays crystal clear. Amazing, I know!

Take a Peek at our Week - January 29th - February 4th

This week we relaxed on our farm and enjoyed a beautiful snowfall midweek. We hiked in the woods with our dogs, looking for animal tracks in the snow, had the wood stove going all day and just spent the week at home hanging out in advance of my trip to Virginia next week. If you live in the Harrisonburg/Roanoke/Salem area, I hope you'll come to the Rockingham Cooperative Market Showplace where I'll be giving away copies of my books and hopefully meeting lots of you in person. If not, check out the list of other events I'll be appearing at this year...and enjoy this peek at our week.

Paw Prints in the Snow - Learning to Recognize Chicken Predator Tracks

It's always a good idea to know what kind of predators you're up against who might want to harm your chickens. It's one thing to hear or read that there are various types of animals that live in your area, but it's a whole 'nother story to actually SEE evidence of them lurking.

Take a Peek at our Week January 22nd - 28th

This was a tough week around here. We lost one of our ducks, our Silver Appleyard named Ginger. I know you're not supposed to pick favorites, but I admit she was one of my favorites. So things have been a bit more subdued - I think the other ducks are grieving a bit right along with me - but of course life goes on. Part of raising animals and living in the country means losses, unfortunately, at times. But we have other animals to care for and a business to run...meanwhile Ginger will not be forgotten any time soon. Enjoy this peek at our week.

My Top Tips for Keeping Chickens When you Work All Day

When no one is home all day, it can be daunting to think about devoting time taking care of a dog or cat, much less a flock of backyard chickens! But chickens are actually very easy to raise once you have your set-up and routine figured out - and a small flock of 5 or 6 hens will likely provide your family with plenty of eggs.

Take a Peek at Our Week January 15th - 21st

This week was pretty exciting around here. Weatherwise, we had the normal mix of snow, sleet, ice, and a bit of rain. Par for the course for winter in Maine, I guess. 

FREE Customizable Printable Egg Production Chart

Tracking your chickens' egg production is not only fun, it's a really good way to monitor the health of your flock. Often a reduction in laying is the first sign that something is wrong, since laying eggs takes so much energy out of a chicken, so by keeping track of who is laying what - when - you can sometimes get a jump on anything that's gone awry.

Take a Peek at our Week January 8th - 14th

This week the weather ran the gamut, showing us a true New England January week. We started the week with a foot and a half of snow that soon became sheets of ice as the temperatures warmed a bit and everything started melting. Continued warm temperatures and then a day of rain really took a toll on the snow, leaving us by week's end with grass showing through and temperatures near 50 degrees. But by Saturday morning, we were back in the single digits.

So Just How Loud IS a Rooster's Crow?

More and more suburban areas are starting to allow a small flock of backyard chickens, but many are still banning roosters - citing 'round-the-clock crowing as an annoyance to neighbors. So I decided to do a bit of research to find out just how loud a rooster's crow is.

Take a Peek at our Week January 1st - 7th

Well, it's a new year - and it has started off with a literal BANG! This week our chickens were featured in no less than three magazines: American Farmhouse Style, Hobby Farms Chicken Coops & Playgrounds and Natural Chicken Keeping. My new book Gardening with Chickens is selling really well...but most exciting, I appeared on NBC's local Maine news and entertainment show 207. You can watch HERE as I chat with hosts Rob Caldwell and Caroline Cornish about chickens, ducks, gardening and living in Maine!

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