How Many Treats Should I Feed my Chickens?

December 29, 2015

We all love spoiling our pets - and our backyard chickens are no different. But too many treats can make them fat, reduce egg laying performance and lead to other health problems. So how many treats are too many?

A Week in Farm Photos - December 20th - 26th

December 26, 2015

Yesterday we celebrated our very first Maine Christmas! It wasn't a white Christmas like we hoped, but regardless, we enjoyed the day immensely. Christmas Day dawned clear and warm. We exchanged gifts, opened presents from friends and family and made calls to those family members we wouldn't be seeing for the holiday.  The balmy weather meant a walk in the woods with the dogs was in order after our meal and then back home to enjoy some eggnog, homemade cookies and delicious creme brulee. We hope you all enjoyed a day with family and friends and that everyone found what they wished for under their tree. We sure hope we get snow soon so my husband can try out his brand new snow shoes!

A Week in Farm Photos - December 13th - 19th

December 19, 2015

This week passed in a whirlwind of pre-holiday activity, but cards have been mailed, gifts for out-of-state family and friends shipped, our tree is up and decorated, the baking has begun and I even fit in some time to knit! A white Christas is still a question mark, but we did get a nice dusting the other day. Enjoy this peek at our week!

Feed the Wild Birds and your Chickens this Winter

December 15, 2015

Squirrel-proof Edwardian bird feeder from Gardener's Supply
I have a confession to make. I feed wild birds. Yes, I know that they could be carrying avian flu and pass it on to my chickens (which is why all our bird feeders are far from the coop and run area) and that wild birds are attracted to the run area by the chicken feed (which is why I don't leave feed out overnight and our run is made of 1/2" welded wire). But I just love watching the antics of the chickadees and titmice, seeing the brilliant colors of the cardinals and bluejays and marveling at the downy woodpeckers and other varieties who come to dine at our feeders. I even love having the fat gray squirrels come by from time to time.

Keep your Chickens Water from Freezing - No Electricity Needed

December 9, 2015

Keeping your flock's water from freezing is one of the biggest challenges to raising chickens in the winter. If you have electricity to your coop, the easiest way is to just plug in a heated dog water bowl. They're easy to clean and refill, and keep the water safely warmed to just above freezing. If you don't have any electricity hooked up, then it's a bit more challenging, but I'll show you how to keep your chickens' water from freezing using just a rubber tub and old tire. Honest!

A Week in Farm Photos - November 29th - December 5th

December 5, 2015

Our Thanksgiving snow 'storm' was short-lived and the grass reappeared this week. We used the continued warm weather to keep collecting kindling and cutting wood for the winter - and to finish up building our run. We also took lots of walks in the woods. Hard to believe it's December. In Maine. This time last year, they had already gotten more than two feet of snow! Enjoy this peek at our (snow-free) week!

Easy DIY Evergreen Wreath

December 1, 2015

Once Thanksgiving is over, I'm ready to start decorating for Christmas. This year I decided to make evergreen wreaths for my chicken coop and run since we have a near endless supply of pine trees here on our farm in Maine.

A Week in Farm Photos - November 22nd - 28th

November 28, 2015

This week brought both our first New England Thanksgiving in more than a decade...and snow....making it seem more like Christmas than Thanksgiving around here! Regardless, we thoroughly enjoyed both events (although the chickens could have done without the snow!) and hope you enjoy this peek at our week!

Traditional New England Apple Pie

November 24, 2015

Apple pie has long been a favorite of my husband's, so a few years ago, I convinced his father (a lifelong New Englander) to share his legendary recipe with me. Over the years, I've tweaked it a bit to our liking, and now want to share it with you. I use apple cider vinegar in the crust for a flakier crust, and serve the pie alongside a thick slick of Cheddar cheese - making it a true New England dessert! 

A Week in Farm Photos - November 15th- 21st

November 21, 2015

Another week in the beautiful state of Maine. This time last year, apparently the ground was already covered with snow that didn't entirely melt until sometime in May, so anytime we mention the white stuff to the locals, we are met with stony glares. But we're secretly hoping for snow. We've been waiting more than a decade for a proper white Christmas!  Enjoy this peek at our week!

All about Chicken Coop Nesting Boxes

November 18, 2015

Nesting boxes are where your chickens lay their eggs - or at least where they should lay their eggs! By providing enough boxes that are the right size, in the right location in your coop, filled with soft nesting material, you can encourage your chickens to use the boxes so your eggs will be clean and unbroken when you go to collect them.

A Week in Farm Photos - Nov 8th to 14th

November 14, 2015

Autumn has been holding on tight here in Maine. We've been lucky to enjoy days in the high 50s and low 60s and nights barely falling into the 30s. We're taking full advantage of the nice weather to get our new run finished - and hoping that the chickens hurry up and finish molting before the temperatures dip much lower, giving way to winter.  Enjoy this peek at our week!

How Do I Keep my Chicken Eggs from Freezing?

November 10, 2015

Eggs left out in your coop uncollected during the winter months can freeze and crack. Are they still safe to eat? What if an egg is frozen, but not cracked? Here is some advice on handling frozen eggs as well as tips to attempt to keep your eggs from freezing in the first place.

A Week in Farm Photos - Bill Green's Maine Television Appearance

November 7, 2015

We haven't been living in Maine very long, so I was pleasantly surprised to be contacted by Bill Green, TV personality and host of the Emmy-award winning show Bill Green's Maine, to be featured in a segment. The show airs every Saturday evening at 7pm on WCSH6 out of Portland and WLBZ2 out of Bangor and spotlights Maine people and places, so to be asked to be on the show is just  such an honor.

All about Roosting Bars in your Chicken Coop

November 3, 2015

Roosting bars are where your chickens should perch to sleep at night inside their coop. I get questions all the time from people building their own coops wondering exactly how the roosts should be built: how high, out of what material, how far here's all you need to know about roosting bars.

A Week in Farm Photos - October 25th - 31st

October 31, 2015

And so another glorious week in Maine comes to an end. I'm sorry about being repetitive taking so many photos of the gorgeous foliage, but it's just breathtaking. This is our first year here, but I hope that we're just as awestruck by it for years to come.  This week we made good progress on the chicken run, just in time to welcome a film crew out yesterday to shoot a segment for a tv show which will air soon. Enjoy this peek at our week!

Coconut Oil Suet Cakes for Chickens or Wild Birds

October 27, 2015

High-energy and fat-based treats are what I give to my chickens (and the wild birds) through the winter - in moderation of course. Digesting nuts and grains raises their metabolism, and some added fat helps them put on a bit of weight, both of which are extremely helpful in creating enough body heat to keep them warm, especially overnight. I make my own suet cakes for my chickens incorporating some ingredients that are especially beneficial winter treats.

A Week in Farm Photos - October 18th to 24th

October 24, 2015

Autumn has officially arrived in New England. Here's a peek at our leaf-peeping week. You can't help but be in awe of the natural beauty all around. I'm not sure the chickens, ducks and dogs appreciate all the color quite as much as we do, but they seem pretty happy in their new home regardless!

State by State Lists of Avian Vets, Labs and Resources

October 20, 2015

When you are dealing with a medical issue in your flock, your first reaction shouldn't be to check an online forum or Facebook page, to google the symptoms or read a few blogs. You'll find that limping can be a simple sprain or a sign of the dreaded Mareks disease. A weird egg can be a one-time glitch or infectious bronchitis. Your hen suddenly stopped laying? She could be egg-bound (potentially fatal), molting (totally normal) or just taking a break.

A Week in Farm Photos - October 11th - 17th

October 17, 2015

Just when we thought Maine couldn't get any more beautiful - we were pleasantly surprised this week! Check out this foliage, you just can not beat northern New England leaf peeping! In between enjoying the view, we made some good progress on the new run, which is a good thing because there's snow in our forecast for this weekend!  I also planted 150 cloves of garlic in advance of our first hard freeze. Enjoy this peek at our week!

Easy Way to Extend the Life of your Chicken Coop Bedding

October 13, 2015

Whether you use straw, hay or shavings, your chicken coop bedding needs to changed regularly. Ammonia builds up quickly in the coop as a result of the accumulation of chicken poop, and that ammonia can be extremely detrimental to your chickens' eyes and respiratory systems. Plus allowing your chickens to walk in a poop-filled coop can lead to dirty eggs and roosts. 

A Week in Farm Photos - October 4th - 10th

October 10, 2015

The leaves are changing and it couldn't be more beautiful here in Maine. I think this is the first full week I've spent at home since we moved here back in August, and I couldn't have been more content to just enjoy being home. This week was filled with lots of time outside with our animals, marshmallows roasted over the fire pit, fires in the wood stove and delicious comfort food. We ended the week by (finally) getting started building a new run for the chickens. Here's a peek at our week.

Raspberry Vanilla Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

October 6, 2015

As part of KitchenAid's Cook for the Cure campaign back in 2015 to help fight breast cancer, I was asked to create a cupcake recipe and share it with you all. This is one of my favorites - and the recipe I decided to share since the pink frosting ties in with the pink breast cancer ribbons - no food coloring needed.

Photos from the Country Living Fair - September 18-20th

October 3, 2015

Earlier this month, I traveled to Columbus, Ohio to the Country Living Magazine fair to speak and sign my book. It was my first time attending the fair, but I am pretty sure it won't be my last! The fair was so much fun. The venue was perfect to bring the pages of the magazine to life with all kinds of vendors, food and interesting presentations. I really did feel like I was strolling through an issue of Country Living Magazine! Come take a peek!

Best Fresh Maine Blueberry Pie

September 29, 2015

I've been baking blueberry pies for years. We've been fortunate that my father-in-law was living in Maine and had his own blueberry bushes and blueberry field, so he would always stop on his way from Maine to Florida for the winter and drop off blueberries for us. Now that we live in Maine ourselves, I've already baked three blueberry pies in the six short weeks we've been here! So I thought it was high time to share my recipe.

Photos from the Mother Earth News Fair - Sept. 18-20th

September 26, 2015

Last weekend I traveled to Pennsylvania to speak at the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs. I had a fabulous time presenting, signing books, meeting some of my sponsors, and wandering around the fairgrounds, which are actually set up at a ski resort. I stayed right at the resort in a beautiful room on the ninth floor, overlooking the ski runs. The weather couldn't have been more beautiful, the crowd more friendly, nor the animals more adorable. Take a peek!

What's the Difference between Brown Eggs and White Eggs?

September 15, 2015

Believe it or not, the only difference between brown eggs and white eggs is the shell color! Not only do they look exactly the same inside, the inside of the shells of both brown and white eggs are actually white, they taste the same and have the same nutritional value. The nutrition in an egg is determined by the hen's diet for the most part, not the shell color.

A Week in Farm Photos - September 6th to 12th

September 12, 2015

Well, another week has ended. We thoroughly enjoyed the first week in September up here in Maine. The cool nights and sunny days, the arrival of goldfinches to our feeder and even the distant howling of coyotes. And our spring ducklings laid their first egg yesterday! We know that this first winter especially will be a true test of our will, but I think we're all up to the challenge. The chickens are all molting in anticipation of winter, so they'll have nice new feathers to keep them warm come the first frost and they have a nice new coop to protect them from predators and the elements. Enjoy this peek at our week!

Do I Have to Refrigerate my Fresh Eggs?

September 8, 2015

One of the most common questions I get asked by readers is if they need to refrigerate the eggs they collect from their chickens. The answer might surprise you.

A Week in Farm Photos - Aug. 30th to Sept. 5th

September 5, 2015

As I sit outside writing this, it's 57 degrees out. I'm wearing a fall jacket, sipping my coffee and thinking I really need to find my fingerless gloves! Fall is definitely coming to New England and we couldn't be happier! We've had an amazing week, starting off with a fun photo shoot with Maine photographer Darlene Terry for a new project I'm working on. We were excited to welcome some goldfinches and chickadees to our yard and enjoyed apple pie made with apples from a local orchard we visited. The week ended on a high note with our new chicken coop from Horizon Structures arriving at sunup Friday morning. Stay tuned for more photos of that. Enjoy this glimpse at our week!

Probiotics vs. Prebiotics in a Chicken Diet

September 1, 2015

Most of you are likely familiar with what probiotics are - I mean who hasn't seen the Jamie Lee Curtis yogurt ads on tv - but you may be surprised to learn that probiotics work basically the same way for chickens as they do for humans.

A Week in Farm Photos - August 23rd to 29th

August 29, 2015

On the one hand, it's hard to believe we've only been here in Maine for 2-1/2 weeks. On the other hand, it feels so much like home, I feel like we've been here forever. The past week has been a flurry of unpacking (does it ever end!) and organizing, keeping a close eye on the chickens and ducks who are basically free ranging until their new coop arrives next week, and taking lots of breaks to explore our new neighborhood.

We've already found a blueberry farm and an apple orchard, driven to the coast to have lunch in Belfast, visited a local garden shop and found an excellent seafood restaurant just a few minutes away. I've already had lobster four times and plan on continuing that trend. We hear coyotes howling at night (which is a new experience for us all and I have to admit bit creepy!) and have hummingbirds who visit our feeders each morning. And just this morning we got a garden tilled so we can take a stab at planting a cold crop garden. Take a peek at our week!

Why are Eggs Sold by the Dozen?

August 25, 2015

The number twelve has had special significance for man since the ancient times, from Jesus' twelve apostles to twelve full moons per year and twelve months in a year. There are twelve inches in a foot and twelve hourly divisions on a clock.  There are twelve zodiac signs, twelve tribes of Israel and twelve Knights of the Round Table. There are twelve days of Christmas. But what does any of that have to do with why eggs are sold by the dozen?

A Week in Farm Photos August 16th - 22nd

August 22, 2015

This past week, my husband and I fulfilled a decades-long dream to return to New England. We were both born and raised in Massachusetts, but after a career in the Navy for him and a career on Wall Street for me, our paths crossing in the middle of all that, and settling in Virginia for the last 12 years, it was time to go home.

Treating Foamy Eye and Sinus Issues in Ducks Naturally

August 18, 2015

Bubbling or foamy eyes in ducks can be fairly common, but also fairly easily treated. Providing fresh, clean water for your ducks that is deep enough for them to submerge their entire head in is usually sufficient to keep their sinuses clean and working properly, but over over mating or an eye injury (inflicted by another duck, a chicken, or a run-in with some wire fencing, a branch or other debris) can cause the eye to bubble and foam. 

Traveling (or Moving) with Chickens

August 11, 2015

Whether you're traveling just a few miles to the vet, across town to a chicken swap, across the state to attend a poultry show or moving clear across the country, you will need a plan to get your chickens from point A to point B as safely as possible.

A Week in Farm Photos - August 2nd to 8th

August 8, 2015

This week has been bittersweet. It marks our last week living here in Virginia. Yup, it's true. Next week we're packing up all our animals and worldly possessions and heading north - back to New England, where both my husband and I grew up. We're really excited, but we know we'll miss this farm that we have called home for the last 12 years. We hope you all will continue to follow us on our journey, because it's sure to be quite the adventure! Same faces, new place. So stay tuned for what's ahead! And enjoy this last peek at our Virginia farm.

Repelling Coop Critters Naturally

August 4, 2015

Keeping your coop free of rodents and insects is important for your chickens’ health and happiness. Bugs and mice will not only eat chicken feed, but they can also carry disease. Snakes eat eggs and even small baby chicks if they have the chance.

A Week in Farm Photos - July 26th - August 1st

August 1, 2015

Stay tuned for some super exciting news next week! I'll share as soon as I can. This week was a whirlwind around here, but the animals take it all in stride of course. Enjoy!

Lavender Lemon Linen Mist

July 28, 2015

I have a confession to make. Guilty as charged: yes, we let our dogs sleep in our bed. We used to have a strict 'no dogs in the bed' rule when we had our first shepherd Sadie, but after we lost her, somewhere along the way, we softened up and loosened the regulations and now we have dogs in our bed. Often during the day Bella, our German Shepherd, will sneak in to curl up and take a nap on the bed, but Winston, our corgi, has somehow claimed his nightly spot at the foot of the bed.

A Week in Farm Photos - July 19th to July 25th

July 25, 2015

Staying cool in the oppressive Southern summer heat and humidity is what it's all about this time of year for us - and this summer I've also been 'mothering' a tub full of tadpoles (who are doing just great). Being indoors more, hibernating in our air conditioned house, does afford me more time to cook, which I enjoy, and homemade mayonnaise, pesto and ice cream were all on the menu this week along with some other delicious food using our fresh eggs, vegetables and herbs from the garden. Egg production has been down a bit because of the heat, but our slackers girls have been enjoying lots of chilled and frozen treats to keep them cool. Enjoy!

Herbs for Hens: Plantain Soothing Salve

July 21, 2015

Plantain is a perennial herb (considered a weed by many!) found nearly worldwide in lawns, fields and the woods. Edible for humans and animals alike, it can be eaten fresh/raw, used in salads or cooked much the same as spinach. It's high in calcium and iron, as well as Vitamin B1 and riboflavin.  Our chickens and ducks love it, picked fresh from the woods or yard. In fact, I have a hard time finding some leaves that haven't already been nibbled on!

A Week in Farm Photos - July 12th to 18th

July 18, 2015

Summer has arrived with a vengeance here in Virginia. Hot, steamy humid mornings followed by violent thunderstorms by mid-afternoon. We're all keeping cool with lots of cool water, shade and chilled watermelon though. Egg production is down a bit, which is normal as everyone conserves their energy. 

The highlight of our week was discovering the first frog to hatch in our tadpole puddle I've been keeping safe from the ducks clutches...and some weird mushrooms we found. Yup, it's an exciting life we lead out here in the country! Come take a peek!

Preventing Hardware Disease (Heavy Metal Poisoning) in Backyard Chickens and Ducks

July 15, 2015

Chickens and ducks are attracted to shiny things they find on the ground like spare change, nails, screws, hooks, aluminum foil, earrings, bits of wire, pieces of glass, staples and the like. This is extremely dangerous and can lead to serious health problems and even death as the heavy metals break down, enter the blood stream and slowly poison the bird - or sharp edges perforate the intestine, leading to infection. It can take days or weeks for symptoms to emerge, and by that time it's generally too late. Ducks, especially, are prone to Hardware Disease (or Heavy Metal Poisoning), which is very hard to treat, but easily preventable. 

A Week in Farm Photos - July 5th to 11th

July 11, 2015

This week we all just hung out enjoyed the lazy days of summer. We found two turtles wandering around our farm and discovered a mud puddle full of tadpoles. The chickens and ducks enjoyed chilled watermelon to help them stay cool and our dogs and cat spent their days lounging around in the house where it was cooler. Enjoy this peek at our week!

Natural Fly Bunting for the Chicken Coop, Barn or Picnic Area

July 8, 2015

Flies are a nuisance, but worse than that, they carry disease. Commercial chemical fly sprays aren't safe to use around your chicken coop, barn or animals, and those sticky fly strips - while effective - aren't the most attractive things, so I decided to make a cute natural fly catcher bunting for our chicken coop.

A Week in Farm Photos June 28th - July 4th

July 4, 2015

Happy Fourth of July everyone! Today's the day we celebrate our independence and the rights that most of us enjoy to raise animals and crops and support our family in a sustainable, self-reliant manner. This week marked our first garlic crop, our first batch of homemade mayonnaise of the summer and all kinds of great photo opportunities! I even managed to sneak some knitting in! Enjoy and Happy 4th!

Easy Mason Jar Mayonnaise

June 29, 2015

Just in time for summer recipes like egg, tuna or chicken salad and BLTs, I wanted to share with you a brilliant way to make your own homemade mayonnaise.

Fast and easy, this recipe will knock your socks off. Trust me. It's so simple and literally takes about three minutes.

All you need is a mason jar and an immersion blender....and fresh eggs of course!

A Week in Farm Photos - June 21st - 27th

June 27, 2015

This week Virginia (and lots of other places all over the country) suffered through heat indices well over 100 degrees and high humidity. What made it even worse for us here was that I was out of town, so all the farm chores fell to my husband in addition to his 'day job'. But he did an awesome job of making sure everyone had plenty of cool water in the morning before he left for work, and then cooling treats and fresh water when he got home each afternoon. He even had four broodies to deal with! But I came back home to greet everyone doing just fine, and even our gardens pulled through the difficult weather. Enjoy this peek at our week. And stay cool!

A Week in Farm Photos June 14th-20th - Filming the Permaculture Chickens DVD

June 20, 2015

This week I had the pleasure of hosting Justin Rhodes, his family and film crew at our farm to film a segment for the upcoming Permaculture Chickens DVD due to come out this fall. They arrived at sun-up to capture morning chores on film and take advantage of the beautiful morning light, then we moved to the herb garden to chat about the benefits of using herbs in chicken keeping. Even the ducks got in on the action, maybe hoping for a sequel (Permaculture Ducks?!?!). The film crew even brought a drone and had it flying around capturing images and some of the action! The day ended with a Q&A session as I sat and answered some of the questions fans had sent in. Enjoy this peek at the photo shoot. And pre-order the Permaculture Chickens DVD at a 20% discount HERE.

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