Take a Peek at our Week December 25th - 31st

December 31, 2016

2016 has been quite the year! Lots of ups and downs, but mostly ups - fortunately - around here. This last week of the year, we experienced our first true Maine Nor'Easter which dumped about a foot of wet, heavy snow down on everything, knocking out our power for almost 24 hours and leaving us with a gorgeous winter wonderland to enjoy - once we got done shoveling and plowing and sanding that is....

Besides Feed - What Else Does a Chicken Need?

December 27, 2016

A good-quality layer feed is the cornerstone to optimal flock health, but in addition to a well-balanced feed (maybe with a few natural supplements thrown in to boost immune systems and overall health), chickens also need two important things added to their diet. Namely, insoluble grit and a calcium supplement.

Take a Peek at our Week December 18th - 24th

December 24, 2016

As I sit here on Christmas Eve watching the snow gently fall, it's hard not to reflect on the past year. A new book, a television show, speaking at Disney's Epcot Center, meeting Nancy Fuller from the Food Network's Farmhouse Rules and enjoying our first full year in our new home here in Maine! It's been a crazy busy year, but it's hard not to be extremely grateful for the opportunities that I've been presented over the last five years.

Oatmeal for Chickens

December 20, 2016

chickens, treats, treats for chickens

Oats are an excellent source of vitamins, protein and antioxidants - and chickens love them. Raw oats can help treat pasty butt in baby chicks and warm oatmeal is a nutritious warming treat for your flock in the winter. Adding a bit of cinnamon and cayenne pepper is also beneficial to your flock, especially in the winter.

Take a Peek at Our Week - December 11th - 17th

December 17, 2016

This weeks was an exciting one around here! Winter has set in for good and we got lots of snow and temperatures down to -10 degrees overnight. The chickens and ducks are all fine with lots of straw in their coop and scratch grains before bed, although I'm sure they're looking forward to spring! We humans spent one whole day stacking wood for the wood stove, so the house should be nice and toasty all winter long!

Best Warming Winter Treats for your Chickens!

December 15, 2016

Winter treats for your chickens serve a couple of important purposes. Unlike warm weather treats that should be water-laden, cooling foods such as watermelon, cucumber or frozen berries, cold weather treats should be high-protein, high-carb, high-fat foods to help give your chickens energy to stay warm and to keep weight on.

DIY Foraged Winterberry Holiday Window Boxes for your Chicken Coop

December 13, 2016

window box forage winter decor diy

Sure you can go out and buy all kinds of beautiful (expensive) holiday decorations for your home (and coop!) worthy of a spread in Romantic Homes or House Beautiful magazine, but I prefer to save a little money, head out to the woods and make my own holiday decor.

Take a Peek at Our Week - December 4th - 10th

December 10, 2016

Winter has hit our corner of Maine with full force. We have snow! In between clearing off the steps and keeping water tubs full and from freezing, we managed to go cut down our Christmas tree and enjoy apple cider donuts afterwards! We had a visit from a wayward raccoon one afternoon - no worries, the chickens and ducks were safe in their run - and have seen lots of deer and bunny prints in the snow.
I've been busy working on a few magazine features that will be published in the coming months, and I'm planning a book tour out to the West Coast! My first trip ever to that part of the country. I'll be heading to Seattle in February, so stay tuned for details on that. I would love to meet some of you in person. Take a peek at our week!

How Do Chickens Stay Warm in the Winter?

December 6, 2016

Chickens generally do just fine in cold temperatures, but the better you understand just how a chicken stays warm, the easier it will be for you to do a few easy things to make winters more comfortable for your flock. During the day, I always give my chickens the option to go outside, and as long as they can find a nice sunny, sheltered area outside, they'll spend most of the day outside which is important to give them fresh air and some exercise on all but the most blustery days.

Take a Peek at Our Week Nov 27th - Dec 3rd

December 3, 2016

We welcomed December here in Maine with a little snow, a little rain, some drizzle, some sleet and a lot of mud. Through it all, the ducks were just thrilled with anything falling from the sky, but the chickens spent a good part of the week inside the coop. I guess I speak for myself, the ducks and our dogs when I say we're really hoping that winter comes soon and brings with it lots of snow and freezing temperatures to set our fall tulip bulbs and garlic, freeze all the mud and kill any flies and ticks still hanging around. Take a peek at our week.

What is the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD)

November 29, 2016

Big changes are coming on January 1, 2017 regarding how certain medications are going to be dispensed for chickens. Basically, the Veterinary Feed Directive will put a stop to over-the-counter sales of many of the antibiotics used for poultry and other livestock. In order to purchase medications that are currently on your feed store shelves, you will now need a prescription from a licensed veterinarian. That's it in a nutshell, but there's lots more information here on the USDA site.

Take A Peek at Our Week November 20th - 26th

November 26, 2016

Lots to be thankful for this holiday season. Everyone's healthy and happy, and we've even seen a bit of snow! The coop got a bit of new decor to keep the girls busy since they're spending more time inside than they do in the warmer months.
This week brought some exciting news that I'll be sharing soon (hint: it has to do with Martha Stewart!). I was also honored to be interviewed by Time magazine for an article.  Yup, that Time magazine! No, not Woman of the Year! But still, pretty exciting nonetheless. I was also asked to contribute to Farmers Almanac again for next year's issue, which I eagerly agreed to, and one of my photos is going to be featured in a kids science magazine. 
I've started work on my new book and will be turning in the outline and first chapter to my editor next week. All great news for backyard chicken keeping. It's really gone mainstream, which is a "good thing" as Martha would say!

Easy DIY Duck or Chicken Teepee

November 22, 2016

Over the years raising ducks, I've learned that the cold rarely bothers them, but they're not really big fans of wind. I've also noticed that they love to hunker down in the shade of the evergreens that grace our property to nap, safe from aerial predators.

Take a Peek at Our Week November 13th - 19th

November 19, 2016

The Thanksgiving holiday almost upon us, and Christmas coming fast on its heels, I'm grateful that two of our four new spring chicks (pullets now!) have started laying eggs and the ducks are almost done molting, so we should have plenty of fresh eggs for holiday baking. I just can't bring myself to buy store bought eggs. Haven't for nearly 8 years and never plan to, ever again. 
I've been busy promoting my new book Gardening with Chickens and doing lots of press and interviews for that - and I've already started some early work on my next book! Still polishing up my outline and some small details, but hopefully I'll have good news and more information for you on that soon. In the meantime, we're hoping for some snow soon to kick off the holidays here in Maine, but no one is complaining about these spring-like temperatures we've been enjoying lately. So, enjoy this peek at our week!

Adding Thyme to Chicken Feed for a Natural Immune System Boost

November 15, 2016

I think we can all agree that one of the reasons we raise our own chickens is to afford them a happy life, spent frolicking in the grass, chasing bugs and eating good-quality feed supplemented with healthy treats. We hardly want to emulate the large, commercial chickens farms...or do we?

Take a Peek at Our Week November 6th - 12th

November 12, 2016

It snowed! Just for a second and the flakes melted as soon as they hit the porch, but we have officially gotten our first snowfall here in Maine. This week brought continued slow egg production, lots of pretty pictures from around the farm, and I spent the later part of the week signing copies of my third book and getting them in the mail. Enjoy this peek at our week.

Gardening with Chickens: Fall Cleanup and Fertilizing

November 8, 2016

Fall is the perfect time to let your chickens wander freely in your garden. Once you have harvested your crops, you can let your chickens in to clean up the remaining stalks, vines, and stems. They'll help by breaking up all the organic matter and incorporating it into the soil where it will continue to break down.

Take a Peek at Our Week October 30th - November 5th

November 5, 2016

No snow yet, but it's regularly dipping below freezing at night now. With a fresh layer of straw in the coop and yummy afternoon treats, the girls are just fine. This week we celebrated the release of my third book Gardening with Chickens and I'm excited to announce that my fourth book (that I'll start working on this winter) will likely be coming out in the spring of 2018. Seems like a long way away, but time flies when you're having fun, right? Enjoy this peek at our week.

Announcing my New Book Gardening with Chickens

November 1, 2016

I'm very excited to finally announce that my brand new book Gardening with Chickens: Plans and Plants for you and your Hens (Voyageur Press, 2016) is being released this week! Over a year in the making, the writing of this book was truly a labor of love which allowed me to combine two of my most favorite pastimes - gardening and chicken keeping!

Take a Peek at Our Week October 23 -29th

October 29, 2016

As we march towards winter, the days are getting shorter, the girls are still molting and the temperatures are hovering very close to freezing at night. No snow yet, but soon... Egg production is still pretty pitiful since our spring layers haven't all started laying yet. But it's a gorgeous time of year here in Maine, so we're loving each and every day. Last weekend I wrapped up my last trip of the year, speaking and signing books at the Mother Earth News fair in Topeka, Kansas. Now I'm looking forward to staying home for a few months and working on my next book this winter. Take a peek at our week.

Traditional Boston Brown Bread

October 27, 2016

My mother is a fabulous cook and baker, and one of my favorite childhood food memories is when she would bake brown bread - right in a tin can!  Delicious and moist, and studded with raisins, it was the perfect accompaniment to a plate of baked beans. Having grown up in Massachusetts, to me this was the quintessential fall dinner, so when I ran across this recipe recently, I decided to try my hand at baking this time-honored favorite.

My Top 5 Winter Tips for Keeping your Chickens Warm

October 24, 2016

Keeping your chickens warm in the winter can seem daunting, especially if you live in the far north, but  in reality it's not difficult nor expensive to do. I was asked by the folks over at Lehman's® to share my top five tips that I use to keep my chickens comfortable during our long Maine winters. Curious as to what they are?

Read my Top 5 Tips to Keep Your Chickens Warm this Winter

Disclaimer: I was compensated for this article by Lehman's® , but all opinions are my own.
I would love for you to join me here...
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Take a Peek at our Week October 16 - 22nd

October 22, 2016

This week brought more foliage, more molting, our first clam bake and a bit of fall decor to our coop. This weekend I'm in Kansas at the Mother Earth News fair and hopefully next week I'll get some good news about my next book! There's always something going on here on the farm. Stay tuned for more news about my new television show too in the coming weeks...and in the meantime, take a peek at my week!

Chicken-Friendly Backyard Landscaping

October 18, 2016

Lots of you raise backyard chickens that are allowed to roam your backyard, either supervised or unsupervised, and might wonder if your existing landscaping is okay if your chickens happen to nibble on it (which they are prone to do!). I'm frequently asked what kinds of plants, bushes and trees are safe to plant around chickens.

Take a Peek at my Week October 9th - 15th

October 15, 2016

With nights dipping into the high 20's, the cold weather is really setting in. The garden has been turned over and mulched with the straw bedding from the coop that I raked out last week, and most of the herbs have been picked and are drying in the barn. The chickens are almost done molting, thankfully, in preparing for winter. The fall foliage here in Maine has already peaked and the leaves are starting to fall in earnest. Here's a peek at our week!

Why are There Blood Spots in my Fresh Eggs?

October 11, 2016

If you raise your own chickens or buy eggs from a local farm or farmers market, this has probably happened to you on occasion. You crack an egg into the frying pan and notice a bright red blood (or meat) spot on the yolk. You might have assumed that meant the egg was fertile (not true) or that the egg isn't edible (also not true). At the very least, it's a bit off-putting. 

A Week in Farm Photos - October 2nd - 8th

October 8, 2016

Autumn is my favorite season, and autumn in Maine couldn't be more spectacular! We had our first frost so that did it for the garden. I picked all the pumpkins and corn to use as porch decor and then got some garlic planted. I cleaned out the coop in preparation for winter and used the straw bedding to mulch the garlic. See how that works? Chickens, gardening...it's a complete circle! The chickens are all in various stages of molting and have requested no photos until they're looking beautiful again, but I managed to sneak in a few! Enjoy this peek at our week!

Mother Earth News Fair - Pennsylvania 2016

October 4, 2016

The weekend before last I made the trip to Seven Springs, Pennsylvania to appear at the Mother Earth News Fair. It was my second year at the fair and I have to say the Seven Springs ski resort is the perfect venue. Over the course of the weekend I presented talks on raising chickens naturally, adding ducks to your flock and gardening with chickens to standing room only audiences. I also signed books and got to meet so many of you in person.

A Week in Farm Photos September 25th - October 1st

October 1, 2016

As we herald in October, we also welcomed our first frost. My peppers and eggplant succumbed to the cold, but I've still got some lettuce and kale going strong in the garden. I had covered my herbs so everything made it through the night, although the basil is not as happy as it could be! The chickens are all in varying stages of molting, so they basically stand around looking miserable and aren't laying many eggs. But the state of Maine is in her glory and we're loving the cooler temperatures. Enjoy this peek at our week!

8 Potentially Harmful or Toxic Herbs to Avoid in Chicken Keeping

September 27, 2016

Most herbs have wonderful health benefits for both humans and animals and have been used down through the ages to treat, prevent and cure all kinds of ailments, but not all herbs are safe. 

I do use lots of herbs with my chickens, both in their environment and diet, but I am careful to stick to the common, culinary herbs which are safe and perfectly edible, because some herbs are toxic to chickens (and people).

Do you Hear What I Hear? All about Chicken Hearing

September 20, 2016

Chickens hear very much like human beings do. They have two ears, one on either side of their head. They have eardrums, and an outer ear, middle ear and inner ear, just like we do. They are able to harness sound waves and send them to the inner ear. 

A Week in Farm Photos Sept 11th to 17th

September 17, 2016

Brrrrr....there's a definite chill in the air as the temperatures start to dip down into the 40's at night. The leaves are beginning to change and we're looking to a glorious fall season here in Maine. All that's left in the garden now are some herbs, pumpkins and the corn. I'll be drying the herbs and harvesting the pumpkins and corn, then arranging them on the front porch for a bit of seasonal decor.  Take a peek at our week.

10 Healthy Sources of Added Protein for Molting Chickens

September 13, 2016

The first time your chickens go through a molt, dropping their feathers all over the coop and run, you'll likely do a quick headcount, sure some predator got in. While it seems that some chickens lose their feathers all at once, while others barely show any signs of molting, the first molt will be triggered by the shorter days in the fall, when your chickens are about 18 months old. And there's no need to worry, it's perfectly normal and in fact gets the chickens ready for winter.

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

September 10, 2016

As the summer winds down, I'm busily harvesting the last of the tomatoes and watching our pumpkin patch excitedly.  The leaves are already starting to turn on the sugar maples and there's a chill in the air each morning. I headed down to Portland earlier this week to preview the pilot of my new TV show Fresh Eggs Daily with Lisa Steele which will air on Monday (I'll share the link on Facebook so everyone can watch it streaming online!) and am excited to hear what you all think of the newest 'chicken lifestyle' show to hit the airwaves. I hope that each episode will bring my Facebook page and blog to life for you all - in the meantime, enjoy this peek at our week.

Choosing the Right Fencing for your Chicken Coop, Run or Garden

September 6, 2016

Keeping your flock safe from predators is something important to consider if you are new to chicken keeping, or building or buying a new coop, chicken tractor or run. Keeping your garden veggies safe from marauding bunnies, deer and wild birds is always a struggle. Not all chicken fences or fencing options are created equal - and using the wrong type of fencing can lead to heartbreaking losses.

A Week in Farm Photos - August 29th to Sept 3rd

September 3, 2016

What a fun week! We've been picking tomatoes and eggplant from the garden and eagerly watching the progress of our corn and pumpkins. And one of our spring chicks started laying this week! We made a trip to Tractor Supply Co. which is always fun, but seeing my book on the shelf was the icing on the cake. Speaking of dessert....I baked a pie using some rhubarb a neighbor shared with us. 

I sat down earlier in the week for an interview for a magazine article that will come out next spring and yesterday we (finally) picked out our new counter top, so we are ready to start a much-needed mini kitchen makeover. Oh, and I got some good news from my editor about book #4, so stay tuned for more details on that in the coming months. All in all, it was a good week here on the farm. Want to take a peek?

Talking about Raising Backyard Chickens on NPR

August 30, 2016

Everyone's bucket list* is made up of different dreams and goals. I was excited to be able to cross one item off my bucket list last week when I was invited to be on the NPR radio show Maine Calling on a panel chatting about Raising Backyard Chickens. Yes, appearing on NPR was on my bucket list! (So is seeing a moose and mastering macaroons...as I said, everyone's list is a bit different...)

A Week in Farm Photos August 21st - 27th

August 27, 2016

It's hard to believe that August is almost over. But despite the continuing warm, sunny days, there has been a bit of a chill in the air first thing in the morning lately. I've seen a few fallen leaves that have already changed color, so the glorious New England fall foliage season will be upon us in no time. We've got pumpkins turning orange, the corn is almost ready to eat and we're picking tomatoes by the basket full. The chickens and ducks are molting - already growing in new feathers for the winter, which is predicted to be cold and snowy. Even by Maine standards.

This week was busy, as usual. We welcomed a renowned freelance photographer (her last gig was for Bon Appetit magazine!) to our farm early in the week to shoot photos for a magazine article, and then I headed to Portland to tape a live show on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network.  That was a lot of fun and I have to admit something that had been on my bucket list forever. Enjoy this peek at our week!

Quiz: What Kind of Chicken Keeper Are You?

August 23, 2016

There are as many kinds of chicken keepers as there are breeds of chickens. And often the breeds you choose to keep can be a clue as to the type of chicken keeper you are. Read these fun, tongue-in-cheek profiles to figure out which kind of chicken keeper you are. Or maybe you already know....

A Week in Farm Photos - Shooting a TV Show Pilot August 14th-20th

August 20, 2016

Our farm was a flurry of excitement this week as we welcomed the film crew from WPXT/WPME-TV to shoot the pilot for a new television show I will be hosting. The 30-minute lifestyle show will bring to life my Facebook page and blog, encompassing chicken keeping, gardening and cooking with fresh eggs from the coop and fresh produce from the garden.  The chickens did great hitting their marks, but I think the ducks ultimately stole the show. Winston even got to star in one scene and got it perfect on the first take - I, on the other hand, needed two more tries until I got it right. Enjoy this behind-the-scenes peek at our week as I got a crash course in voice-overs and B roll.

A Week in Farm Photos - August 7th-13th

August 13, 2016

According to the locals up here in Maine, this is the hottest, driest summer they can remember. I'ts been hot and dry around most of the country, so I'm sure you're all busy watering yours gardens and refilling your chickens' water several times a day. Despite the heat and lack of moisture though, our garden and flock are both thriving and life is good up here in the woods of Maine. Enjoy this peek at our week...which did end with a few nice rain showers and the arrival of advance copies of the new Farmers Almanac to which I was asked to contribute an article!

Why I Don't Keep a Rooster in My Backyard Chicken Flock

August 9, 2016

While roosters historically have played an extremely critical role in every flock of chickens, they have become largely obsolete in today's modern backyard flock. Many areas don't allow roosters, and even those who can have roosters are often opting to raise a hens-only flock. I am one of those people and I'll tell you why.

A Week in Farm Photos - July 31st - August 6th

August 6, 2016

The summer keeps marching along. The Littles are growing up and we have tomatoes ripening in the garden. We build a raised bed garden this week next to the chicken coop, and also started work on a wading pool down by the brook for Winston our corgi. We're thoroughly enjoying our first summer in Maine. Enjoy this peek at our week.

Introducing the Urban Coop Company Round Top Duck House

August 4, 2016

The story behind the new Round Top Duck House from Urban Coop Company begins many months ago. Montie Twining, the owner of the company, had been brainstorming - which if you know Montie, is no surprise! Anyway, their family raises ducks as well as chickens and he wanted to design a house just for the ducks. He reached out to me knowing that I also raise ducks, and asked if I would like to be involved in designing a new duck house for his coop line.

A Week in Farm Photos - July 24th - 30th

July 30, 2016

In about three weeks, we'll be celebrating the anniversary of our arrival in Maine. This past year has been one of transition - having my husband retired from the Navy and home all day took some getting used to! - and lots of changes. It's been exciting to see the flower gardens we inherited come to life and bloom with various native flowers and plants month after month. We've hiked in the woods and marveled at the local flora and fauna. We watch wild turkeys and deer in the field, and have seen our first fisher cat and heard coyotes howling after dark. Maine is a beautiful, wild, wonderful state and we look forward to many more years enjoying all it has to offer. Enjoy this peek at our week.

Chicken Coop Decor for the Posh Flock

July 26, 2016

Of course, the main purpose of a chicken coop is to keep your flock safe at night from predators, cool in the summer and warm in the winter, but adding a little "cute" factor never hurts.

I've been having fun decorating our coop and wanted to share some of the coop decor elements, as well as explain why they're functional, as well as decorative, in many cases.

A Week in Farm Photos - July 17th - 23rd

July 23, 2016

As a blanket of heat continues to hover over nearly the entire nation, we're still thankful we are here in Maine where it's at least a bit cooler than other parts of the country. Everyone is doing well, our gardens are thriving, the Littles are growing up ... and  I'm working on some new and exciting projects for the fall and beyond. I'll share more details in the coming weeks hopefully. Because when I say exciting ... I mean really exciting! In the meantime, enjoy this peek at our week, keep your waterers full of cold water and stay cool!

10 Tips for Keeping Bees (without Becoming a Beekeeper)

July 19, 2016

Beekeeping is all the rage lately. The majority of the top-selling books in the homesteading category on Amazon.com are beekeeping books. If chickens are the gateway livestock, then bees are quite easily one of the next few stops along the path to self-sufficiency.  But not everyone feels confident enough to don a suit and start messing with a bee colony. Not only that, buying the hives and requisite equipment requires a bit of an investment, as does the time caring for and maintaining the hive and collecting the honey.

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