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ducks and chickens snowed in

It's been over a week since our flock of ducks and chickens has had a chance to forage outside.

The ducks had been laying at a nice regular rate, but that stopped when they started being cooped up all day.

I suspect it's the stress of spending too much time with the chickens that's caused the slow down. Maybe a bigger coop or more privacy from the chickens would yield better results?

Posted mid-morning Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 Tags:
how to unboil an egg

How do you unboil a chicken egg?

First you separate the egg white from the yolk and boil it at 194 degrees for 20 minutes. Then you dissolve the egg whites with a chemical called urea and spin it really fast.

The egg whites end up stretching back to their normal shape which restores the proteins to 85 percent of where they started from. If the process can be scaled up it might produce new types of enzymes for home cooks and large food producers, but for now it's mainly useful in cancer research where proteins need to be refolded.

Image credit goes to the University of California in Irvine.

Posted early Wednesday morning, February 18th, 2015 Tags:
broody hen update 2015

A couple weeks ago our broody hen got our hopes up that she might be in the mood for Motherhood.

Now when we check on her she she's frequently off the nest.

Maybe a heat pad under the nest would've prompted more sitting or maybe it's just too cold?

Posted early Wednesday morning, February 11th, 2015 Tags:
relocating chickens from tractor to coop

How do we transfer chickens from the tractor back to the coop?

Anna has them conditioned to respond to the sound of some feed being shaken in a cup. A handy trick to have when chickens get in an escape mood.

The training is simple. Just do a lot of shaking every morning before you feed your flock. Anna's method involves calling our girls "chickees" in her best 3rd grade teacher voice.

Posted early Wednesday morning, February 4th, 2015 Tags:
ducks being used to help with growing rice

Farmers have been using ducks in Asia to help grow rice for centuries.

Once the rice gets to 25 days old they start releasing ducks in small groups of 10 or 20 depending on the size of the field.

Using this method avoids costly pesticides and fertilizers and you get the duck eggs and meat as a bonus. Maybe this process could be modified to work for cranberries or some other kind of bog crop?

Posted early Wednesday morning, January 28th, 2015 Tags:
Broody hen

It seems like every spring, one of our hens goes broody. Unfortunately, our success rate with those broody hens has been close to nill.

One year, we learned the hard way that the broody setup needs to be perfect. The nest box should be on the ground so chicks can pop back inside easily if they're chilled, and it definitely shouldn't be in a spot that can get wet during rains.

Another year, a Cuckoo Marans did an admirable job hatching eight chicks in an area she chose for herself in a little-used corner of the barn. But  we couldn't catch the hen and her chicks to move them somewhere safer...and slowly but surely the chicks got picked off by a black rat snake.

Broody henDuring several other years, we've missed the boat, watching a hen start to go broody...and then watching her relinquish her mothering instincts when we failed to set up a good nesting spot in time. So this year, I decided to be proactive. Even though it's January and surely a terrible time to be incubating eggs, when one of our Australorp mixes began hopping the fence to hide her eggs in the garden, we set her up in an isolation coop complete with nest basket, food, and water.

So far, she seems to be settling in --- not clucking angrily about being separated from her fellows, but instead spending time on the nest. I currently have five golf balls in the basket to simulate a clutch, but if our hen begins setting seriously, I'll replace the golf balls with fertilized eggs. Perhaps this will be the year a broody hen comes through for us?

Posted early Wednesday morning, January 21st, 2015 Tags:
converting old tub into duck pond with ramp

Youtube user 50 Ducks In A Hot Tub has a clever video on how he converted an old bath tub into something his ducks can enjoy.

The drain pipe can be directed toward a row of berries to take advantage of the rich duck droppings.

Pull on the black pipe that's sticking up and the tub drains without the need for reaching in the muddy water.

We've got a creek nearby our ducks use during the Winter, but this tub would be a lot less work than the 5 gallon bucket we used this past Summer.

Posted at lunch time on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 Tags:
Buff Orpington chicks

We like to raise new hens every year for optimal egg-laying, and recently we've mostly started those chicks by hatching our homegrown eggs. However, last year I opted to branch out into ducks, and that meant that we went into winter with a very small chicken flock --- just three hens and a rooster. Since all four of our chickens are siblings, I felt like that was too much of a genetic bottleneck, so I opted to start from scratch this year rather than hatching our own chicks.

Of course, buying chicks will also give me an opportunity to experiment with new breeds, something I always enjoy! In addition to our tried-and-true Black Australorps, we'll be experimenting with Dominiques, New Hampshire, Rhode Island Red, and Buff Orpington this year. (The photo shows Buff Orpington chicks at Cackle Hatchery, where we placed our order.) Here's why I chose each new breed:

  • Buff Orpington --- one of the parent strains of our beloved Australorps, good winter layers
  • Dominique --- reputed to be excellent foragers and good winter layers
  • Rhode Island Red --- very prolific, good winter layers
  • New Hampshire --- good winter layers

To learn more about the breeds we've already tried and deemed wanting or perfect for the homestead, check out my ebook Thrifty Chicken Breeds. And, in the meantime, if you're planning a chick order, be sure to put it together sooner rather than later! For dependable laying of your pullets before winter, you'll get best results if your chicks arrive by the end of March.

Posted early Wednesday morning, January 7th, 2015 Tags:

Ducks' Ditty
by Kenneth Grahame

All along the backwater,
Through the rushes tall,
Ducks are a-dabbling,
Up tails all!

Ducks' tails, drakes' tails,
Yellow feet a-quiver,
Yellow bills all out of sight
Busy in the river!

Slushy green undergrowth
Where the roach swim--
Here we keep our larder,
Cool and full and dim.

Everyone for what he likes!
WE like to be
Heads down, tails up,
Dabbling free!

High in the blue above
Swifts whirl and call--
WE are down a-dabbling
Up tails all!

Happy New Year's from our ducks, who brave sub-freezing weather to dabble through the backwater!

Posted mid-morning Wednesday, December 31st, 2014 Tags:
chicken feed indicator do it yourself

Have you ever wanted to know how much feed is in the feeder?

Prepforshtf.com has a clever project that lets you know when your chickens don't have any feed without going into the coop to look.

Gravity pushes the red flag when there's no feed to hold it in place.

Posted at lunch time on Wednesday, December 24th, 2014 Tags:
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I just purchased your chicken nipples and bit, but I have a question since I'm new in the chicken world. Do chickens need direct sun almost all day to lay eggs or are they happy with a few hours in the morning and streams of sun through the trees. They are out in there pen from 8am until dusk.


Comment by suzanne roemer late Wednesday evening, July 27th, 2011

Especially in the summer, chickens will actually gravitate toward the shade. They do like to have some sunny spots for dust-bathing, and like more sun in the winter.

The longer the day length, the better your chickens will lay. But that doesn't mean they need to be in direct sunlight during that time, just that there needs to be enough light to keep them awake and active.

Comment by anna late Saturday afternoon, July 30th, 2011

My chickens go out of there way to try and find sources of the stuff, I have Styrofoam (polystyrene actually) insulating the outside of my package heat pump. They finally figured it out and have peck/eaten a large chuck out of one section, maybe 1 ft in diameter. They have found the stuff before, and they didn't seem to have any adverse affects, I try to keep them out of harms way. I assume they will be fine this time, and I have blocked them off from the area. but my question is, Should I eat the eggs? I have 2 buff orpingtons and a white silkie(the bad influence).They are known as betty white and the golden girls. the buffs had just started laying a few days ago. Any ideas?

Comment by David L at noon on Thursday, February 9th, 2012
I've heard from other people whose chickens go after styrofoam. I figure it can't be good for them, so I'd do my best to keep them away from it. As long as the chickens are healthy, though, I doubt it will affect the eggs, but I don't really know!
Comment by anna Thursday evening, February 9th, 2012
i have a week old chick that was doing fine until yesterday. Now he is not eating and just standing around or sleeping. I put him in a box by himself with a heating pad. I have been trying to get him to drink water with probiotics and electrolites. Does anyone have any suggestions?
Comment by Anonymous at teatime on Thursday, June 21st, 2012
Anonymous --- I'm so sorry to hear about your sick chick! Unfortunately, chicks sometimes just dwindle away, especially if they had some trauma in the egg or soon after hatching that didn't show up at the time. That said, solitary confinement in a warm place sometimes helps them bounce back, so it sounds like you're doing just the right thing.
Comment by anna early Sunday morning, June 24th, 2012
I cook for my chickens.I have four girls. in the morning they get laying food and cracked corn then I give then lettuce and bread they go gaga for it. in the afternoon they get a combo of rice flax seed sucker seed canned green beans. they don't get anything green in Michigan in the winter unless I give it to them. they never got the memo that they don't lay in the winter. their pen is protected and there is no snow in their pen i live my girls.i live in the city and have never had chickens before
Comment by Linda Monday night, March 25th, 2013
Linda --- Sounds like you've got happy chickens!
Comment by anna late Monday morning, April 1st, 2013

I was contemplating buying a hydroponic system for Fodder production (green forage) for my horses. With the rising, and unrelenting price of fuel to make the hay, hay has become very expensive ($5.50-7/bale)with NO end in sight. I wanted to be sure that my horses would eat this type of forage readily. I started to grow it in my DARK- no light available- cellar. Fodder can be grown without any light source, but it will be white and not green. I did, however, use a grow light for 2hrs/day. This made the fodder very green. It took a little bit of trial and error to get the water amount needed just right, but it worked. The animal consumes everything in the tray at the end of the week, seed casing, roots and all. There is no dirt, and the animals do LOVE it. Since fodder can be fed to ALL livestock, I fed to my ducks, chickens, and horses throughout the winter. basically as a treat, as I was only using seed starter trays, and my cellar isn't that big to have the number of trays I would need on a single layer all over my floor. ;) You need to soak untreated seed- Barley works the BEST! And, 85% of it is digestible, so they get a lot of good nutrition from the fodder, unlike hay which is 15% digestible. Protein levels of barley fodder equal that of corn, so you can save on feed! Steps- 1) soak seeds 15 minutes in 5 gallon bucket with 5% solution of bleach or peroxide:water ratio. You just need to make sure all the seed is covered. (you can use this solution to clean your trays after your seeds are soaked, so after the 1st day, don't throw it away. Literally, it takes only 10-15 minutes/day to maintain this feed source! 2) Rinse and fill up with only water- seeds need to soak 24hrs additional. 3) then drain again, after the 24hrs. 4) Place soaked seed inside your trays. 7lbs of DRY seed/day will fill a 12' long channel, and feed 4-6 horses and 100 chickens for the day. SO measure, and adjust the amount of seed you need, to account for how long your trays are and how many animals you need to feed. whether this is going to be your feed source, or if you are just giving them a treat. 50 for the 2nd day, I usually just use a spray bottle to water the seeds- enough to thoroughly soak them, but not enough for a lot of standing water. Then, spray every other day, put in 2cups water/tray every other day, starting on day 3. 5) Each day do a tray- with just enough for each days use. This gives you fresh fodder daily. Each tray takes 7 days to reach the right height. 6) Turn grow light on, if green fodder is wanted, for maximum of 2hrs/day. Materials needed: 5 gallon bucket; (2) 5 gallon buckets with lid are ideal! Spray bottle Water bleach or peroxide scrub brush to clean out trays before 1st use, and after every use to kill and inhibit fungi and mold growth 7 seed starter trays liquid cup measure SEED from seed distributor (online) and place to dry store seed. Garbage can with lid works great! Grow light bulb and brooder lamp works great! Spot where water run off/spillage won't damage property. I placed trays near our sump pump.

You can make your own feed, know what your chickens, ducks, and other animals are getting as a seed (you can be sure that there are no GMO's in your feed, and thus end up in your belly) And, they get fresh feed which they gobble up!

Comment by Heather Thursday afternoon, May 15th, 2014

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