Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Chicken Info’ Category


Bear with me, because this will likely be looonnnngggg. πŸ˜€

So, I’m still using. I’ve also been involved with a FB community for chicken folk.

What? Don’t look at me like that. You knew this would prolly happen. πŸ˜†

So anyhow, I’m blabbering online, and invariably, the issue of fermenting chicken food comes up. Not surprisingly, many of the same questions get asked over and over and over. And for good reason. There is a link out there that many people start with, that has some misinformation going on. So those are some points that folks get confused on, and actually seem to create more questions.

In the interest of keeping fermenting chicken feed SIMPLE, here are some answers to some of the questions I see asked the most. You’re welcome. πŸ˜€Β  πŸ˜‰

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Fermented food? Huh? What is it?

“Fermentation in food processing is the conversion of carbohydrates to alcohols and carbon dioxide or organic acids using yeasts, bacteria, or a combination thereof, under anaerobic conditions. Fermentation usually implies that the action of microorganisms is desirable. The science of fermentation is also known as zymology or zymurgy.” {http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermentation_in_food_processing}

Stop right there. If you’ve read more, take your mental white-out and purge that next ditty bit from your brain. You are not making alcohol. I repeat: YOU ARE NOT MAKING ALCOHOL.Β  If you want the complicated, sciency answer, leave me a comment and I’ll give it to you. But this is going to be a long post and I don’t need people falling asleep yet. πŸ˜€

 

Why?

Why not? πŸ˜† No, seriously.

1) Superior nutrition Β 

Fermenting creates new vitamins; specifically B vitamins, and new nutrients. Some of those nutrients are amino acids. The soaking and fermenting also breaks down the anti-nutrients and toxins in the grains that prevent the digestion of available nutrients.

http://www.fao.org/docrep/x2184e/x2184e06.htm

Quote:

Β Bacterial fermentation produces lysine, often increasing its concentration by many fold and making grains nearly a “complete protein”, i.e. one that contains the ideal balance of essential amino acids as do animal proteins (11, scroll down to see graph). Not very many plant foods can make that claim. Fermentation also increases the concentration of the amino acid methionine and certain vitamins.
Β 
Β 
In addition to the reduction in toxins and anti-nutrients afforded by soaking and cooking, grinding and fermentation goes much further. Grinding greatly increases the surface area of the grains and breaks up their cellular structure, releasing enzymes which are important for the transformation to come. Under the right conditions, which are easy to achieve, lactic acid bacteria rapidly acidify the batter.”Β  {http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/645057/fermented-feeds-anyone-using-them/2220 }Β 

So, your birds are going to be healthier.

2) Less waste

This alone was appealing to me, not including the expansion of the feed, so it goes further than dry feed. The feed isn’t kicked all over the ground and lost to the subterranean trolls that hover and wait for scratched out nuggets of goodness.

I’m seriously still saving AT LEAST 2/3 on my feed bill, even with adding 14 more babies.

3) Less stinky poo

It’s always about the poop, isn’t it? πŸ˜† Not only is the poo less stinky, it’s more solid. Cecal poops are always going to be cecal poops, so we can’t get rid of those. BUT. The other ones- even more solid, and drier. This makes cleaning *a lot* easier because less the cecals, you aren’t dealing with a ton of smearage.

I haven’t noticed the no smell like some report, but I do agree that they definitely don’t smell as much. And guinea poop, OH MY STARS, smells absolutely DELISH compared to regular feed poops. That stuff was toxic, I’m tellin’ ya. Now it’s tolerable and doesn’t require the HAZMAT suit and re-breather. Whew.

4) Glossier feathers

I’m not aware of any studies that measure feather glossy-ness, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. πŸ˜† And, they grow back faster.

 

How?Β  What ingredients do I need to use?

Water + feed + 3 to 4 days for initial ferment. Stir. Wait. Stir. Wait. Lather, rinse, repeat.

If you’ve been strolling around the WWW, no doubt you’ve found a boat load of recipes for chicken foods to be fermented, and those using multiple buckets with holes drilled in the bottom; rotating them in and out so they always have a batch going.

Ya. That’s not going to happen on my planet. πŸ˜† Ain’t nobody got time for that here!

So. Let me repeat.Β  Water + feed + 3 to 4 days for initial ferment.Β  Whatever you’re feeding now- ferment that. Add some water, stir, wait 3 to 4 days, stirring a few times a day. That’s really all there is to it.

I like a 1:1 ratio of food to water, which makes a nice, thicker consistency. There is no need to strain or keep it covered by inches of water. It’s also not as sloppy as much wetter feed. You are welcome to keep it soupy, but I go for easy and the least labor intensive as possible. But, I’m lazy like that. πŸ˜†

Now, if you want to complicate things and make it involved, have at it. πŸ™‚

 

I’m on chlorinated city water. Is that ok to use?

Sure! You’ll want the chlorine to evaporate first, though. I’ve seen a few people say they use chlorinated water without issue; common sense tells me chlorine kills bugs, and fermented feed has live cultures; aka “bugs.”. Usually, overnight should work, but to be sure, 24 hours is ideal. Just leave it in a bucket or uncovered, and the chlorine will evaporate.

The bigger issue here, though, is chloramine. Many city water supplies have gone from chlorine to chloramine, and they are NOT the same. Chloramine is a compound of chlorine bonded with ammonia. It will not evaporate. There are way to treat it, say, if you have a fish tank. I wouldn’t recommend that treatment for chickens, though.

Many folks have home water filters or reverse osmosis {RO} systems for their drinking water. If you have one of these and know your city uses chloramine {this should be included in your annual water report, or you can call the water department and ask}, be sure to check and make sure the filter says it will remove chloramine. If so, you’re home free. πŸ˜€ If not, your best option may be to use bottled water.

 

 

Can I use it if I don’t want to wait the 3 to 4 days to ferment?

Do you want actual full benefit? Yes? Then leave it alone for 3 to 4 days. I know, it’s hard, isn’t it? If you already have chickens, you’re feeding them something else already anyhow. A few more days won’t hurt.

I say 3 to 4 days because ferment is based on temperature. You can use hot water to kick start things, or, you could wait an extra hour. πŸ˜† {Seeing as there appears to be controversy over what constitutes “hot,” why don’t we say 99-ish degrees, Fahrenheit. It is, after all, living internally in the gut….}

“Optimum growth temperatures for 9 strains of S. thermophilus and 10 strains of L. bulgaricus ranged from 35 to 42 degrees C for S. thermophilus and 43 to 46 degrees C for L. bulgaricus.” {That’s 95 t0 104 degrees for us non-mertic folks. ;)} {http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3805441}

Many folks have read that when it starts bubbling, that means it’s fermented and all done. Nope. It needs time. Those bubbles are a great start, and proof that fermentation is happening. If you want your whole batch thoroughly inoculated, do yourself a favor and wait. If you are backslopping, the better your initial ferment is, the better every subsequent batch is going to be, and the faster they will ferment.

 

Do I have to stir it?

I do. I like to mix it all around; making sure my SCOBY gets consistently distributed throughout the batch. I know folks who don’t, and have no issues. I’ve heard of folks who didn’t stir the initial ferment for a few days and ended up with some black and green mold. I don’t quite know how that happened, since it usually takes a lot longer than 2 days to get mold, but it was some ugly stuff.

How about, there is no harm in stirring. πŸ˜€ If you have a very dry mix, stirring helps keep it moistened. In my case, as you’ll see in pictures below, I usually end up with a juicy layer in the middle, which I like to mix around to even out the consistency before I feed.

Our primary resident expert, Bee, says, ” ……stir at least once a day when ambient temps are very warm and humid. I only stir mine once a day right before I feed and when I’m gone for days it doesn’t get stirred at all and it doesn’t grow mold but it does grow the fuzzy white yeast.”

 

Do I have to use a food grade bucket?

No. You don’t “have” to. You want to stay away from metal, as the lower ph will eat it, but other than that, you can use pretty much everything.

Folks have found used food grade buckets all over; some from big-box stores that have, well, food in them, like pickles or mayo, etc. Some find them at bakeries that had fondant or frosting etc in them and have been discarded. Some have gotten them for a few dollars at the deli/bakery at Wal-Mart. Some have used the orange buckets from Home Depot.

You don’t want to use a used car oil pan, or a plastic paint can, etc. Food storage containers are ok. I use a 60 qt cooler.

A lot of people have read to use glass, and keep the lid on. Here’s a word of warning: glass will explode if you do that. Yes, it really will, I promise.

Fermenting creates gas; which creates heat and pressure. The pressure especially can cause your sealed glass jar to explode.

 

I read that you have to keep the feed covered by several inches or it will grow mold?

This is probably the one I hear the most, and the one people argue over the most. They are convinced that not only will you grow mold, but you’ll make alcohol, too.

“The water over the feed won’t “keep bacteria out of the feed”, so you can dispense with all those ideas in the future.Β  Same with keeping the lid on….water is not a bacteriostatic agent nor is it a bactericide.Β  Nothing wrong with placing water over the feed at first to allow for absorption into the kernels and ground feed, but to maintain water over the level of feed to “keep out germs” or to do “lactobactic fermentation” is not based on facts and you can put those worries out of your mind.Β  You will get lacto fermentation anyway, no matter if you cover it with water, use a lacto starter or not, etc.Β  You will not grow bad bacteria if you don’t cover the feed with water at all times.Β  Trust me.Β 

Quote:

Bacteriostatic agent

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Β 

A bacteriostatic agent or bacteriostat, abbreviated Bstatic, is a biological or chemical agent that stops bacteria from reproducing, while not necessarily harming them otherwise. Depending on their application, bacteriostatic antibiotics, disinfectants, antiseptics and preservatives can be distinguished. Upon removal of the bacteriostat, the bacteria usually start to grow again. This is in contrast to bactericides, which kill bacteria.[1]

Bacteriostats are often used in plastics to prevent growth of bacteria on surfaces. Bacteriostats commonly used in laboratory work include sodium azide (which is acutely toxic) and thiomersal (which is a mutagen in mammalian cells).”Β  {http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/645057/fermented-feeds-anyone-using-them/2340}

Many of the fermenting folks I know have a consistency similar to my own: peanut butter, cookie dough, oatmeal {before it sets and thickens}, and mine is the consistency of grout at mixing; thicker when it gets to working.

My secondary ferment looks like this:

 

Overnight=Β  cracklyfeed

Popped gas bubble from fermenting=Β 
f bubble1
Hidden juicy layer = juicylayer
Do you see the difference? Do you see any mold?Β  πŸ˜€ It’s a good idea to scrape down the sides, or they can get a bit yeasty. In the event you do grow some mold, you can scrape it down in there, and the good bugs in the ferment will gobble it right up. {And lest you snarl your nose up at that, I’m going to send you images of stinky cheese, poop, and other things chickens eat…… it’s not toxic and it won’t harm them in small amounts, in the event something manages to survive in the ferment, which is unlikely anyhow……}

 

Help! I see all this white stuff on the top and on my lid. What is it? Do I have to start over?

So, you’re probably on day 2 at this point, and you open your container and try not to freak out. Or maybe throw up. Either or, get to stirring! That’s your SCOBY- the Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. That’s the good stuff.

Now, if you are terribly concerned that I’m off my rocker, because it looks fuzzy and your mama told you not to eat anything that is fuzzy, here are some pictures of actual molds compared to yeasts.

Fuzzy white yeasts:Β  https://www.google.com/search?q=fuzzy+white+yeast&client=firefox-a&hs=npN&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=sb&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=6KELU9WTMOPp2AXsjoHoAg&ved=0CAoQ_AUoAg&biw=1138&bih=501

Fuzzy white mold, with some colors thrown in:Β  https://www.google.com/search?q=fuzzy+white+mold&client=firefox-a&hs=HD3&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=sb&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=mqILU7bxGM7RqQGNgYGYCA&ved=0CAoQ_AUoAg&biw=1138&bih=501o

 

If you’re still convinced I’m an escapee and my oars aren’t in the water, please do go and read this whole page, which has a variety of information sources:Β  http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/645057/fermented-feeds-anyone-using-them/2310#post_12893023.

Really. Read that page. And then read some other pages before, and then some pages after. If you’re really motivated, subscribe to the thread and to the site if you aren’t already. Stop in and say hi. It’s free. And this is where all the brainiac fermenty folks are. πŸ˜€

 

Can I feed my chicks fermented feed?

Yep. Sure can. I start mine off from day 1 on unmedicated chick starter. Chicks like to stand in their food, and because it’s wet, you’ll want to keep an eye out and make sure it doesn’t get caked on the bottom of their feet. Some like to use muffin tins; some like to use ice cube trays; some like to use troughs with a length of wire over it so they can stand on top to eat and not stand *in* it. I’m using a sandwich container. I haven’t noticed mine with caked feet, but mine is also not sloppy wet, which I think is more of an issue than the drier feed.

 

What about medicated feed? Won’t I kill my chicks with cocci if they don’t have the medicated feed?

Probably not. The amprolium in the medicated feed is going to get diluted, which basically renders it inert. The thing is- cocci is everywhere, and it’s always in the gut anyhow. The issue is the OVERGROWTH of cocci that causes the problem.

Because you’re changing the gut flora and PH of the gut by feeding fermented feed,Β  cocci will have a lesser chance of overgrowth and causing issues. The key here is also keeping things clean and dry, so the chicks can build their immunity.

If you are hatching from your own flock, you may notice mama encouraging the babies to eat her poo. This right there- that’s why.Β  It helps them get exposed to the stuff in their environment and start protecting against anything that could cause problems. {You can also give them a hunk of dirt from your yard, too, to help them get started…..}

 

What kind of starter do I need to use?

This is another question that has gone around the block several times. You can either read waaaaaay up at the top, or- nevermind- I’ll just say it again- water+ feed+ time is ALL you need.

You don’t need yogurt.

You don’t need pickle juice.

You don’t need sauerkraut.

You don’t need kefir.

You don’t need fancy culture starters you buy in a jar.

You really just need air. {Which goes very well with the next question, too.}

When you stir, your feed is going to grad the stuff in the air. No, really, it will. At some point, it’s all going to equalize anyhow, which isn’t profitable from folks trying to sell starters or anything else to “help” your feed along. That $$$$ stuff you bought is going to get taken over by the stuff in your personal air. Now, if you want to spend your money, of course, have at it. Since at some point it’s going to be moot, I’d rather pass and use what’s going to be the end result right from the beginning. Clear as mud?

 

Do I need to keep a lid on it?

As we covered ^^^^Β  there, glass that has a sealed lid can explode. Fermenting grabs the stuff in the air for its cultures. You will want to have it exposed, yes. The question is, how much? Some folks cover with cheese cloth; some cover with a tea towel. I have the lid cracked for initial fermentation, but I confess to closing my lid on secondaries some of the time. It is still getting air because I’m stirring a few times a day and having the lid open so I can feed my buggers. And, of course, it’s a cooler, so the lid closed doesn’t make it air tight anyhow. I have noticed that my feed ferments better after backslopping and refreshing if the lid is closed. It seems to help keep the gases in and really gets it going. As my feed gets closer to the bottom and therefore stronger, the lid is closed more.

 

Wow, it smells. Should I throw it out?

Nope. It’s going to be fragrant and aromatic. πŸ˜† If you’re a super smeller, it might cause you to wander around with a clothes pin in your pocket. My kids hate the smell. I don’t think it’s terrible, but I don’t want to stick my head all the way in the bucket, either, especially on day 3 or later.

It should have a decidedly sour smell. Some will depend on what you’re fermenting. Just feed can get strong; feed with ACV will be stronger yet. It may even peel some paint if you let it go real long. πŸ˜‰

For my nose, I like to refresh on night 3, which will help tone the aroma down. If you’re finding your batches are lasting longer {which isn’t a bad thing}Β  but are clearing your sinuses more than you’d like, I’d suggest trying a smaller batch and see if that helps.

 

How often should I feed this compared to my regular dry food?

I confess, I don’t much understand why folks would not feed it all the time. Somewhere along the line, someone said it wasn’t good for them to have fermented feed all the time, and I’d love to see the science on that. Because you are giving superior nutrition, why would you dumb it down at all? When you revert or regress to non-fermented feed, you are lessening the GOOD effects of the probiotics and good gut PH. In a pinch, sure; don’t starve your chooks.

Certainly, do what you want. I, personally, think giving dry feed undermines the point of fermenting and lessens the benefit.

 

How much do I feed at one time?

I don’t know that this has any hard and fast rule as an answer. I’ve seen folks give anywhere from 1/2 to 1 cup one to two times a day. The goal is that they eat their fill in about 30 minutes. Remember, it’s super nutrition. They are getting CONSIDERABLY more nutrition from the food, so they need LESS of it.

A concern has been freezing in the winter- again, you can feed what they can eat in 30 minutes to an hour, before it freezes. Some have said that the heated dog bowls work well. On the rare occasion I’ve had frozen feed, I’ve traded out troughs, taken the frozen one back inside, and then when thawed, added it back to the bowl to re-ferment.

 

Ok. Got it. What the heck am I supposed to feed it in?

Obviously, your regular feeder won’t work. Don’t pitch them, though. You can use them for your oyster shell, grit, and scratch in the winter.

I use a gutter. I got a cheapie 10 ft section of vinyl gutter at the Lowe’s, got end caps for the number of sections I wanted, and then we cut the pieces. The end caps were a bully wooger, though, and needed Hunny’s manly hand strength.

20140116_090403

This is Silver, by the way, my silkie girl from the It’s Broken post. As you can see, she’s made a full recovery and eats out of the same trough as every one else.

I have several sections, as I mentioned, and I transport from a bowl to the trough. I always leave some IN the bowl because for some reason, they really seem to love it right from the bowl of goodness and all things yummy. Besides, it doesn’t hurt to have another feeding station.20140116_090352

I’ve seen all kinds of troughs; homemade wood ones; big bowls; PVC piping sliced to make a trough, etc. If you can dream it, you can do it! πŸ˜† Seriously, though, you could slop it on the ground and they would gobble it up. At least mine will. πŸ˜€

 

Great! I’m on day 4 and ready to feed- what now? Do I run out and then start a whole new batch and wait those days again? Do I add new feed every time I take some out?

Do you want the easy way or the complicated way? Some folks have a bucket for every day of the week; started a day later than the last. When the bucket is empty, they move on to the next one; re-starting a new batch in the empty bucket.

I am kind of too lazy for that. πŸ˜† I, personally, personally, prefer to use a higly technical method called BACKSLOPPING. πŸ˜† When I get down to only having about a single serving left in the bucket, I add new water, stir, and then start mixing in my feed. That’s backslopping. πŸ˜€ I try to do it so I’m backslopping and mixing the new feed in at night so it’s ready to be fed in the morning, but once your ferment is solid {one of the reasons you’ve waited the whole 3 to 4 days initially}, it will be ready to feed in several hours. Of course, as you let it continue to ferment in the next few days while feeding, the ferment will again, continue to get stronger.

It really is that easy. This highly technical method of backslopping results in another highly technical term; the “never-ending- bucket.”Β  πŸ˜†

 

What if I go on vacation and will be gone for a while?

There are various ways to tackle this issue. The obvious solution is to stop going places. There is nothing wrong with being chained to your farm, er, home.

What? You don’t want a staycation?

Well, you can go a few different routes. You can show whoever is taking care of your chickens how to refresh and feed. If it’s a few days, you can leave out however much you would feed them in the time you’ll be gone. You can make a super-duper big batch for whoever is watching your chickens. You can finish your fermented feed and feed dry food while gone. You can save your fermented feed while gone; not use it; feed dry while gone, and then backslop/refresh and feed when you get home. It will be *strong* though, I’ll warn you.

Fermenting chicken feed shouldn’t be labor intensive. You don’t need a multi-bucket system where you need to drill holes from one to the other. You don’t need elaborate recipes with a gazillion ingredients. You don’t need to spend $$$$ on fancy starters. Certainly, you *can* do all those things. You can buy a portable cement mixer if you wanted to; or designate a hand drill for mixing. But – you don’t HAVE to. It really CAN be easy; using the feed you already have and containers you probably already have on hand at home.

Our online community of fermented feeders compiled a running list of pros and cons:

Cons~

Odor
Climate changes that dictate a need to keep FF at a temp that promotes good fermentation. (If done in bulk quantities, it keeps very well in weather that is at freezing and below freezing temps, though slower to metabolize)
Cannot be dispensed in continuous feeding type feeders.
Five minutes more time needed to replenish feed bucket on days when this is necessary…on other days, no more time is spent on feeding than if feeding dry feeds. Say, once a week, a person would spend 5 extra minutes.
Equipment changes that require minimal, if any, expense. Those already feeding in troughs need make little change. Buckets are often found free at local delis and restaurants.

Pros~

Increases protein usage by 12%(according to scientific studies)
Changes proteins and sugars to a form easily digested and utilized by a monogastric animal~amino acids.
Less feed waste due to more utilized at the point of digestion and also from feeding a wet feed.
Less feed consumed due to total nutrients increased in the feed~resulting in a decrease of total feed costs by nearly half.
Intestinal health and culture increases, intestinal villi lengthen thus increasing total absorption area and blood flow to the intestines.
Increased immune system function.
Increased parasite resistance.
Increased yolk size/weight.
Increased rate of lay.
Increased feather quality and growth, increased rate of molt recovery.
Increased scale, beak quality due to increased nutrient uptake(some have reported correction of cross beak after using FF).
Less undigested matter in the feces~resulting in less nitrogen in manure, less smell of the fecal matter, less attractant for flies, less ammonia production as there is less break down needed of waste material.
Less water consumption due to feeding wet feeds.
Less incidence of pasty butt in young chicks, faster weight gains, faster feathering of young chicks as well.
Thicker egg shells.
Less feed waste to rodent predation.
No changes in winter warmth issues as core temps do not depend on rates of digestion of feed~no more than it does for any other animal or human.
Increased mild flavor of eggs, removal of sulfur or “eggy” flavor.
Increased mild flavor of meat, removal of “gamey” flavor.
Increased overall health and appearance noted and reported with continuous use of FF.
Prebiotics and probiotics available in feed increase resistance to disease/illnesses such as coccidia, e.coli, salmonella, flagella, etc.
No raw chicken stink.
Less inclination for dogs to eat the poo since the sugars and grains have already been pre-digested.

And, there’s nothing saying you HAVE to continue if you decide it’s not for you. No harm; no fowl foul. πŸ˜€

So, there you have it. If you’ve got questions I missed, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll try to answer it. :mrgreen:

Read Full Post »


Tell you something you don’t already know, right? πŸ˜†

No, really, in this case, I kind of am. And there is NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. :mrgreen:

Somehow, this is turning into a chicken blog……. the days are consistently soooooo busy that so much has flown by without an update. Much of my life day revolves around chickens- letting them out, cleaning the coop every morning while I check chooks, collecting eggs, counting heads after they go to bed, etc.

As you might remember, I’m currently overrun with boys, which I love for the most part. Part of the ooey gooey fun is knowing that when the girls go broody, if they are really mean or determined, you actually can slip some eggs under them and see what happens……. πŸ˜†

Back in January, one of our Silver Spangled Hamburgs {aka “the polka-dotted chicken”} became the meanest broody we’ve ever seen. Fortunately, we got her nest moved from the tippy top of the hay loft to the nesting boxes without losing fingers or eyes. πŸ˜€ Because it was winter and male fertility is down, I figured we likely wouldn’t hatch anything out. And besides, she was eating her way through the eggs…..

Fast forward to the second coldest snap of the winter, and one baby freezes to death hatching out of the shell. {You can see where this is going, yes?} Well, that’s not ok. On the rare chance more hatched, it was safer to move them into the house. This has kind of been an issue since we moved here, because we left the fantabulous brooder Hunny made back at the other house. Well.

Last year when we got the bantams, we put them in the stock tank. We had a few on hand, but thought we’d get one bigger for the horses, which we could use as a brooder in the meantime.

I mean, honestly? There are all kind of uses for stock tanks. We haven’t made the leap to hot tubbinghottub

 

or swimming in them {yet} swimming, but using as a brooder?

 

Pshaw. At least it’s ag/barnyard related. πŸ˜†

 

 

We started with a regular new black tank.stocktank2

 

 

 

 

That went pretty well. It was the perfect size for the bantams.Β  blacktank1

 

 

 

 

Then it was time for the large fowl chicks, and that presented a bit of a dilemma, since we had not completed the coop. After looking around for a bit, I settled on- you guessed it- another stock tank. This one was the loooooonnnnnggg variety. It took some doing to even get it INTO the office.

tank1.2

Once it was in, it was the perfect habitat for babies. πŸ˜†

tank3

tank4

And, of course, you know we added the guinea keets at some point, too.

The stock tanks, however, are not what makes me a redneck. Maybe a hillbilly, but pretty sure not a total redneck.

Nope. What vaults me into that category is salvage/repurposing all stuff. In this case, I needed a new brooder.

But wait! I know what you’re thinking- didn’t all my chicks less the new hatchlings in the other metal stock tank grow up already?

Why, yes, I’m glad you asked. They did indeed grow up! πŸ˜€ Because my girl to boy ratio is so low and I am loath to give up my boys if there is a way around, the way around it was to get more girls. :mrgreen:

A trip to my local Tractor Supply Co found me staring at a stock tank full of brahma pullets. Well. I didn’t have those. And they have FEATHERY FEET!

How could I say no? πŸ˜†

A call to my hunny resulted in a reluctant green light, and I made a mad dash home with 6 more new chicks. Yay! πŸ˜€

It didn’t take long once I was home to realize I was facing yet another quandary: where was I going to put them? We had taken the smaller metal stock tank,Β  which really was marginal, for the mama and her 3 babies. I made a hardware cloth divider and went outside to wander around and see if I had enough scrap wood.

Well. Lo and behold, there was an old dresser our friends had outside our little house, waiting to be transported to the dump. A quick text confirmed what I suspected- the dresser was about to become my new brooder!

I think the hardest part of this project was getting my chicken-project-hating-teenage daughter to stop rolling her eyes and moaning. I was very sure I had enough glee for both of us, but she wasn’t having any of it.

All told, grumbling included, it took about an hour and a half to get things cut and put together. brooder1

I slapped on a coat of paint that night and by the next afternoon, it was good to go.

brooder2

I’ll have to unscrew the light post to get it out of the room, because as it is, it’s too wide to fit through the door.

I was really pleased, though. It didn’t take long; it saved a trip to the dump, and it was free to me less the paint and screws. A month later, it’s still doing the job as well as any other brooder.

I do a lot of reading and talking about chickens {I know you are shocked!Β  😯 }, and one thing I hear a lot of is that folks don’t have the money or the resources to build a brooder. I say, get your redneck on and think outside the box!

Our first brooder was the bookshelf section of one of the kids’ old computer desks that was also working on finding its way to the dump. I know folks who use plastic totes. I know folks who have chicks in their bathtubs. I know folks who use the plastic drawer stacks.

I am pretty sure I’m not the first one to use an old dresser. I surely hope I won’t be the last. I am also pretty sure I’m not the only one who gets a little rednecky from time to time, especially when it comes to chickens. The key is to think safety first. Don’t be daunted or put off of getting chicks because your “coop isn’t totally built,” or you “don’t have the right equipment.”

They say “necessity is the mother of invention,” and chicks and/or chickens are no exception.

What are the most creative brooders you’ve used? :mrgreen:

Read Full Post »


Of goodbyes. Really. Usually, I’m not. There have been a few times when ‘goodbye’ meant ‘good riddance,’ but those episodes are few and far between.

Sometimes, goodbyes come suddenly; unexpectedly. Sometimes, they come after a long period of languishing; dragging feet to delay the inevitable.

This episode falls into the latter category. *sigh*

I really, really did not want to have to. And I’m sure there’s a part of me that will always remember that sadness lingering, as it does today.

Ya know, another thing in this category is change. Change is not always good. I don’t mind change when I know about it; when I can plan for the variables. Sometimes, though, things change in the blink of an eye and there’s not a darn thing a person can do about it.

This episode falls somewhere in between those two poles. *sigh*

The thing that gets me, though, is when that change means saying goodbye, especially when you’re not ready for it. I’m not a fan of that. At. All.

We’ve been through a lot together in the last 17/18 years. I’ve shown my love; I’ve done my fair share of cursing. I’ve stayed up all night, making things right.

And last week, I had no choice but to sadly, say goodbye. πŸ˜₯

My sewing machine died.Β  😦 Β  πŸ˜₯

A few years ago, I began having problems with bird-nesting on light-weight cotton fabrics. I cleaned. I oiled. I changed needles. I diddled with tensions. I read and researched until I was cross-eyed. And then I put it away out of frustration.

If you’ve been reading along, you’ll no doubt remember that I’ve sewed some curtains since we’ve been here, and I thought my sewing issue had pretty much disappeared. So much so that I made plans to make curtains for every window in the house, and got the fabric for the living room.

Well.

Ahem.

Last Saturday, I got my machine out because desperate measures needed to be taken, and in a hurry. You can image my frustration when not only was I bird-nesting again, but then my bobbin casing popped out and refused to stay in once reinserted.

After several hours of cussing and praying, it was apparent the inevitable had arrived. And I was not ready.

Looking at my machine, I remember all the things I’ve made- pillow cases, throw pillows, bed sheets, other bedding, curtains, more curtains, and still more curtains, and baby clothes, etc. *sigh* And I was not ready to let it go. I have plans, after all!

I briefly thought about getting it repaired. As I learned, anything over ten years old is technically considered vintage, and not only are many parts not made anymore, but if replacement are found, they are usually salvages, which means at some point, they are going to wear out because they already have some of the life used.

Plus, I really didn’t have time to wait. No, really. My chickens needed clothes, and they needed them NOW! πŸ˜†

Ok, really, it’s only the girls that needed something.

Ok, well, not really ‘something’ in general- something in particular. My girls needed saddles!

If you’ve ever done an internet search for ‘hen saddles,’ despite the feathery ones, I can tell you, those are not the right ones. Besides being for fly fishing, they are much too small. πŸ˜€

While I personally prefer to call them “aprons” or “capes,” saddles is more appropriate. As in,

“Move ’em out, head ’em up,
Head ’em up, move ’em on.
Move ’em out, head ’em up:
Rawhide.
Cut ’em out, ride ’em in,
Ride ’em in, cut ’em out,
Cut ’em out, ride ’em in:
Rawhide!”

Ya. That kind of saddle. :/

Have I mentioned I have 12 crowing boys? Yep, I do. The suggested ratio is 1Β  male per every 10/12 females. This is not to prevent the boys from fighting. It’s to prevent the girls from getting worn out.

20131214_095840

Jumbo, Silver Laced Wyandotte cockerel

My head roo-in-in-waiting (he’s not quite a year yet, so he’s not “officially” a roo), Jumbo, is a gentleman. He is very gentle with the girls, and they adore him. He does his morning ‘hello,’ his evening ‘goodnight’ and in-between ‘just so you don’t forget me’s.

One of my silkie girls is terribly smitten with him, snuggling with him on the roost when she’s not broody. πŸ˜† And he, bless his heart, tries to be accommodating to satisfy her loving desires. So far, he hasn’t killed her, but it is hilarious to watch, if not a bit concerning. πŸ˜†

Sparkles is another handsome cockerel, but he’s really nice, like Jumbo.

Sparkles, Silver Spangled Hamburg, and Jumbo, Silver Laced Wyandotte

Sparkles, Silver Spangled Hamburg, and Jumbo, Silver Laced Wyandotte

They often hang together, and can be found tag-teaming the girls during the day. We have no run, which means unless they are in bed for the night, they are free-ranging.Β  Together, they take the large groups of the girls out and about, which is fantastic to watch.

I think one of the real culprits, though, is Snowy, our Easter Egger cockerel.

Snowy, Easter Egger cockerel

Snowy, Easter Egger cockerel

You may remember the Mayhem in the Coop many months ago, which left both he and one of my Cuckoo Marans with cross beaks.

While his cross-beak is not as severe as Betty’s, it does interfere with his extracurricular activities, because he can’t hang on with his beak very well. This means he uses his feet *a lot* more, which is rough on the girls. And, he likes loves them allllllllllll. πŸ˜†

In addition to our three large fowl boys, we also have a plethora of bantam boys; 9 more, if we’re counting.Β  The worst culprits are my pair of black Cochin bantams, Bob and Snickers.

Black Bantam Cochins Bob and Snickers; Birchen Cochin Bantam, Coconut

Black Bantam Cochins Bob and Snickers; Birchen Cochin Bantam, Coconut

Despite having mostly large fowl girlies, I can say without reservation that these boys are successfully fertilizing the big girls, because my newest hatchlings have feathery feet and 4 toes, which means it’s most likely that one of these boys made it to home base. πŸ˜† And yes, while the mama is a Silver Spangled HamburgΒ  {same breed as Sparkles; aka “The Polka Dotted Chickens”}, she is a large fowl bird, even though she’s the smallest large fowl breed we have. Make sense?

So anyhow.

My girls are getting too much love, and are starting to look a bit rough. The problem is that once those feathers are gone, there is no protection from toenails or spurs, and numerous hens have been laid open by super-duper amorous boys.

The fix is to provide them with some protection, a la hen saddles. I prefer to call them ‘aprons,’ myself. There are gazillions of patterns out there; most of them are free. Of course, there are lots of folks selling completed aprons, too, but because I know how to sew and had all the required materials on hand, I figured I’d give it a shot.

In a pinch, I had tied a scrap of fabric shaped like a bandana around one of my girls, but obviously, that’s not ideal. I wanted to find an easy pattern that wasn’t labor-intensive, because I had a lot to make.

In my wanderings, I found a thread on the BackYard Chickens forum that had a pattern. The poster originally found it on http://www.homesteadingtoday.com, from “Wisconsin Ann”.

It looked easy enough.

Hen apron or saddle pattern

Hen apron or saddle pattern

But when I got started, not only did I start bird-nesting, but then the bobbin case came flying out and refused to let me seat it back in, despite unscrewing the lever to keep it in place and then tightening it down again. The icing on the cake, though, was when my hand wheel got jammed.

Since you know I research everything, I asked on Facebook πŸ˜† , knowing all my sewy friends would help me out. In the meantime, I researched, and narrowed down what features I wanted.

I like a top drop in bobbin as opposed to a front loading bobbin. Computerized machines just leave more for me to break, with my magnetic personality and all. πŸ˜† That meant mechanical for me. I also like stitches, because even though I don’t use many, I like to have the option. It goes without saying I wanted the one-step buttonholing, because I do actually use that.

I found a brand that came highly recommended, but the nearest retailer was 70 some miles away. 😦 Then, because even though we’re in a much more populated area, it seems there are not a lot of sewing/crafty stores here. That left me with big-box stores like Wally World, Target, etc. The following day was Sunday, so I knew Hobby Lobby wouldn’t be open.

And, since I don’t really want to buy a sewing machine from Wal-Mart, despite the large selection (including Singer, Brother, and Janome), JoAnn Fabrics had one of the models I had settled on; at least online.

Thrilled to find it open on Sunday, I did a quick looky-loo at Wal-Mart before heading there. I was surprised to find a single brand in-stock; the others had to be ordered online. The one I wanted was in-stock, and even on sale! So home I went, with more fancy stuff than I really needed, and a DVD to boot.

It took me a few days, and we had some rain, so the chickie kids weren’t as active, which meant I didn’t get to it until yesterday. I made my template from a cereal box, and got to work.

This pattern called for heavier fabric, but I wanted to use cotton. I thought, though, I would try a few other things first before using the pattern. Using the general shape, I did a single layer. I also made the elastic a lot longer, because it just didn’t look like it would fit

FAIL! The general shape was ok, but too short, and a single layer was not going to work because a breeze would flip the fabric right up.

Several other patterns I had seen called for doubling the pattern; folding, and then sewing. I gave that a try and tweaked the elastic length.

In the end, I made another template from the other side of the cereal box, kind of sort of using the original dimensions. I lengthened the end-to-end length by about an inch, and added about 1/2 an inch to the side lengths. I made 4 of those, tweaking it as I went, and adjusting the elastic to fit some of the smaller, large fowl birds, like my Lakenvelders.

The biggest difference was that I doubled the pattern; folding it over on the neck line. This made the fabric heavy enough to defy the wind; but not so heavy as to be hot. We are in the South, after all. πŸ˜€

My total was 16; 15 are on birds now; another we’ll have to do in the morning. Initially, I read it would take about 30 minutes to make one. Yesterday, while I was still diddling with the fit, I was cutting and then sewing each one. This time might be about right.

Today, IΒ  traced and cut out all the fabric ahead of time. Once I got to sewing, it took me about 10 minutes per apron. I will say, though- this are not professional grade. πŸ˜† Had this been for people, I would have taken more care to carefully watch my seams, etc. I knew I had to get them done and on my girls, so I was blowing and going. πŸ˜€

The fabric I had on hand was last used making baby dresses for my oldest daughter. πŸ™‚ I knew there was a reason I had saved it all these years!

aprons1

On that neckline, be SURE not to sew the elastic stationary. When you put the wings in, you’ll want to slide the neck piece to the side; particularly on the second wing.

The elastic piece was 10 inches for my big birds; 9 3/4 for the Lakenvelders. I think it probably would have been ok, but I didn’t want it too loose on them. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be thinking, “There’s NO WAY that is long enough!” but I promise you, it is. πŸ™‚

One of the first girls to get one yesterday was one of my Silver Laced Wyandotte ladies. pink1

pink2

Snowy in hot pursuit!

Snowy in hot pursuit!

pinkginham1

flowers1

purple1

yellow1

yellow2

I wasn’t planning on a fashion show, but there you have it. :mrgreen:

While I don’t like saying “goodbye” most of the time and this was no exception, saying “hello” to my new sewing machine got me back on track, and got my girlies covered before they got scabby backs. Totally worth it, in my opinion!

Because life is a soundtrack, I’m going to leave you with two songs that are stuck in my head. {Ya, can you hear that mash-up? πŸ˜† }

Not quite the Frankie Laine original, but I love me some Clint!

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShOiHPrwtHk%5D

And, because I can’t part with the old sewing machine….. {don’t laugh, you know you do it too! πŸ˜† } and of course, it goes without saying I love me some Jon BonJovi, too!

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifm00JEjSeo%5D

 

:mrgreen:

Read Full Post »


This is the Change and Cherish Trilogy which includes A Clearing in the Wild,Β  A Tendering in the Storm, and A Mending at the Edge. emmaofaurora

A Clearing in the Wild (Book 1)– Emma has set her sights on Christian Giesy, even though he’s close to her father’s age; twenty years her senior. Despite opposition from their colony’s leader, Father Keil, Emma and Christian marry. Perhaps annoyed they marry without his blessing, Father Keil does what he can to keep Emma and Christian apart even after they married, sending Christian off for missions.

Just when Emma thinks she’s finally going to get to keep her husband after over a year apart, Christian is again sent out- this time as a scout to find a new colony have a country away, in Oregon. The scouts are being sent out not only to find a new site for the colony, but also to prepare the way for the colony, so upon arrival, they have housing.

Emma is heartbroken facing another two years away from her husband. Finally convincing Father Kiel she should be allowed to accompany Christian and the few other men, Emma’s journey begins.

A Tendering in the Storm, (Book 2)– When colony leader, Father Keil, arrived and deemed the site the scouts had found and started preparing unacceptable, Christian is broken. Emma is bound and determined to find a way to stay, despite the departure of colony members following Father Keil to an alternate location.

With a fundamental shift in occupation, Christian, Emma, and their two children, carry on, although there is again some separation for Christian and Emma. When tragedy strikes, Emma has decisions to make, that inevitably alter the course of her life.

A Mending at the Edge (Book 3)- Leaving her and Christian’s home behind to escape her violent husband, Emma and her four children now find themselves living in Aurora, with the Keil family in their gross Haus. Emma struggles to get her home built, and when it finally is, her boys are taken from her to be raised by extended family. Emma struggles to find her new purpose, and as always, remains at odds with Father Keil.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Each of these titles is substantial; together, they are pretty long. I felt like the pace was a bit slow at times, and wondered what it would have been like to have a single title with the events condensed.

Book 2 went back and forth between character perspectives, which I’m not sure I liked. After reading the whole series, I think the Louisa chapters didn’t add really anything of consequence to Emma’s story and could have been easily removed without affecting the storyline.

Book 3 brought us a chicken. :mrgreen: While I appreciate the concept of a fancy, tailless chicken that was appropriately named, Araucana chickens, don’t, in fact, lay green or pink eggs.Β  A comment was made at some point that this single chicken laid a whole variety of colored eggs.

I’m not going to harp, πŸ˜† but I will make a few points.

1) Araucana chickens ONLY lay blue eggs. (They are also rumpless, have ear tufts, and *cannot* have muffs or beards.)

2) Chickens cannot- I repeat- cannot change the color of egg they lay. If they lay a brown egg, they will always lay a brown egg. The shade, or intensity, may on occasion change, and generally, they lay their darkest eggs when they are the youngest, and as they age, their egg color can become somewhat lighter. {Now, I know there are folks who are going to swear this is wrong, and in the first batch of chickens, I had one that I really thought had gone from blue to brown, but upon further observation, I only ever saw her lay a brown egg.}

It’s generally understood that ear color will mimic egg color, but with chickens like silkies, who have teal ear lobes and tinted/off-white eggs, this obviously doesn’t hold true. To get a factual understanding of egg shell color, go here: http://www.maranschickenclubusa.com/files/eggreview.pdf

πŸ˜†

But I digress. Outside of the pace of the first book and the non-accurate chicken facts, I really enjoyed this title. If you’ve been reading along, you’ll remember that I found Jane Kirkpatrick to be one author I really do enjoy, despite subjects that seem less than interesting.

I’m giving this one 4.5 out of 5 stars. For more information and pictures of Emma, start here, and then explore the Old Aurora Colony website.

I received this book for free from WaterBrookΒ Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Please click and rank my review!

Rank this Review!

Read Full Post »


It.

I’m using *it.* πŸ˜†

If you know me, not only am I not prone to falling victim to fads, but I also research things endessly, which often puts the kibosh on something I might think is a fad. I like to give new ‘things’ the benefit of years of existence and research before hopping on board.

In this case, once I started researching, I learned that it’s actually been around for a while, but is only now coming back into fashion, as backyard chickens have become a new “in” thing.

I heard the rave reviews. I read about the supposed “benefits.” My curiosity was piqued. BUT. I remained skeptical.

I mean, if this was as good as everyone was saying it was, why is it not mainstream news? Apparently, I’m a bit ahead of the curve, because I’m writing about it, too, since there are so many who have not yet heard about it.

Seriously, though, I’m not reinventing the wheel. I’m not the first to discover it; and I’m certainly not the first nor probably the last to write about it. I figured, though, I would write and share my experience in the event anyone finds it interesting and/or useful.

The “it” that I speak of is fermented feed for my chickens. I know, right? {Go ahead, roll your eyes. I’ll wait. πŸ˜† }

When I first started reading, I read all the kinds of way to ferment food. I read about all the the various tools/containers/apparatus “needed” to ferment. I read about all the ingredients one “must” have to ferment.

And while I was fascinated, I thought, “This is definitely not for me. It’s too complicated; too time consuming.”Β  But I kept reading because I couldn’t understand why folks would do this work unless the results were miraculous.

And then, I stumbled across a thread of the Backyard Chickens website, that got me thinking maybe- just maybe- it wasn’t all that complicated after all. Maybe it would be worth losing a bucket of feed to try.

I mean, after all, who wouldn’t want to feed their feathered friends a super-food full of probiotics; one that makes it’s own new vitamins, and that not only makes their poo smell less and gives them awesome glossy feathers, but one that actually cuts your feed bill?

I love my chickens, but just the thought of a less stinky coop combined with a lower feed bill? Well, that was enough to convince me, especially since I read about a way to use a single container and have a never-ending-bucket of feed.

I read about two-bucket methods, whereby you drill a hole in the one which allows the SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Yeast and Bacteria) to drain out the bottom of the one bucket to be used in the next batch; etc etc etc. Not only did this seem labor intensive, but it sounded messy and involved. I am all for easy. πŸ˜€

When I read about a lady using a cooler, I knew this would be the method for me. She had hers outside in her coop, and a while later, she moved it inside because her SCOBY had gone dormant in the brutal winter temps. I knew I at least needed to get my feed fermenting inside.

I brought my 60 qt wheeled cooler into the mudroom. Β cooler I added my feed and ***water.Β  {***You’ll want to dechlorinate your water so it won’t kill the good bacteria. If your water supply is chlorinated, as city tap water is, you’ll want to leave the water you plan on using for your fermented feed- out in the open, so the chlorine can evaporate; which usually takes about 24 hours. }

For good measure, I threw in some apple cider vinegar (ACV) {unpasteurized, and yes, I know it’s better with the ‘mother’ in it- it was all going to ferment, and make new mother anyhow, so I wasn’t worried. πŸ˜‰ } I use ACV anyhow; I figured a few glugs couldn’t hurt.

And then I waited.

I stirred a few times a day.

I left the lid cracked so the stuff flying around in the air could inoculate my feed with all the goodies {this is an anerobic process in an aerobic environment, this fermenting and getting the SCOBY}. I knew that my feed would grow in size; basically doubling, so I was cautious and watched to make sure I would have some trying to escape. I’ve read of folks who used glass jars, screwed on the lids, only to have them explode from the gas build-up in the jar. {Fermenting food will create gas, so if you hear burping, things are going well.Β  πŸ˜†} I also know of someone else who is keeping her feed in the shower, in the event she has another mess. πŸ˜†

About 4 days later, I decided my feed had adequately fermented and was ready to use. 20131208_162208

In my reading, I read about folks whose chickens didn’t like the fermented feed. Surprisingly, there are people who tell you their chickens won’t eat things like watermelon or spaghetti, which blows my mind. But that there were some whose chickens didn’t like fermented feed, well, I think they were probably just picky chickens.

I have never had picky chickens, and I wonder if it’s because of their free ranging time. I mean, when they are out eating everything, something new is nothing to eschew. It gets inhaled in minutes, before they have time to think about whether or not they should try it.

{And while we’re talking about diet, I will tell you- they are NOT vegetarian in their normal habitat. They will eat anything that moves if they can catch it. Don’t be bamboozled by “vegetarian eggs.” I’m pretty sure that’s an impossibility, because you cannot tell me there are no bugs where the battery hens are.

My chooks have eaten moles, voles, mice, frogs, bugs, horse food, snakes, and prolly tons of other stuff I’m forgetting about. They’ll also eat scorpions and black widow spiders, too. The point is- they’re natural omnivores and should be eating darn near everything- and mine do.}

I did keep some regular food out once the fermented feed had been gobbled up, as a means of making a slower transition, but honestly, they never gave it a second glance. Now, when I take their feed bowl out, they rush me. On the one hand, it’s hilarious to hear a flock of chickens stampeding toward you; on the other hand, it’s a bit disconcerting, and makes me glad every single time that they aren’t bigger, because I know *I’d* be on the menu, too {Good golly, don’t let me fall, don’t let me fall, don’t let me fall!!}. :mrgreen:

Because hanging feeders are designed for dry food, I got the idea to try my redneck feeder, which is a $6 10ft vinyl gutter cut into sections with end caps on the ends.20140116_090403

I needed something everyone could eat from that would also be portable. We cut 4 sections; 3 of which we regularly use. I also leave the bowl out because even if it’s empty, they still peck at it.Β  20140116_090352

So. What have I observed in all of this?

DEFINITELY their feathers are glossier. My birds have always looked really good; nice, shiny feathers. But with the fermented feed, they are downright glossy, and they all have a gorgeous sheen.

The poo smells marginally better. It makes a HUGE difference with the guineas, though, which compared to the chickens, the chicken poo is like smelling daisies. So that’s another win in my book.

I have always had very healthy birds {knock on wood} so time will tell if it has made them healthier. I will say that they have weathered the surprising winter weather marvelously, although we are very much looking forward to spring.

Where I’ve noticed the biggest difference is in my feed bill. No kidding, y’all, I’m saving a boatload of $$$ on feed. I’m documenting so I’ll know for sure for sure, but at this point, I know for certain I’m saving 2/3rds on feed. What I was going through every two weeks,Β  is now taking 6 weeks. That is *huge.*

I’m going to continue to document and observe, because I think there may be something to the thinking that there is a subtle difference in between pellets {which I use for dry food} and crumble {which makes a mess and is more wasted dry, imo} because of the binding agent to make the pellets. I’ll update once I know for sure. At this point, there is a difference in volume in the bags, and when I use more crumble, they don’t eat as much. Because I’m using my winter feed mix, come spring, I can isolate and figure out if it was crumble that made the difference or if it was the protein.

One thing I have noticed in my reading is that some folks are convinced you need a ton of ingredients {like pickle juice or sauerkraut, for example, or even apple cider vinegar} to get the feed to ferment. I knew the theory behindΒ  the lack of need for these things, but hadn’t actually tested it myself. Because WE HAVE CHICKS!!!!Β  SQUEE!!!!, I went ahead and fermented chick starter just for them. I used ONLY their feed and water; again, left the container cracked to get the floaty air-borne stuff, and I’m happy to report it has fermented just fine, and smells just like the stuff for the big kids.

The biggest thing I love is how easy it is. Yes, that’s what I said; easy. πŸ˜† It is a bit more involved that shoveling food into a dry feeder, but overall, it takes minutes to make up a new batch. Once I get down to the bottom of the cooler and have just a layer there, I add my feed and my water, mix it up, and I’m good to go.

Because I have a layer of SCOBY already, I can see the bubbles {aka fermentation} starting as I’m mixing in the new feed. It’s that fast. Depending on how cold it is {they eat more when it’s cold}, a typicalΒ  batch lasts 4 days. I just give it a stir to mix it back up before feeding because there’s the drier, thicker, fluffier stuff on the top, then a layer of the liquid, which needs to get mixed back in. Scoop it into the bowl and take it out.

I cannot say how impressed I am. I will NEVER go back to traditional dry feed. I am pretty sure the feed manufactures don’t want this secret getting out because their profits would take a dive. But ya. NEVER. GOING. BACK.

If anyone asks you about fermented feed, you can tell them you know a user. :mrgreen:

Read Full Post »


Sometimes, people I know will come to me with questions about chicken stuff. Ya, I know. πŸ˜† Sometimes, those questions have to do with chicken breeds.

Unlike common perception, all chickens do not look alike. It is astonishing how varied they are.

To start the identification of chickens, I like to start at the top and work my way down. One good place to start is with the comb.

There are eight different main chicken comb types, and several other sub types.

comb_types

8 Primary Comb Types

Sub- comb types

Sub- comb types

One of the first things to look for when determining breed is comb type. Then there’s the color of the beak; color of the shanks; how many toes (some breeds, like silkies or sultans, have more than 4 toes on purpose); are the feet and legs feathered or not; and the color of the skin. What color are their ears? Do they have muffs? Beards? Vulture hocks? For those who really know chickens, there’s the body type and feathers to look at, particularly tail feathers, even on the girls.

It can be confusing and overwhelming. If I have the time, I’m usually willing to take a gander and make a guess.

Today was one of those days. πŸ˜†

My friend shared a picture with me and asked me if I could identify it.

Below, you’ll find my portion of the conversation.

widget

That’s a golden speckled silver long- tailed widget. They are very rare and hard to breed to standards (because of their rarity). I’ve heard reports of them being found in the wild in heavily industrialized areas, but these are skittish and hard to tame.

Their eggs are a lovely silver color, and while they don’t lay frequently, it’s typical for them to lay two at once.

widgeteggs

I am not sure they are much good for cooking because they are so small.

I should add- that’s a true bantam. We know they’re a project breed stemming from this fellow, the curvy tailed scrap anvil. These are most often found near nuclear sites and are somewhat of an anomaly themselves. There are a few breeds resulting from these mixes, but this breed is the daddy of them all. I’ll try to tack down the mother breed.

curvytailedscrapanvil

Upon further research, it appears that the mother of the golden speckled silver long- tailed widget crossed with the curvy- tailed scrap anvil is the ornamental Asian bronze-coated clunker. This breed is a bantam, as you can see. They had to do some work to breed out the extra long beak and to work on the conical breast, which was a recessive trait, but once they got it consistently, the were allowed as a new breed.

aisanmetal

The ornamental Asian bronze-coated clunker lays delightful small bronze eggs, and while is not as elusive as either the curvy-tailed scrap anvil or the golden speckled silver long- tailed widget, it is only found in the Asiatic countries that are tropical. While one might think the humidity is a detriment to the coat, it actually contributes to a gorgeous patina in the long run.

Because of the small size, ornamental Asian bronze-coated clunkers roost in the tops of trees, which made catching them for the breeding project quite the task. Once caught, there was some issue with her sharp edges cutting hands, too, but eventually that got sorted out with the aid of a magnet.

bronzeegg

Apparently satisfied with my expert identification of rare breeds skills, she came back with another breed that had her stumped.  Here was her next mystery chicken:

springybarrelchest

My reply as follows:

Oh goodness, I haven’t seen this breed in years! I’m so glad it’s still around, even though they didn’t pursue this for a distinct breed of its own. Indeed, this is a Norse springy barrel-chested domed leifgizmo. They are incredibly rare. This was part of the afore-mentioned breeding project.

You can tell that while stunted, of course, its father also was the curvy tailed scrap anvil. You may have also guessed by now that its distant cousin is none other than the golden speckled silver long- tailed widget, There were several different things about this breeding project, which I’ll detail in other comments.

For now, you can enjoy their fascinating eggs. Because of the cold climate, they are seasonal layers. Although they only lay in spring and summer, due to the climate, the eggs are a lovely amber shade. They also lay in pairs; mostly to avoid losing the nest in the snow. The darker egg color also helps them to find the nest after scratching around.

metaleggs2

She agreed that the eggs were, “beautifully distinctive.”  πŸ˜€

I continued,

One thing you can’t see because his head is turned, is his long ice-breaking beak. This comes directly from his mother, the bronze tipped ice breaker. While there are a few different body shapes to the ice-breakers, the strain I believe he came from is the barrel chested ice-breaker, as you can see.

His lovely, pointy helmet came via his daddy’s genes, and isn’t he a lucky fellow? If his beak gets impaled in a sheet of thick ice, he can bang his head down to help chop it up. I honestly don’t know why they didn’t refine and pursue this to standards, because it’s lovely. My guess is that there are a lot more people interested in long-tailed chickens as opposed to long-beaked chickens. Plus, people in the US in particular are still fighting over who really discovered the continent, so the poor Vikings get swept under the rug as usual. If I was a conspiracy theorist, I’d say this definitely fits the pattern.

Here’s a looky loo at his lovely, chunky mum. Her body shape might give her a muffin-top, but it’s incredibly well-suited to the very cold climate of which she is a native.

barrelchested
It’s not often that I get a chance to talk about these rare and elusive breeds. I’m so pleased to know some folks that are as interested in chickens as I am, even if they aren’t quite sure what they are. :mrgreen:

Read Full Post »


Because I’m annoyed right now, I’m going to write about an issue I guess I didn’t think needed this much discussion outside of research. That issue is supplemental stuff for chickens during winter. But here you go.

I’m going to throw out some facts that seem to be confusing for many folks. {And it’s ok, really- we all learn sometime.} My personal stance is that before you ‘accidentally’ acquire animals, let’s say, chickens, for example, you {and yes, I do mean YOU personally! They’re YOUR responsibility!} really ought to do us all a favor and do your research first.

There are a good number of chicken resources on the internet, my personal favorite is, of course, Back Yard Chickens. The forums are free, and are LOADED with great information. You can hang out and lurk, or you can register for free and ask your questions. There are a number of fantastic articles on the basics and getting started. Did I mention it’s free?Β  πŸ˜€

Because it’s going into winter and people are all worked up, I’m going to address the two biggest issues I have seen rampant every single year. You’re welcome. πŸ™‚

People often bemoan the slow down of egg laying that often happens during the fall and winter. Some believe that it’s because it’s getting cold. I even saw a comment that when they stop laying eggs, it’s called molting. Um, no.

Molting is when they lose their feathers and spend their energy growing new feathers instead of laying eggs. Chickens have two {minor} juvenile molts before the big one which happens around 15-18 months old. For those that were hatched during the spring, this means they molt the following fall, which then results in this confusion. The molt will happen every year thereafter, in the fall.

The key to egg laying is daylight. Chickens need about 26 hours to lay an egg. I know people who swear their eggs lay in the morning, every morning, by 10 am. I have never had one of those breeds. πŸ˜†

My girls lay a little later and a little later every day, until they skip a day.

Because daylight is the key, many people will give supplemental light to make their girls lay during the winter. I will never do supplemental lighting, for a number of reasons.

Chickens don’t need extra light during winter. For any variety of reasons, they don’t. And they don’t need extra light to continue laying. You could, of course, do it anyhow and make them crank out an egg a day despite their natural inclination. If you can settle for a more natural decreased egg laying solution during the winter, there are other {and in my opinion, BETTER} options to get eggs without adding supplemental lighting, which is evil. πŸ‘ΏΒ  πŸ˜‰

Chickens, like female humans, are born with all the ova (which become eggs) they will lay. I’ve read some articles that suggest that forcing a chicken to lay during the winter when she’d normally take a break might well shorten her life. I have no idea if it’s true or not, but here again, I defer to nature.

I, personally, don’t think there’s anything wrong with letting the girls take a bit of a break.

And then, there’s the bit {below} about the dangers of light bulbs in coops.

Despite my lack of offering non-natural lighting during the winter, and with the consideration of giving the girls a little bit of a break, I will say that mine have laid all winter long, although not quite at the gang-buster rate of the rest of the year.

How?

I up the protein. πŸ˜€

One of the things that will result in a chicken at or past point of lay (POL) not laying is stress. Stress from a predator; stress from moving; stress from loss of a friend {yes, chickens DO have other chicken friends and are affected when their friends get injured or die}; stress from sub-optimal nutrition- can all cause hens/pullets not to lay.

Did you get that? I’ll explain in more detail when we talk about supplemental heating. Once you read that, it will make sense, I promise. πŸ˜€

Now that you know you can still get eggs without adding supplemental light, are you still worried that your feathered friends will be too cold, out there in the cold, dark coop at night?

Chickens don’t need a heat lamp during winter.

No, really, they don’t. They do not need supplemental heat, and I’ll tell you why.

Most chickens, while not mammals, are usually very well adapted to a fluctuation of temperatures. Living in the desert before, I wanted chickens that were both heat tolerant and also cold hardy. When you live in the desert, you get the extremes. It’s not always hot. {It’s usually windy, but not always hot and windy. :D}

Surprisingly, they weren’t that hard to find. I’d say it seemed to me that were significantly more chicken breeds that were cold hardy than were heat tolerant. And I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of chickens that were both.

I will confess to getting really annoyed 😑 when I hear people going on and on about how they “have” to heat their coops. Some of them use space heaters; more often people are using heat lamps.

I have read horror stories about people whose coops burned down and killed all their chickens because of a faulty bulb. I’ve read about chickens who got hurt when light bulbs broke. I’ve read about faulty wiring or frayed extension cord setting the coop on fire.

I’ve read about chickens who weren’t given the chance to acclimate to their natural environment, and then the power went out. For like a week. The chickens survived, but it was dicey for a while. The people moved the chickens INTO their house.

What really annoys me is that THEY DON’T NEED IT.

Nope, they don’t. Chickens aren’t mammals, of course, and they can freeze. The keys to keeping chickens unrfozen and alive during the winter are pretty simple.

The coop needs to be dry and draft free. It should be appropriately sized so that they can heat the space up sufficiently. Yes, that’s right; chickens generate heat. πŸ˜†

You can’t expect that a coop sized for 40 chickens is going to work very well for 6 chickens during the winter. You aren’t actually doing them any favors by having it that big. You can partition it or something if you need to, but the key here is to give them space that will retain their heat.

{We know chickens don’t sweat, which is why during the summer you’ll see them with their wings out and away from their bodies and you won’t see them snuggling on the roost, either.} Researching coop design is time well spent, and should be done before you get your chickens.

The roost should be wide enough for them to completely cover their toes, so they don’t risk frostbite. The more of their feet they can get under their bodies, the better.

If you are worried about frostbite on combs, you can put some Vaseline/petroleum jelly on the comb. This is actually one of those things you’ll want to keep on hand. It can work wonders for scaly leg mites, too.

The second part to this is food. If you have chickens and give them free access to food {which I personally do and suggest}, you will no doubt notice that they pound it down as it gets closer to winter. They do this for a reason. They are packing on their fat layer for winter.

This layer helps to insulate them, as you can imagine. Between their fat layer and their dry, draft free coop, they will have NO PROBLEM keeping warm during the winter.

If you don’t believe me, here’s a thread on BYC that is looooooong, but really so well worth reading.Β  If we allow chickens to do what they need to do to prepare for winter, they will be JUST FINE.

Really. Nature actually does work! πŸ˜€

Here’s a few tid bits on winter heating help: some folks use the deep litter method to help generate heat in the coop. Are you starting to see a pattern?Β  Coops need to be well ventilated, but draft free. πŸ˜†

One thing I like to do very rarely, i.e, when it snows, is to throw out some scratch. Scratch grains are one of those things that every one has an opinion on.

Some always only feed scratch; I, personally do not. Scratch grains aren’t really nutritionally balanced for every day food, and I certainly don’t give it all the time. Some grains are high energy grains, and these are commonly found in scratch. I am not one to really diddle with trying to find particular scratch grains depending on the time of year because my kids are free ranged and spend their time foraging.

One time I will give scratch, though, is during the winter. Most scratch grains are mostly corn, which produces more energy during digestion than other grains.

Energy = heat. So, as they go to town on the scratch {which also helps keep them busy foraging when the ground is covered and snowy and is frozen}, they are generating more heat to help keep them warm. I usually give them some in the morning and then again before they go to bed at night, giving them about an hour or two to get to it when they are eating, too.

As long as they have the right nutrition, chickens can lay {albeit at a somewhat decreased rate} all winter long and they won’t freeze to death without supplemental heat or light!

Now, if you’re still worried and need something to do, I’d suggest you knit your chooks some clothes. Apparently, there’s quite a selection to choose from.Β  :mrgreen: πŸ˜†

chickensweater1

chickensweater2

chickensweater3

chickensweater4

chickenhat1

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: