Farm Fresh Friday

Crème de la Coop

I am a blessed mother of four children — three of them sons who can just about figure out anything. As such, all I have to do is show them a picture, video or article and they can figure it out and build it up.

One day I found this YouTube video of a chicken coop designed to minimize cleaning, feeding and maintenance. I posted it to my son’s, Matt, Facebook wall (isn’t that how everyone communicates now a days?). Well, the next thing I knew he began building a new chicken coop for me. All from scrap wood of a recent remodel.

The View (4)

The feeding area has tubes that can funnel the food and water into the containers. So, you can feed and water the flock without even going into the coop.

The Feeder & Water

The nesting boxes are located outside the coop so you can collect the eggs just by lifting up the roof. I keep a step stool under the nesting boxes as the first thing the grandchildren do when they come over is check for eggs.

I keep the roof up in the summer time to keep a breeze going through it. The lower left picture shows the screen that I keep over it to keep the hens in. The wood laying boxes hold plastic bins with the bedding material. These can then be taken out for easy cleaning.

Nesting Boxes

My son made the roost out of natural branches. In his researched he found this to be the most preferred and beneficial for the hens.

The Roost

The best part of this is how easy it is to clean. I just open the back door and with a square garbage can up against the back I scoop out all the poop and straw. It takes me 15 minutes. It’s a snap!

The Easy Clean

So, there you have it. A very functional coop that fits the flocks needs and minimizes my time for care and maintenance of the girls.

So, anyone want to share their backyard chicken coop? I would love to organize a tour of the area’s chicken coops. Anyone interested? Please post interest below. Or post a link of your coop below and we can have ourselves a virtual tour Happy face.

 

The Feed to Achieve the Bionic Egg!

I follow several backyard chicken blogs. Recently, one posted “The Breakfast of Champion Layer” feed. The recipe made me curious. I had to see if I could find the ingredients locally and what cost would be for this area and if I saw any benefits in my girls. There are several farm supplies around town. The one with the best prices is definitely Steve Regan. The draw back with this store though is it doesn’t have retail hours. It’s only open Monday through Friday from 8 to 5. For a working girl, that’s me, those hours don’t necessary accommodate my schedule. I mean, in order to get there, I’d have to schedule it during my lunch hour. So for me, that takes some planning — as I usually like to eat during my lunch hour. The store is worth the inconvenience. The other three farm supply stores are pretty comparable in prices to each other. You should watch the sales, but for the most part they will be within a few dollars of each other. Another benefit of Steve Regan store is the protein content of the layer bag. It is 18 percent protein. The other stores carry the 18 percent in the all flock feed, but it’s even more expensive than what I have listed here. What I couldn’t find locally in the recipe, I mail ordered (Amazon Prime comes in handy for these occasions).

The Feed Barrel

In my normal routine, I just buy two 50 pound bags of layer pellets and two 50 pound bags of scratch. This runs me about $70 every three months. This also fits nicely in the feed barrel. This ratio is not recommended. I’ve since learned hens need more protein for better egg production, so I wanted to give this recipe a try and see how the cost compared to my current routine.

The LootHere is the recipe as it was published on the blog, Fresh Eggs Daily. I will provide my notes below this recipe.

Qty

Ingredient Cost

Store

1 50 lb. bag Layer Crumble

$14.50

Steve Regan
1 Large canister Old-fashioned Oats

$3.94

Walmart
2 c Cracked Corn (omit in summer or give less)

$0.33

Steve Regan
4 c Shelled Sunflower Seeds

$3.60

Amazon
1 lb Omega Ultra Egg

$2.00

Tractor Supply Co.
1.5 c Thomas Labs Brewer’s Yeast and Garlic Powder

$1.69

Amazon
1.5 c Probiotic Powder

$5.15

Amazon
1.5 c Diatomaceous Earth

$0.13

Steve Regan
1 c Sea Kelp

$2.83

Amazon
Handful of mixed dried herbs

Total

$34.17

NOTES:

  1. I do not use crumble, I use pellets. The hens make a mess of the crumble and a majority of it seemed wasted. It only took me one lesson on this mistake on this — that’s irritated I was over this. So, I get the pellets. It is the same cost per bag.
  2. I buy my oats in bulk from the health food store, so I didn’t actually purchase any for this recipe. Another option would be to purchase it from the feed store as well. The bulk rate would bring the cost down considerably.
  3. I also purchased the raw sunflower seeds in bulk from Nature’s Market in Washington, Utah. They will not post prices though, so you will have to compare on your own.
  4. The Tractor Supply had the Omega Ultra Egg on sale, so this cost will need to be adjusted as the situation changes.
  5. No cost  on the dried herbs, I just used herbs I dried from my garden.
  6. PLEASE NOTE: These prices were pulled around the time of this post. Obviously, they will change, but this should give you a general idea of cost.

Here is the breakdown to purchase all the items to make the recipe. Some of the items will have product left-over for for the next batch.

Ingredient Cost Store
50 lb. bag Layer Crumble

$14.50

Steve Regan
Large canister Old-fashioned Oats

$3.94

Walmart
Cracked Corn (omit in summer or give less)

$8.35

Steve Regan
Shelled Sunflower Seeds

$10.79

Amazon
Omega Ultra Egg

$11.99

Tractor Supply
Thomas Labs Brewer’s Yeast and Garlic Powder

$25.31

Amazon
Probiotic Powder

$5.15

Amazon
Diatomaceous Earth

$9.65

Steve Regan
Sea Kelp

$2.83

Amazon
Handful of mixed dried herbs

Total

$153.02

So if you want to give this a try, here is your shopping list and approximately what you will spend at each store. This does not include taxes and shipping costs.

Steve Regan

·       50 lb layer pellets

·       50 lb cracked corn

·       25 lb diatomaceous earth

$32.50

Amazon (follow the links)

·       Sunflower Seeds

·       Thomas Labs Brewer’s Yeast & Garlic Powder

·       Probiotic Powder

·       Sea Kelp

$104.59

Tractor Supply

·       Omega Ultra Egg

$11.99

Walmart

·       Canister of Old Fashion Oats

$3.94

Total

$153.02

The GirlIt took a day for the girls take a liking to the new recipe. Scratch is considered a treat and the ratio I was using practically gave them a treat in every bite (or peck). They would move their beak around in the feeder, pushing the pellets away to get to the grain. Girls! So, yeah, this recipe pretty much put them in shock. This will be healthier for them though and bring better egg production. They have been on it for about a month — so far; so good. As a side note, it takes about 1.5 pounds of feed a week per laying hen. So, this recipe should feed about 6 hens for about 5 weeks. Unless you’re like me and also feeding the entire neighborhood of free-loading birds…then you better deduct a week or two.

Anyone have a special recipe they follow? Who’s going to try this one out? Please let me know how it works for you.

Before and After

If you have chickens, occasionally you will need to respectfully harvest them. And knowing that I bought two turkeys this year, Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is Thanksgiving. He could strut like no other Tom, but then again…I have to admit…I’m not really all that experienced with a turkey strut. It was pretty entertaining to watch.

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BEFORE

Well, recently, I harvested one of them. It weighed 42 pounds!

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AFTER

To prepare the bird, I put the meat in a brine solution for 36 hours. The brine solution was made up of 3/4 cup salt (I used Morton’s Tender Quick) per gallon of water. Then I added quartered onions, quartered garlic cloves, lemons (sliced), soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, and some brown sugar.

Before smoking the bird, I rubbed it with olive oil and a Cajun rub. Then I placed it in my propane smoker with mesquite wood chips.

If you haven’t ever smoked meat, I encourage you to try it. It tastes as heavenly as the aroma during the cooking process.

I won’t be writing any posts next week because of Thanksgiving. So I wish you all a very food-filled, family-fun, football frenzy Thanksgiving!

Diatomaceous Earth

IMG_1526

Scooter feeding Tanny mealy worms.

I delight in knowing my chickens are healthy and happy. Occasionally, I notice things that need some attention and treatment. Healthy chickens will lay eggs that are clean and free of any feces, even though the egg comes out of the same vent as its poop. (You’re probably thinking, “Yuck!”) Recently I took out some eggs from the laying boxes that looked liked this.

IMG_0946

Seems pretty disgusting, huh? But I read somewhere…you know you’re a homesteader if there is poop everywhere and you’re okay with that! I amaze myself, sometimes, with what I have become okay with.

Anyhoo, I have read that dirty eggs like these mean the chicken has some kind of intestinal issue, like worms. After reading a few articles and asking around, I found a few options on how to treat them. I like to go the natural route whenever I can. Someone told me about diatomaceous earth (DE). This ground-up fossilized aquatic organism is basically the cure all for any ailment…for any one. I am serious. If there is one product that could solve all the world’s problems, this would be it. Okay, yes I’m getting crazy here, it can’t solve all the world’s problems…but pretty dang close. From fighting bugs to fighting parasites to curing most ailments of man, food grade DE seems to be the answer…but let’s get back to my girls. I learned this fine powder will de-worm the hens. Locally, I purchased some DE from Steve Regan. You can buy it in a 5 pound bag or a 25 pound bag. You may ask, “How in the heck will I use 25 pounds of this stuff?” Well again, this is amazing stuff and it can be used in many applications, not just with your chickens. Further down the page I share a video on its other uses. For now, when using DE to fight an intestinal issues for my chickens, I just sprinkle a little powder in their food dish.

IMG_1524

A bottle of diatomaceous earth sits waiting in the food barrel to be applied to the hens feed every few months.

This helps keep the messy eggs at bay. You can also use it to dust your chickens with DE to get rid of mites or other pests. Here is a video that details that information. DE can be found at other farm stores or even available online. When purchasing, just make sure it’s food grade.

Here is a video that touts more of DE’s benefits:

Here is my disclaimer, in my research it is highly recommended. And personally, I have had great experience with this. Please note, this is not approved by the FDA and you can find a few opposing views on using this.

Let me know what you think…leave a comment below.

Light the Night

It can be a hard, cruel world out there and egg production can suffer because of it. The girls aren’t getting along, the house is messy or the food is sporadic—all this can contribute to a stressed, unhappy flock. Yes, that’s right! If things aren’t just right at home, the girls won’t make breakfast. So, here are some things to look for if your hens’ egg production is down.

  • Hen pecked? Hens not getting along? There will always be a pecking order going on, but sometimes hens will be relentless in tormenting the newest hen. This stress can prevent them laying eggs. Here’s a link that may help to solve that problem.
  • An unkept house? If the laying boxes are dirty the hens will avoid them. Keeping them clean with bedding material such as wood shavings or straw will make them inviting. And the hens, well they may be willing to come and sit a spell…at least long enough to lay an egg.
  • No food in the feeder? Running out of food or having a sporadic food supply will also affect the egg production. Keeping an eye on the feeder and making sure the hens have a plentiful supply of feed will ensure the eggs will keep coming.
  • Not enough daylight hours? As the days get shorter, naturally the hens will stop laying eggs…and so now, the reason for today’s post.

In my first year of raising chickens, my hens had just started laying eggs in the fall. Wrangler Man told me they will stop laying in the winter. What?! Yes, I found out it’s actually a natural process for hens to taper off egg production as the days get shorter in the fall. So, he gave me a tip to keep the hens laying all winter long. Add lights.

Hens need 12-14 hours of sunlight to keep producing eggs. So, lights are added in their chicken coop in the fall to keep the egg production going all yearlong. So, last fall I put lights in my hen house to give the girls the artificial sunlight they needed to keep up their production of eggs.

To get lights in the hen house, I just purchased solar landscape lights from the local hardware store…nothing fancy (but then nothing about me is really fancy). I stuck the light on a push in plastic fence pole that I purchased at the same store. Here is what it looks like…

IMG_1232

The light should be shining on the feeder and where the hens roost. Now I have an open coop which makes lighting the coop very simple. Others who have a closed coop will need something a little more complex…like electricity or solar power added to the coop.

Here is a short video showing how an electrical light was brought into a coop.

If you can’t get electricity to the coop, then here is a video showing how lights were added with a small solar power system.

I also found a warning on not using Teflon lights in the coop.

As with any research, you will find different schools of thought. So here are the cons to providing a light through the winter.

  • Decreases the egg laying years of a hen (not its life, just the years of it laying eggs)
  • Just plan unnatural
  • No resting period for the hens
  • Loss of calcium production for strong eggshells

In my opinion, feed is expensive and when you don’t get any kind of production from consumption of feed, it is just too costly. You can compensate for any calcium loss by adding a supplement of oyster shells to the chickens’ feed. All the other reasons…I’ll rationalize by saying, “That’s just life on the farm.”

 

True Confessions of a Chicken Chick

I haven’t always been legal. I have a big 6-foot fence around my backyard thinking I could keep my girls safe, secure and secluded. I had to; because, believe it or not, there was time when my girls were an underground flock.

IMG_0999

It all started in the spring of 2013. I love baby chicks. They are so adorable; I can’t resist them. So, I bought 2 ducks, 2 turkeys and 6 hens. (Okay, yes; I have a problem.) Likewise, I wanted to raise them and give my grandchildren an opportunity to see them grow…something I missed as a child. Before the purchase was made, I arranged with Wrangler Man to take them when the chicks reached a size they could survive on the farm. It was my secret hope, though, that I would be able to raise the chickens for fresh, daily eggs. In addition to the ultimate entertainment of having hens, I also wanted to decrease my dependency on commerce and increase my ability to raise food; healthier than what could be purchased at the local grocer.

Squished Dreams
So, I kept them. The lot of them. I loved going out to the hen house and gathering the eggs. For the grandchildren it was like Easter morning finding eggs in the nesting box. Well, my dream came crashing down by way of something I received in my mailbox. An envelope contained a “courtesy letter” from the code enforcement officer. The letter was complete with pictures of my backyard showing my blatant disregard for the chicken code (and my neighbors blatant disregard for my privacy…but I digress). The letter informed me that my lot wasn’t allowed to have chickens because it was under 10,000 square feet.

Illegal

I was baffled. I live in a community whose heritage was farming…self-reliance. How could the community be against chickens? I posted on Facebook my sadness and frustration over this whole ordeal. A friend, and farmer in a nearby community, saw my post and gave me a suggestion of who to contact on the city council. Well, because I was leaving town for my summer vacation, I only a days to get into compliance. I gave away my six laying hens, two baby ducks and two goofy-lurkey turkeys to mi amor. (Is there a Christmas carol in there…somewhere?)

Operation Chicken Code
Motivated by my sadness, I went to work to save the chickens. I contacted the member of the city council recommended to me. His campaign platform was resolving issues with the city’s codes and enforcement. He was a great help, but I wanted to find others in the city interested in changing the code. At first, I tried to put up petitions at the local farm stores, but policies prohibited displaying them. So instead, I made flyers and passed them out at farmers markets, community events, including tacking them on every community bulletin board I could find. The flyer referred readers to a Facebook page providing information on this campaign. The goal of the page was to build awareness about the city’s ordinance and organize support in in amending it.

Operation Chicken Code FB

I also contacted the local newspapers. A few articles were published about the ordinance; an online, two opinion pieces (here and here) and other various stories ran throughout the process ordinance change.

STNEWS

Amazing that at one point the government encouraged citizens to raise hens.

Uncle Sam

To sum up, the whole process took about a year. The ordinance was finally amended in April 2014. The ordinance still has a minimum size lot of 6,000 square feet to have chickens. I don’t understand why the council saw the need to keep a minimum size lot to have chickens, but at least it’s better than before. So, I’m celebrating the change…and I’m LEGAL!

Top 5 Lessons I learned:

1. Social media is a great way to generate leads to resolve your issue. If I hadn’t posted on Facebook my frustration, I wouldn’t have received the contact information from a friend’s comment.
2. Social media is also a great way to build a community with the same interest. Start a page for your campaign. It’s a great channel to rally the troops and inform them what is going on as well as solicit their help. To increase followers, I had drawings for free t-shirts. Audience members were  entered into the drawing if they liked, commented and shared the post.

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T-shirts ordered from: http://www.cafepress.com/

3. Get the media involved. It’s a great way to get your story out there.
4. Contact city council members. Find someone to advocate for you. It may take a few tries before you find someone willing to go to bat for you.
5. Contact other organizations whose mission is similar to your cause. They may be willing to help advocate with you and they may be able to increase your audience with their members too.

How about you? City Codes got you down? Do you have a similar story with backyard chickens? Please share what’s happening on your side of the asphalt farm.

Hypnotizing A Chicken

Want a fun Friday night activity? Hypnotize a chicken!

Next Friday’s post, I promise to post something that would be considered practical and useful. Today, though, I just had to share this video of my granddaughter, Emma Bear, hypnotizing a chicken. She is now known as the “chicken whisperer”. Anyway, this is possibly something you could do for a fun Friday night activity…if you’re as easily entertained as we are.

Em hypnotizing Starlight

Em hypnotizing Starlight

One thought on “Farm Fresh Friday

  1. Hi Julie,
    Thanks for the information about chicken feed. We have nine hens and get a maximum of 4 eggs in a day, sometimes only 1. I will let my husband know about the protein content and I will give him this recipe. I love your blog! Next time you’re in Cedar City, we should have lunch.

    Cindy Moxley

    Liked by 1 person

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