Last week I taught part one of my two-part Chicken Owning workshop for our town’s Adult Education program. I always have a lot of fun teaching the class and it’s good to see the continued interest in chickens.
We started with obtaining chicks and I told them about how I recommend that all baby chicks get medicated feed until they are fully feathered (about 5 or 6 weeks.) At that point I suggest that you discontinue all medicated feed and transition them to regular feed, free ranged food, and kitchen scraps. My reasoning for this (besides the fact that I have worked as a clinical microbiologist and I respect the bacteria) is that often baby chicks are around many other baby chicks and there is a high probability of them being exposed to various pathogens. I see giving them the medicated feed as a type of insurance.
“But, we want to raise our chickens organically, is there anything we can do for our chicks that could protect them naturally, without medication?” one of my workshop attendees asked me. Continue reading
When you write about chickens and eggs (and children and parenting and Lyme disease and books) people tend to send you things to take a look at and/or review.
Recently I was sent the cookbook Put an egg on it by Lara Ferroni. Laura loves eggs the way I loved raw carrots as a child, it wasn’t a good day unless my mother had a peeled carrot waiting for me when I got off the school bus and likewise Ferroni is not happy without her eggs.
Ferroni, a self-described egg addict and food writer/photographer from Portand, Oregon and who regularly contributes to Epicurious.com, Portland Monthly, edibleSEATTLE, and Seattle magazine writes:
It never fails. When I look at a menu, my eyes magically zoom to any dish where an egg appears. You might, if you listen closely, even hear a little “oooo” escape my lips. (OK, maybe you don’t have to listen that closely.)
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like a good egg dish but this lady LOVES her some eggs and because of this love she has created a cookbook filled with gorgeous photos (that one would be tempted to call true food porn) and “70 delicious dishes that deserve a sunny topping.” Continue reading
I know that it looks a little like modern art but this is not atypical chicken food at our house.
One of the reasons that we got chickens in the first place was because it was a great way to get rid of kitchen scraps. I had done a series of articles on how much edible food our family threw away in one month (a little over 20 pounds) and a reader wrote to me telling me that all of her food scraps went to her chickens. Not only did this reader then eat the eggs but she was also not averse to eating a rooster for an occasional Sunday dinner.
It was the ultimate in recycling.
It’s not unusual when we are eating dinner outside to just throw our bits of food garbage over the fence for the chickens to munch on (you have to alternate where you throw so that you don’t accidentally clock a chick over the head with a corncob.) We’ve learned a few things over the years. Continue reading
This is the back of our henhouse. Notice the trees. Our property is surrounded by lots of woods.
Which makes me a little concerned because in our town we have daily sightings of a mama bear and her two cubs.
When I teach chicken workshops, I tell people that the best way they can spend their money is to get a secure henhouse. Don’t fool yourself into thinking those little prefab ones at the Tractor Supply (I like to call them “Tinker-toy coops”) are going to protect your flock.
They aren’t. Your chickens would be gone in a heartbeat.
Our coop is built to housing standards and all three doors close with a lock.
Here is nesting box door. Continue reading
During my chicken workshops I cover how to wash eggs. It’s not really a complicated subject but you might be surprised at how many people are concerned about bacteria on eggs (especially with that big Salmonella scare last year) and want to know specifically how to clean them.
I get it, I get it. Eggs come out where??? Poop is gross. Poops on eggs is even more gross. But let’s talk a little about those eggs.
First of all when eggs are laid, they are covered with a thin oil coating that makes the shell impermeable to water (and therefore bacteria.) Because of this, you don’t need to refrigerate an unwashed egg for up to a few (3 tops) days. (Of course I tell people that they shouldn’t ever leave any eggs in a very hot kitchen or in direct sunlight.)
Most people don’t like any kind of dirt (especially poop) on their eggs. Not a problem, but all you really need is a little water and a soft sponge.
This is how I wash all of our eggs:
I use gloves, but I use thin plastic (reusable gloves) so that I can retain a certain amount of feel for the eggs. If you have any cuts or scraps on your hands, gloves are a requirement. (If you choose not to use gloves then make sure you use lots of soap and hot water afterward to wash your hands.)
I use a soft plastic bucket (I use the bottom of an old salad spinner) and fill it halfway with warm (not hot) water. Each egg gets gently placed in the bottom of the bucket (I only do about 10 eggs at a time to make sure they have room around them.)
Any eggs that float or whose butts tilt upward are discarded because it means that air has entered the shell and you can no longer guarantee that they haven’t been contaminated. Throw those suckers out.
Each remaining egg is then picked up and with a soft sponge (dollar store sponges work great) I gently scrub off any dirt. You’ll soon discover that a light touch is all you need. Continue reading
My new official chicken workshop bag.
Last night I gave my Chicken 102 workshop. Here are some notes on the experience:
- Even though I came prepared with a cone, even though I talked about how to humanely kill a chicken using a cone, every time I mentioned the act, I stumbled over the word. Stumbled, as in fell flat on my face, couldn’t even say the right word. Kill, dispose of, cone? Finally a man in the audience came to my rescue and like a parent gently leading a child to the coffin, told me that the word was “harvest.”
Harvest. It’s a good word. The end of a successful season, the fruition of your labors. Something that is appreciated.
It’s a good word.
- That young family was there (with the lava lamp girl) and this time, after I had answered the question “what is the smallest flock you should have and what is the largest” (smallest is 3 birds, largest depends on your space and resources) she asked me, if chickens are flock animals, and if I had a chicken living in my house, then wasn’t that chicken lonely?
I told her that this was a clear case of do as I say and not as I do. Charlie has flock members (she’s sitting next to me right now as I write this) but they are just birds of a different feather. Charlie is a unique situation and as much as we love her in the house, I’ve got to go on the record as saying that I don’t recommend that people start raising chickens in the house.
Tonight I’ll be giving my Chickens 102 workshop in Concord. It follows Chickens 101 where we talk about how to get chicks, take care of them, and then transition them to the outdoors.
Tonight’s talk will be about how to maintain a flock. We’ll be talking about:
- Winter care
- Warm weather care
- Henhouse care
- Flock behavior
- Body problems
- Harvesting using a cone
I was talking to a reporter last week about chickens (I’ll link to the article once it is published) and she asked me what I would do if a chicken got sick.
The short answer is that I would do what I could (the operative word here is, of course, I.) I have no illusions that chickens are anything but farm animals (even our all-time favorite hens like Simon, Morganne, and, especially, Charlie.) Continue reading
This promises to be a great presentation and I wanted to pass the information on to those involved with disability issues.
DURHAM — Keith Jones, a nationally recognized disability rights advocate and artist, will speak at the University of New Hampshire Thursday, April 22. Jones’s talk is part of the Janet Krumm Disability & Media Lecture Series of UNH’s Institute on Disability (IOD).
The talk will be from 3:30-5:30 p.m. at the University of New Hampshire Memorial Union Building Theatre II.
Jones has been called a pioneer in the disability rights movement. As president and chief executive officer of SoulTouchin’ Experiences, he is committed to multicultural, cross-disability, progressive, and effective change around the issues of access, inclusion, and empowerment. Jones was recently featured in two critically-acclaimed documentaries — IOD filmmaker-in-residence Dan Habib’s “Including Samuel,” and Maggie Doben’s “Labeled Disabled.” Continue reading
I wrote about these composters last year in my column and wanted to let NH/Mass. local people know that once again they will be available from Beaver Brook in Hollis NH until April 2, 2010.
We got the composting bin last year and it is where the poop from the coop goes (along with yard clippings). Most of our food waste goes to our chickens who eat it and start breaking it down for us automatically (original composters that they are).
Tired of seeing all of those kitchen leftovers from preparing meals and snacks get thrown out in the trash or eaten by critters in your makeshift composting bin in the backyard? Here’s your chance to turn those scraps into a rich soil amendment.
As part of Earth Day 2010 celebrations, Beaver Brook is participating in a statewide backyard composting bin sale. Through April 2, 2010, a home compost bin and how-to guide with a combined retail value of $100 can be purchased for only $47. The bin is black, has a 10 year warranty, and is made of 100% recycled plastic. It’s approximately 33″ high and 33″ wide or large enough for a family of five. Continue reading
This weekend I took my boys to the local Tractor Supply Company store to get some maple sap collecting supplies.
Like being in Wonka's factory
For the record the Tractor Supple Company or the Tractor store as some of us locals like to call it (you know the one in the place that used to be a bowling alley) is one of my most favorite places to go – who knew they had so many neat things in there?
Sure you can always get animal feed and hatchets but you can also get some of the nicest magazines and books around on everything from horses to canning recipes. The best though is the quality clothing and shoes. Most of the clothes are that heavy cotton that you just know is going to last. Continue reading