Friday, July 26, 2013

Raising Laying Hens From Chicks: A Step By Step Guide

STEP ONE: Things To Gather BEFORE your chicks arrive.  Yes.  BEFORE.

1) A brooding box/pen/cage.  You can start with a big plastic tub for 25 chicks, which they’ll outgrow in a week.  It can be used  to hold 40-50 pound bags of feed later.  If you have 3-6 you can keep them here for a 2-3 weeks.

2) Chick feed.  It is important to feed your chicks food intended for chicks and not adult birds.

3) Chick grit.  Chickens typically consume dirt and pebbles as they eat, and these are necessary to help break down their food.  Since chicks are not outside for the first 5 weeks (in our case more like 6-8 since we get them in December) they need grit as a supplement added to their food.  Adult birds that are not raised outside will continue to need a grit supplement.

4) Pine shavings or equivalent. Avoid hardwood shavings like oak, as they can be toxic to chicks.  Avoid shredded newspaper, too, though some people use it.  The ink will dirty your chicks, and it seems an unsatisfying bedding choice for new chicks.

5) Paper towels (non-bleached, plain) for the first 2 days.  If you use newspaper be sure to shred it or chicks will slip on the surface.  Slipping is problematic for proper foot development, so go with paper towels.

6) Water and food dispensers.  Those pictured are specifically for chicks.  They will need something bigger in about 5 weeks.  Though again, if you only have three or four birds, the watering can pictured could work if you swap out a quart jar, but even with a quart jar you’ll have to fill it frequently.

7) Light with a 100 watt bulb if chicks will start in your home somewhere (a laundry room works well), or some heated area.  Otherwise, get a heat lamp as well as a white light.  If you plan to put them in your garage in early spring, you will still want a heat lamp.

8) Thermometer (not essential, but handy).

STEP TWO: Set up before the chicks arrive

1) Place about 1/2 inch of shavings in the bottom of your brood space and cover with one layer of paper towels. If you have a cage, lay a plastic bag or old shower curtain down to protect the floor.  With our tub we put an old towel down.  Partly it marks off chick space from other space.  Consider “chick space” dirty. That is, hands should be washed well after entering “chick space”….

2) Put the filled feeder and water directly on the bottom of your brood area for a day.  Once the chicks are actively eating and drinking, put a block of wood under the feed and water to raise them a bit.  This will keep them cleaner. Separating the water and feed will also help keep both cleaner.

3) If chicks are brand new–that is, they have not had anything to eat or drink yet (most likely if they have been mailed to you), then mix 1/4 c. sugar with a 1 quart of warm water to dissolve.  Use this water the first couple of days.  The sugar will give the hungry and thirsty chicks an energy boost, and they’ll be inclined to drink because–well, sugar water is just SO tasty!  After the second day use tap water.  If chicks come from a farm and feed type store and are at least a few days old you can omit the sugar water.

STEP THREE: When Chicks Come Home

1) If the chicks have come in the mail they will be stressed, thirsty, and cold.  So take them out of the box one at a time, dip their beak in your sugar water and set them down by the water.  I keep the feed next to the water the first couple of days to be sure they find them both.  You may need to dunk their beaks in the food too, if they aren’t finding it.  Check them periodically to be sure they are eating and drinking.  Occasionally you’ll need to double dip (I think of this as a baptizing of sorts–calling these chicks to life…) a chick who only wants to sleep.  BUT sleeping is what they will do a lot the first couple of days.

If the chicks are coming from Wilco (or equivalent), they will be excited to explore their new area, and all you need to do is show them the water and feed.  They will likely find them on their own, but set them down in front of it regardless, especially if your feeder looks different from the one in the store.

2) Hang your white light over the brood box. We put a screen on top of our tub and set the light on the screen–you can figure out another system, but you will want to cover the brood box by week 3.  Follow these guidelines for temperature:
The first week keep the area beneath the light between 90-95.  Every week decrease that 5 degrees by raising the light about 3 inches.  By week five you’ll be at about 75 degrees, and depending on time of year, may not need a light anymore.  If it is winter, keep their space above 60 at night for another few weeks until their chick fluff is fully replaced by feathers.

Chicks will communicate whether they are too hot or too cold by how they cluster.  They will be inclined to collapse into a pile to sleep, but if they spend nearly all the time heaped up under the light they are too cold. If they are spread out away from the light they are too hot.  If they are panting, they are too hot. In those cases, raise the light, or if you are using a heat lamp, switch to a 100 watt white bulb. This is why a thermometer is optional.  Chicks communicate very well.  Especially at this stage.

STEP FOUR: Things to Check in the First Week:

1) Observe to see that they are all drinking and eating. Feel free to hold them, but not overly much the first week.  But handle them after that if you want hens that will tolerate petting!  Certain breeds are also more amenable to petting than others.

2) When you pick them up, check their vent to be sure it is not plugged with poop.  (Anatomy lesson: the vent is used for everything: pee-poop–urine and feces are mixed for chickens, and egg.  Maybe disgusting, but true.)  We only had this happen with one shipment–which arrived in bad shape.  We lost five of the chicks in the first 24 hours, and about 5 of them had plugged vents over the first week.  To clear, soak their bum in a small bowl/container of warm (not hot) water.  Try not to get any more of the chick wet than is necessary.  The poop plug will soften so that you can scrap it away gently.  Dry chick and immediately put back in warm brood box.  I used a yogurt container which I then recycled.  THIS BEARS REPEATING: ALWAYS WASH YOUR HANDS AFTER HANDLING YOUR CHICKS. Not only when you’ve been cleaning pasty butts!

3) Turn off the white light every day 2-4 times for about 20 minutes at a time so they are not constantly under white lights.  Imagine if you had to live and sleep under a bright white light 24/7…!

4) Add chick grit to the feed after the first few days. Mix your feed and grit together at this point.  The ratio of feed to grit is 20:1.  So 20 pounds of feed mixed with 1 pound of grit will keep you from having to make the calculation every time you feed them.

5) You’ll change the paper towels a couple of times a day the first day or two on account of the poop.  Once you stop using paper towels, add new shavings on top of the old ones every few days as needed. If you are using a heat lamp you’ll notice the lamp dries the poop and reduces the smell.  If you are using a white lamp, you will likely want to replace the shavings every few days.  When the smell is strong–it’s time to replace them.  For your sake, but also for the chick’s health.

STEP FIVE: Things to Do in Week Two or Three:

Mostly Continue what you’ve been doing, but you will notice they will muck up their water (so change it frequently–and depending on how many chicks you have, you might want to graduate to a quart jar for water), and you’ll be surprised how quickly they will go through feed.

Clean their water jar at least once a week with a vinegar/water solution.  You’ll notice it gets to feeling slimy, and vinegar will keep it clean.

By the end of week two move  birds to a bigger space.  So add a heat lamp at that point, and leave both a heat lamp and a white light on during the day, and then turn off the white light at night. If you just have 3-4 chicks you’ll likely be able to keep them in your original space for the full 5-6 weeks unless the smell drives them or you out of the house!  Better them than you!  Since it takes five to six weeks for them to get their warmer set of feathers, heat continues to be an issue even after they appear  to be awkward gawky teenagers.

Add clean shavings every few days on top of the old ones.  As they get older (and more feathered) Open up a space for them to see into the garage, and eventually open the front up most of the way during the days before we move them from here to the hen house.

Monday, July 22, 2013

10 Uses for Aloe Vera Gel or Juice

10 Uses for Aloe Vera Gel or Juice

1. Itch relief: Apply directly to the site of insect bites or stings for relief.
2. Burn relief: Slather pure aloe vera gel on a sunburn, or use to treat minor burns in the kitchen. It can also be effectively used as a gentle aftershave.
3. Leave in conditioner/scalp soother: I mix aloe vera gel with a little rosemary essential oil and a few drops of Vitamin E oil, squirt tiny bits on my scalp and ends of hair. I do not rinse, and this mixture soothes an itchy scalp and softens hair.
4. Hair styling: Aloe vera gel fights frizz in my hair and has been a great replacement for expensive styling products.
5. Mouthwash: If drinking aloe vera juice, you can simply swish it around in your mouth for a while to benefit gums. You can also make a homemade aloe mouthwash by mixing 1 cup aloe vera juice, ½ cup distilled water, 2 teaspoons baking soda, and 10-20 drops of peppermint essential oil.
6. Hand sanitizer: I make an aloe-based natural hand sanitizer  that travels with me almost everywhere. The aloe vera gel in it moisturizes my hands instead of drying like most commercial hand sanitizers.
7. Moisturizer: Skin absorbs it quickly and it’s non-greasy. I find it to be the perfect summer facial moisturizer when other moisturizers just seem too heavy and oily.
8. Drink for digestionAloe vera juice can be effective in aiding digestion, soothing an upset stomach, and providing relief for heartburn.
9. Vitamin absorption: A recent study from the University of California, Davis, showed that aloe vera may help your body absorb vitamins more effectively. Drinking 2 ounces of aloe vera juice along with your daily vitamins can increase absorption rates.
10. Drink to lower cholesterol: I’m not suggesting anyone ignore the advice of their medical professional, or stop taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. However, this one is definitely worth a look. Studies have shown that drinking aloe vera juice can safely lower cholesterol over time.
Disclaimer: I am not a health professional. Keep in mind this information is based on my personal opinion and research. Use these recommendations at your own risk. I recommend consulting with your health practitioner prior to taking aloe vera internally.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Stylish way to get rid of mosquitoes


All you need is a package of Mason jars, some cotton string and some liquid citronella (find it in big jugs at any home-improvement store and even some grocery stores). Use a hammer and nail to poke a hole in the top of the lid, then pour in the citronella, put the top on and drop in the wick. Allow the string about 10 minutes to soak up some oil, then place them around your backyard and light them! 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

10 Uses For Wood Ash

Before you dispose of those wood ashes sitting in your fireplace or your wood burning stove, try using your wood ash these 10 different ways:

1.   Use wood ash to add nutrients to your compost. Contains potash and calcium carbonate.
2.   Use wood ash to deter snails from plants. Spread around the perimeter of the plant.
3.  Use wood ash to add nutrients to planting holes for tomatoes  by adding about half a cup to each hole.
4.   Use wood ash to clean stove glass doors. Add to a damp sponge to wipe away sooty deposits.
5.   Use wood ash for soap making. Soak ashes in water to make lye which is used in the soap making process.
6.   Use wood ash to clean metal by making a paste with the ash.
7.   Use wood ash as a dust bath for chickens, it kills lice and mites.
8.   Use wood ash to remove sticky labels from glass jars by making a paste with a little water.
9.   Use wood ash as a top dressing around onions, leeks and garlic.
10. Use wood ash to raise the Ph of soil if required, as an alternative to lime.

These 10 uses for wood ash was originally published on The Cyprus Garden Blog

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Tip for Rose Bushes

Quick tip: 
Flatten a banana peel and bury it under one inch of soil at the base of a rosebush. The peel’s potassium feeds the plant and helps it resist disease. Consider it a nutritional boost for you and your buds.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Sun Pickles

Gallon glass jar
3 1/4 cups white vinegar
6 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup kosher salt
Dill to taste
1 teaspoon alum
I also added onion , garlic and 1 chili pepper
Combine all in glass jar set in sun for three days

Monday, July 8, 2013

Ozark Blackberry Cobbler

Ozark Blackberry Cobbler


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening
3 tablespoons cold water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 16 - ounce package frozen unsweetened blackberries or 3 cups fresh blackberries
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon sugar


For pastry: In a medium mixing bowl, combine the 1 cup flour and salt; add shortening. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until pieces are the size of small peas. Add the cold water; beat on low speed just until dough begins to form (about 15 to 20 seconds). Form pastry into a ball with hands; gently flatten. On a lightly floured surface, roll pastry into an 8-1/2x8-1/2-inch square. Cut several slits in pastry. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup flour. Place blackberries and almond extract in a 2-quart square baking dish. Sprinkle sugar mixture over blackberries; toss to coat. Dot butter pieces over blackberries. Place pastry on blackberries. Sprinkle the 1 tablespoon sugar over pastry.
Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until blackberry filling is bubbly and pastry is golden. Cool slightly on a wire rack. Serve warm. Makes 6 servings.

Cordwood Buildings

From far away, it looks like stone masonry – but get up close and you’ll see that cordwood buildings are actually made from wood stacked firewood-style, and mortar. Debarked logs ranging from 12 to 36 inches can be arranged into walls either in load-bearing round structures or in combination with post-and-beam framing. Soft woods like cedar and pine are used because they are more stable, with less expansion and contraction. These walls offer both insulation and thermal mass. As with any natural building technique, it’s labor-intensive, but easy enough that practically anyone can do it.

While the mortar typically used for cordwood construction is made from Portland cement, lime and water, some people are beginning to combine cordwood building with cob in place of mortar, as in the owner-built cordwood home above.

To see more:

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Oven Smoked Brisket

Oven Smoked Brisket 


7-11 lb. brisket, untrimmed
1-2 bottles liquid smoke
1 tablespoon salt
4-6 tablespoons McCormick Montreal Grill Mate Steak Seasoning


Trim brisket of excessive fat, but leave a nice layer for a wonderful flavor. Place brisket in a large roasting pan or in a ex large Ziploc bag. Pour liquid smoke over brisket and seal tightly. Place in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours or overnight.

Remove brisket from the refrigerator and let set for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Season brisket with salt and sprinkle Grill Mate Steak Seasoning on top of the fat side covering all the way to the edges. Place brisket fat side up on a rack inside of a roaster pan and cover with foil. Bake in the oven for 3 1/2 to 8 hours depending on the size. Remove from oven and transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 15-20 minutes before slicing. Serve with barbecue sauce.

Note: Cook brisket 30-45 minutes times per the pound of the brisket. 7 lb. brisket will cook for 3 1/2 hours to 5 1/2 hours. At the end of the resting time, you can slice the brisket and put it back in a baking dish and pour barbecue sauce over it and bake an additional 30-40 minutes.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How To Kill Poison Ivy & Other Weeds

Here's What You'll Need...

* Combine 1 gallon white vinegar with 1 cup salt and 2 TBSP blue dawn dish soap.

* Once all the ingredients have been mixed well pour mixture into a spray bottle.

* Spray poison ivy.  Be careful not to get it on your other plants because this mixture will kill anything you spray it on! 

Amish Macaroni Salad

Amish Macaroni Salad 

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
3 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons dill pickle relish
2 cups creamy salad dressing (e.g. Miracle Whip)
3 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
¾ cup white sugar
2¼ teaspoons white vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon celery seed

1. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add macaroni, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until tender. Drain, and set aside to cool. 2. In a large bowl, stir together the eggs, onion, celery, red pepper, and relish. In a small bowl, stir together the salad dressing, mustard, white sugar, vinegar, salt and celery seed. Pour over the vegetables, and stir in macaroni until well blended. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

Living Fences: How-To, Advantages and Tips

Living Fences: How-To, Advantages and Tips

Sustainable living fences can hold animals, protect soil, provide livestock fodder, offer food or compost, and will last generations.

A living fence is a permanent hedge tight enough and tough enough to serve almost any of the functions of a manufactured fence, but it offers agricultural and biological services a manufactured fence cannot. For instance, it provides “edge habitat” that supports ecological diversity. As more species (insects, spiders, toads, snakes, birds and mammals) find food and refuge in this habitat, natural balances emerge, yielding, for example, a reduction of rodents and crop-damaging insect populations.

Read more:

Best of Mother Earth News: Build It Yourself:

Monday, July 1, 2013

How to Store Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

You've just returned from the farmer's market with two canvas bags full of gorgeous fresh fruits and veggies. You sit down at the kitchen table to plan out the delicious dishes you'll cook up for the week. But after one look at your calendar, you know deep in your heart you can't possibly eat and cook all of this produce in one week. And sadly there's a high probability that some of it will go to waste. 

You are not alone. The typical American family throws out almost 500 pounds of food a year. That is a lot wasted of money! Here are some tips on how to store fresh fruits and veggies so you don't become a statistic.
Know Which Fruits and Veggies Produce Gas
Fruits and veggies naturally emit an odorless, harmless, and tasteless gas called ethylene, and some produce it in greater quantities than others. When ethylene-producing foods are stored next to ethylene-sensitive foods, the gas will speed up the ripening process of the other produce. This is great if you need to ripen a piece of produce, for example, pair an apple with an unripe avocado. However, if you don't want to speed up the ripening (or decay) process, store or keep the following fruits and veggies separate.
Produce That Creates Ethylene Gas: Apples, apricots, avocados, ripening bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, citrus fruit (not grapefruit), figs, grapes, green onions, honeydew, ripe kiwi fruit, mangoes, melons, mushrooms, nectarines, papayas, passion fruit, peaches, pears, peppers, pineapple, plums, prunes, tomatoes and watermelon.
Produce That Is Damaged by Ethylene Gas: Asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrotscauliflower, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, kale, kiwi fruit, leafy greens, lettuce, parsley, peas, peppers, potatoes, romaine lettuce, spinach, squash,sweet potatoes, watercress and yams.
Take the Time to Plan Your Meals
  • Plan your meals for the week before you go shopping and create a shopping list
  • Only buy what's on your shopping list
  • Eat and or cook the produce with the shortest shelf life first
  • If you still can't manage to eat all of your fruits and veggies, throw them in yourcompost pile (along with your food prep scraps)
Follow These Food Storage Guidelines
ProduceStorageLife Expectancy
refrigerator (loose, not in bag)
up to 1 month
Apricots, Nectarines, Peaches, Plums
counter until ripe, then refrigerate in a bag
2-4 days
Artichokesrefrigerator, in a bag1-2 weeks
Asparagusrefrigerator, trim stems, upright in a jar of water3-4 days
counter, store uneaten portion with the pit intact in a bag in the fridge
3-4 days
2 days
Berries & Cherries
covered in the fridge. Don’t wash until you use them (too much moisture in the package speeds spoilage).
1-2 days
Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower
refrigerator, bag in the crisper
4-7 days
refrigerator, take tops off
2 weeks
refrigerator, wrapped in aluminum foil
1-2 weeks
room temperature of 60-70 degrees
1-2 weeks
refrigerator, bag in the crisper
4-5 days
cool, dry, dark place (counter, cupboard, basket)
3-4 days
unpeeled - cool, dry, dark place;
peeled - sealed container in refrigerator or freezer
unpeeled - several months;
peeled - several weeks in refrigerator, months in freezer
Gingerstore in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, then freeze remainder
if refrigerated - 2-3 weeks; if frozen - 2 months
Grapesrefrigerator, in a bag1 week
Green Beans & Peas
refrigerator, in bag or container
3-5 days
Greens (lettuce,kalespinach, cabbage)
refrigerator, bag in the crisper
1-2 weeks
Herbs (fresh)
refrigerator, trim stems, upright in a jar of water
1 week
counter until ripe, then refrigerate in a bag
3-4 days
Mangoes, Melons
counter until ripe, then refrigerate in a bag
4 - 7 days
cool, dry dark place (counter, cupboard, basket) in a bag
2-3 days
cool, dry dark place (counter, cupboard, basket)
2 months
counter until ripe, then refrigerate in a bag
3-4 days
refrigerator, bag in the crisper
4-5 days
cool, dry dark place (counter, cupboard, basket)
1-2 weeks
Root vegetables (radishesbeets,turnips)
refrigerator, leave greens on
1-2 weeks
cool, dry dark place (counter, cupboard, basket)
4-5 days
counter, uncovered; refrigerate if very ripe
2-3 days
Written by Whitney Lauritsen  

Willow Springs Community Picnic & Great Balls of Fireworks

Willow Springs

July 4th Parade

Line-up is at 9:00 AM
Parade Starts at 10:00 AM