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The Submissive Squat - What Your Chicken Is Telling You

submissivesquat

Fresh Eggs DailyWhen a pullet nears laying age, anywhere after 18 weeks old or so, she will most likely start to squat down when you approach. She will bend her legs, crouch, and sort of flatten her wings and back. So what does that all mean in her chicken world?

Squatting is a sign of submission – so she is shifting into the mating position for a rooster. If you don't have a rooster in your flock, she will often see YOU as the rooster. 

roostermating

The squat also signals that she will soon begin to lay eggs. Many fans on my Facebook page report collecting their first egg within days of noticing their young hen squatting.

Squatting is also a defensive position against a predator attack. By lowering her body to the ground, she is protecting her vulnerable underbelly, making herself a smaller target and holding still to hope to avoid detection by a motion-savvy aerial predator.

Pullets lower in the pecking order will also often squat for a higher-ranking older hen to show submission. 

pulletsubmitting

Regardless of the reason for the squat, it comes in very handy when you need to catch or pick up your hens or catch them! 

So now you know. The next time you're outside with your flock, make it a point to notice among your young pullets who's squatting and who's not and you'll have a pretty good idea who your soon-to-be-layers are!

For more on what to expect when you're EGG-SPECTING, read HERE.

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Fresh Eggs Daily

Join me on FACEBOOK and my BLOG for more tips, tricks and advice on raising happy, healthy chickens naturally!

Homemade Flock Seed Block - A Warming Winter Treat to Beat Boredom

flocktreatblock

Fresh Eggs DailyCold weather means a shortage of weeds and bugs for your chickens to scratch for. Bored chickens can be prone to pecking and bullying each other. This easy to make Seed Treat Block will keep your chickens happy and busy, as well as provide them with some warming grains and other ingredients to help them through the cold weather. 

Here's what you need:

2 cups scratch grains (a mix of cracked corn, oats, barley & other mixed grains)
1 cup layer feed
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup sunflower seeds 
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 eggs
1/2 cup Blackstrap molasses
1/2 cup coconut oil, liquified

Preheat oven to 325 F. In large mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients and mix well. Pat into several small baking dishes or casseroles, so your blocks are approximately 2 inches thick. Three 6-inch round cake pans work perfectly. (Optional, use a chopstick to make a hole in each block so you can hang them in the run.)

 

dryingredients

 

Bake for 30 minutes, then cool completely. Run a knife around the inside rim of each pan and invert to remove the block. Serve to a flock of very happy girls. Leftovers can be refrigerated or frozen and then defrosted as needed. Serve in limited amounts as a treat. 

 

hangingtreat

 

seedtreat

 

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also be interested in making your chickens Homemade Suet Blocks, a Scratch Treat Wreath or Edible Garlands to help them through the cold weather.

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Fresh Eggs Daily

DIY Felt Conversation Heart Hand Warmers

hearthandwarmers

Doing farm chores in the winter is a bit more pleasant when your hands are warm. Mitten and gloves and be cumbersome when you need your fingers free. These cute felt hand warmers couldn't be easier to sew up and they not only make for toasty warm hands in the cold weather, but also are wonderful holiday gifts or stocking stuffers.

Here's what you will need:

  • 100% wool felt in assorted colors (don't use polyester felt, it can melt when you heat it up)

  • Coordinating sewing thread

  • Red embroidery floss/embroidery needle

  • Filler (corn, rice, beans, etc)

Here's what you do:

Cut two 5" squares from each color felt then cut each square into a heart shape. Hand stitch your words with the embroidery floss (I just free-handed it) and then with the right sides together, sew along the outer edge, leaving a 1" opening. Carefully trim along the seams with sharp scissors, as close to the stitching as you can. Turn each heart right side out and machine stitch along the edge, stopping at your opening. Fill each heart with your filler and then neatly hand stitch the openings shut.

Step 1

cutoutheart

Step 2

handstitch

Step 3

sewhearts

Step 4

cutexcess

Step 5

Right side out

Step 6

top stitch

When you are ready to use your hand warmers, microwave them for 40-60 seconds or toss them in the dryer for a minute or two. Then tuck one into each coat pocket. They should stay warm for about half an hour.

Finishedwarmer

Visit my Fresh Eggs Daily Blog and Facebook page for tips, tricks and advice to raising happy, healthy chickens naturally.

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Herbs for Better Chicken Health

Fresh Eggs DailyOne of the main reasons I started raising chickens was to provide a healthy, economical food source for our family that I knew wasn't full of antibiotics or hormones, provides by animals that were loved and cared for in a humane way. So why would I raise a backyard flock and then pump them full of chemical-laden medications, wormers and antibiotics? Instead I have taken the natural route - with great success.

Until recently, I only had my own reading, 'research' and personal results to let me know that I was on to something. But in the last year or so, more and more is coming out in the news about the dangers of overusing antibiotics, in humans and animals, and studies are being done into natural alternatives for chickens.

The New York Times ran a story last year called In Hopes of Healthier Chickens, Farms Turn To Oregano about one chicken farmer using oregano oil and cinnamon as an antibiotic substitute to treat chickens. Sage is being studied to combat Salmonella, as evidenced by this article called Sage Could Protect Young Chickens against Salmonella

I read these studies with great interest because they prove the things that I believe to be true. Herbs tend to work in the bodies of chickens the same way they do in humans and nearly every herbs and edible flower has great health benefits. I dry homegrown herbs, then crush them and add them to our layer feed for added nutrition and immune system benefits. I add fresh herbs and flowers to my coop and nesting boxes to provide some added protection from parasites, insects, rodents and snakes.

Growing herbs is inexpensive, easy and not only useful for cooking for your family, but simple to incorporate into your chicken keeping.  Here are some of my favorites to use with our flock:

Lavender

Lavender - stress reliever, insecticide, increases blood circulation (photo: iStockphoto.com/VeraDo)

Mint - insecticide and rodent repellent

Nasturtium - insecticide, natural wormer, laying stimulant

Oregano - contains antibiotic properties thought to combat coccidia, E.coli,  avian flu and infectious bronchitis

Sage - antioxidant, thought to combat salmonella

Thyme - aids respiratory health, antibaterical and antioxidant

For a more comprehensive list of herbs, their benefits and how I use them in my chicken keeping, please visit The Ultimate Chicken Care Guide on my blog or purchase my new book, Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens...Naturally, newly released by St. Lynn's Press and available online or at your local bookstore.  

DIY All Natural Tile and Grout Cleaner

grout and tile cleaner

Using natural cleaning products is so important to me for my family's health. It became even more important after we brought a corgi into our home this past spring because he literally walks around the house licking the floor (don't ask, I guess it's a corgi thing!) I can't risk using chemicals, so I switched to using natural (mostly homemade) cleaning products. 

One area I was stuck on was a grout cleaner that actually worked. We have white tile and grout in our bathroom and the tile was fast becoming black. Between our two dogs, our cat and ourselves, we manage to track in a fair amount of dirt.

I tried several different concoctions I found on the internet with varying degrees of success. It wasn't until I tried mixing some things on my own that I stumbled upon a recipe that really does work.

ALL NATURAL TILE AND GROUT CLEANER

(makes enough to do one large kitchen or bathroom floor or two small ones)

3 cups warm water

1/2 cup baking soda

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup white  vinegar

Whisk the ingredients in a large bowl. Using a funnel, pour some into a squirt bottle to use full strength on dingy grout. Spray grout liberally.

Add some water to the rest of the cleaner in the bowl and use a mop to clean the entire floor. Let it all sit for 10-15 minutes. Using an old toothbrush, scrub the grout, then mop the entire floor again with clean water. Your grout and tile will be sparkling. Discard any remaining cleaner.

You will be able to sleep better knowing that your grout is clean and no harmful chemicals were used. Winston, our corgi, was actually drinking out of the bowl while I was cleaning - with no ill effects. Again, it's a corgi thing....

corgi

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Visit my blog Fresh Eggs Daily and Facebook page for tips and tricks to help you raise happy healthy chickens naturally.

Harvesting Sunflower Seeds for your Chickens

Sunflowers

Each spring I plant sunflowers along the back of my herb garden. Not only do the tall stalks and large leaves provide shade for the herbs during the height of summer, the sunflower seeds make a nice, inexpensive treat for our chickens each fall. [Read here to find out how to start your seeds using eggshells]

Sunflower seeds are a great source of protein that will help your chickens through the fall molting season. To harvest your seeds once the blooms are spent, you only need some cheesecloth, twine and small paper bags.

cheesecloth and twine

Once the petals have fallen in late summer, cover each seed head with a double layer of cheesecloth, securing around the base of the stem with the twine, to prevent wild birds and squirrels from eating all the seeds.  Let dry completely (at this point you can cut the heads off the stems and dry in a garage or mud room, if you wish). 

cover each seed head

Once the seeds are completely dry and the head is brown, remove the cheesecloth. Holding each seed head over newspaper, rub your hand over the seeds to allow them to drop.  Store the seeds in brown paper bags in a cool, dry spot and use as treats for your flock.

bagged sunflower seeds

Chickens can eat the seeds hulled or in the shells, so there's no need to shell the seeds for them if you don't want to. Compost the spent seed heads, leaves and stalks, but remember to save a few seeds to plant the following spring.

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Visit me on Facebook or my Blog for more tips and tricks to raising happy, healthy chickens naturally!

Mixed Berry Crisp Baked in your Cast Iron Skillet

 berrycrisp
There is nothing like a fresh berry crisp in the summer time as a light, quick dessert.  This recipe uses either fresh or frozen berries, making it a perfect dessert any time of the year.  Baked right in a cast iron skillet, the crisp would make an impressive addition to your Fourth of July picnic or barbeque table.

Mixed Berry Crisp Baked in your Cast Iron Skillet  

Ingredients: 
6 cups of fresh or frozen berries, any combination you wish
1/4 - 1/2 cup sugar (depending on how sweet your berries are)
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
 
For the Topping: 
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1 stick cold salted butter, cut into small cubes
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, toss the berries with the sugar, flour and spices. Pour into your cast iron skillet. Rinse the bowl and in the same bowl, mix the topping ingredients, rubbing the butter between your fingers with the dry ingredients until it forms small clumps.  Pour the topping over the berries and bake for one hour or until the filling bubbles and the topping is golden brown.  Let cool for 15 minutes then top with fresh, homemade whipped cream, if desired, and serve.
 
 forkmix  

 oatmealtopping 
 bubblytopping 

Happy a happy Fourth of July weekend!

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Visit my BLOG and FACEBOOK page for tips and trick to help you raise happy, healthy chickens!







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