Monday, July 28, 2014

Bacon Lettuce Tomato Sandwich Recipe

Cook will tell you that the secret to making delicious food is to use the best and freshest ingredients you can get.  A BLT is no exception to this general rule.  Our family converts a typical bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich to the "Ultimate BLT" by kicking the ingredients up a notch. Now you can too...
  • Tomatoes - Let's be candid, most tomatoes from the supermarket are hard and tasteless; they don't add much to a BLT.  But if you use a homegrown tomato, you have an entirely different experience because the sweet of the tomato compliments and balances the salty-fatty taste of the bacon.  If you are like us, you now have an abundance of amazing tomatoes from your garden.  Use these and your BLT just improved ten fold. If you don't have homegrown get them at the farmers market or local farm stand. Our favorite tomatoes varieties are Paul Robeson, Japanese Trifele and Brandywine but get what you like.
    Paul Robeson Tomato
  • Lettuce - you can use any variety in your garden, but we tend to like greens that are a bit spicy. The adults in the family generally use arugula in place of lettuce, but for the kids we use a wonderful sweet variety called Jericho.  I suppose a Bacon, Arugula and Tomato sandwich should probably be called a "BAT" not a BLT but it works for us.
  • Bacon - Bacon is God's gift to us.  We actually cure and smoke our own bacon using the recipe on the PlanterTomato blog. The bacon is smoked with hickory, alder or cherry wood. All are great. Granted, curing your own bacon is a bit over the top. If you don't have time or patience for this, just go to the store and get the best bacon you can buy. When you cook your bacon, do so over medium heat so you don't overcook it.  (Burnt bacon tastes wretched and you and your sandwich deserve better.)
  • The Staff of Life - You can use white bread to make BLT's, but a tastier approach is to use a fresh baked bread like a ciabatta, batard or boule.  Don't worry if you don't recognize these names;  they are just different styles of bread with crusty tops similar to French bread.  We buy our bread at our from the store because we've found that commercial bakers do a better job than what we can at baking these loaves.  High quality, fresh bread is becoming more widely available these days and many of the better supermarkets now bake it on the premises or source it from a local artisanal baker.  If you have the option, use a nice crusty top bread to make your BLT's.
  • Mayo - Slather it on.  Yes we know it high in fat.  For Pete's sake, live a little.

Do Chickens Sweat?

Warm blooded animals regulate their body temperature through a process called evaporative cooling. For us humans, the primary means of keeping our body temperature under control is by sweating.  

Specifically, the brain triggers a response that causes our pores to release water molecules that then pool on the surface of our skin. These water molecules are in constant motion and the relative speed of their motion is directly related to their temperature. 

Sweat is relatively hot water and so the water molecules that form on the surface of our skin are ones that are moving rapidly compared to the external environment. In fact, these water molecules are moving so quickly that they bump into one another and some are propelled off the surface of the skin in the form of water vapor. When this happens, the evaporating water molecules literally carry their heat with them into the air leaving the skin cooler. 

No Sweat

Chickens also use evaporative cooling to rid their bodies  of heat, but the evaporative cooling is accomplished in a different way. Chickens lack sweat glands, so they drive off excess heat by evaporating water located on the surface tissue of their lungs.  

Anyone who  has ever owned a dog will immediately recognize how this is accomplished because dogs and chickens both cool themselves by panting. 

Air is drawn int the chickens lungs where the heat exchange is accomplished and then the chicken exhales the warm moist air, thereby lowering it's body temperature. Check out the below video of one very hot chicken.

Chickens & Heat Stress

A chicken's body temperature is normally around 107 degrees Fahrenheit. A chicken can usually regulate it's body temperature effectively as long as the outdoor temperature is ten degrees below body temperature. 

However, once the outside temperature climbs above 95 degrees, a chicken runs the risk of heat stress. The risk is even higher on humid days because evaporative cooling becomes less effective. This is because humid air is so saturated with water that it is becomes difficult for the chicken to transfer water within its lungs to the air. 
In other words, panting becomes less effective when the air is wet. (By the way, the same is true for humans and our ability to sweat. This is why a 95 degree day in a humid environment like Miami is so much more uncomfortable than a 95 degree day in a dry environment like Phoenix)

Here are the warning signs that your chickens are experiencing heat stress:

  • Egg laying stops
  • Labored breathing
  • Listlessness
  • Outstretched legs and wings
Preventing Heat Stress & Dehydration
  • To help prevent heat stress and dehydration, make sure you give your chickens plenty of cool water. This is your first and most important line of defence.
  • Supplement your chickens normal dry feed diet with , moist foods. Tuna fish, green vegetables and fruits etc. A number of chicken owners I know will actually give their chickens a chilled watermelon on very hot days. 
  • Add electrolytes to the water - Electrolytes are minerals that help a chicken replace and retain fluids. You can buy premade electrolytes for chickens from your local feed store or mix your own.  In her book, The Chicken Health Handbook, Gail Damerow provides the following recipe for a home brew electrolyte solution: 2 quarts water, 1/2 teaspoon potassium chloride (salt substitute), 1/2 teaspoon backing soda, 1 teaspoon table salt.
Chickens Driking from The BriteTap Chicken Waterer

Posting sponsored by, makers of the BriteTap poultry nipple waterer. The BriteTap chicken waterer shields water from dirt and poop. The water stays clean and there are no messy pans for you to wash out. 

Top 3 Tips for Keeping Chickens Cool In Summer

The dog days of summer are here making life uncomfortable for both people and chickens.  Heat can place stress on chickens, so don't be surprised if you see a drop in egg production during the summer. Although you can't control the weather, there are some things that you can do to keep your chickens comfortable and safe during these hot days.

 Here are our top 3 ideas for keeping your chickens cool:

  1.  Ensure Ventilation -  Hopefully, you've built your coup with windows that allow you to increase ventilation in your coop. If this is the case, make sure that the ventilation windows are wide open during the summer. If you plan on leaving the windows open during the evening, make sure that the windows themselves are covered with  durable screening to keep out any predators that may be roaming around your property during the evening. If you are in a particularly hot environment like Texas or Arizona, you may also want to invest in a small fan to help drive hot-air from your coop. However, please note that chickens do not sweat and, therefore, don't benefit from having air blown over them directly. The purpose of the fan is to  keep heat from building up inside the coop.
    Screened vents at top and bottom of coop promote good air circulation
  2. Provide Shade -  If there are no areas in your chicken run or backyard where chickens can go to escape the heat of direct sunlight, we recommend that you set up a sunshade for them.  You can construct a shade with garden stakes, zip ties and either shade cloth or marine grade fabric.  Shade cloth is an outdoor fabric that partially blocks light based on the density of the fabric weave. The denser the weave, the more light that gets blocked. Shade cloth has the advantage of allowing wind to blow through the cloth so it is less likely to tear or be blow loose from the stakes. It can be purchased in a variety of grades to block from 30% to 90% of the sunlight ( see below photo).  
    Shade cloth in various capacities
    Unfortunately, your color choices are fairly limited -- your garden store is likely to only carry black, white and and green shade cloth. Marine grade fabric is a more visually appealing alternative. This is the same fabric used to make outdoor umbrellas and is UV resistant and easy to keep clean. It comes in a very wide variety of colors and in many beautiful patterns. You can purchase it in small quantities from online retailers and local fabric stores. If searching online, look for the "Sunbrella" brand.
    Sunbrella colors and patterns

  3. Plenty of Water -  During the summer months, it's absolutely essential that you provide your flock with a constant source of clean water. If you are using an insulated water water supply tank with your BriteTap chicken waterer, then consider adding some ice to the tank when you fill it each morning. The insulated tank will keep your chicken's water amazingly cool all day, even in extreme conditions. Some owners of the BriteTap chicken waterer tell us that they prefer using a re-usable ice block like the one shown  below in place of ice. The blocks can be placed into the freezer each evening and are ready to go the following morning. There's no need to re-fill ice trays to make new ice.
Posting sponsored by, makers of the BriteTap poultry nipple waterer. The BriteTap chicken waterer shields water from dirt and poop. The water stays clean and there are no messy pans for you to wash out. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Resource For Exhibiting Poultry

If you are interested in exhibiting poultry, I wanted to share a resource with you that I discovered earlier this week.

The site is called and it is a great place to learn all about exhibiting poultry. The site was created by the Miller Family after they became interested in showing poultry and discovered that there wasn't a single source dedicated to the subject.

The site includes a beginners guide to exhibiting poultry, a breeders directory, and there is a comprehensive calendar listing various show dates around the country.

If you've ever been interested in exhibiting poultry, or just want to learn more about this part of the poultry keeping universe, check out their web site.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Five Mistakes In Chicken Coop Design

While there are many good coops sold as kits on the market today, many backyard chicken owners choose to design and build their own coop designs.  

Building one's own coop can be a satisfying experience and allows owners to create a unique coop that reflects their personal tastes and budgets. 

However, first time chicken owners lack experience and may create coops with design flaws that make the coop unhealthy for chickens and inconvenient for the owner.

To help DIY coop builders, we are providing our list of the top five design mistakes.  

Top Coop Design Mistakes:

  1. Inadequate Ventilation - Chickens release a large amounts of moisture in their breath. In a coop without adequate ventilation, excessive moisture can build up within the coop and create an environment that is friendly to mold and other micro-organisms that in turn cause respiratory illness. A good coop design needs to allow moisture to escape while at the same time protecting chickens from drafts -- cold air that flows over chickens while they are on the floor of the coop or when they are sitting on their roosts. To accomplish this, windows should be placed above perches and be adjustable so that the flow of air circulating in and out of the coop can be regulated. (note: The photo below shows a second window at the bottom of the coop that we cover in winter)
    Photo shows Coop Elevated on Legs with ventilation Opening At Top and
    a latched bottom door for a pan
  1. Inconvenient Access - A little upfront planning can save you lots of trouble over the life of your coop. Cleaning the coop is one of the least pleasant aspects of chicken keeping. Make it easier by designing your coop so that cleaning chores are easy. We designed our coop with a floor pan that is similar to those found in dog crates. To clean the coop, we open a small door at the bottom of the coop and slide out the pan. The contents of the pan are then easy to drop into our composter where they are then turned into garden soil for our vegetables. For larger coops where a pan may not be practical, an alternative is to create Dutch doors on opposite sides of the coop. When you need to clean, open the doors and rake out the soiled bedding. We've also made daily egg collection much easier by creating doors that allow access to nest boxes from outside of the coop. The doors makes daily egg collection a snap. To make chicken keeping easier, design your coop so that you can easily clean it and harvest eggs.
    Nest Boxes Can Be Accessed From Outside Via A Small Door

  2. Incorrectly Placed Perches - At night, chickens return to the coop and rest on perches, preferring those that are highest above the floor of the coop. Whatever is below these perches gets soiled by droppings. A mistake we made in our original coop design was to place perches below our nest boxes. This encouraged the chickens to use the nest boxes as nighttime perches (highest resting spot in the coop) and so the nest boxes became toilets. To correct the problem we needed to readjust the position of the perches relative to the nest boxes. To keep your nest boxes and any eggs in them cleaner, place perches above nest boxes.
    Bombs Away! Place Your Perch In the Right Spot.
  3. Coop Is Too Small - Building a coop that is larger than your chickens need may be wasteful of resources, but it's not going to hurt your chickens. However, a coop that is too small can lead to squabbles for space.  If you don't have a run to go along with your coop and don't "free range" your birds either, plan on 10 square feet of coop space per bird. If you have a coop and run, plan on 4 square feet of coop space and 6 square feet of run space for each bird in your flock. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Free Smartphone App Backyard Chickens Android iPhone Launches Free Smartphone App That's The Most Comprehensive Ever Created For Backyard Chicken Owners

Cluck-ulator Main Menu

We are pleased to announce the release of the Cluck-ulator™ smartphone app, the most comprehensive app ever created for backyard chicken owners. The Cluck-ulator helps users make decisions about the composition and management of their flocks and is six tools in one:

  • Breed Selector - chooses the ideal breed of chicken when you selects the characteristics you want from a wizard like menu including: type of breed (egg layer, meat bird, dual purpose), laying amount, egg shell color, breed temperament, and four other important criteria.
  • Breed Photo Gallery - allows you to choose the ideal breed of chicken visually by browsing through an alphabetical list of chicken breeds. 
  • Coop Planner - provides housing requirements including coop and run size, perch space and number of nest boxes needed when you select the number of chickens in your flock.
  • Egg Estimator - provides an annual estimate of the number of eggs a chicken will lay when you select the breed and age of that chicken. 
  • Food & Water Estimator - Calculates the daily food and water required for the flock when you select the number of chickens, type (egg, meat, dual purpose), growth stage, and outside temperature. 
  • Poultry Valve Calculator - calculates the water pressure and per cent of valve pressure capacity when the you select the height of the water column in their water supply tank. 

  • In addition, you get access to other resources within the app including our blog, Twitter feed, and Facebook page where information, tips, and other content of interest is regularly posted.

    The Cluck-ulator is available in both iPhone and Android smartphone versions and can be downloaded respectively from the iTunes App Store and Google Play store. 

    The Cluck-ulator requires an internet connection via either wi-fi or cellular service and can also be accessed via tablets or other mobile devices such as the Apple iPad, Kindle Fire, or Samsung Galaxy Note. 

    Demo Video:

    Cluck-ulator Chicken Calculator Demo from ChickenWaterer on Vimeo.

    Cluck-ulator Screenshot

    Friday, April 4, 2014

    Polish Chickens

    The polish is one of the most beautiful of ornamental chicken breeds. The most distinctive feature of the breed is large crest of feathers on the head that resembles a chrysanthemum flower in shape.  

    Birds that meet the standard of perfection will have a crest that completely covers the comb. This crest derives from a large bony protrusion on the top of the breeds head that is found only in crested breeds such as the Polish, Crevecouer, and Houdan chickens. 

    Polish Chicken Skull (A) Compared with Typical Chicken Skull (B)

    Polish come in a very wide variety of colors and some sport contrasting crest and body plumage that makes them particularly striking. The APA recognizes the following varieties:

    • Black crested white
    • White crested black
    • White crested blue
    • Golden
    • Silver
    • White 
    • Buff Laced
    In the U.S., the breed is generally called the "Polish" but in in Europe it is more generally called a "Poland" and has historically also been referred to as "Pol," and "Polled." 

    While the breed is quite old, it's origins are unclear and there is actually no hard evidence to suggest that it comes from Poland or anywhere else in Eastern Europe. In middle Dutch, a Germanic language spoken during the middle ages, the word "Pol" means head and this seems like the most reasonable origin of the breed's name.

    While beautiful, the crest of feathers has practical consequences for those considering adding the breed to their flocks.  The crest limits the birds ability to see. As a result, Polish chickens are more vulnerable to attack from predators and can also be injured by other chickens who have an advantage over them during squabbles.  

    Owners interested in showing their birds in competitions should limit outdoor play time to days when there's no rain in the forecast.

    Breed Type:           Egg Layer
    Laying Amount:    Fair
    Egg Color:              White
    Mature Hen Wt:    4.5 lbs
    Appearance:          Ornamental Breed
    Climate:                  Heat Tolerant
    Temperament:      Docile
    Broodiness:            Not Broody