Thursday, May 7, 2015

Deflate Gate Investigation

Blossom,'s favorite hen, has concluded her investigation of the New England Patriots. According to Blossom, it is more than likely that Equipment Assistant John Jastremski intentionally deflated the team's breakfast during the AFC champion game. The scandal has rocked professional football and left some yolk on the face of quarterback Tom Brady. When asked to comment, coach Bill Belichick said "We just like our eggs soft boiled. Nothing wrong with that."

Sunday, April 26, 2015

How We Manufacture The BriteTap Chicken Feeder

BriteTap Convertible Chick & Chicken Feeder

Check out this two minute video that shows how we manufacture our new chick and chicken feeder.

The threaded feeder tube is unique because it lets backyard chicken owners raise the shield the same way that a nut moves up a bolt.  The shield prevents chicks from standing on the feed tray and pooping in their food. When the chicks grow up and leave the brooder, the shield prevents rain and snow from spoiling the food and is a perfect feeder for scratch, grit, mealworms and oyster shells.

The mold used to make the feeder tube is complicated because of the size of the treads on the outside for the shield as well as those inside to accept the lid. A hydraulic device creates the the hollow core and then is removed when the plastic has set.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Fast Egg Recipe Everyone Will Love

A country ham and broccoli frittata cooked in a cast iron skillet
Readers of this web site know that we're always looking for fast dinner ideas so that we can get the kids to music lessons, sports, religious school and the countless other activities on the modern family calendar.  The difficulty is in finding recipes that meet all these requirements:

  1. Quick- 30 minutes max on nights when we need to get out of the house in a hurry.
  2. Nutritious - balanced one pot dishes that include a protein and a vegetable.
  3. Customizable - My kids just don't like eating the same things. We're always looking for a basic dish that can be customized so that everyone gets what they want.
  4. Homegrown - use fresh eggs from our chickens or veggies from our garden.
Fresh Eggs From Our Chickens. Thanks ladies!

Frittata (Open Faced Omellete) 

The word frittata comes from the Italian word frigerre which means fried.  It originally meant an egg fried in a skillet, but has come to mean a style of omellete that is cooked more slowly and served open faced.

What makes a frittata especially nice is that any meat or vegetable ingredients can be added to the pan while the eggs are cooking. As a result, you can create sections of the frittata that appeal to distinct tastes. It's similar to ordering a pizza and having pepperoni on one half of the pie and mushrooms on the other.

Importantly, you can use any ingredients you have on hand. The frittata shown below was made using country ham and broccoli, but it could have just as easily been made with packaged sandwich ham, salami, or bacon, feta cheese, cooked leftover shrimp, spinach, or string beans etc. It's really whatever you like eating and have in your refrigerator.  
We used leftover country ham to make our frittata
Your meat ingredient should be cooked in advance. If your vegetable ingredient is raw. Cook it quickly in the microwave while your getting the rest of the frittata together.

Recipe Ingredients:

  • Six eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • A few grinds of pepper
  • A tablespoon of butter or oil
  • At lease one meat ingredient (already cooked and roughly chopped)
  • At least one vegetable ingredient.
  • A non-stick frying pan or, my favorite, a cast iron skillet

  1. Turn on your oven to broil and set the temperature to 400 F.
  2. While the oven is heating get out your ingredients.
  3. If your vegetable ingredient is raw, roughly chop it and put cook in the microwave until tender but not overcooked.
  4. Whisk the eggs together.
  5. Add a few grinds of pepper and the grated parmesan cheese.
  6. Place a skillet that is sized so it can fit into your oven onto your stove top and bring it to medium temperature.
  7. When the pan is hot, coat the bottom and sides with the butter or oil.
  8. If everyone is eating the same frittata, put all the ingredients into the egg mixture and pour it into the pan.
  9. If you are customizing the frittata, pour the eggs into the pan and quickly add the ingredients in sections corresponding to whatever individual people want to eat. You need to do this quickly to pull off this trick.
  10. Cook for about 5 minutes on medium till the eggs are done on the bottom but runny on the top.
  11. Place the skillet into your oven and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes. You want the eggs on top to be completely cooked and and have a light brown color.
  12. Slice into wedges and serve.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Book Review: A Kid’s Guide To Keeping Chickens

There are a number of good books on the market today that help chicken owners create and manage a small backyard flock. Some of these books are for newcomers and others for pros. Some focus on one specific aspect of poultry keeping such as chicken health or coop design, and some are general guides. However, there’s always been a gap in the chicken book market. That is until now.

Melissa Caughey’s A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens is the first truly comprehensive and accessible book on the topic written for kids.  The book is a general guide to chicken keeping and covers all the same topics one would expect to find in a book written for adults. These include, selecting chicken breeds, raising chicks, feeding and watering, etc.

However, the author has paid careful attention to creating a book that is accessible and engaging to young readers.  Child friendly text is organized into topics that are generally 2-3 paragraphs in length. This makes it easy for kids to read the book in short increments and not be overwhelmed by the information. 

This text is accompanied by plenty of photos and illustrations that are laid-out on the page in a way that makes it easy for kids to understand and remember the concepts presented. For example, the section on daily chores, communicates the tasks that need to be done each day using a series of captioned photos that are arranged sequentially on the page to form a daily timeline.  This makes it super easy for kids to understand what needs to be done over the course of the day.

General chicken keeping information is paired with fun craft projects that teach kids how to draw a chicken, color Easter eggs etc. The book also includes DIY projects for young “makers” such as how to build an herbal wading pool for chickens or how to create a mealworm hatchery. They make for fun activities on days when the weather keeps kids indoors and parents need an activity to occupy all that kid energy.  

Another nice touch by the author is the inclusion of recipes for egg dishes in a separate section at the back of the book. It’s empowering for kids to be able to create their food. Using eggs produced by chickens they raise themselves takes this to an even higher level.

This is a beautifully executed book and we recommend it to parents who want to keep backyard chickens.  Based on our reading, we feel the sweet spot for this book is children aged 10-13. They’ll be able to read the book with little or no assistance from a parent. Kids 8-10, will probably need  assistance from Mom or Dad depending on their reading ability and comprehension.

A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens is available for sale at, Barnes & Noble, Target, Wal-Mart and Powell’s.

Melissa Caughey is also the author of Tilly's Nest, a blog that provides information about backyard chickens.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Way To Pick A Chicken Today

This video of baby chicks just says "welcome to Spring." So cute!

A Way To Pick A Chicken Today from ChickenWaterer on Vimeo.
Also, the new BriteTap convertible chick & chicken feeder is now in stock. To learn more about our newest product for backyard chicken owners, check out the information on our Chicken Feeder Web Page.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Probiotics For Chickens: What They Do & When To Use Them

What Are Probiotics 

Probiotics are foods or dietary supplements that contain live bacteria. They are given to animals (and people too) in order to add to, or replace, the bacteria that exists in the animals gastrointestinal tract.  Probiotics are said to provide health benefits but these benefits are generally not well explained or understood.

So Whats Going On in the Gut

Animal gastrointestinal tracts are populated by hundreds of different species of bacteria in mind-boggling numbers (There are billions and billions of bacteria in any animals gut). 

A chickens gut harbors billions of bacteria

Each of these types of bacteria competes for food and living space until all the available food and living space in the gut are used up. The type of bacteria and the numbers of each type of bacteria varies from individual to individual and changes over time as the animal is exposed to new types of bacteria. 

Most of the bacteria in an animals gut are not harmful. However, even seemingly healthy animals will have a some harmful bacteria such as e-coli, or salmonella in their guts. However, the bad bacteria are in such small quantities that they can't do any harm.  The population of these bad bacteria are held in check by the good bacteria that out-compete them for resources and keep their numbers so low they can't make the animal sick.
The gut is filled bacteria. Mostly good and some bad.

When It Makes Sense To Use Probiotics

A healthy adult chicken will already have a gut composed primarily of good bacteria. If you give that chicken a probiotic that contains new strains of good bacteria, you might alter the population balance between various good bacteria strains in its gut, but not necessarily improve the chickens health. Basically, you would be just swapping in a new good bacteria for an old good bacteria or increasing the level of one kind of good bacteria relative to other good bacteria in the chickens gut. Therefore, we don't see much benefit in providing probiotics to healthy adult chickens. However, the key words here are "healthy" and "adult." 

Healthy adult chickens don't need a probiotic supplement
Newborn chicks don't have guts that have had time to build up strong populations of good bacteria. Newborn chicks are more susceptible to having bad bacteria out-compete good bacteria if they are exposed to a potent source of bad bacteria. Contaminated food or water dishes are one possible source of bad bacteria. Chick feed may also harbor bad bacteria if it has been contaminated by rodent droppings.

We recommend providing a probiotic to chicks for the first week of life. This seems like a reasonable and cheap pre-caution.

We recommend giving newborn chicks a probiotic

We also think it makes sense to provide probiotics to adult chickens in certain circumstances. As mentioned earlier, a healthy adult will already have established its gut bacteria. Backyard chickens in particular get plenty of exposure to healthy bacteria by snacking on yard plants and bugs, treats and table scraps.

However, chickens suffering from a particular bacterial disease may be treated with antibiotics. The antibiotic will kill off the bacteria and it would also destroy beneficial bacteria in the chickens gut. This would leave the door open to bad bacteria to take over the niche formally held non-harmful strains or bacteria.

Lactobacillus is found in many dairy products

Providing probiotics to adult chickens after they have been treated with antibiotics also seems like a reasonable course of action. By "after" we mean giving your chickens probiotics for a week or two after they have taken the last dose of antibiotics. Why? Because antibiotics will also kill the good bacteria in the probiotic so provide the probiotics immediately after the last dose of antibiotics . 

Sources of Probiotics
Chicken owners can buy probiotics online and at feed stores. Most of these concoctions contain a relatively small variety of good bacteria including the following strains:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus casei
  • Lactobacillus bulgaricus 
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Streptococcus thermophilus
  • Enterococcus faecium
  • Bifidobacterium

Another approach is to feed your chickens a small amount of food that contains these same good bacteria. The advantage of this approach is that foods will contain many more beneficial strains of bacteria than the commercial products and you may already have them in your refrigerator so they cost you nothing. 

Bifidobacterium is found in many soft cheeses
NOTE ON DAIRY PRODUCTS: Chickens have a difficult time digesting dairy products. If you provide cheese or yogurt do so in small quantities and only to adult chickens (not chicks). The best yogurt will contain little or no sugar. Try to get relatively unprocessed brands such as Chobani, Fage, La Yogurt, and Dannon. The same applies to cheese; relatively unprocessed soft cheeses are best. Raw milk "artisanal" cheese is the best.

Give dairy in small amounts and use low/no sugar varieties

Natural sources of these probiotics include yogurt, sauerkraut, sourdough, miso, and soft cheeses.

Probiotic Strains Typically Found in Yogurt
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus casei
  • Lactobacillus bulgaricus
  • Streptococcus thermophilus
Probiotic Strains Typically Found in Sauerkraut
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
Probiotic Strains Typically Found in Sourdough Bread
  • Lactobacillus plantarum

Probiotic Strains Typically Found in Miso (Japanese Soup)
  • Aspergillus oryzae (a fungus)
Probiotic Strains Typically Found in Soft Cheese (Gouda, Mozzerella, Colby)
  • Bifidobacterium
  • Enterococcus faecium
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus casei
What about Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)?

Many chicken owners give their chickens apple cider vinegar because they believe it provides health benefits to their chickens.  However, Acetobacter is not a probiotic. It differs in a very important respect from every other strain of bacteria mentioned so far in this article. Acetobacter requires oxygen to live and there is no oxygen in the gut. Acetobacter can't survive in the gut and so it can't out-compete the bad bacteria.

ACV alters the pH in the gut to make it more acidic. Commercial poultry operations acidify their chickens water in the week prior to slaughter, but they do this to decrease the overall level of bacteria (bad and good) in the gut so as to limit contamination during processing.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Chick Starter & Grower Feeds Compared

We put this chart together for backyard chicken owners who are interested in comparing various chick feeds.

Below are tables that compare some of the larger brands.  We've also included the manufacturer's descriptions to provide additional insight regarding the benefits of their feed.

Feed Comparison

Manufacturers Product Descriptions

A Place To Put Your Feed

The New BriteTap Chick Feeder keeps chicks feed clean and then converts into an outdoor feeder for scratch, grit and oyster shells.