Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Heating Your Coop With Chicken Manure

Triea Systems, a company located in Frederick, Maryland, has developed a new system for commercial poultry owners that warms their poultry houses in winter using a combination of sunlight and heat generated by composting chicken litter.  The system replaces heaters fueled by propane. 

According to the company, the system pays out the investment in 5 years and then provides a 30% increase in income to poultry keepers.

While the Triea system was designed for commercial operations, it's tempting to consider how a scaled down version might help backyard flock owners partially offset the cost if they are currently heating their coops.

If you use composted litter as a heating element for your coop, please post a comment that explains how you are doing this.

Diagram from Triea Systems Brochure

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Amazingly Delicious Lemon Roast Chicken Recipe

In our previous posting How to Properly Roast A Chicken, we described how roast a chicken so that the skin is crisp and the meat stays moist and tender. 

The easiest seasonings for a roast chicken are either salt and pepper or a pre-mixed seasoning such as McCormick Season All.  Both work well and you'll get a wonderfully flavorful chicken.  However, with just a small amount of additional work, you can kick this recipe up one notch and create Lemon Roast Chicken.

The trick is to use slices of a condiment called preserved lemon. You place slices of the preserved lemon peel under the skin of the chicken prior to roasting; the lemon infuses the meat with a wonderful lemony flavor that is a totally different take on roast chicken.

To do this, you just cut the preserved lemon peel into thin slices and slide them under the skin covering the breast, legs and thighs of the chicken. Start by lifting up the skin on the breast and pushing the preserved lemon pieces under the skin on the thighs with one finger. Then do the same for the legs and finally the breast. Roast using the same method described in our prior posting. You should rub a little olive oil, salt and pepper on the skin for this recipe as well but go lighter on the salt because there's lots of it in the preserved lemons.

Homemade Preserved Lemons Keep For A Year In the Refrigerator

So What Is Preserved Lemon?

Preserved lemons are a condiment used frequently in North African cooking - particularly in dishes from Morocco. They are made by preserving the lemons in salt which gives them an intensely lemony flavor that is also surprisingly mild. Truly, you have to taste them to understand how unusual and delicious they are.  

While it's possible to buy preserved lemons in a specialty grocery stores, it's madness to buy them when you can make them so easily at home. Once made, they will keep  in the refrigerator for up to one year and can be used on chicken, fish, and even in soups.

Preserved Lemon Recipe


  • 11 Lemons, preferably organic lemons
  • 2/3 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • Juice 5 of the lemons
  • Blanch the remaining 6 lemons in boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove and let cool.
  • When cool enough to handle, slice the lemons into wedges, discard the seeds and place into a bowl.
  • Add salt to the bowl and toss the lemons to cover them.
  • Tightly pack the lemons and salt into a jar and completely cover with the lemon juice.
  • Let sit out on your counter at room temperature for 5 days. Shake the jar once per day for 5 days.
  • Add the olive oil and refrigerate.
Give preserved roast chicken with preserved lemons a try. We think you'll be surprised how amazing this dish tastes and it's so simple!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

BriteTap Sponsors Silicon Valley Coop Tour

The first annual Silicon Valley Tour de Coop,  a self-guided bicycle tour of chicken coops and gardens, is happening this Saturday -- October 27, 2012 from 9 AM to 4 PM.
Eleven amazing coops, gardens and urban homesteaders in Palo Alto and Los Altos, California will impress viewers with their coop designs and share their joy of backyard chicken farming.
Come See Us At the Tour!
Chicken, maker of the BriteTap Chicken Waterer is pleased to sponsor this exciting event.  
The BriteTap will be on exhibit at the "Coop De Plume" at 440 Sequoia Avenue, Palo Alto where tour participants can ask questions, see the BriteTap in action, and buy one for their own coops if they so desire.
The BriteTap waterer will be shown at an unmanned display in the "Brewer Coop", 33 Lyell Street in Los Altos. 
For more information about the event, see the Silicon Valley Tour de Coop web site.
We look forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chicken Owners! Support New Product Initiatives

Want to support new, innovative products designed for people who keep chickens? Then please cast a vote for us in the FedEx Small Business Grant program.

The FedEx program will award a $25,000 grant to a qualifying small business with fans willing to cast a vote for them. is the maker of the innovative BriteTap waterer that shields water from dirt and poop so chickens get cleaner water and owners don't need to clean out filthy water pans.  

                                              Cast Your Vote Here

If we win, we'll invest the funds in developing new products for people who produce their own food at home.

It only takes a click to cast your vote, so please vote for us today!

You can vote one time each day, so vote frequently.

Thanks in advance for your support.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Top Reasons To Keep Backyard Chickens

When we tell people that we keep chickens in our suburban home in the heart of silicon valley they often give us a funny look that indicates that they think we're nuts.  But when I explain all the benefits of keeping chickens, they generally come around and some have even decided to keep chickens as well.

Here are our top reasons to keep backyard chickens:

  1. Better/Fresher/Tastier Eggs - Fresh eggs leave eggs from the grocery store in the dust. There's no mystery as to why.... People who keep chickens in their backyard can control the diet the hens receive. That means that backyard hens are often fed garden scraps, scratch, treats, as well as chicken feed and owners have the option to feed them organic feed if they wish to do so and to allow their birds to forage for bugs and other critters in their yards. A better diet, means better eggs. Additionally, grocery store eggs go through a food distribution system and often take 3 or 4 weeks before they hit the shelf. Then they sit in your refrigerator. Eggs from your own flock go from nest box to refrigerator on the same day. Oh, did we forget to mention the salmonella problems at commercial chicken operations? 
  2. Living Self-Sufficiently - Keeping chickens in your backyard means taking a measure of control over your own food supply. Many backyard chicken owners are also gardeners, so they also grow, harvest and consuming vegetables and fruits in addition to the eggs they collect. It is a satisfying and transformative experience to create your own food. Home grown food is healthier, tastier and generally less expensive. 
  3. Humane Treatment of Animals - Large scale commercial operations are motivated by profit only. These operations cram birds into small cages where they never see the light of day. Once past prime egg laying, they are slaughtered. A backyard chicken keeper isn't under the same profit pressure. You have the ability to provide your birds with more coop space, a run or pasture where they can free range. 
  4. Entertainment - Keeping chickens is fun.  They are inquisitive funny creatures and its fun to watch them strut around, crow, peck at things, and preen. We enjoy the daily rituals that goes with chicken keeping - getting up early to let them out of the coop, giving them their food and water, collecting the day's eggs. In our opinion, chickens add great interest to our backyard and so we keep a mixed flock with diverse plumage color - a Rhode Island Red, a Barred Rock, A Black Minorca, a Hamburg, a Lackenvelder etc. 
  5. Learning Experience for Kids - Kids naturally love animals, so having chickens is a great way to teach them about responsibility. In our house, the daily egg collection belongs to our son and daughter. Keeping chickens is also a way of passing on our values to our kids - self reliance, kindness, responsibility, and a connection with nature.
  6. Gift for Friends & Family - Nowadays, it's hard to find a gift for someone that they easily buy for themselves. However, we've found that giving friends fresh eggs from our chickens or fresh honey from our beehives is a gift people really appreciate. This is particularly true of eggs since most people only buy white eggs and may only be aware of brown eggs. A carton of our eggs from our coop wows them with different sizes and colors of eggs including white, cocoa, dark brown, pale blue, and pale green.  
  7. Sustainability - Having a garden and chickens offers the opportunity to be more  a  Earth friendly because chicken bedding and manure is an excellent component for compost bins. Composting waste from your yard and kitchen is a much better option than tossing it into the local dump. This is because waste sent to the dump is buried in deep pits where it will isn't exposed to the open air and decompose anaerobically (without oxygen). This anaerobic decomposition produces greenhouse gases that are believed to be responsible for global warming. Composting at home, on the other hand, allows decomposes in the presence of oxygen and therefore produces fewer greenhouse gases. For backyard flock owners composting bedding material from the coop and chicken manure combined with yard waste and kitchen scraps are the perfect materials for efficient composting. Composting also provides nutrient rich material for the garden so fewer (or no) chemical fertilizers are needed.
  8. Pest Control - Chickens are voracious insect predators and can rid your garden of ticks, aphids, slugs, beetles and other nasties. However, chickens will also eat any tender greens such as lettuces that they have access to and any cherry tomatoes within reach. The best approach is to fence off small green and only allow them to forage in areas where there are mature plants. It's also a good idea to allow them to forage between seasons. For example, after the sweet corn is harvested, allow them to go in and clean out the bugs and then take out the corn and plant the fall/winter veggies like broccoli.
  9. Weed Control - Similar to pest control, chickens will take out young weeds so they are a perfect for time periods between crop plantings. If you have a chicken tractor you can let the chickens live in one area for a time and weed it. They will simultaneously add chicken manure to the soil. You can then move the chicken tractor to a new area and clear that out of weeds.
  10. Friendship - Chicken owners are a friendly group. Keeping chickens is a great way to connect with other like minded people.
Silver Grey Dorking

Friday, October 19, 2012

BriteTap Chicken Waterer Include In "The Making Of" Media Project is pleased to announce that the BriteTap waterer has been included in the products mentioned in a media project called "The Making Of."  

Created by The Kitchen Sisters, two independent producers who have over 300 radio and TV programs to their credit including the Hidden Kitchens and Lost and Found Sound, The Making Of tells the stories of inventions, large and small, that have been developed in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Check out the below video to learn more about the project.

The BriteTap waterer story is posted on The Making Of website: The Making of the Best Chicken Waterer.

Which are Better Pets? Dogs versus Chickens

Dogs are the most popular pet in America and Europe.  But do they deserve that status?  Let's do a side-by-side comparison of dogs and chickens to find out which make better pets:

Daily Feeding
  • Chickens:  Fill the feeder as needed; generally, just a few times per week.
  • Dogs: Feed every day, two times each day.  Supplement with table scraps when begging occurs.
  • Winner -- Chickens.
Daily Upkeep

  • Chickens:  Let them out of the coop in the morning.  Close the coop at night.
  • Dogs:  Put on your coat and go out in the pouring rain or snow to walk your dog.  Do this two or three times each day for a minimum of 20 minutes each time.  When you get home, use a towel to wipe off your dogs feet or suffer with muddy paw prints on your floors.  In urban and suburban locations, you need to clean up after your pooch, so talk along your pooper scooper and dog bags.  Having fun yet?
  • Winner -- Chickens
Household Inconveniences
  • Chickens: None.  They live in a coop outside, so you have your home to yourself.  Clean the coop once per week -- takes about 20 minutes.
  • Dogs:  Dogs generally live with you, so dog hair gathers on your floors and your furniture as well, because dogs sleep on the couch whenever they can get away with it.  And of course, there are those little accidents on the floor now and again which you'll need to clean up.  Get out those paper towels.
  • Winner -- Chickens
Cute & Cuddly
  • Chickens:  Tame enough to hold, but not exactly what I'd call cuddly.
  • Dogs:  Definitely cute and cuddly.  And then there are those sad brown eyes looking at you.
  • Winner -- Dogs
  • Chickens:  Each girl gives you a wonderfully fresh egg that you couldn't buy at the grocery store for love or money.  You get one egg per day from each bird.
  • Dogs:  If you've collected any eggs from your dog, post a comment because we'd all like to know about it.
  • Winner -- Chickens
Play Fetch
  • Chickens:  Generally, not very capable retrievers.  Practice not likely to improve performance.
  • Dogs:  Dogs love to fetch sticks, balls, Frisbees, you name it, a dog will retrieve it.
  • Winner -- Dogs
Eat Backyard Pests
  • Chickens:  Love to eat slugs, bugs, and other creepy crawley critters.
  • Dogs:  Don't kid yourself, dogs eat anything.  I once saw my dog eat a spider.
  • Winner -- Tie between Dogs and Chickens
Provide A Source of Meat
  • Chickens:  You can eat 'em if you want to.
  • Dogs:  Not unless you live in a very poor country or you have a sick mind.
  • Winner -- Chickens
Welcome You
  • Chickens:  Come running to the door of the pen when they see you because they are hoping for treats (chicken scratch)
  • Dogs:  Come running to the door of the house when they see you because they are hoping for treats (Milk Bones, Liva Snaps etc.)
  • Winner -- Tie between Dogs and Chickens
And the Winner Is....
Well with all the categories tallied chickens prove to be far superior pets.  
Ok, it's a tongue in cheek comparison, but here's the real point.... Chickens are actually much easier to take care of than you might think.
The hardest thing you need to do is to build a coop and you really don't even need to do that.  You can buy a coop locally or through the internet.  There are even manufacturers making coops with high style modern designs to fit into urban environments. Check out theEglu Cube and other coop models from this manufacturer in the UK.
Cast Your Votes - Reader Poll
So what do you think? Are dogs or chickens better pets? Answer this one question survey and we'll post the results next week.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

How To Properly Roast A Chicken

In our last posting, we told you about air chilled chickens and why they taste better. In this posting, we'll give you a sure fire way to cook your premium chicken so that it is tender and juicy.

Slow Roasting

Slow roasting is a cooking process where meat is cooked using a relatively low temperature (200-325 F versus 400 F for normal roasting ). To slow roast a chicken properly, you place the chicken into a roasting pan, or onto a rotisserie, and then cook the chicken on a lower temperature than normal, allow hot, dry air to circulate around the bird.

Slow roasting offers two advantages over traditional high-temperature roasting:

  • The meat retains more of its moisture so it stays very juicy
  • More of the collagen protein in the meat is broken down so the chicken is very tender.

Rotisserie Cooking

Rotisserie cooking kicks slow roasting up one more notch.  The chicken is placed onto a metal spit that is slowly turned in the oven to ensure that the meat is evenly cooked. We are fortunate enough to have an oven that has a rotisserie built in and love the way it cooks chickens.  

If your oven doesn't have a rotisserie built in, you may want to consider adding a rotisserie unit to your barbecue grill. These are motorized units that can be added to a grill and many larger gas grills come equipped with a rotisserie already build in.

If you have a rotisserie, we highly recommend using it to slow roast your chicken. If not, go with a standard roasting pan.

Medieval Image of Chickens Being Roasted On A Spit
Our Preferred Way to Roast A Chicken

  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  If you are using a roasting pan, you want to set the oven to "Bake." If you are doing the bird on a rotisserie, you will use the "Broil" setting on your oven.
  2. Place your chicken onto the spit or roasting pan.
  3. Rub the skin of the bird with a little olive oil.
  4. Season the skin with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika.  Do not be afraid to go heavy on the salt. This dramatically improves the taste of the chicken. If you want to make it even easier on yourself, use a pre-mixed seasoning blend such as McCormick Season All.
  5. Now place the chicken into the oven and roast for 15 minutes per pound.
  6. Now crisp the skin on the bird by cranking up the oven to 500 degrees.  Cook for a short period of time (5-15 minutes). The exact cooking time really depends on your oven, how close the bird is to the heating element and etc. Check the oven frequently the first few times you do this to get a sense for the right time for your oven. You want the skin of the bird to be golden to dark brown, but not burned.
  7. Remove from the oven and let sit 25 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to re-distribute and ensures a very juicy bird. When you are ready to serve you can place the sliced meat back into the oven for a few minutes to rewarm it or use a microwave to accomplish the same thing.
Rotisserie Chicken. Photo by J M Schneid
In our next posting, we'll share a way to make a variation on this recipe using preserved lemons.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Are Air Chilled Chickens Better?

Consumer's buying chicken in the grocery store have a wide range of choices including: "free range", "organic", "fresh", "no antibiotics" and increasingly, "air chilled."

Air chilled chickens are still fairly uncommon in the U.S but they are increasing in popularity and are making there way to some of the fancier supermarkets.  So what is "air chilled" chicken and is it better?

Air Chilling

After chickens are slaughtered they need to be rapidly cooled in order to keep bacteria levels to a minimum. The U.S. Department of agriculture requires that chickens be cooled to 40 F within four to six hours. Typically, this is done by immersing the chickens in a bath of chlorinated ice water.

However, in Canada and much of Europe, the preferred process is to place the chickens on a conveyor and move them through a refrigerated chamber. With air chilling, the chickens don't get placed in water, they remain dry.  To see a video of air chilling, check out this video of an air chilling room

Advantages of Air Chilling

Many studies have shown little difference in pathogen levels between water immersion and air chilled chickens. From the perspective of a consumer, perhaps the most important reason to prefer air chilling is that they are said to taste better.

Chickens processed using water immersion absorb water from the bath. This can account for anywhere between can 2-12% of their final weight at the supermarket. The additional water is said to negatively effect the flavor of the meat and the ability of the skin to crisp up in the oven.

Chickens Put To The Test

In an article published on September 1, 2012, Cook's Illustrated Magazine showed taste test results for various brands of whole chickens available in grocery stores.  Eight large national or regional brands were purchased at supermarkets, seasoned lightly and then cooked. The two brands that received the highest marks among testers were Mary's Free Range Air Chilled and Bell & Evans Premium Air Chilled.

What's Your Opinion
We routinely purchase Mary's Air chilled chickens and do find that they taste better. If you have tried air chilled chicken, let us know your opinion by posting a comment.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Wild West Style Chicken Coop In North Carolina

This coop in Kannapolis, North Carolina takes chicken coops to a new place. It's really more like a town for chickens and looks like something that would have been built during the gold rush. Feast your eyes on this wild west chicken coop.

WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Now that's a chicken coop, partner.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The 100,000 Dollar Chicken Coop

Regular readers of this blog may recall that a few days ago I reported on a $210,000 chicken coop under construction in England.  Well here' another jaw-dropping coop made here in the USA.

Neiman Marcus, the upscale department store, is selling a $100,000 "mini-farm" that can accommodate 10 chickens.  The $100,000 price tag includes an on-site consultation with the designers and a selection of ten hen breeds based on your needs. 

I find the coop furnishings a bit egg-cessive, but at least Neiman Marcus makes a $3,000 donation to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy when you buy a mini-farm.

At $100,000 you think they would throw in a BriteTap waterer. If you think they should, like the post or leave a comment.  

Posh Coop For Your Chickens From Neiman Marcus

For $100K you think they would throw in a BriteTap waterer

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Incredible Edible Egg Jingle Contest

Incredible, Edible Egg Facebook Page

Many of you will undoubtedly know the "Incredible, Edible Egg" advertising campaign created by the American Egg board.  The campaign is turning 35 years old this year and so the Egg Board has decided to launch a new version of their iconic Incredible, Edible Egg jingle.

And for those of you that have talent as well as chickens, the Egg Board is sponsoring a jingle contest where you can win a variety of cool prizes like an iPhone if you submit a video of yourself singing the new jingle. You can enter the contest by going to the Egg Board's Facebook page.

Here at, our singing skills are rather modest so don't you won't find us singing the jingle on YouTube. We'll stick to making chicken waterers and be contented.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Martha Stewart Teaches How To Cook Eggs

Martha Stewart, home economics diva, has kicked off her latest series, Martha Stewart's Cooking School, with a segment on how to cook eggs.  Martha provides step-by-step instructions for cooks showing them how to prepare fried eggs, omelets, frittatas, etc. 

While I normally don't think of eggs as particularly hard to cook, there are lots of younger folks who have forgotten how to make even simple dishes. Since the egg is an almost perfect food source, it makes sense to begin the series on this most versatile of foods.

Here is link to Martha's recipe for Frittata with Fingerling Potatoes

A clip from the show is provided below.

Bon Appetit!

Soft boiled egg anyone? Photo from Martha's Web Site

Monday, October 8, 2012

Lead In Backyard Chicken Eggs

According to a report in today's New York Times, tests on eggs taken from backyard chickens in New York City's public neighborhood gardens showed higher levels of lead than store-bought eggs.  While the cause of the problem is not certain, however, researchers suspect it might result from higher lead levels in the soils where the chickens live.

To read this story in full, check out the the NY Times article, Worries About Lead for New York City's Garden-Fresh Eggs.

If you have a concern about lead, you can have your soil tested for lead and other heavy metals.  We had our garden area tested several years ago as part of a broader test to understand how to amend the soil to improve its productivity.  The service we used is Timberleaf soil testing.  A lead test costs $39.  You can perform similar tests for cadmium, chromium and nickel for $39 each and arsenic for $66.

Sunnyside Up But Lead Free? Photo by David Benbennick

Sunday, October 7, 2012

What's the Best Way To Peel An Egg?

Peeling a really fresh hard boiled egg can be a challenge.  We recently came across a "no peel" method on the NoBiggie blog site that suggested cutting through the shell and scooping out the egg with a spoon. NoBiggie suggest that it's a good method when preparing deviled eggs since they are going to be cut in half anyway.

We'll we decided to give it try and here's our opinion....

This method is in fact easier than trying to hand peel an egg. However, it can leave the outside of the egg in somewhat tattered condition.  If you are planning on serving your deviled eggs to company, cutting through the shell with a knife may not be the way to go.  We think the technique is actually better for egg salad because the eggs get chopped up so the appearance of the peeled egg is not important.

Have your own special way to easily peel an egg? Leave a comment and let everyone know your secret.
Boiled Eggs. Photo by Dev920

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Chicken Waterer Newsletter Launched

This month, we launched a free monthly newsletter called BriteSpot.  BriteSpot provides news, information, tips and ideas for folks with backyard chickens.

If you visit this blog occasionally, BriteSpot is a way of getting our most important and interesting stories in a convenient digest format. By subscribing, you’ll be sure not to miss the cream of the crop postings.  To subscribe, just put yourself on our mailing list.

To view the October, 2012 newsletter, click here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Chicken Molting: Top 3 Things You Can Do

What Is Molting

Feathers help birds maintain their body temperature and repel water. Like human hair, feathers are made from dead cells. Over time, feathers can break or the cells from which they are made wear down. When this occurs, a chicken's feathers don't function as effectively. As a result, chickens need to periodically shed their old, worn-out feathers and replace them with new ones.  The process is called molting and generally occurs in the late summer and early fall.

Pancake Looking Rather Tattered During Her Molt
Feathers are 85% protein, so during molting, chickens need to divert a substantial portion of their energy resources from egg laying to feather production. This is why during periods of molting, egg laying declines or stops entirely.  The time required to molt varies widely from bird-to-bird, but 2-3 months is fairly typical.

Top 3 Things You Can Do

  1. Increase protein in your chicken's diet. The easiest way to do this is to switch to a higher protein formulation like those sold for broilers or game birds.  These are normally 20-22% protein versus layer formulations that are 16-18% protein.  Alternatively, you can provide small quantities of other protein rich foods. Many chicken owners supplement with hard boiled eggs, cat food, or tuna fish. (Our lucky flock got treated to left over grilled salmon this week.) During molt periods you should also cut back on scratch as this is normally lower in protein.
  2. Lower stress - Since molting is a stressful period for a chicken, it makes sense to keep additional stressing factors to a minimum. Don't introduce new birds to the flock during a molt or change your birds living quarters. 
  3. Limit handling - During molting it is best to limit handling so you don't accidentally damage your birds new feathers. These new feathers are often referred to as "blood feathers" because blood is actually flowing through the shaft. When the feather is fully grown, the blood recedes and the feather becomes hollow. However, during the active growth period, it is important not to damage the new feathers as it will cause the feather to bleed.  Blood feathers are easy to identify. They look like porcupine quills. (see below photo)
Road Runner Molting With Blood Feathers Clearly Visible On Her Neck