Sunday, December 13, 2015

A Chicken's Christmas Carol

A Chicken's Christmas Carol Video

Saturday, November 7, 2015

unny 1 Bedroom Apt with Chickens

"Sunny 1 Bedroom Apt with Chickens!" 

This is a real Craigslist posting for a rental apartment. Only

in Berkeley, California could someone promote fast Wi-Fi

and use of a chicken coop together as features of a rental


Here's the Listing.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Why Chickens Lay Fewer Eggs In Winter

If you've had chickens for more than one season, you already know that egg production declines dramatically in Fall and Winter.  Many backyard flock owners assume that this is in response to lower temperatures but, in reality, it's a response to lower levels of light. 

In addition to their eyes, chicken's sense light thorough a gland in their brains that lies behind a thin area of bone on their skulls. The gland produces a hormone in response to light and this hormone controls egg production. 

Normally, chickens begin laying eggs in the spring when light levels exceed 14 hours per day. Producing more eggs in spring is a survival strategy; baby chicks are more likely to thrive in Spring and Summer when food is plentiful. Conversely, egg laying slows or ceases when light levels fall since this is a harbinger of leaner times to come. 

The difference in light levels between Winter and Summer will be most pronounced in northern latitudes where daylight hours vary the most.  The difference is due to the tilt of the Earth's axis.  (For a detailed explanation of how the Earth's axis impacts hours of daylight, check out the video at the end of this post.)

Below are the number of daylight hours in December and June for three cities that represent northern (Boston), central (Nashville) and southern (Austin) latitudes in the United States. As you can see, in Boston there's a 7 hour variation between Winter and Summer hours of daylight. In Austin, this variation is only 3 hours. What this means is that flock owners in the South will see a less severe change in egg production in the Fall and Winter than those who live in the North.

Man Made Sunshine For More Eggs

If you want to boost egg production in Winter, the answer is to create a little artificial sunshine to increase the total amount of daylight hours. A chicken's photo-receptors don't distinguish between the sun and and a light bulb, so running a fluorescent or incandescent light inside the coop can re-start egg laying during the winter months.

To do this, increase the total daylight hours by turning on the light in the morning so that the there are 16 hours daylight and 8 hours of darkness in any given day.

Using an incandescent light provides an additional benefit as these lights also throw off quite a bit of heat. A 40 watt bulb placed inside the coop can keep the temperature of the coop above freezing.  If you have a BriteTap poultry waterer or other chicken waterer that can freeze in the Winter, placing the waterer inside a coop with a light will also keep the waterer from freezing up.  More eggs and no frozen waterer is a double plus in our book.

The Earth's Axis & The Impact on Daylight Hours

Halloween Chicken Pumpkin Template

Every year, we carve a unique pumpkin for Halloween. In the past, we've carved zombies, spiders, dragons and all manner of ghostly and ghoulish things. Never, have we done a chicken pumpkin. So this year, we're getting our priorities right and celebrating the flock with a chicken pumpkin.

This particular design is quite easy since  you only have to carve out four relatively large sized pieces to complete the design. 

If you'd would like to carve this design, you can download a PDF of the template and print it out on your home printer. The template will measure about 8" across so you should buy a large sized pumpkin to carve. The best ones will have smooth skin and shallow or no ribs.

Total project time is about 30 minutes.


  • Thin serrated blade knife or pumpkin carving kit (see below)
  • Duct tape or masking tape
  • Large pumpkin
  • Metal spoon
  • pumpkin template

Carving Instructions:

1. Print out the template from:

2. Clean out the center of the pumpkin as you would with any Jack-o-lantern -- cut open the top and scoop out the inside with a metal spoon.

3. Tape the template to the pumpkin using masking or duct tape. This will allow you to more easily transfer the design to the surface of the pumpkin. To do this, trim off the excess paper that is outside of the boundaries of the design and make some slits on the template so you can get it to conform to the overall shape of the pumpkin.

4. Trace over the outline using a ballpoint pen. Press down hard so that the pen penetrates the paper and leaves a mark on the pumpkin skin. Some sections will show ink and other will only show an indentation where the pen embossed a line into the pumpkin's skin. 

5. Remove the template and draw over the embossed lines so that the whole design is fully inked and the lines are easy to see. 

6. Mark four "X" on the pumpkin in the four sections of the design that are black on the template. These are the parts you want to cut out.

7. Carefully cut out the four marked sections. 

This pumpkin is fairly easy to do. Below are some other designs we've carved in the past if you're looking for inspiration and don't want to do a chicken Jack-o-lantern. 

Please note that these other designs are far more difficult to execute, so if you decide make something like this, set aside a few hours for the project. 

Other Examples

Graves with family names on gravestones

Hangman & Tree

Grim Reaper & Coffin




Friday, October 9, 2015

How To Plant Garlic

In The Garden: Our monthly column on growing vegetables, herbs and fruit in your backyard.

Garlic For Strength

There's something about the strong smell and taste of garlic that historically has encouraged people to ascribe special powers to it. For example, everyone knows that garlic is said to have the power to ward off blood-thirsty vampires. If you eat garlic, and have not been bitten recently, you too can attest to garlic's amazing power.

That said, I'm not sure Dracula aficionados are aware that the Vikings revered garlic and fortified themselves by eating large quantities of it prior to departing on plundering raids.

A scary thought, eh? A horde of axe wielding Norsemen roll into town, burn the houses and steal the gold. Then, to add insult to injury, they celebrate with a banquet of garlic-laden bruschetta and stink the place up. No wonder people feared Erik the Red.

Well whether you're preparing to pillage your neighbors house or just making Sunday dinner, garlic can add a lot of flavor to you food. And the good news is that it's very easy to grow. Here's what you need to know to choose and grow garlic:

Hardneck & Softneck Garlic

Garlic is divided into two broad categories with different characteristics:

Softneck varieties have many cloves of varying sizes. Most supermarket garlic is of the softneck variety because it is easier to harvest mechanically and stores better than hardneck varieties. Softneck garlic also matures more quickly and can be grown in places where the winters are mild such as the Southern U.S. and California. 

Hardneck varieties have fewer cloves of more uniform size. These grow around a central stalk. This type of garlic does better where winters are cold. They are more diverse in their flavor profile and are easier to peel than their softneck cousins.

Both hardneck and softneck garlics varieties can vary widely with regard to size, flavor, aftertaste, and storage capabilities. If you haven't really considered garlic before, I think you'll be surprised at the number of choices you have.

To get a sense for the range, I recommend wandering over to the Territorial Seed web site where you'll see over 50 varieties including: Chinese Pink, Belarus, Music, Spanish Roja, Duganski and German Red. For the Fall season 2015, I'm growing a new variety for me called Music. It's supposed to produce very high yields so I thought I'd give it a try. In the past I've and also grown Inchelium Red and Purple Glazer. 

Below are a few descriptions of garlic that I'm reprinting from the Territorial Seed web site to give you a sense for the range of what's available:

Chinese Pink

Very early season. Garlic lovers rejoice! When fall planted, this extra-early-maturing variety will put fresh garlic back into your favorite recipes a whopping 4 to 6 weeks ahead of almost all others. You will be harvesting Chinese Pink late May to early June. All your garlic-loving friends will be green with envy. This fine quality softneck has cloves arranged in two layers, which makes most of the cloves of usable size. It has white outer skins, pinkish-purple inner skins, and pink clove wrappers; stores for 4-5 months. Chinese Pink has a nice mellow flavor that everyone can enjoy.

Inchelium Red Garlic
Mid-season. Inchelium Red is a national taste-test winner in the softneck division. This mild flavored garlic is great baked and blended with mashed potatoes. This large, top-quality softneck was discovered on the Colville Indian Reservation in northern Washington. Stores very well for 6-9 months.

Purple Glazer Garlic
Mid-season. You won't believe your eyes when you see the satiny clove wrappers of Purple Glazer. A vivid, royal purple tinged with shiny gold and/or silver hues makes this one of the most attractive garlics. As a sub-variety of Purple Stripe, a group known for being the "best baked garlic", Purple Glazer has a strong lasting flavor, but not hot and no aftertaste. Its texture is very palatable, like the consistency of cooked carrots. Very easy to peel.

Planting & Harvesting

Growing garlic is very easy. Just break the head of garlic into individual cloves and then plant these cloves in well drained soil about 6" apart and 2 inches deep in mild climates (3-4 inches deep in cold climates). When you plant the cloves, you want the pointed top of the garlic to face towards the sky.

The general advice is to plant garlic about a month before the ground freezes in your area. The easiest way to determine the right date, is to just do a Google search for "Garlic planting" and the name of your state.

Garlic planted in the Fall can be harvested in April/May in warmer climates and July/August in cooler climates. You'll know when to harvest because the leaves will turn brown. It's best to first harvest a few heads to make sure that they are of good size before harvesting the rest of the crop. You should also stop watering garlic about 2 weeks prior to harvest in order to help dry down the garlic heads.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

BriteTap Chicken Waterer Tip

We wanted to share a nifty little tip for those that own the BriteTap chicken waterer. 

The ports on the left and right side of the waterer allow owners to clean the inside of the BriteTap waterer. The size of the ports aren't an accident -- they are similar in size to typical wine and liquor bottle corks so that owners like you could use wine/liquor bottle corks in a pinch if the original red clean out plugs are lost or damaged. We call this "designed for real living" because the world isn't perfect - the kids can run off with a plug while you're not looking or you drop one into the sink's garbage disposer by accident etc. etc.

If you have a few corks laying around the house, you should hold onto them since they can be used as either a temporary or permanent solution to closing the clean-out-ports. Corks come in several diameters, so some corks will not fit. Those that do, will be a tight fit and will take some effort to insert.

The best type of "corks" are actually made of synthetic material, not natural cork. The synthetic cork doesn't change shape and will hold water better because it doesn't expand or contract as much as natural cork in response to temperature changes.

Of course, you can always order spare clean out plugs from us if you want to.  You can find both regular and premium clean out plugs on our web site (see below).  The premium clean-out plugs have a knurled plastic top that makes them easier to remove from the BriteTap waterer. If you have arthritis, these may be a good investment.

To all those with lots of corks on hand, we say cheers!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Chicken Feed

Everyone knows that the expression "chicken feed" means a small amount of money. But where did the expression come from?

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the expression came into existence in the early 1800's. Apparently, people recognized that chickens could eat corn and wheat grains too small for other uses.  Hence, chicken feed came to mean something very small or trifling.

"I don't know about you, but I love chicken feed"

Crossword Puzzle For Chicken Owners

If you love chickens and you love crossword puzzles, then we've got the puzzle for you.  The Egg-cessive Crossword will test your knowledge of all things chicken.

To print out the puzzle, just click on the puzzle download link below. This will allow you to open and print the puzzle form our Google storage account.

If you get stuck, don't worry. You can print out the answer key below:

Want to share this puzzle with a friend? Just click he envelope icon below to email to your friends. Or, you can click on any of the other icons to share via Facebook, Pintererst etc. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Cluck-ulator In Top 5 Most Popular Smart Phone Apps for Chicken Owners

Chicken's Magazine November/December 2015 issueinclude an articl on the 5 most popular apps for chicken owners and the Cluck-ulator is on the list!

We're transcribing the Cluck-ulator review below:



Availability: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android, Windows

Planning on starting a backyard flock or a small poultry farm? The Cluck-ulator  is the perfect pocket poultry consultant. It's breed selector helps you select the breed of chicken you wish to raise based on criteria such as temperament, eggshell color, climate tolerance, rate of lay, size and maturity and more.

An alphabetical Photo Gallery aids in visualizing the different breeds as you consider them. The Coop Planner assists you in estimating your future flocks housing requirements, including coop and runs size, perch space and nest boxes, while the food and water estimator  gives you an idea of how much feed and daily water your flock will require, based on criteria you select like number and type of chickens, growth state and outside temperature.

Finally – – and possibly most important for farmers counting on future egg sales – – the egg estimator provides an annual estimate of the number of eggs a chicken will lay once you identify the breed and age of bird. Additional features include access to's website, Facebook page, Twitter feed and blog, though Wi-Fi or cellular service is required to access these.

The Cluck-ulator will definitely guide potential chicken keepers in the right direction if they are dreaming of starting a flock.

Links to download the free Cluck-ulator app:

Cluck-ulator Chicken Calculator Demo from ChickenWaterer on Vimeo.

Community Chickens Reviews The BriteTap Chick & Chicken Feeder

The folks over at the Community Chickens web site (Operated by Mother Earth News Magazine) were kind enough to review the BriteTap chick & chicken feeder.  You can read the review below, or by clicking over to their web site

By on August 18, 2015 

Checklist for Backyard Chicken Owners

Whether your new to owning chickens, or a seasoned chicken owner, it's to handy to have a checklist of the equipment and supplies you need to keep your flock in good order. So we put together a comprehensive list that you can bookmark on your computer or just print out.

To keep this list as compact as possible, we're not providing specific information on these items in this article. However, highlighted items are hyperlinked to other articles we've written where you can find more detailed information. Just click on the item to be taken to that article.

Chicken Supplies

Book & Flock Management Tools
  • Disposable shoe covers
  • Disinfectant spray
First Aid
  • Disposable gloves
  • Styptic
  • Non-stick gauze pads
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Isolation area
  • De-wormer
  • Flea/lice powder
(For those in poultry competitions)
  • Nail clipper
  • Shampoo
  • Cage feed cup
  • Cage watering cup
  • Leg bands
  • Feather brightener
Egg Harvesting
(For those selling their eggs)
  • Egg basket
  • Egg candler
  • Egg cartons
  • Egg de-scaler
  • Egg cleaner/wash
  • "Eggs for sale" sign
Processing Equipment
(For those raising meat birds)
  • Restraining cone
  • Butchers knife
  • Scalder
  • Plucker
  • Vacuum sealer & bags

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Backyard Flocks & Salmonella: Our Perspective on the CDC's Warning

"Hey Myrtle, we're safer than the press is reporting"

The CDC recently issued guidance to backyard flock owners encouraging them to wash their hands after handling chickens and advising against cuddling or kissing poultry. The reminder comes in response to related data showing that 181 people have sickened with Salmonella poisoning this year as a result of exposure to backyard flocks. The CDC's data and guidance has been been widely reported by the press including NBC, Reuters, NPR and others.

While we support the CDC's guidance, we believe the widespread media attention leads to a distorted picture of the dangers of keeping poultry.  This article provides additional data that puts recent media reports  in perspective.

Salmonella bacteria shown in red

Salmonella Outbreaks Related To Poultry

According to the CDC, there were major outbreaks of poultry related salmonella in each of the last few years.  What's clear is that the number of cases in any given year is well below 1,000 individuals.

  • 2015 - 181 illnesses (year-to-date)
  • 2014 - 363 illnesses
  • 2013 - 514 illnesses
  • 2012 -334 illnesses
Salmonella & Other Illnesses Related To Food

Now let's compare this data to the CDC's data on total cases of salmonella resulting from exposure to contaminated food. The first table shows number of illnesses related to a specific type of pathogen (bacteria, virus etc). The second table shows total cases of food poisoning related to any type of pathogen.

Salmonella sickens over 1 million Americans each year

1 in 6 Americans (48 million) get food poisoning each year

OK, so here is the sad truth....  Over 1 million Americans are sickened by Salmonella each year as a result of consuming improperly prepared food. Frequent sources of infection include oysters, ground beef, chicken, and vegetables. In most cases, the symptoms are upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea. In severe cases, it the illness can cause dehydration and death.

Even more common is food poisoning related to Norovirus. This is the type of virus that has effected many cruise trip travelers.  Norovirus sickens about 5 million people each year.  

And the CDC estimates that almost 49 million Americans will be sickened each year by one form or another of food borne pathogen. That's one in six people in the U.S.

Even good food can carry salmonella and other pathogens. Take care to wash and properly cook all food.

Conclusions From The Data

Backyard chicken owners are much more likely to pick up Salmonella and a host of other gastrointestinal diseases from consuming food from their refrigerator or from a restaurant than they are from their backyard flock. 

Chicken owners should follow the CDC's advice and wash their hands after touching birds. It is also good advice not to cuddle or kiss your chickens, but there's no reason to be particularly concerned about becoming sick from your backyard flock.

If you have neighbors that hear these media reports and become concerned, please pass along this information to them.

Top Feed Supplements For Chickens

To stay healthy and laying, chickens need a balanced diet that gives them the protein, carbohydrates and vitamins they need to sustain themselves. In a prior article on choosing a feed, we discussed chicken feed formulas and provided guidance on when to switch from one feed formula to another.  

In this posting, we focus on feed supplements. These are food items that complement or enhance your chickens basic diet. You'll find these below grouped by dry and liquid supplements.

Dry Supplements 

Scratch - scratch is a mixture of whole, rolled and cracked grains including corn, oats, and barley. Formulations vary from brand to brand and many feed stores make their own mixes. Scratch is candy for chickens and they love it. However, it tends to be high in carbohydrates and low in protein. Therefore, it should never account for more than 10% of your chicken's diet. You can give your chickens scratch year-round, but it is especially beneficial during the winter months when chickens need extra carbs to keep their bodies warm.

Grit - Grit is mixture of small stones, generally granite, that are given to chickens to help them digest their food. The food enters the gizzard (part of the chicken's digestive tract) and the gizzard then squeezes the food particles against each other and the grit to make the food particles smaller and easier to digest. The grit works in much the same way that a millstone grinds wheat into flour. If you feed your chickens only pelleted food, you really don't need to provide grit because the food is already finely ground. However, if you feed your chickens scratch, table scraps or mash you should provide scratch as well to help your chickens digest these larger food items. 

Oyster Shells - Chicken owners often get oyster shells and grit confused when providing supplements.  Oyster shells and grit function completely differently and should be given for different reasons. Whereas grit assists digestion, but has no nutritional value, oyster shells are a nutritional calcium supplement, but do not assist in digestion because they dissolve before they can act as a millstone. Oyster shells are given to laying hens to provide extra calcium needed to produce strong egg shells (egg shells are about 95% calcium carbonate by weight).

A Supplement Feeder

If you want to provide dry supplements to your chickens, check out the BriteTap Supplement/Chick feeder. It works as a feeder for baby chicks and a supplement feeder when your chicks grow up and leave the brooder. The shield on this unique feeder keeps rain and snow from entering the feed tray and spoiling any supplements you give your chickens. The feeder also keeps rats and other nasties from getting at your chickens feed. It's available for sale at our web site

Table Scraps -  As a general rule of thumb, it's fine to give your chickens "people" foods as long as they are not moldy. Don't feed your birds avocado shells, raw potato peels, banana peels, or any other items you wouldn't put in your own mouth.  Many chicken owners supplement their chickens normal diet with meat or fish table scraps when their chickens are molting and we encourage you to do the same. The extra protein helps chickens grow new feathers during the molt.  Table scraps combined with scratch should not account for more than 10% of your chicken's diet.

Liquid Supplements

Vitamins/Electrolytes - These supplements aid digestion and hydration in all animals including your chickens.  Vitamins and electrolyte supplements can easily be added to your chickens water and there's ample scientific evidence to support their efficacy.  Vitamins and electrolytes are particularly helpful during the summer months when extreme heat puts stress on your birds. Durvet sells a combined vitamin and electrolyte mix that can be purchased from good feed stores across the country.

Probiotics - Probiotics are a broad range of microorganisms that ensure the health of your chickens by populating their intestinal tract and literally blocking the growth of nasty bacteria by crowding them out. While we don't see probiotics as essential for adult chickens, we highly recommend using them for baby chicks whose gastrointestinal tract have not had time to build a population of good bacteria. 

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) - Many backyard flock owners add ACV to their chickens water and swear by it. We are far less enthusiastic about ACV and view the claims made for ACV with a high degree of skepticism.  You won't hurt your chickens by adding small amounts of ACV to their water (1 teaspoon per gallon), but we just can't justify recommending it when there is so little evidence in favor of its use and so many other supplements where the evidence for their use is far more apparent. Check out our prior posting; Don't Use ACV