Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Good luck to Patriots & Seahawks!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Friday, January 23, 2015

Chicks to Chickens: How To Choose Their Feed

Type of Chicken Feed Explained

A chicken's dietary needs changes over time and is also dependent on whether the chicken is a meat breed or egg an egg layer.

Starter Feed
Baby chicks (age 0-6 weeks) need a lots of protein in their diet. So called "starter" feeds are formulated to give rapidly growing chicks the protein they need to develop muscles and feathers. Typically, starter feeds are 20% protein and those starter feeds formulated specifically for meat birds will have protein levels as high as 24%.

Baby chicks need feeds high in protein to grow.

To make it easy for baby chicks to eat, the feed is ground and then formed into small bits called crumbles. Some manufacturers add various medications to the crumbles to prevent the chicks from getting a disease called coccidiosis. Buying a feed with such medications is really a matter of personal preference. We feel medications may be more necessary for commercial operations with thousands of chicks than for small backyard flocks. However, if you decide to buy feed with medication you should stop supplying medicated feed about 2 weeks prior to slaughter or to the star of laying.

Grower Feed
After about week 6, the amount of protein in a chicken's diet is reduced and the feed formulations are called either "grower" or "finisher" feeds depending on whether the chick is destined to be a meat bird (finisher) or an egg layer/dual purpose bird (grower).  

When you go to your local store, you may also see feeds that are called "starter/grower" feeds. These feeds are meant to straddle between starter and grower feed formations and are a good choice if you don't want to switch between types of feeds.

Meat birds are fed finisher formula until slaughter at around 7 weeks old. Egg layers are generally fed grower feed until they reach egg laying age  at 20 weeks. At that point an egg layer's feed formula is adjusted again to give these birds the higher level of calcium that they'll need to produce good eggs. 

Some chicken owners will also briefly switch their flocks feed formulation to something called "developer" or "pullet developer" for a few weeks prior to switching to a layer formula. This type of feed keeps birds lean in the weeks prior to when they begin laying. 

Layer Feed
At 20 weeks, chickens are fully grown and begin to lay eggs. At this point, their need for protein is lower than during their growth period and so feed formulas generally are about 16% protein. However, laying birds need lots of calcium to form strong egg shells. As a result, layer feeds are always formulated with high calcium levels.

Some backyard chicken owners feed their egg laying flocks layer feed that is in the form of crumbles. However, it is more common at this point to switch to pelleted feed. Chickens are less able to scratch the pellets out of their feed containers and so they tend to be more efficient.
The BriteTap Chick feeder's unique shield blocks chicks from
standing on the feed tray and pooping into their food

Update on Bird Flu In California

UC Davis poultry expert calls for backyard flock owners to isolate birds: Video

For more information on what to do to protect your flock, check out our post from earlier this week. Posting

Chickens In The Snow

A very cute video of chickens walking single file through deep snow.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Five Tips For Protecting Your Chickens From Bird Flu

Bird flu is a viral disease found in bird populations that can be spread to domestic poultry. Some strains of the virus can be passed to humans and there have been human fatalities reported in China and other countries. 

In the U.S., the strains of bird flu that have been detected so far are not a threat to human health. However, the disease is a threat to chickens and other domestic poultry species.

The H5N1 Bird Flu is dangerous to humans and
has killed several hundred people in Asia

Waterfowl are known to carry bird flu and migrating populations can pass the disease to backyard and commercial flocks.  The recent discovery of bird flu in backyard flocks in Oregon and Washington states has been tied to this form of transmission. 

As a result, Experts at the University of California at Davis have issued a strong recommendation encouraging backyard chicken owners to take increased care in protecting their flocks. We agree and suggest the following to protect your flock.

Recent bird flu outbreaks have been traced to migrating waterfowl

Protecting Your Flock From Bird Flu

1. Create A Run For Your Girls - Domestic poultry can pick up bird flu by coming into contact with dropping from infected wild birds. The best defense is to isolate wild birds from your flock. Adding a chicken run to your coop that's completely enclosed by chicken wire (including a ceiling) keeps wild birds out and your chickens safe.

It's important that the run have a covered roof

2. Keep the Water Clean - Since bird flu is passed by transmission of the virus in feces, it makes sense to keep the water sources for you flock free of chicken and wild bird droppings. This is particularly important if your property includes a pond that can attract known carriers of the disease including wild ducks, geese and other waterfowl. A valve based chicken waterer that uses poultry valves is a good way to keep the drinking water free of potential contamination. 

The BriteTap chicken waterer helps keep water safe and free of droppings

3. Buy A Spare Pair of Shoes or Boots - If you attend poultry shows, visit friends who own chickens, visit areas frequented by waterfowl, or come into contact with chickens other than your own you risk picking up bird flu and accidentally carrying back to your flock on your shoes. Buy a pair of shoes that you only wear when entering your chicken coop or run. Don't forget to wash your hands if you handle other birds as this is also a way the disease can be transmitted.

4. Friends Don't Let Friends Spread Bird Flu - We think the risks are still too low to ask all visitors to your home to wear disposable plastic shoe coverings. However, if your friends own their own chickens or if they are visiting as part of a chicken coop tour, you should insist that they either wear plastic booties or spray their shoes with disinfectant.

Not very stylish but they may save your flock

5. Buy Safe Birds - Make sure you buy your chicks from a reputable source that practices bio-security. If your not sure, ask them about this before you bring new chicks to your home.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Guess Who Eats the Most Eggs

OK, so who eats the most eggs? Americans,? Swedes?  French?

Well according to data from the Poultry site, Japanese and Chinese eat more eggs per year than anyone else. Americans are still high on the list.... #13.

The below chart shows annual consumption of eggs per in pounds per person per year.  Japanese eat 42 pounds per year. We American come in #11 at 31 pounds per year.

Japan 42
China 41
Ukraine 40
Mexico 39
Belarus 36
Netherlands 35
Denmark 34
Russia 33
Latvia 31
Spain 31
USA 31
Malaysia 30
Belgium 30
Austria 30
Hungary 29
Lithuania 29
Romania 29
Czech Republic 29
Germany 28
France 28
Sweden 27
Argentina 27
Slovakia 27
Canada 26
European Union 26
Colombia 26
Thailand 26
Italy 26
Malta 26
Estonia 26
Armenia 25
Norway 24
South Korea 24
Moldova 24
Israel 23
United Kingdom 23
Switzerland 23
Chile 21
Luxembourg 21
New Zealand 21
Slovenia 21
Croatia 21
Poland 21
Iceland 20
Portugal 20
Ireland 20
Finland 20
Greece 20
World 20
Brazil 19
Kazakhstan 19
Turkmenistan 18
Bulgaria 18
Macedonia 18
Montenegro 18
Azerbaijan 16
South Africa 16
Australia 16
Serbia 15
Peru 15
Venezuela 15
Turkey 15
Morocco 15
Algeria 14
Albania 13
Georgia 13
Iran 12
Uzbekistan 11
Kyrgyzstan 10
Philippines 9
Indonesia 9
Bosnia and Herzegovina 8
Nigeria 8
Vietnam 8
Egypt 6
Pakistan 6
India 5
Kenya 4
Mongolia 4
Tajikistan 4
Ghana 3

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New BriteTap Chick Feeder Available for Pre-Sale

Introducing the new BriteTap Chick Feeder, the feeder that grows with your flock. 

The BriteTap Feeder is a significant improvement over mason jar feeders. 

  • It's unique shield blocks chicks from standing on the feed tray and pooping into their food. The shield can be raised as chicks grow so they can eat comfortably but can't stand on the feed tray.

  • It fills through a lid in the top so it's much easier to fill and wastes less feed than Mason jar feeders.
  • Finally, it can be used long after other chick feeders have been put into storage. The shield also prevents rain and snow from getting into the feed tray so it can be used to give adult chickens scratch, meal worms, oyster shells, grit etc.

Quantities Limited. Available for pre-sale on our web site:

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Egg Carton Designs

Design Most Egg-cellent

Design can elevate even the humblest of objects. Here are some amazing and beautiful egg carton designs from around the world.  

Some of these cartons aren't what one might call practical, but it's fun to consider what egg cartons might look like if eggs were sold like fine chocolate. 

Sofia Peres - Portugal


Stephanie Alexander - Australia


David Elorza - Spain


Eva Valicsek - Hungary


Otilia Andrea - Hungary


Anita Vasko - Hungary


Denes Janok - Hungary


Azul Prado - Argentina


Amber Luke - USA


Gil Rodriquez - Portugal

Garden Seed Resource Guide

Over the holiday, the seed catalogs began hitting our mail box. This is the time of year, we do our garden planning -- deciding what vegetable varieties to add, what to eliminate and how to adjust the garden plan based on our family's changing interests and appetite.

I suspect many of our readers who keep chickens are also vegetable and fruit gardeners, so we thought we'd share some gardening resources and ideas. In this first article of a series, we provide reviews and links to some of our favorite seed companies. One of the seed companies, Sandhill Preservation, also sells hard-to-find chicken breeds and so we've listed all the breeds they sold last year. 

Baker Creek Seed - Baker Creek (Rare Seeds) has an enormous selection of heirloom, seeds. It's one of our favorite seed companies and we place an order with them every year. Baker Creek publishes a glossy catalog featuring gorgeous photos of exotic varieties of tomatoes, squash, and every other conceivable vegetable. I warn you, these photographs will make you want to order more than you have room to plant.  Non-GMO.

Rouge Vif  D'Etampes Pumpkin

Botanical Interests - A good selection of high quality seeds. They are also unique in that Botanical Interests seed packets provide much more growing information than is typically printed on other seed packages including: growing and harvesting information, pests/diseases, recipes and more. Non-GMO

Botanical Interests Seed Packets Provide Tons of Growing Information

Bountiful Gardens - This is a non-profit seed company dedicated to supporting bio-intensive farming. This is a sustainable form of agriculture that relies on crop rotation and growing a mixture of green manure, vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains that does not require the use of chemical fertilizers. You will find items here that you are unlikely to find in mainstream catalogs like Burpee.  Of course, you don't need to be committed to bio-intensive farming to buy seeds from the company. Non-GMO.

Burpee - This is one-stop garden shopping selling a wide variety of fruits and veggies as well as garden tools. Over the past few years, Burpee has added heirloom seeds to their catalog, but most of it's offerings are hybrids. Each year, Burpee will have new hybrids on sale to tempt buyers. Non-GMO.

Burpee - Something new each year 

Fedco - This is a cooperative that sells vegetables and fruits specifically adapted to conditions in the North East. For years, Fedco required customers to download a black and white PDF catalog in order to place an order. Happily the web site has been updated and customers can now shop online. However, the shopping experience is still pretty poor by today's standards. Non-GMO.

Ferry Morse - One of the oldest seed companies in the US and also one of the largest. They don't sell seeds online or through a catalog. You will often find the company's products distributed in stores like Wal-mart, Lowes, Home Depot, Tractor Supply etc. They sell a large number of vegetables but a limited number of varieties within each vegetable type. Non-GMO.

Four-Winds Growers - This tree family owned and operated tree farm sells a huge range of unusual dwarf citrus trees including such exotic varieties as Yuzu, Etrog, and Buddha's hand. But don't let these scare you off, you can find many more accessible citrus varieties such as Meyer lemons, Rio Red Grapefruits, Satsuma Mandarin Oranges, Kumquats, etc on their web site. If you buy online, the trees you'll receive are bare root. However, Four Winds also supplies potted citrus trees to nurseries and garden centers, so check your local nursery before ordering.

Meyer Lemon

High Mowing Seed - A good selection of heirloom and hybrid seeds from this company in Vermont. All seeds are organically grown on the company's own farm. Non-GMO.

Italian Seed & Tool Company - This company started out as a specialty supplier of varieties from Italy. However, the company now sells a wider range of varieties. If your looking for a specialty green like Agrretti or want to order fava bean varieties that are authentically Italian, than the Italian Seed Company should be on your list. 

J.L Hudson - This company is both a seed company and evangelist for heirloom seeds and bio-diversity. If you want to support these objectives and order through J. L. Hudson, be aware that they don't make it easy. The online catalog is simply a list of vegetables and prices without photos. There is no online ordering. You can either print out an order form and mail in your order or send them an email request. If you go this latter route, you'll be required to do all the work to add up the costs of your seeds, apply taxes, calculate shipping costs and you can only pay using a PayPal account. Ouch! As you might expect, they are Non-GMO.

Johnny's Selected Seed - Johnny's has a wide selection of open-pollinated (Heirloom) and hybrid varieties. They also sell some unique garden tools. One of the main advantages of ordering from Johnny's is the amount of growing information they provide online. Johnny's caters to both backyard gardeners and more commercial operations. A small number of their seeds from are grown by Monsanto and may be GMO.

Kitagawa Seed Company - This company specializes in Asian vegetable varieties -- Japan, China, Thailand, etc. If you want hot Thai peppers, adzuki beans, or Japanese pickling cucumbers, this is the place to go. Kitagawa sells a very unique egg plant that our family loves called Kamo. They also sell Mirai sweet corn. Mirai is a hybrid corn but it is not GMO. We tried this variety last year and loved it. 

Kamo Eggplant

Raintree Nursery - An absolutely amazing variety of heirloom and hybrid fruits, nuts and berries. You can find everything from common place apples and strawberries to exotics that we've never seen before -- jujubes, paw paws etc. Raintree offers many of its fruit trees on several types of root stocks. That means you can choose a particular apple or peach variety on a tree that will grow to dwarf, semi-dwarf, or full-sized trees.  

Renee's Garden Seeds - Renee Shepherd is noteworthy for having selected varieties from around the world that are of particularly interest to food enthusiasts. Essentially, you get a curated garden seed experience because all varieties need to get Ms. Shepherd's stamp of approval before they're added to the catalog. You can buy seeds online or in select garden centers. Non-GMO.

An unusual arugula from Renee's that tastes like Japanese wasabi

Sandhill Preservation (Seeds & Poultry) - This seed company is run by a husband and wife team whose mission it is to save rare varieties of heirloom seeds. They also sell rare poultry breeds including chickens, geese, ducks, and turkeys. You can buy a particular poultry breed or buy an assortment from with a class of poultry and get a mixed flock of chickens. Since the poultry selection may be of particular interest to our readers, we're listing the breeds that Sandhill had available last year at the end of this article. However, please note that the web site is devoid of photos and ordering is done by printing out and order form and mailing it in along with payment. Even finding the ordering form is a procedure, so be prepared to jump through lots of hoops if you want to place an order.

Seed Savers Exchange - Dedicated to preserving American heirloom food crops and fostering biodiversity, this non-profit maintains a modern web site and ordering is mercifully easy compared to J L Hudson and Sandhill.  Anyone can order from the catalog but you can also support the goals of the organization by becoming a member. Members receive a discount. Non-GMO.

Sustainable Seed - As with many of the other seed companies mentioned in this list, Sustainable Seed sells a large selection of open-pollinated heirloom seeds. However, what sets this particular company apart is it's large selection of heirloom cereal crops - wheat, rye, corn, barley, spelt, quinoa etc.  Several years ago, we grew a very rare wheat variety called Frascinetto that is famous for making pasta flour. This is the only source I'm aware of that sells this and other such rare grains. In recent years, I've also noticed that the company has been selling and increasing number of tobacco plant varieties -- honestly there are dozens and dozens of varieties from which to choose. I can't say for sure, but I suspect that smokers and now increasingly turning to growing and curing their own tobacco in order to avoid high sales taxes on cigarettes and cigars, etc.  Non-GMO.

Territorial Seed - This company specializes in seeds that do well in the Pacific Northwest. They sell the usual tomatoes and cucumbers etc. but are one of the few companies that sell a wild forest green called "Miners Lettuce" (Claytonia perfoliata) that is native to the Northwest.  Considered by many to be a weed, this is a very mild green and that has become a staple in our household. It's very high in vitamin C and easy to grow. We highly recommend it for gardeners looking for something new. It does well in cool climates and can be grown through the winter in places with mild climates.

Trees of Antiquity - A very complete selection of heirloom fruit trees on semi-dwarf root stocks including: apples, plums, peaches, pomegranates, quince and many other fruits. If you are looking for the best fruit varieties, look no further. You can find Blenheim apricots, Cox's Orange Pippin apples, Crawford peaches and other varieties that offer real flavor but have been crowded off supermarket shelves because they don't store or transport well. 
Cox's Orange Pippin Heirloom Apple - The Best There Is

Chicken Breeds At Sandhill Preservation:

Barred Holland 
Black Australorp
Black Breasted Red Cubalaya
Black Breasted Red Kraienkoppes
Black Breasted Red Shamo
Black Cochin
Black Copper Maran
Black Frizzle Sumatra
Black Langshan
Black Penedescenca
Black Shamo
Black Sumatra
Blue Andalusian
Blue Cochin
Blue Copper Maran
Blue Langshan
Blue Wheaten Marans
Buff Catalana
Buff Cochin
Buff Cornish
Creme Brabanter
Cuckoo Maran
Cuckoo Scots Dumpy 
Dark Shamo
Egyptian Fayoumis
Flame Jaerhon
Golden Campine
Golden Lakenvelder
Golden Penciled Hamburg
Golden Spangled Hamburg
Iowa Blue
La Fleche
Light Sussex
Long Crower
Mahogany Faverolle
Mahogany Russian Orloff
Manx Rumpies
Marraduna Basques
Mottled Java
Muffed Old English Game
New Hampshire
Norwegian Jaerhon
Partridge Barnevelder
Partridge Penedescenca
Partridge Rock
Red Pyle Cubalaya
Red Sussex
Rhode Island Red
Rose Comb Rhode Island Red
Rose Comb Rhode Island White
Salmon Faverolle
Sicilian Buttercup
Silver Campine
Silver Kraienkoppe
Silver Laced Cochins
Silver Penciled Hamburg
Spangled Russian Orloff 
Speckled Sussex
Wheaten Maran
White Cubalaya
White Faced White Spanish

Black Ameraucana
Blue Ameraucana

Buff Chantecler
Partridge Chantecler
Red Chantecler
White Chantecler

Black Crested Blue Polish        
Black Polish      
Golden Polish
Red Polish
Silver Polish
White Crested Black Polish
White Crested Blue Polish
White Polish (CB)


Black Dorking 
Colored Dorking
Cuckoo Dorking
Dark Grey Dorking 
Light Grey Dorking 
Red Dorking
Rose Comb Colored Dorking
Rose Comb Red Dorking
Silver Grey Dorking

Jersey Giants

Black Jersey Giant 
Blue Jersey Giant
White Jersey Giant 

Black Leghorn
Exchequer Leghorn
Mille Fleur Leghorn
Red Leghorn
Single Comb Light Brown Leghorn


Black Minorca 
Buff Minorca
White Minorca


Black Orpington
Blue Orpington
Buff Orpington
Lavender Orpington
White Orpington 


Black Wyandotte 
Blue Laced Red Wyandotte
Buff Wyandotte
Columbian Wyandotte
Golden Laced Wyandotte
Silver Laced Wyandotte

Silver Penciled Wyandotte