I’m so excited, Better Hens and Gardens and Bramblestone Farm are featured in the current issue of Chickens magazine! The editor contacted me last fall to see if we’d be interested in being featured in their Chicken Keepers column, and of course, I said “Yes”!
Chickens magazine is a bi-monthly print magazine that says ”The popularity of egg-laying, meat-providing and easily entertaining chickens is on the rise—again. What once was commonplace on most farms and in city backyards is finding a new generation of people who want to reclaim their attachment to nature and become more sustainable. Take a look inside the current [...]
Continue reading We’re Featured in “Chickens®” magazine!
The arrival of the 2013 “Backyard Biosecurity” calendar from the USDA (instructions for ordering a free one are here), and the issues my Farm Chick friend has been facing with bird disease made me think that it was a good time to remind everyone with backyard birds – they need to be PROTECTED. It’s so easy to think that it won’t happen to you and let up your guard, but disease can be brought in many ways and can destroy your flock. We learned the hard way several years ago when we brought in two barred rocks from a ”reputable” source. The birds brought Infectious Bronchitis (see story here) with them and our flock had [...]
Continue reading Protect Your Birds!
At Bramblestone Farm, we keep both Golden Buff and Buckeye chickens; but, people often ask why we bother with Buckeyes – they don’t lay as large an egg or as frequently as the Golden Buffs, so why do we keep them?
Well, Buckeye chickens are an old breed developed to thrive in Ohio’s weather; and were once very popular backyard birds. However, with the demise of the backyard flock during the 20th century, Buckeyes became endangered (less than 72 known breeding birds in 2003). Then in 2005, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) began a program to recover the breed’s original characteristics [...]
Continue reading About Buckeye Chickens
Thinking of adding honey bees to your backyard? Here are the some questions to ask before committing to beekeeping (we didn’t necessarily think of all these before adding ours):
Have you discussed this with all your family members? The bees will have an impact, so make sure everyone’s onboard – or at least somewhat willing to have them around.
Are honey bees legal where you intend to put them? Not all cities, townships, or homeowner associations allow honey bees, so be sure to check before acquiring your bees.
What does your homeowner’s insurance policy say? Some insurance companies have real issues with beekeeping [...]
Continue reading Beginning Beekeeping – Important Questions
Green pole beans can be great for the backyard garden because they produce all season long (no need to succession plant like bush beans), you don’t have to bend over to pick them, and they’re super productive; however, the taste and texture often aren’t as “refined” as bush green beans. So, for the past several years we’ve trialed a couple of different pole beans each year, looking for the ”perfect” bean – one that combines the growing convenience of a pole bean with the tenderness and taste of a bush bean.
Coming into 2011, the only pole bean that came close to our “perfect” bean so far was Blue Lake; and althought I prefer to use [...]
Continue reading 2011 Garden Results – Pole Beans
Jewel Box made “Picture – Of – The – Week” on Backyard Herds this week; doing her cutest goat on the catwalk look!
She’s the third Nigerian Dwarf doe we purchased for Bramblestone Farm; and is just a year old now. There’s more information about her (and her pedigree) at the Bramblestone Farm site here.
Well, a hen’s reproductive system consists of an ovary and an oviduct. The ovary contains undeveloped egg yolks (the number of yolks (or ovum) that are contained here are the total number of eggs the chicken will lay in her life) that are released into the oviduct as each yolk develops, usually about an hour after the previous egg was laid. However, in young pullets and some heavy breed hens, two yolks are sometimes released within a couple of hours, and these become double-yolked eggs.
Heredity can cause some hens or breeds to have a higher propensity for double yolks; but [...]
Continue reading What Causes Double Yolks?
The more I learn about chickens, the more I think they are truly remarkable creatures. Just before laying an egg, the hen adds a protective layer called “bloom” or cuticle to the outside of the egg. This coating seals the shell pores, prevents bacteria from getting inside the shell, and reduces moisture loss from the egg – all designed to make the egg last longer.
Unfortunately, because of conditions at some large egg operations, commercial eggs are washed right after collection to make them appear clean and presentable. Of course, this destroys the protective egg bloom. To try replacing natural bloom, [...]
Continue reading Egg “Bloom”
One of the Red Comet pullets laid her first egg, so we can’t be far from having good eggs again. It’s amazing how a few chickens change your perception of grocery store eggs. They don’t taste right, they’re watery, and they look anemic too. The eggs from backyard chickens are sooo much better.
The combs and wattles on all of the pullets are starting to turn red, but we think it was this girl’s egg because she’s redder than her sisters. If these chicks were six weeks old when they arrived, then the first egg appeared at a little over seventeen weeks. It was a little sooner than expected, so we’re quickly switching over to layer [...]
Continue reading First Egg!
Ok, this post may be a bit “deep” (sorry for the pun), but I’ve been researching chicken litter management. For the past couple of years, our chickens were either housed in an Eglu (with a pull-out shelf for dropping removal), or in a barn stall, where we could shovel dirt and bedding in and out as necessary for sanitary control. However, now that we’ve got the new coop (see New Coop), I’ve been investigating the “deep litter” management method.
What Is It?
The “deep litter” technique originated in Ohio in the 1940’s, and was an important development in poultry management because it [...]
Continue reading Deep Litter & Healthy Chickens?
We kept our chickens in a 10’ x 10’ stall in the barn; but, since we’ve ordered 25 day-old chicks and are planning to give the stall to some Dwarf Nigerian goats, new chicken housing is in order. There are so many options it’s hard to choose what to buy or build, but there are a few things I think should be considered (books told me I needed roosts, nesting boxes, ventilation, etc. but didn’t necessarily mention these things):
Chickens are dusty! And our entire barn is now incredibly dusty due to the chickens. I never noticed that every [...]
Continue reading Chicken Housing Basics
Free Ranging Pullets
Since we just went through the ordeal of culling our flock (see Painful Chicken Lesson), and then choosing another chicken breed to raise (see Buckeyes), I have a few suggestions for anyone thinking of getting a few chickens for the backyard.
What to Start With
You can start with eggs, day-old chicks, or pullets. Hatcheries offer eggs and day-old chicks from many breeds, but pullets are usually only available in the egg layer breeds (leghorns, black sex-linked, golden buff, etc.). Breeders often offer eggs, day old chicks, and pullets (but may be limited on quantities or times).
Basically, chickens are bred for egg-laying, [...]
Continue reading Getting Started With Chickens
We decided that our next chickens will be Buckeyes – we like this breed because they were developed specifically for Ohio conditions, are the only chicken developed by a woman, and are very cold hardy. They’re described as vigorous, resilient, and disease resistent, and are a dual purpose breed – meaning they can be used for both meat and eggs.
Buckeyes are big enough for a generous portion of meat, yet are also relatively good layers. They’re described as having stout, muscular thighs, and a broad, well-rounded breast. The hens lay approximately 200 medium-sized, brown eggs per year. Hens weigh around 6 [...]
Continue reading Buckeye Chickens
Wrinkled Egg – IB Symptom
Back when I wrote about introducing new chickens into a flock (see Introducing New Chickens), I missed one important step, and we’re learning a painful lesson as a result. It wasn’t enough to ask if the new chickens were vaccinated, we should have kept them separate from our flock for 30 days to make sure they couldn’t introduce disease.
Infectious Bronchitis (IB)
As it turns out, Bab and Will brought Infectious Bronchitis into our flock, and it’s destroyed the Golden Buffs ability to produce eggs (it does not affect humans). Infectious bronchitis is a virus, it’s the [...]
Continue reading Infectious Bronchitis in Chickens
I’ve always fed the hens grape treats, and as a result, they’re quite friendly (they’ll crawl in my lap if I let them). But, when Will joined the flock, he made it apparent he had no use for grapes, and didn’t appreciate me feeding the hens either.
The hens were still enthusiastic about grapes, but Will would try to call them away, and when that didn’t work, he’d growl at me! Now, he’s generally a nice rooster, so I was puzzled. It finally dawned on me that Will knows he’s head rooster, and didn’t appreciate the competition for his hens.
After this [...]
Continue reading Rooster Psychology 101