How to Make A Chicken Themed Snow Globe

Handmade snow globes are a must-make craft at Christmas. So much so, that it can get hard to find the necessary ingredients when you're close to the big day. On the other hand, the closer you get to Christmas, the more discounted some of your items will be at the craft store. It's a catch 22!

Whether you're shopping early or late, handmade snow globes are one of the most rustic and versatile crafts you can make. The best part is that snow globes can be themed any way you like. 




The Veterinary Feed Directive and Its Impact on Chicken Owners

As the clock chimes midnight and 2017 arrives, backyard chicken and poultry owners across the United States will face a new reality in medicating and treating sick birds in our flocks. The Veterinary Feed Directive from the Food & Drug Administration will now govern our use of "medically important" drugs in an effort to decrease their use in food-producing livestock and stem the problem of antibiotic drug resistance in humans.

Once the Veterinary Feed Directive takes effect, water soluble and feed based antibiotics will no longer be found on feed store shelves. All livestock owners will be required to have a prescription for water soluble drugs from a licensed veterinarian. For feed based antibiotics, a written Veterinary Feed Directive from a licenced veterinarian will be required to purchase the drug and will govern how it is used.


The hardest part of the Veterinary Feed Directive for backyard poultry owners is to find a qualified veterinarian. A good place to start is to contact local extension agencies because they deal with issues like this every day. They may be able to recommend a local veterinarian. A place where I've had luck is to look at local veterinarians that treat pet birds. Interestingly, pet birds can have many of the same issues as chickens and poultry, such as bumblefoot and crop impaction. A veterinarian that takes care of pet birds may have no problem taking on a chicken-based client.


Preserve the Harvest: How to Make Herbal Butter

Herbal butters seem so fancy when you go to a restaurant. They add a unique flavor to whatever they touch. Did you know they're actually easy to make at home? They're a great way to use your herbs through the growing season and preserve them for beyond.

Making herbal butter is perhaps one of the easiest things you can do in a kitchen. It lends fresh flavor to even simple meals like baked potatoes. There is no set ingredient list for making herbal butter with only two ingredients required, butter and herbs. From there your imagination and flavor palate are your guides.

For whatever combination of herbs, spices and flavors you choose, it's best to start with good butter. My favorite butter comes from free range cows and is only available at certain times of year. But that's not even a must. Adding herbs makes even your normal stick of butter stand out in the crowd.

To make the butter, soften it first. It's important not to melt it. Do not use the microwave to soften it because it will not soften evenly and will leave spots that are melted.  Sit the butter out on the counter in room temperature air until it's soft and pliable. I work with a stick, or 1/2 cup butter at a time. That makes it easy to handle and each stick of butter can have a different flavor combination.

Chives and dill have been chopped and butter is waiting to soften. A hint of lemon juice makes this extra tasty.


Meet the Pollinators!

A Look at the Fascinating Creatures that Visit our Gardens


You’ve heard all about the decline of pollinators across our country. You know the facts about why pollinators are important. Without pollinators, we don’t eat. It’s estimated that one in three bites of our food is linked to the work of animal pollinators. It’s also estimated that 75% of all plant species depend on animal pollinators to move pollen from plant to plant.

You’ve planted the plants that attract and feed pollinators. Your garden is full of plants like butterfly bushes, Echinacea, parsley and fennel. You’re sure the pollinators love your gardens. You’ve seen them hanging around. But what do you know about them? Who’s really visiting your gardens?

Butterflies vs. Moths 

Let’s start with butterflies and moths. They steal the show with all their beautiful colors and graceful flitting from plant to plant. But are you looking at a butterfly or a moth? Do you know how to tell the difference?


How to Be Successful Planting Herbs in Pots

I love planting herbs in pots. It allows me to fill gaps in my garden and take care of special herbs that may require a little effort. It's also great for herbs, such as Scented Geraniums and Rosemary, that don't overwinter in my region. This way I can acclimate them and move them into the house before the first frost.

I recently wrote a post, 5 Tips for Successfully Planting Herbs in Pots, for Countryside Network which includes Backyard Poultry magazine and Countryside magazine. Below are three of my five tips. You'll have to click through for the rest!

1. Pick out plants with similar requirements. Herbs aren't picky plants, but like everything, they do have some requirements to make them happy and healthy. So, it's good to look at the sun, soil and water needs for the plants you'd like to grow. Then group them accordingly so their companions have similar requirements and place your pots where those needs will be met. For instance, don't put shade-loving herbs out in full sun and vice versa.


Using Rosemary in your House and your Chicken Coop

Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs. It's known for remembrance, and in my house, it's hard to forget this plant. A native of the Mediterranean, it's name means "sea-dew" since it's blossoms have a dew-like appearance. Living in a northern clime, my rosemary plants make great potted herbs and live happily in my house through the winter.

Using Rosemary in the Chicken Coop


Rosemary has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Plus it's great for repelling insects. In my coop, I like to hang it in bundles and make it into an insect spray. I mix some rosemary essential oil with water and spray it all over.

This year we had a swarm of bee-like flies that just wouldn't leave our coop. It was early spring and I had just gotten new plants. Once I hung my rosemary bundles and used fly spray, the flies were gone and haven't come back.

If you have space and/or live in a southern clime, you can plant rosemary near the coop to repel pests.

I also add rosemary to my chicken's nest boxes. Not only does it keep insects at bay, but it also calms my hens as they're laying.




What to Feed Chickens for a Balanced Diet

You come home from the farm store with some chicks and a bag of starter feed. But do you know what to feed chickens for a balanced diet? Should you use medicated or non-medicated starter feed? What should you give laying hens as they mature? And what about treats; are they allowed?

Find out more in my latest post for CountrysideNetwork.



My flock with a morning treat of mealworms.

How to Dye Backyard Chicken Eggs For Easter

My latest post for Countryside Network , which includes Backyard Poultry magazine, shows just how beautiful different colored eggs from your backyard flock take to dyeing for Easter. These methods require nothing more complicated than food dye. Learn how to make solid color eggs and then kick it up a notch by marbling and tie dying. Have fun! I know you'll enjoy these methods and the beautiful results they produce.


How to Care for a Shamrock Plant

I love St. Patrick's Day in our house. It's a jovial holiday and always a sign that spring is coming. A few years ago I purchased some shamrock plants for the holiday and have found them to be wonderful easy-to-care-for house plants. In my post for Countryside Daily I explore the legends and lore of St. Patrick's Day and the shamrock plant plus how to make your shamrock plant happy and healthy.

Did you know?

  • St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland.
  • St. Patrick used the shamrock as a symbol to explain his faith - the Holy Trinity of three Gods in one. 
  • The shamrock is a registered trademark of the Government of Ireland.
  • The shamrock is in the Coat of Arms for the United Kingdom along with the thistle and the rose. 


This beautiful house plant stays compact and, in my house, blooms year-round. My two shamrock plants live happily through the cold parts of the year in an east facing window that gets morning sunlight. In the summer I move them outside to a bright, but partially shaded, deck. 

A Few Quick Tips
  • Shamrocks naturally close their leaves at night and then reopen them in the morning. 
  • Water your shamrock plant only when it gets dry.
  • Shamrock plants are a bulb. Many people let them die back and give them a rest before regrowing again. 
  • You can water shamrock plants at the base of their stems and in a saucer under their pot. That keeps the tender leaves and flowers from being hurt. 


Be sure to click through for more information on the shamrock plant. A compact and beautiful harbinger of spring. 

7 Tips for Successfully Buying Chicks From the Feed Store

Whether You're Starting a Backyard Chicken Flock or Adding to it, Make Sure You're Prepared


For a few months each spring, when you walk into your local feed store, you're greeted to the chorus of tiny chicken chirps as the annual chick season tempts so many shoppers. If you're not sure of where to buy baby chicks, this is a great place to pick up your first flock members or add to your existing flock of backyard chickens. It's local. It's immediate. And it's fun.

Here are some tips to make the process easier on you and your new flock members.



1. Stay in touch with your local feed store.

Whether you're raising chickens for eggs, for meat or for both, backyard chicken keeping is more popular than ever. So, don't assume your local feed store will always have chicks on hand in the spring. There are tons of stories of people going to the feed store only to find a sold out sign and lights out on the brooders. Plus, it's good to get your chicks as soon as possible so they're not exposed to outside factors for a long time and you can start bonding with them quickly. Your feed store placed orders for their chicks many months to even a year before they appear in the store. So, don't be afraid to call ahead and ask when chicks will be available. Store representatives will know the answer and you can plan ahead.

2. Have your supplies on hand or buy them as you're buying your birds.

If this is your first flock, it's good to have your supplies on hand and take some time to get acquainted with your set up before your chicks arrive. That familiarity will definitely increase your chances for success. If you're a veteran chicken owner, then you usually have everything you need on hand and it's just a matter of getting it all from storage and set up. So, you have a little more wiggle room to make an on-the-spot purchase. But, either way, don't forget to add a bag of food to your cart!

3.  Know your backyard chicken terms.

At the feed store, you'll likely find brooders marked with the terms straight run or pullets. You've got to know what those terms mean because it makes a big difference in what you'll be taking home. Straight run means that none of the chicks are sexed so there are definitely males and females in that brooder. Pullets are female chickens.

4. Pick out the healthiest chicks. 

This is important because once you take your chicks out the door, you have to deal with any health issues they may have. Normally there are no returns when you buy chicks. With that said, at least in my area, I normally see healthy chicks in the feed store brooders.

Here are some signs of a healthy chick: active, alert, eating and drinking. Look to make sure your chicks don't have scissored beaks and that their legs are straight and facing forward, not splayed. You will see chicks that are sleeping and sometimes a sleeping chick is so comfortable it spreads out for a good snooze. Don't confuse sleeping with sick. A sick chick will stand and sway with its eyes closed. It may be isolated from the others. And it will be limp if it's picked up.



5. Be aware there could be roosters in your box.

Hatcheries readily admit they are not 100% with their sexing. And, at the feed store, many times people are picking up chicks and then sitting them down in the brooders. Sometimes they don't get put down in the right brooders and a chick from the straight run brooder ends up in the pullet brooder. This happens easily if they have a straight run and pullet bin with the same type of chicken like Buff Orpingtons. All the chicks look the same and it's easy to make a mistake.

6. Don't miss out on breeds you really want.

If you have chicken breeds you really want, you don't have to settle for what's at the feed store at the moment. If you call the feed store ahead of time, you can often piggy-back on their order and add in your own special order.

7. Make your chicks comfortable for the ride home. 

I see so many people just plop their chicks in the take home box and head out the feed store door. I don't like to do this. I either bring a baggy of wood chips with me or ask the store personnel to add some wood chips to the bottom of my box before they add my chicks. This makes the box warmer and it helps keep the chicks from slipping on the cardboard surface. Plus it keeps them cleaner since the wood chips will absorb any poop vs. having it smear on the cardboard. Also, it's a good idea to get your car warm so you can pop right out the feed store door and into a comfortable climate for the chicks.

Wildlife Wednesday: Hornet Nests Decorate Trees this Time of Year

Bald-Faced Hornet Nests Have a Story to Tell

Through most of the year, hornet nests are barely visible tucked in trees with leaves surrounding them. But in winter, hornet nests are easily found and fascinating structures that can be safely explored without fear of repercussion. Around my neck of the woods bald-faced hornets make beautiful, tear drop shaped nests that provide a home base for the colony from spring to late fall.



Bald-faced hornets are actually not true hornets, they are a member of the yellowjacket wasp family although they are less aggressive than yellowjackets themselves. Their colonies consist of a queen and worker wasps and number anywhere from 400 to 700 members. The bald-faced hornet is mainly black in color with white on its face, thus giving it its name, and three white stripes on the abdomen.

Their nests on the inside consist of hexagonal combs where the larvae are raised. Those combs are covered in thin paper strips. The interesting thing about these strips is they are actually made by the workers going out and chewing wood fibers then mixing them with saliva to form a pulp which they work into thin strips with their mandibles and legs. If you look closely at a nest, you'll see differences in the color and texture of the paper strips. That's caused because the pulp used to build the nest comes from many different local sources. Each different tree, bush or plant used creates a different color and texture.



These hornets can be found throughout the country. They start their nests around March to May depending on their location. The nests are generally active for around five months, again depending on the weather and location. During the active phase, new eggs are laid and hatched, the larvae are raised and they become adults. In late summer or early fall, the queen lays a special set of eggs which become drones and queens. This group flies away from the nest to mate and then they overwinter in forest leaf litter. The rest of the colony and its queen die before the first frost hits. But those that overwinter will wake up in spring and start colonies of their own.



Oops! Black Australorp on Wrong Perch

Hen Missing from the Chicken Coop is Found in Nearby Tree

Somehow during her nightly trip to the chicken coop, Rowena our Black Australorp, got waylaid. (Our chickens roam throughout the day, and put themselves into their coop at night.) When my husband went to shut the chickens in for the night, he only counted 14; we were missing one! He quickly called me for reinforcements in the form of flashlights. We determined it was Rowena missing; darn our luck, she's black and it was dark outside. Luckily though, a scan of the trees in our backyard found her happily perched in the Redbud tree next to our deck. Even luckier, she wasn't perched that high, After some creative maneuvering, my husband was able to reach up and get her. We gently returned her to the coop and she settled onto the roost for the night, no worse for the wear.

You may have guessed, my kids had inspiration in naming Rowena from the Harry Potter movies. And I would be remiss to say that just like the members of Ravenclaw House are known for their wit and intelligence, our Rowena Ravenclaw definitely has those qualities. When she got out of her routine and found herself in the dark and without a coop, she had enough wit to find a safe perch and she was prepared to hang in until morning! (Luckily it didn't come to that.)

Rowena, the Black Australorp, perched in the Redbud tree by our deck.

Black Australorp Breed Qualities


Black Australorps are beautiful, docile chickens that make a great addition to any flock. They have all black glossy feathers that are especially pretty when the sun hits them just right and the feathers take on a green sheen. Black Australorps are great producers of brown eggs. In fact, a Black Australorp holds the egg laying record for laying 364 eggs in 365 days. Black Australorps endure heat and cold well and continue laying through the seasons. This is considered a dual-purpose bird that matures quickly and can be kept for both eggs and meat. Males weigh 8.5 lbs. and females weigh 6.5 lbs.

Class: English
Origin: Australia
Comb Type: Single
Egg Color: Brown
Egg Size: Large
Egg Production: Excellent
Broody: Yes
Hardiness: Heat and Cold Hardy
Temperament: Active yet Gentle
Environment: Confinement or Free Range
Characteristics: Productive and Fast Growing
Breed Status: Recovering
(Sources: Meyer Hatchery & The Livestock Conservancy)


Originally published July 2011.
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