2014 - A Year In Pictures

A look back at 2014 in pictures; a year filled with tons of chicken fun, the loss of Hoppy our Partridge Cochin, the rise of Hank the rooster to flock leader and much more!

Here's to a wonderful 2015!

How To Make Christmas Ornaments From Eggs

With all the beautifully colored eggs we have from our backyard flocks, why not take a few and turn them into Christmas ornaments. I made these ornaments for a post at Backyard Poultry Magazine. They require little crafting skill and are a great way to salvage eggs you're using for holiday baking.

To start, instead of cracking eggs into your holiday baking bowls, blow them out. Then rinse the interior of your eggs and let them dry. The blown out eggs will be the base for your project.
Take a few empty eggs and gently crack them into pieces. I find it easiest to remove the inner membrane while I'm doing this, otherwise you have to pick it off each piece.

Grab some craft glue and randomly glue the broken pieces onto your base egg. Just make sure to leave the holes open where you blew out the egg. (If the holes are too large or unsightly, you can fix them by strategically gluing a few pieces around the hole.) I like to mix egg colors so they are contrasting.

Three possible color combinations

Brown egg base - glue white and green pieces,
Green egg base - glue brown and white pieces;
White egg base - glue brown and green pieces.

Once everything's glued and dry, you can string some raffia through the blown out holes tying the top so it forms a hanger and the bottom so some decorative strands are left hanging.

Then, hang your one-of-a-kind ornaments on your tree and enjoy! 

How To Make Christmas Burlap Ornaments

I recently wrote about making Christmas ornaments out of burlap and twine for Laura's Lean Beef and thought it would be fun to share.....

I had some extra burlap left over from making my burlap wreath last fall and I gathered some inspiration from a shopping trip in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. So, I made my own burlap and twine ornaments that lend a rustic look to my Christmas tree.

These ornaments don’t require much craftiness, but they do require a little patience since they don’t look great until the end.

Here’s what you’ll need:
Round glass ornaments,
Craft Glue,
Twine &

First, you’ll need to cover your ornament with burlap. Since the ornament is round, this can be a little tough, so I cut mine into a few pieces and glued them to the ornament. I didn't want the edges to be raised and look horrible. So, I spread some glue along all the cut edges to give a more uniform look. 

Once the burlap is dry, then it’s time to wrap the ornament in twine. This doesn’t require any skill and can take on any look you’d like. I wrapped mine randomly to give it a rustic appearance. You don’t have to completely glue the twine to the ornament, but I found it’s best to glue it as much as possible. This prevents those pieces from slipping when the ornament is handled. 

Once all that is dry; and frankly, waiting for things to dry is the hardest part! Then you need to mix some craft glue with a little water; just enough to make it runny, and spread that mixture all over the ornament. Sprinkle quickly with glitter before the glue starts to harden.

After that dries, you’re left with a sparkly and rustic ornament that can be enjoyed for years to come. Oh, and don’t be afraid to use any colors of burlap, twine and glitter that you’d like. That’s what makes it unique!

Seasonal Saturday: Lebanon Horse Drawn Carriage Parade

'Tis the season for weekend holiday events and this is one of my favorites. The Lebanon Horse Drawn Carriage Parade! Held the first Saturday in December, it's almost always cold and sometimes snowy or rainy, but it's worth it. The old time carriages, led by teams of beautiful horses, are a sight to behold. It puts me in the Christmas spirit and is just plain fun. Here's to next year's parade on December 5, 2015!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing everyone a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Thanks For My Flock

At Backyard Poultry Magazine, I was asked to write about what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving. So, below are the thoughts I shared. I hope you like them and wish you a wonderful holiday!

I am thankful for my gift of a Canon Digital SLR last Christmas. It's so much fun and I've enjoyed taking pictures with it over the last year. In fact, the beautiful Royal Palm Turkey below was photographed during a fall farm tour. 

I am thankful, amazingly, for Hank the rooster. (Pictured below.) He came to our flock unexpectedly and has turned into a great addition. He roosts at night right next to Red and Big Muff and he falls asleep with his wings covering them. Too cute! He is a vigilant protector of his ladies and is always keeping a curious eye out. He even lets the hens go first when it comes to getting the best spot in the dust bath. Who could ask for more!

Finally, I am thankful for my husband and kids. My husband is my chicken coop carpenter and I'm thankful for his willingness to try. Building on a hillside is daunting! And my kids; they give me so much pleasure as I watch them interacting with our flock. They bring a youthful joy and perspective to everything!

Chickens Taking A Dust Bath

Hank the rooster and a few of his hens are enjoying dust baths before the polar vortex takes over this part of the country.

I have to say, I love watching Hank with the hens. He's quite the protector and the gentleman. He lets them get comfy in the dirt before he gets in there with him. 

But once they're all finished, it's his time to bathe!

Molting Exposes A Chicken's Preen Gland

Because my chickens are so fluffy, I don't usually get a glimpse of the uropygial gland or preen gland that's located near the base of the tail. It's normally hidden under feathers, but molting can expose it. The uropygial gland produces the oil that chickens use when preening their feathers. I recently wrote a post about this gland for BackyardPoultryMag.com. In my post, I used a reader picture. The pictures below, however, are provided courtesy of Kate our Buff Orpington who is currently molting.

You can see the oil at the base of this gland. My kids think it looks like the tip of a baby bottle, which is exactly what it's like. Chickens move the oil up with their beaks and spread it during preening.

Molting is most often triggered by short day lengths and is a lot like house cats and dogs shedding their hair to prepare for the coming seasons. Molting starts at the head and neck and moves toward the tail.

So, if your chickens are in mid-molt, you may want to take a look and see if you can find their preen gland. It will be easier to see now than ever!

I Found Chickens And More On My Farm Tour

I had a great time on a recent farm tour in Northern Kentucky and submitted photos for a Backyard Poultry Magazine blog post.

 By the way, the one below was taken by my daughter. Pretty Good!

Wildlife Wednesdays: Dusty Spider Webs

I couldn't resist this picture of dusty spider webs in an old barn since it's almost time for Halloween. Spooky and beautiful at the same time!

When A Chicken Lays A Lash Egg

Ever heard of a lash egg? Odds are you probably haven’t. It’s an uncommon condition that I came across this week through Backyard Poultry Magazine's Ask the Expert service and had to share. Continue Reading...

Wildlife Wednesdays: Lunar Eclipse & Weird Fall Weather

A rare total lunar eclipse, where the sun, moon and earth were perfectly aligned, occurred in the wee hours of the morning today causing a blood moon.

Fall weather is always a little unpredictable in my neck of the woods. The day before last, we had thunderstorms with lots of hail. This picture shows, in places, it was piled up over an inch!

Wildlife Wednesdays: Removing Ash Trees

I hoped it wouldn't happen, but over the summer, we found a few Emerald Ash Borers dead in our pool. Our once beautiful ash trees started to lose their leaves. And then it was time. Our trees were dead and had to be removed so they didn't cause harm to any existing structures.

You can see the tunnels made by the Emerald Ash Borers in the picture above. Eventually the trees couldn't get any food or water.

 Doesn't look too big, right? Check out the pictures below!

How do Chickens Drink?

We were watching our friendly chicken, Red, drink and my kids asked me “do chickens have saliva, how do they really drink?” I thought about this for a moment, because I love to watch our chickens drink. It’s comical to watch them dip their beaks into the water and then tip their heads back. But as I really thought about this, I wondered if I actually knew the right answer to these questions. So, I decided to do some research. And what shocked me most was that a quick perusal of the internet showed that many other people don’t know the answer either.
At heart, these innocent questions are really more involved than you’d think. Chickens are, after all, a part of our wonderful world of birds, having originated from their wild jungle fowl counterparts. When you look at the bird world, there are lots of different ways that birds drink. It’s not standard, like with mammals.

For instance, it has long been thought that hummingbirds suck nectar through their long tongue using it like a straw. Recent research reveals that hummingbirds actually lap nectar. They have a forked tongue that has hair-like extensions that pull in the nectar. When they pull their tongue back, the nectar goes down their throat.
Pigeons, on the other hand, have a type of pumping mechanism that sucks liquid up into their throats.

So what about chickens?

For this answer, I turned to the University of Kentucky’s Cooperative Extension Service; they’ve done a great job laying out the digestive system of a chicken. So, here’s the answer to the first question. Yes, chickens do have salivary glands. Since chickens don’t have teeth, they can’t chew their food. The salivary glands do the work of teeth by wetting the food to make it easy to swallow. And their saliva has a special enzyme that starts the digestion of the food immediately.  Like us, the chicken uses its tongue to push the wet food to the back of its mouth where it can be swallowed.
The answer to the second question is interesting because chickens don’t use a similar process to swallow. A chicken’s tongue, while effective for pushing food back, is not effective for pushing water back. When we swallow, we close our mouths and let our throat do the work. A chicken has to open and close its mouth rapidly while it tilts its head up to get the water to go down its throat. Also, I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but chickens have a hole in the roof of their mouth. This is called the choana and it connects to the nasal passages. As the chicken swallows, the choana closes so that water doesn’t come out the nose.

So, next time you watch your chickens drink, you’ll know exactly how the process works. Plus, now my kids have, I’m sure, a much longer answer to their questions than they ever wanted.

Originally posted at Backyard Poultry Magazine.

Chicken Statues & The Great Chicken Fry Off!

We recently took a day trip and happened upon the rural town of Brookville, Indiana and its chicken trail. It’s something you can’t miss. As you come into town there is a big painted statue of a rooster with a wrap around its base proclaiming a Guinness World Records award for the world’s largest serving of fried chicken by the Canoefest Fryer’s Club – 1645 pounds! Apparently they cooked up this culinary masterpiece in 2010 and served it in an Osagian canoe. Yes, it’s gitche but cool.
It turns out that each year this town of approximately 2,500 people puts on Indiana’s largest canoe race; Canoefest. As part of this event, fried chicken is served in abundance; in fact, there’s a competitive event that’s hailed as “The Great Chicken Fry Off.”

Originally, painted chicken statues were displayed throughout the town as an event advertisement. But, they were never taken down and have become a part of Brookville’s everyday culture. They even dress up the statues at Christmas.

My family enjoyed strolling the main street and seeing statues of chickens proudly displayed everywhere. They’re in front of local businesses and the town library. There’s even a 28-foot tall painted rooster sign in front of the Liberty Bell Restaurant.

So, if you’re ever near this town that boasts a beautiful lake and State parks that are nationally known as a tourist spot, stop in and take a look at all the chicken statues. It’s just something you don’t see every day. Oh, and Canoefest is on June 27 – 28 this year!

Originally posted at Backyard Poultry Magazine.

Warm Thoughts

Pictures from a day at the beach on Lake Michigan. A warm thought for a cold day like this.

Ordering Chicken Catalogs Beats the Winter Blues

I know it’s cold outside right now and with the recent extreme weather we’re focused on making sure our chickens survive. But, the good news is that it won’t be cold forever. Spring will come. And when it does, we need to be prepared.

Just as gardeners hunker down over the winter months and pour through seed and plant catalogs, we chicken lovers can do the same. In fact, I’d encourage it.

For one, catalogs are free. And, they’re loaded with tons of information. In fact, I keep mine all year for quick reference. Whether you’re looking for fertile eggs to hatch, day-old-chicks or supplies for your existing flock, it’s all there. In many cases, I’d say catalogs are just as valuable as books. For example, if you’re looking to add to your flock, you can read books that include breed descriptions. And, then you have to do twice the work by finding what breeders offer and when. Why not just do it all at once? Let’s face it, breeders know exactly what they’re selling and they let you know in a succinct description complete with prices and availability.

Also, catalogs are a great way to spot new supplies that can make your chicken keeping easier. For instance, did you know about the new drip watering systems that claim to waste less water or the myriad of predator protection systems available? Are you in the market for a new coop or do you need some new nest boxes? It’s all there and, in many cases, is quality tested to insure customer satisfaction.

Below are a few suggestions for catalogs you can order online. And, if you’re impatient, many can be immediately downloaded while you wait for your paper copy to arrive.

So, get ordering and start dreaming, because spring will be here before you know it!
Murray McMurray Hatchery

Mt. Healthy Hatchery
Originally posted at Backyard Poultry Magazine.

Red, our Friendly New Hampshire Hen

We have a three-year-old New Hampshire hen affectionately named “Red” since she’s so red she’s often mistaken for a Rhode Island Red. She has always been friendly, affectionate and curious. And, she loves to be with her “family.” So, it’s really no surprise what this clever chicken has come up with to visit us on HER terms. Plus, we humans are such suckers, that Red even gets special treats for this behavior.

First and foremost, Red is a backyard chicken. This, by no means, confines her. She lives in a huge fenced yard on 13 acres. She’s got plenty of room to roam. But, this is not enough for Red. Her biggest wish is to hang out by our side stoop and ravage the small garden we have planted there and then come inside our house to say “hi.”

Here’s how it works. Red flies over our backyard fence; sometimes at great peril as she’s a large chicken and her flying isn’t graceful. In fact, she’s just getting over a hurt leg from performing this trick. Then she meanders around the house to the stoop garden. There she revels in picking through all of our mulch to find the tastiest bugs. (Apparently, they taste better in the front of the house where every guest can see the mess that Red makes.) Then, she hops up on our steps and “yells” at the top of her lungs until someone notices her.

This is where we humans make a mistake that keeps this behavior going; but it’s really cute! We open the door and Red comes strolling into our mud room. (Thank goodness the floor is tiled so it’s easy to clean.) It’s hilarious to watch her since she’s very regal as she walks in with her head high and looking from side to side. Nothing deters her, not the dog or cats. She then strolls over to the dog’s crate and starts to drink from the water bowl and we give her treats. Usually it’s whatever we have on hand; bread, crackers, even cat food. After she’s done, we carry her through the garage and deposit her with her flock in her proper place; the backyard.

The human Red likes to visit best is my husband. One day he was working from home and was on the phone with a client. I heard Red at the door but couldn’t get there in time. I thought she just gave up and went to the backyard when I heard some loud squawking from outside our bedroom window. It turns out; Red heard my husband on the phone in our bedroom and decided since I had ignored her, she was going to try another tactic. And, sure enough, when my husband got off the phone, Red ran straight to the stoop door.

Thankfully, she doesn’t do this every day; although some days she does it over and over. She’s got food, water, treats and room to roam in the backyard, so this doesn’t have anything to do with basic needs. I think she likes her treats and she likes her people peeps!

Why Chickens Peck Each Other

A recent post for Backyard Poultry Magazine....

After Little Muff's pecking, I was curious about why chickens peck each other. I'd always known this could be a problem, but had never experienced it.

First, it's important to say that chicken pecking is not always bad. Chickens will peck each other as a normal and important form of communication. This pecking is gentle; in fact the feathers are rarely disturbed. This is a way the chickens "check out" each other and establish the "pecking order" that rules how a flock functions.

If you start to find chickens with lots of feathers pulled out on the back, wings, base of tail and sides of body, and it's not molting season, then you know you've got a problem. There can be many reasons for this type of pecking, but it's important to note that it is not considered aggressive. Self plucking because of an infestation of mites, lice or other irritants; overcrowding and overheating and a lack of protein can cause this behavior.

Also, chickens are curious and sometimes pecking accidentally draws blood. This can send chickens into a frenzy and the results can be bad.
In Little Muff's case, she was the victim of what is called aggressive pecking. This type of pecking occurs exclusively at the top of the head or comb and requires a chicken keeper to go beyond initial triage and rehabilitation. For Little Muff, she has always been at the bottom of the pecking order. She's a beautiful Ameracauna, but she gets a little spastic, and I personally think the other chickens get tired of her weird behavior.
But, before we added our red sex links and our unexpected rooster last year, we had never had aggressive behavior in our flock even with Little Muff around. And, now that our two hatched roosters have matured, things have escalated. I truly believe our new roosters ganged up on Little Muff and almost killed her.

Since Little Muff has been away from the flock for so long while healing, I don't feel like I can safely reintroduce her. She has very little protection on her head and likely will not survive any more incidents. So, she's probably getting her own coop and run and hay have a friendly chicken or two come and join her. Then, I truly think we need to remove the aggressors. This behavior will continue if left unchecked. I think we need to find new homes for our roosters, at least the two new guys. We've asked some folks if they'd like a rooster and haven't had much luck. So, it may end up that the roosters become dinner. In that case, we'll be thankful for the wonderful food. And, I think the flock will be thankful for the reprieve.

 Originally posted at Backyard Poultry Magazine.
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