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 licensed 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.

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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