Snow on a Texas Flock February 2, 2017 No Comments

Like many of us with backyard flocks, I’ve been anxiously tracking the forecast. In Texas we don’t get much snow, but our temperatures can drop low! I had been hearing all week that the snow and ice would miss us, so I wasn’t expecting much outside of freezing temperatures. Little did I know there would soon be snow for my Texas flock!

Snow on a Texas flock

Snow in Texas? What should I do to prepare my Texas flock.

For that reason—and in true procrastinator form—I waited until the day before the cold front hit to winterize my coop and prepare my Texas flock. In my over-sized jacket, I grabbed a tarp, zip ties, and duct tape. My coop wasn’t going to pretty, but it was going to be warm!

When cold weather comes, I usually surround the exterior of my run with tarps so that wind can’t whip through the hardware mesh. Since right now I have young juveniles who stay in the coop, I decided to wrap up the coop portion instead.

Wrapping a tarp around the coop

I built the coop myself, and while I’m proud of my ingenuity, I didn’t do a great job with making it draft free. There are significant gaps between the planks on the walls that needed to be covered.

My egg door was going to be a problem due to the large gaps between the planks of wood, so I folded a large trash sack and duct taped it over the door (I told you it wasn’t going to be pretty).

With numb fingers, I headed back inside.

I woke up in the morning to the freezing temperatures I expected, and ran out to the coop to check on my birds. They were all safe inside the coop! The waterer had iced over so cleaned it out and refilled it.

Every year I debate buying a warmer for the waterers, but the temperatures always rise before I make the purchase. Thanks to my indecision, I got to pick ice out of the waterer with my fingers, brrr!  I can say that next year I’ll be more responsible, but the odds are not in my favor!

Chicken in snow

Snow on a Texas Flock

As the day progressed snow started to lightly coat the ground. Snow on my Texas flock!

Every hour or so I would venture out to check on my flock and their waterers. My tarp held up, so no wind or snow made it into the coop! I moved my computer by the window and enjoyed watching the snow fall while I answered my emails.

It was too cold for my Chick Pack juveniles to play in the snow, but my older girls loved it! I don’t force them outside when it’s cold, but I leave the door open and let them venture out if they feel up to it.

To those of you who live with constant freezing temperatures, my hat is off to you! May you and your flocks stay warm this season. Thanks to the crazy Texas weather, we will be back to 70 degree weather in a week.

Decorating Blown Eggs–and Giveaway! January 25, 2017 28 Comments

Decorating eggs can be year-round fun—and decorating blown eggs means you can keep your egg art in the long term.

Decorating blown eggs: steps

Blowing and decorating eggs is super easy!

Decorating blown eggs is a great project for all ages and abilities. With a simple and inexpensive egg blowing tool and some art supplies, you can enjoy year round crafts with your chickens’ eggs.  You’ll also be enjoying lots of quiche, scrambled eggs, frittatas… Yum!

And we want to encourage you by giving away three of our one-hole egg blowers. (We’ve also put this on sale for our readers if you’re not lucky enough to win!) Read on to see how to win a blown egg tool for your decorating project.

How-To: Decorating Blown Eggs

1 . Select the eggs you’ll use. 

You may use a variety of chicken, duck, turkey, or quail eggs. When choosing your eggs to decorate, it’s fun to play around with different colors and sizes.

img_0608

Using different colored eggs adds to the fun of the project

A large blue egg from a Super Blue Egg Layer can make a nice backdrop for a painted flower. Speckled eggs are my favorite to decorate with, although any shape or color is fine to use. Read the rest of this entry »

Small flock guidelines for FDA’s new rules January 22, 2017 No Comments

If you keep chickens and haven’t yet heard about the FDA’s recent rules and standards changes please take a moment to read them. In this post, we’ll provide some small flock guidelines and reminders to help you understand what this means for your pet chickens.

New rules set in place for increased food safety and security have changed the accessibility  of many medications for your backyard chickens. Previously, you might go to your local farm and feed store to pick up antibiotics, but now, a licensed veterinarian is required to diagnose your chicken/s and prescribe antibiotics for your flock.

Small flock guidelines: pictured, a small flock

My small flock

The changes and rules that make it easier for factory farms, now present challenges to small farms as well as people who keep pet chickens in microflocks. Veterinarians who see poultry are not easy to find in many locations.  Many small flock owners are now realizing they may not have a vet service to go to in case of flock illness. So what to do if your flock becomes sick?

Before we get to the small flock guidelines, keep in mind your flock may never have a need for a vet visit. And there are lots of great ways to be proactive in keeping your flock healthy. My Pet Chicken provides wonderful information—for free—to help keep a healthy flock going strong.

There are also medications available you can get without a licensed vet—be sure to read the directive at the link above. But there are also things you can do to increase biosecurity and improve the healthfulness of your flock’s environment.

Small Flock Guidelines for the new FDA Rules

1. Boost Immune Health:

The first of our small flock guidelines involves providing immune supplements. Do your research, and choose your favorite. I’m a multipurpose girl myself; I don’t like to bog down my flocks’ diet with so many different supplements. My personal favorite supplement for immune health is the RoPa Poultry Oregano Oil Complete. This product goes into your chickens’ waterer on a daily basis. It builds gut flora health and helps reduce the need for antibiotics, among other things.

small flock guidelines: boost immune health with supplements like ROPA (pictured)

2. Practice Good Biosecurity:

Simple biosecurity procedures can make a world of difference for you and your flock. We suggest you read our detailed biosecurity guidelines.  But generally speaking, you should try to be aware of the risks of cross contamination. Don’t share equipment and don’t take used equipment from other people. It’s best to buy new items and deep clean them as often as possible. And reduce risks as much as possible. Keep wildlife out of your birds’ area, and don’t let your dear friends with chickens wander through your coop/run area. Bacteria, fungal spores, viruses can all hitch a ride on their clothes or shoes.

At MPC we practice what we preach: I personally have a pair of shoes I use specifically to wear out with the chickens when we’re feeding and cleaning. I don’t wear the chicken shoes to my friends’ homes. And I use an aviary netting around my chicken fencing to keep out wild birds. Since we do a lot to keep the large predators away, it makes sense to do our best to keep the disease and pathogen carriers out of the coop and run areas as well.

small flock guidelines: pictured, aviary netting

3. Create a List of Emergency Contacts NOW:

It’s a good time to identify the nearest vet that will see chickens—before you need one. Get that phone number on file.

If your search for a vet has turned up empty, we suggest reaching out to your local county extension office to ask their advice. They have many good contacts in their system to share with you. They may even have classes, or provide local warnings and advisories as to agricultural concerns in your area. You can also consider reaching out to any agricultural or veterinary school in your area to see if they have resources available.

Of course it doesn’t hurt to have a good reference book or two for your library. The My Pet Chicken Handbook is great to have on hand because in addition to care, tips, recipes and so on, it has a section explaining how to make the determination if something you’re seeing warrants a vet visit. For information about symptoms and overviews of specific illnesses, you can visit the Health category of the Help Topics section of our website.  The Chicken Health Handbook is also a valuable reference on this subject.

My Pet Chicken wishes you and your flock the best health possible and a happy 2017!

Salt-Cured Eggs January 20, 2017 2 Comments

I am always excited to try a new egg recipe, and I thought I’d share this easy recipe for salt-cured eggs with you, too.

Salt-cured egg yolks are solid, dry cured discs that can be used grated, sliced, or crumbled, almost like a cheese. They add a salted creamy flavor to any dish. It’s simple to do and will make any dish seem gourmet!  So don’t let those egg yolks go to waste.

How to make salt-cured eggs

Salt-cured eggs  are easy and delicious!

How To Make Salt-Cured Eggs

Step 1: Select the eggs you’ll use.

You may choose any size chicken eggs. For this recipe, I used eggs from my Svart Hona, Pippi, which tend to be on the smaller side. It’s important to remember that the larger the yolk you use, the longer it will take to cure. You can see on our website how to cook with different-sized eggs such as you might get from your backyard flock.

eggs for use in making salt-cured egg yolks

Cream Svart Hona eggs.

Step 2: Salt-cure the egg yolks

Combine equal parts salt and sugar. I use 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of sugar to cure four eggs in an 8×8 inch glass baking dish. You may also add different dried herbs such as basil, rosemary, or thyme for an additional flavor.

egg yolks placed in salt-sugar mixture for curing

Egg yolks placed in the salt-sugar mixture.

Spread mixture evenly in the dish and make small indents for the egg yolks to rest in. Separate the egg yolks from the whites, being careful not to break them and place one yolk in each indent. Cover yolks completely with salt/sugar mixture. Then, cover tightly with plastic wrap, refrigerate for 4-7 days. During the next 4 to 7 days the salt helps dry out the yolks, and will also kill the bacteria that makes food spoil, while the sugar will feed lactobacillus (a good bacteria you might find in yogurt or kimchi).

Step 3: Rinse the salt-cured eggs.

After the 7th day, you are now ready to remove the yolks from their salt-sugar mixture. Brush remaining salt-sugar mixture off yolks and gently run under cold water until all of the salt-sugar mixture is removed.

salt-cured egg yolks before final drying

The yolks should look similar to this once rinsed off carefully.

Step 4: Complete the final drying of the salt cured eggs.

You will now need to pat off any excess moisture with a paper towel. Then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 150 degrees for 2 hours. You may also place in a dehydrator for a couple hours. Once done, the salt cured egg yolks are a perfect consistency for grating and crumbling!

salt cured egg yolks

Grated and crumbled salt cured egg yolks.

Step 5: Enjoy!

The possibilities of this garnish are endless! The yolks will taste great crumbled, grated or sliced over many dishes.  The yolks will stay fresh in a sealed container for up to three months.

One of the many reasons salt cured eggs appealed to me is that you can use them on so many different dishes. So far I have enjoyed it on salads, pasta, crumbled on roasted vegetables, and soups.

salt cured eggs on a salad

A fresh salad with grated salt cured egg yolk on top.

Have you made salt cured egg yolks before? What is your favorite dish to use them on? Tell us in the comments below.

 

The First Favaucana Dozen December 20, 2016 4 Comments

One of my goals with this year’s spring chick order was to add some color to my egg basket. Up until now, I’ve only had brown and cream egg layers. So the first bird on my wish list to help me accomplish this was My Pet Chicken’s exclusive Favaucana, with sage green eggs.

Two Favaucana eggs

These look a little blue in the photos, but IRL, they’re a sagey, minty green

Why Favaucanas? Because besides the plentiful sage green eggs that I was anticipating, the Favaucana chicken was everything I look for in a breed: they’re hardy, friendly, and docile. Also gorgeous!

I didn’t need to wait long for my Favaucana girls to produce eggs, either. My black Favaucana Maisy Read the rest of this entry »

MPC Folks and Their Flocks of Chickens November 18, 2016 No Comments

Whether you are new to My Pet Chicken, new to chickens, a chicken breeder, or an old pro, you’re probably very interested to learn about the flocks of other people as soon as you hear someone say they have chickens. Flock of chickens, you say? Tell me more!

Sometimes people ask me what I have because they want to compare flocks, and other times they ask me because they want an idea of what breeds I have and why I chose them. All chicken people eventually have this conversation with someone, and most of the MPC crew has this conversation daily!

For those who know us or want to get to know us, you can tell a lot about each of us by the flocks we keep. Here is your chance to meet MPC employees and their flocks that can tell you a lot about them!

I’ll start us off on this journey through the lives of the MPC family, and their feathered friends:


Shannon’s Flock of Chickens

I’m Shannon from North Carolina and I currently have a flock of 17 chickens. We keep ducks as well. Our chickens don’t free range as we seem to have a serious coyote problem.

My birds range in age (1 year to 9 years old) as I add a few every year. Occasionally we keep a rescue, hatch our own birds or buy directly from MPC. However, we do trade birds sometimes and rehome birds that just never seem to fit into the flock dynamics. We need to keep the peace.

Currently we have one rooster, a splash Olive Egger named Pongo, and a mix of bantams and standard breeds. Cochins are our absolute favorites. I fall for birds with fuzzy feet every time. The rest are a mix of silkies, cochins (standard and bantam), Olive Eggers,  Cuckoo Bluebar, Lavender Orpington, Welsummer and Black Copper Marans. We of course don’t stop with chickens. We keep ducks, a bunny, cats and our bird loving dog, Porsche.

Porsche protects her chicks

Porsche protects her chicks


 

Julie’s Flock of Chickens

I’m Julie and I have 5 chickens in my flock (but will be adding more as soon as I can!). I have…

Read the rest of this entry »

DIY Phoenix Feather Wand October 31, 2016 No Comments

We’re just a bit geeky over here and we’re especially fond of Harry Potter. My middle daughter wanted to be Hermione Granger for Halloween this year. We already had the robe and hat in the costume box, but she really needed a proper wand. What’s a witch without her wand?

Behold the power!

Behold the power!

We had a few magic wands hanging around, but she wanted something special and she whittled this wand herself using a butter knife on a stick from our yard. She absolutely loved it, but left it on the floor downstairs one night. I accidentally stepped on it and broke it in half. (In my defense, I was carrying a HUGE load of laundry and never saw it.)

materials for DIY phoenix feather wand

Oops.

I fessed up as soon as she woke up the next day and my dear, sweet child wasn’t angry at her mother. She decided that what her wand really needed was a special, magical core, just like a real wand and we settled on a Phoenix feather for her wand core.

Where does one get a Phoenix feather in this day and age? Why from our Easter Egger hen, Phoenix:

Meet Phoenix, our favorite Easter Egger

Meet Phoenix, our favorite Easter Egger

Of course, Hermione’s wand uses a dragon heart-string, but we weren’t able to find any dragons in time. Still, chickens are related to dinosaurs, so that’s close, right?

If you have a phoenix breed chicken, that would work, too. Or you can use something for your own unique core. For our wand, we were lucky! Chickens lose a lot of feathers this time of year, so Phoenix didn’t even miss it.

DIY Phoenix Feather Wand

I carefully drilled holes in either side of the wand:

Don't tell my husband I borrowed his drill

(Don’t tell my husband I borrowed his drill)

Added our Phoenix feather:

phoenix feather wand: adding the feather

Wonder how Ollivander does it?

Used my magic glue:

Gorilla Glue is magic

Gorilla Glue is magic

Abracadabra! A real (real?) Phoenix feather wand!

phoenix feather wand wielding witch!

“Hermione” with her phoenix feather wand

Saving the Flock from Hurricane Matthew October 28, 2016 2 Comments

Natural disasters are among most flock owners’ worst fears. Actually, they’re among our worst fears, whether we have a flock or not. They are sneaky, they surprise us with their intensity and power, and no matter how hard we try to prepare,  at some point anyone could be a victim of a natural disaster.

Recently Hurricane Matthew devastated many in the eastern United States and beyond. In fact, it hit home for some of our own My Pet Chicken customer service specialists, me included.

Matthew worked his way up the eastern coast wreaking havoc in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, finally hitting North Carolina before heading back out to sea.

Where I live in eastern North Carolina we expected about 5-inches of rain and a lot of wind, but by the time it reached us it was only a Category 1 hurricane. For my family, and many others in the state, we had no clue about the level of devastation that was coming. We prepared as usual, most of us having experience with strong winds and rain along with the usual flooding. On my property we’ve hit the highest recorded flood levels multiple times in the last few years, but we knew our animals were well outside the danger zone on high ground, so we battened down the hatches and prepared to enjoy some family time.

Saving the flock and the animals

On October 8th, 2016 Matthew hit us with pounding rain.

It was windy, but we have certainly seen worse. Power flickered some, but we were not particularly worried. Around 2pm I went outside to do another check on the animals. I had been out only a couple hours earlier and other than rain our swamp was pretty dry, there was no standing water. I had my cell phone out (y’all know you would have too!) getting some video because now, just 2 hours later, the water was nearly as high as we have ever seen it and getting higher as I watched.

I walked toward the poultry yard and was soon running; our rabbit hutches had water in them!

I ran in and grabbed the bunnies, glancing at the chickens as I did so. They were wet from rain but that was the extent. The silly birds seemed to think their bugs are better wet, but the ground wasn’t flooded in that area. But by the time I had the rabbits in a dog crate 10 minutes later the chicken yard was flooded.

My young birds were trying hard to keep their heads up as they started floating. Thankfully they still like their brooder house which has wheels and they were gathering inside. I grabbed the handle and ran for higher ground, pulling against the water that was getting deeper by the moment, finally getting them out and locking them in at the highest spot with our bucks. The older birds were trying to get on roosting bars in their coop but the wind had knocked open doors and windows and they kept getting blown off into the water which was quickly filling the coop. I grabbed legs, wings, whatever came within reach, running them to higher ground in groups of 3 or 4. The water was shin deep and I was barefoot; once I fell over debris I couldn’t see in the churning water, dousing myself and chickens. They were shaking with cold and soaking wet but I got them all to higher ground. And still, the water continued to rise.

Breathless, I tried to catch my bearings when I heard the pigs bellowing in fear, and the goats crying. I realized our barns were about to flood!

I stood there stricken, not knowing what to do. There was no way to fit all the animals into our house. Hoping the chickens would be fine we started moving the goats and pigs from the slightly lower barns to our garage after quickly fashioning a makeshift pen. It was exhausting, carrying frighted animals one at a time, sometimes dragging them, screaming at them to move so others wouldn’t die. Neighbors saw our efforts and joined in.

At 8pm it was pitch black out, the rain was still driving hard and the last animals to move from the highest pens would be the chickens… but we could no longer get through to save them.

We had been working in the cold and wet for 6 hours. There was nothing more we could do.

Bruised, bleeding and exhausted we stood in the rain and flood water hoping it wouldn’t come up to our house. Roads were closed, we were stuck with no way out and praying the rain would stop. My heart was breaking, I had no hope left that my beautiful flock could survive the flooding in the barn. Even with the partitions being above flood level that they could fly up to, it was dark, they were cold and wet, and I had no hope they would figure out how to survive. We quietly went inside to wait.

The rain slowed, by 1 am the waters had receded quite a bit. I still couldn’t get into the barns safely. We went to bed with heavy hearts to wait for morning.

Saving the flock: coop in the water

After the water went down, our coop had flooded to the roof.

I woke and hesitantly walked to the barns. The world stank from the flooding and debris littered the ground. The water was still high and projections were that the flooding would get worse for those near rivers.

Tears ran down my face but I had to look, to see if there was life.

There, in that little pen at the top barn, all my little birds were running to greet me! Following them I saw my mature hens an a rooster; I could hardly believe my eyes! I ran in and counted… we didn’t lose a single life! Every bird was there; Captain Munch, Mr. Flowers, Mr. Fancy-pants, Sweetie… they were all there!

They found a high spot where hay piled up in the water, and huddled close for warmth all that scary night. I can’t describe the emotions that ran through me at that moment, and then later as the days passed.

It’s been hard, hard to have been lucky, hard to see the pain of others.

Saving the flock: survivors enjoy breakfast

The girls enjoying breakfast, happy to be dry again.

Slowly we are cleaning up. Heartache is everywhere with flooded homes, pets lost, family and friends swept away in the flood waters. We feel lucky to have not lost a life on our farm.

At the same time, we have a taste of the dread, the fear, the hurt that many are facing. There is a bit of survivors’ guilt for many of us, and yet an overwhelming relief that this storm is over and we can recover. Its been two weeks since Matthew left. Roads are finally opening up, people are getting back to work, kids are going to school, homes are being repaired.  On our farm the nasty smell is fading and we have been blessed with many lovely days of sunshine and fall breezes. The chickens greet me each morning, clucking and cooing as I fill their feed and water. At the gate the wind chimes make sweet music and the world feels right again.

Nothing will make us forget the feeling of helplessness during that storm, but many of us can look around and know that after the storm the sun always comes out again.

Pet chickens – how much you’ll save October 23, 2016 4 Comments

I started my chicken journey three years ago. With my children glued to their iPads all day, I wanted something that would take them outside: and so came the pet chickens!

eggs from my pet chickens

You can’t buy these at the store!

Some enter into pet chicken keeping with a lot of support from friends and family, but if you’re like me you encountered some Negative Nancies! Raise your hand if you’ve had someone ask you, “Why do you keep chickens when you can buy eggs from the store?” Now keep your hands raised if, like me, you’ve spent more money on your chickens than you’ve saved from buying eggs from the grocery store.

Exactly. It’s not always about the money.

Why We Keep Pet Chickens

We keep chickens them because we love them! The person who asks me why I keep chickens doesn’t ask the person beside me why they keep their Golden Retriever. For people who view chickens Read the rest of this entry »

The grossest egg your hens will ever lay October 21, 2016 8 Comments

While most of the eggs your hens will lay are going to be very normal, to start off October on a Halloween-ey note, I thought we’d take a moment to discuss the grossest egg you’ll ever see from your flock… if you enter the Twilight Zone!

BWA-HAHAHAHA! (That was my evil laugh.) But the tale I’m going to tell you is true.

Hens will lay some strange-looking eggs from time to time in the darkness of their nests. Here’s how it happens: Within their secluded and private nesting chambers, Read the rest of this entry »