Coming Home to Roost: Build Your Own Backyard Chicken Coop

Chicken Coop

The homesteading movement in the United States represents a return to “first principles,” chief among which is self-sufficiency; and two of the cornerstones of this burgeoning movement are “do-it-yourself” and “grow-your-own.” Now that Spring is just around the corner, what better time to put both these ideas into action at once than to build your own backyard chicken coop?

Farm-fresh Eggs

It’s easier than you might think! More importantly, the overall benefits far outweigh the initial investment and effort. The endless supply of farm-fresh eggs alone is worth the price of admission. Without the added chemicals and hormones you might expect from mass commercial egg production, they’re healthier for you, they taste noticeably better, and they’re available at a moment’s notice just a few feet from your kitchen. Likewise, if you use the birds for meat, they grow fast, don’t take up much space, and more than pay for themselves in reduced grocery bills. Last but not least, it’s fun to raise your own chickens—it’s something that you and your whole family can learn from and enjoy in its own right.

A basic setup need not be an elaborate affair. This article will help you get started. Continue reading

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Keeping Your Backyard Chickens Cool This Summer

Well, it seems the weather in upstate NY has decided to skip Spring yet again and the Summer heat has already started to make us sweat. While this can be easily solved with A/C and fans for us, our chickens aren’t so lucky. Consistently high summer temperatures can cause your chickens to suffer from heat stress, overheating, and can even stop their egg laying process. For heavier breeds, high temperatures can even cause death. Thankfully, there are some things that you can do to beat the heat and keep your chickens cool.

chickens at play

Add electrolytes to their water

Electrolyte tablets are important for when the temperature reaches the high peaks in Summer as they help prevent dehydration. You can find them on Amazon in bulk.

Avoid foods such as corn and scratch

Corn and scratch take a longer time for chickens to digest, which creates higher body heat. Instead, feed your chickens fresh fruit and vegetables with high water content, like watermelon to keep them cool.

Keep cold water available 24/7

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but is also the most important. Cold water will help the chickens to regulate their body temperature and keep them cool. Make sure it is always available to them and change out the water as needed.

Put a fan in the coop

This one might not always be possible without damaging the structure of the coop. However, if you’re able to do it, a small fan can circulate air and keep your flock cool in the summer months. One word of caution though, be careful about exposed wiring. Accidents can occur if exposed wiring gets wet or if your chickens break the wiring as you could end up with fried chicken.

Leave them alone

Interacting with your chickens can cause them to be more active and in turn, create more heat. On extremely hot days, try to leave them alone and only check on them as necessary.

Spray around the coop with cold water

Spraying around the coop and the roof can cause evaporation which will help cool off your chickens. You can also create small pools of water (or use a kiddie pool) for the chickens to wade in and keep themselves cool.

Frozen Gallon Jugs

If you don’t have a kiddie pool that you can use to keep your chickens cool, you can always make your own portable frozen water bottles. Take a spare gallon jug (milk jug will work), fill it with water, and then freeze it. Once it’s frozen solid, take it to your chicken pen, and bury it in a shallow hole in their favorite dusting spots. Place a small towel over the jug and let your chickens perch on it to cool down. Bonus points if you make sure to bury the jug in the shade.

We hope this helps to keep your chickens cool during the dog days of Summer. Be sure to let us know what tips you have yourself in the comments below!

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

The Many Benefits of Backyard Chickens

chickens at play

Whether you consider yourself an urban socialite, a rural townie, or somewhere in between, keeping chickens can offer a wide variety of benefits. As it turns out, chickens aren’t just fluffy and fun little creatures, they’re also very healthy for you. From the nutritional benefit of free range eggs, to the great garden benefits, it’s no wonder that backyard chickens are gaining popularity quickly. Our finely feathered friends are more than a passing fad, they’re quickly becoming an asset to holistic, sustainable living.

Free-Range vs. Factory Farm

“Free Range”, “Cage Free”, Naturally Raised” the bevy of different labels on supermarket eggs these days can be confusing when trying to find the healthiest eggs. When you raise hens in your back yard, you know exactly where your eggs came from, and help save you money at the grocery store. Studies have shown that true free-range eggs contain higher levels of beta carotene, Omega-3 fatty acids, and Vitamins E and A. They’re also lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than conventional, store-bought eggs.

Natural Pest Preventative

Chickens also make a great alternative to pesticides for your gardens. Chickens are known to help reduce or eliminate common garden pests (grasshoppers, termites, fleas, ticks, and ants). They also eat various beetle pests that can do a lot of damage to your garden. However, make sure to put some chicken wire around your vegetables as chickens can do a lot of damage to a newly planted garden with their foraging and dust baths.

Chickens are Fantastic Recyclers

Table scraps, weeds, garden clippings; all of these can be cleaned up and broken down into beneficial nutrients for your soil by chickens. While you can’t feed them everything from the house, you can give your chickens most table scraps to supplement their every day food. Which leads us to our next benefit…

An excellent source of fertilizer

Poultry manure is considered one of the best fertilizers for gardens due to their high level of essential nutrients needed for plant growth as well as chicken manure is a rich source of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Additionally, chickens fully digest common weed seeds, so when you feed them weeds pulled from the garden, you don’t have to worry about them coming back next year when you use their manure. Having this rich source of fertilizer right in your back yard is a huge boon for gardeners as well as promotes a greener method of gardening without having to use chemically altered fertilizer. One thing to remember though, make sure to mix the chicken manure into a compost or other fertilizer mix as the high concentration of nitrogen can burn your soil if you’re not careful.

The Zen of Chickens

Watching chickens has been known to lower stress levels. Studies have shown that tending chickens releases oxytocin, often known as the “love” chemical. It’s the same one that gets released when we see a loved one or pet a dog or cat. This chemical not only lowers stress, but can help reduce blood pressure and decrease feelings of lonliness, which in turn can contribute to further lowering stress levels. Caring for chickens gets us outside regularly, and watching their methodical scratching and foraging around the yard helps to slow us down and ground us in the present, which can be a difficult thing to achieve in our busy day-to-day lives.

Additonally, chickens are now being used as therapy animals for people of all ages to address a wide variety of issues including dementia, Alzhimer’s, depression, and even autism. Their calming effect helps with symptoms like anxiety, emotional distress, and social frustrations.

Organizations are beginning to bring chickens to nursing homes to use as a therapy animal for memory loss patients. Agitation is a major issue with those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s and holding a chicken has been shown to calm them down.

Getting Started with Backyard Chickens

If you’ve decided that chickens are for you, a great place to start is by looking up websites like Backyard Chickens. You may even have a friend who keeps a backyard flock, and you could ask them to show you the ropes.

Next, it’s important to check with your local city ordinances or neighborhood regulations to make sure that backyard chickens are allowed and to find out the limit. Most cities allow 3-6 chickens and no roosters, but make sure to find out what your city allows.

Backyard chickens can help lead you to a richer, healthier life, and you reap the benefits, a richer garden and delicious fresh eggs!

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Why You Should ID Your Sheep

Identification is a very important tool when managing livestock. Every successful business operation must have accurate records, and the livestock industry is no different. Where sheep are concerned there are several differentiations in identification. There are permanent, semi-permanent, and temporary. Curious what each is used for? Read on.

lamb[1]

Ear Tags

Ear tags are some of the most commonly used form of livestock identification. They come in many forms and colors and are usually made from plastic or soft metal, such as brass. The metal ear tags are usually the same size and take along the same shape, the plastic ones come in different colors and a few different shapes. Brass tags are ideal for using on small and newborn lambs because they’re light and won’t pull down on the ear. Each style of ear tag, metal and brass, can be numbered or be left blank in case you use your own numbering and ID system. These tags are applied to the animal’s ear using an ear tagger which acts similarly to a piercing gun used for human ear piercings.

Scrapie Identification

While not used primarily on the farm, these tags are used when shipping sheep and lambs out of state. The U.S. Dept. Of Agriculture requires almost all sheep and lambs to have premise identification ear tags before leaving their farm of origin. This is done to help eradicate scrapie disease, and identifies where every sheep came from when shipped. These tags are applied like a normal ear tag using a tagger.

Tattoos

Tattoos are one of the best forms of permanent livestock identification. They don’t harm the animal’s appearance nor reduce its value. This is usually done by tattoo gun or by press, with the numbers and letters made of needles that place very small holes in their shape and then ink is applied to the holes so that the number is readable. The downside is that the tattoos are very hard to read at a distance and will require catching the animal to read the tattoo.

Ear Notching

Ear notching is done by placing a V-shaped notch placed somewhere in the ear. While swine producers use this system as a way to identify their livestock. Sheep producers mainly use it for simple differentiation. For example, a farmer may use ear notching to denote birth type or when the lamb/sheep was born. Additionally, it can be used to mark ewes for culling.

Neck Chains

Finally, there’s neck chains. This form of identification is most commonly used for dairy animals such as cows or goats. The chain needs to be placed around the animal’s neck tight enough that it doesn’t fall off but loose enough so it doesn’t choke them or cause growth problems, which means constant inspection. Additionally, chains can be caught on objects causing the animal to choke. I would not consider this a permanent form of identification as the chains can be easily removed.

What do you use as a form of livestock identification? Let us know in the comments below. Also, if you’re in need of some livestock ID tags or tattooing supplies check out our full line of supplies.

Lisa Podwirny is the owner of Ketchum Mfg. Connect with her on !

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

The Introductory Guide to Raising Chickens

chicken-picture
Back in the day, if you heard someone say they were raising chickens, you’d assume they lived on a farm. It wasn’t until the late 60’s/early 70’s that community gardening programs became popular, and more people began to see advantages in urban (and suburban) agriculture over time. Nowadays, anyone can raise backyard chickens. Here’s the brief intro and tips for starting:

Why Raise Them?

-The eggs
Chickens are useful animals because they produce eggs that you can actually eat. No need to buy eggs at the supermarket again. And honestly, they’re organic and a lot tastier.

-Their personalities
You may not know it, but chickens love to play. Yes – they can run and jump, and they’re smart too. If you want to know a little bit more about their personalities, check out our blog on fascinating chicken facts.

-They’re manageable
While having a large group of chickens might seem daunting, the truth is that they’re easygoing and manageable animals. They’re also inexpensive.

Think about the expenses and tasks that dog owners have – food purchases, vet trips, daily walks, grooming, toys, and more. For chickens, you’re gathering eggs, providing food and water (not as often as a dog), and changing their bedding (once a month).

What Do You Need?

-A chicken coop. You have to be able to stand in it do the…manure shoveling.
-Food and water. Water goes in containers, and food goes in a feeder.
-Space. As I already noted, chickens are personable animals. Put chicken wire fencing on your list as well.

This stuff will, of course, cost money. But if you want to build the chicken coop yourself, it’ll probably run you only 250 – 500 dollars, depending on the size. That’s not bad for a long-term investment.

Where Do You Get Them?

You can get chickens (and baby chicks) from two main places. One choice is a local feed store (if you go in-season). Another choice is to hatch chicks from eggs. This article from BackYardChickens.com should help you out.

I hope that reading this short article has you interested in raising chickens in your backyard!

Lisa Podwirny is the owner of Ketchum Mfg. Connect with her on Google+!

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Cracking the Egg Myths

Eggs are the most convenient food to have in your fridge. Choosing what to do with your eggs is simple. It takes less than 5 minutes to make breakfast or you can boil them for other alternative meals. However, choosing what eggs to bring home is starting to become more of a challenge. What is the deal with organic eggs? Is there a difference? Brown Eggs, White Eggs, Free-Range, Cage-free are some of the choices available in supermarkets around the country. We decided to break down these options so that you could make a better decision about what to put in your cart and bring home.

Brown Eggs vs. White Eggs

Some people think that brown eggs are better for you because they are more expensive.

Well, we hate to break it to you guys, but there actually is no nutritional difference between the two. Interestingly enough, the color of the eggshell is determined based on the earlobe color of the chicken. White chickens with white earlobes lay white eggs and dark colored hens (brown, black red) with red earlobes lay brown eggs.

So why are they more expensive?

Some breeds of hens cost more to maintain. Hens are also typically larger than chickens and require more food. This in turn translates to a higher cost for consumers. Nutritionally speaking, based on the diet being fed to the animal some brands are better for you than others.

Cage Free vs. Free Range

Cage free sounds great. At first thought I would imagine wide-open spaces. But unfortunately that may not be the case. Cage-free means the chickens aren’t kept in the tiny battery cages used by a lot of egg operations. When chickens are confined in cages, a ton of bacteria infected dust is inhaled. This can cause stress to the animal before they lay. Cage-free eggs do not collect this dust and in turn do hold some better nutritional value.

Free-Range chickens are similar to cage free. They are kept outside of cages and are typically held in barns or warehouses. Their exposure to sunlight is limited and there is no guarantee that they are actually free and happy.

Currently the USDA has not set any standards for using the claim “cage free” or “free range” stamped on cartons.

The best type of egg for you is anything that has been stamped USDA Certified Organic. Egg cartons stamped with this logo come from operations that have annual audits by the government. They are fed certified-organic feed that is free of things like antibiotics, pesticides, and GMO’s.

For more information on eggs we recommend you watching a short documentary called “The Story of an Egg”:

Lisa Podwirny is the owner of Ketchum Mfg. Connect with her on

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Fascinating Chicken Facts

The majority of the time, chickens are not given the respect they deserve as animals. Why? It might be because most people don’t realize how truly fascinating and intelligent these animals really are! Interested in learning more about what makes chickens so darn cool? Read on to find out!

Full color visionChicken

Unlike a great deal of animals, chickens actually have full-color vision. Because of this, they can distinguish between different surroundings and can communicate better with their offspring as well as any other species they come in contact with. Pretty cool, right?

REM sleep

Sleeping chicken

Thought REM (rapid eye movement) sleep was just for humans? Think again! Chickens similarly experience REM sleep, which means they have dreams just like humans do. I wonder if they’ve ever dreamed about crossing the road!

Defend young from predatorsUrban Mama Chicken

Hens specifically are very protective of their babies, which is why they show extreme confidence in defending their young from any predators that approach them. Just when you thought calling someone a “chicken” meant they were afraid of something, turns out it might actually be a compliment!

Motherly traits

A Fresh EggJust like a mother with her babies, chickens also talk to their off spring, even when they’re still in the womb. In fact, a mother hen begins teaching her baby chicks different calls before they even hatch! How cute is that?

Play timechicken heart

Get this – chickens LOVE to play! When they’re given enough space to roam, chickens will jump, run, spa and even soak up the sun! What’s really sad is that only a small percentage of chickens are raised in the United States with the ability to roam any land at all, while most spend their entire lives in tiny cages, usually no larger than the size of an iPad.

Smarty pants

Free range chickensDid you think chickens were pretty dumb up until this point? If so, you are sadly mistaken. According to recent studies, chickens are actually very intelligent animals with a variety of attributes similar to that of their primates. From the ability to solve complex problems to demonstrating self control and worrying about the future, chickens are much brighter than they’re given credit for.

MemoriesChicken

As humans, we have the ability to remember and store memories in a variety of ways. What many people don’t know is that chickens have the ability to recognize and memorize as well! While still not on the same level as humans, chickens are able to recognize and remember more than 100 different individuals, including humans.

Object permanence

backyard chickenAs children develop, they begin to develop object permanence. Well guess what? Chickens have this ability as well. Even when an object is taken away from them or hidden, they’re able to comprehend the fact that the object still exists, which is something that many animals don’t have the ability to do.

DinosaursWhite chickens

Did you know that chickens are living dinosaurs? That’s right – research has proven that not only have chickens evolved from dinosaurs, but they are currently the closest living relative to the T. Rex, one of the most popular dinosaurs in history.

Lisa Podwirny is the owner of Ketchum Mfg. Connect with her on !

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

The Benefits of Raising Farm Animals

Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O! We’ve all heard the nursery rhyme and recited it a time or two. However, old MacDonald had the right idea, raising animals on his farm. Just imagine feeding your family wholesome eggs, milk and meat produced in your own backyard. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Agriculture truly is the foundation of our society. If it weren’t for farmers, we wouldn’t have the nutritious food we eat day in and day out. Here are the benefits of raising farm animals:

Chemical free eggs

farm fresh eggs in basketNothing compares to fresh, great-tasting eggs for breakfast, seriously! Raising your own chickens will ensure you have chemical free, exceptionally clean and healthy eggs each morning. Whether it’s over easy or scrambled, you can make breakfast with the healthiest eggs on the market.

Fresh raw milk

There are many benefits to collecting fresh, raw milk. Because raw milk contains certain proteins and compounds, it has been known to cure allergies and even eczema. Milk is also extremely important for developing brains and nervous systems of infants and young children. Raising milk cows is a great way to give your kids the best milk available.

No artifical cheese

Many commercial cheeses contain GMOs (genetically modified organism). You will be happy to know that homemade cheese contains no artificial ingredients. Don’t even worry about the cooking process either. Some of the best cheeses were made entirely by mistake. You can raise goats or cows, either way your cheese will be absolutely delicious!

Grass-feed meat

A cow [15/365]Loaded with minerals and vitamins, grass-fed beef is naturally leaner than grain-fed beef. It’s also a great source of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which is a fat that can reduce the risk of cancer, obesity, diabetes, and a number of immune disorders. Whether you want to run a small backyard hobby farm or a large commercial ranch, your family can have grass-feed meat all year round.

In addition to fresh meat and dairy products, farming has many environmental benefits too. For example, farmers have an innate sense of loyalty and responsibility to the land on which they farm. Through sustainable agriculture, or the practice of farming ecologically, farmers can retain and protect their valuable farmland. They can also turn crop waste and animal manure into fertilizers. As a result, they can enrich the soil and reroute rainwater to fuel the irrigation system. Not only does sustainable agriculture save money, but it also conserves natural resources.

Lisa Podwirny is the owner of Ketchum Mfg. Connect with her on !

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

The Incredible Edible Egg

The Essence of EggIt’s January, and in honor of National Egg Month, we’ve decided to talk about the health benefits of the incredible, edible egg. Over the years, eggs have taken a lot of criticism for being high in cholesterol. Turns out, there is actually no link between eggs and either heart attack or stroke. Now that the myth has been laid to rest, read about why eggs rock!

Reduces Your Risk For Cancer

Whole eggs are high in the nutrient choline, which is found mostly in the yolk. According to a recent study, women with a high intake of choline were 24 percent less likely to develop breast cancer. Ladies, feel free to ditch those egg-white omelets and opt for some scrambled eggs instead.

Great For The Eyes

Jumpstarting MondayEggs are great for your peepers. People who eat eggs every day have a lower risk of developing cataracts. Eggs also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which are two antioxidants that have been shown to prevent muscular degeneration. A diet rich in eggs will help increase muscle strength and eye health.

Natural Metabolism Booster

Eggs are high in protein and all nine essential amino acids. Research has show that obese people who ate eggs for breakfast at least five times a week in substitute of carbohydrates lost 65 percent more weight than those who did not. This is because eggs are a more satisfying than carbs, keeping you fuller longer. Start eating eggs for breakfast and watch your waistline shrink.

Which Eggs Are Best?

101_1222All eggs contain the same basic good stuff. However, depending on your own eating habits, you might want to invest in some specialty eggs. For example, chickens that are not fed byproducts, antibiotics or certain additives lay organic eggs. Organic eggs are by far healthier for the body than non-organic. Pasteurized eggs refer to eggs that have been placed in warm water to kill bacteria. And if you’re not into seafood, purchase eggs that are enhanced with Omega-3. This will ensure that you get your heart-healthy fatty acids. Whatever you do, be sure to skip labels that say cage free, free range and pasture raised—they don’t guarantee happy chickens!

As you can see, eggs are packed with a number of essential vitamins and minerals, high-quality protein, unsaturated fats and antioxidants. They are great for weight management, muscle strength, eye health and a number of other health-related benefits. Want to learn more about eggs? Visit incredibleegg.org for recipes, fun facts and much more!

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter