Easy Herb Gelatin Treats for Chickens (or humans, I guess!)

With the heat on the rise I have been looking for ways to help keep my small flock cool.

Fresh Eggs Daily had a great post on Beating the Heat. This is my favorite chicken site. Tons of information. The post gave me an idea. I could make Homemade Healthy Gummie Snacks for my chickens! They were such a hit with the kids, the chickens were bound to love them!

I found out that not only could chickens eat gelatin, but gelatin is actually good for them. Just like in humans, gelatin helps support health hair, skin and nails. It is also aids digestion and soothes the digestive tract. Sounds like a winning combo for chickens. And to clarify, gelatin is made form the bones and hooves of bovine. It is not made from chicken products. No cannibalism here.

You can make these treats from the herb of your choice. Or you could not use herbs at all. Maybe just use fruit. Or a fruit herb combo. How ever you make them this is a healthy treat that can help your chicken keep its cool.

IMG_20140609_081118939 (1)

Ingredients:

2 cups herbal infusion (How to make a Water Infusion)

1 cup cold water, fruit juice, or fruit puree (I used strawberries and blackberries (this is a great opportunity to use up that frost bitten fruit you have in the freezer ;))).

4 packs  unflavored 1/4 oz gelatin (you buy it here or any grocery store in the Jello section)

First thing you need to do is make an herbal infusion. Since I want to cool my chickens I decided to go with mint. It has natural cooling properties. Since mint is a strong herb, I only filled my infusion jar 1/4 of the way.

Bring your finished infusion to a boil in a 2 quart pot.

Remove from heat.

Slowly add gelatin while mixing.

Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, just blend it by hand with a wisk or fork. I love my immersion blender and I highly recommend one. You can buy the one I have here or at walmart.

Add cold water juice (or fruit juice or puree).

Blend until smooth.

Pour liquid into a greased, 3 qt 9×13 casserole dish.

Place casserole dish in fridge.

Allow to sit for 1-4 hours (or until firm).

Cut into squares the size of your choice. I like 1/2″ squares.

Serve to chickens.

Watch the chickens steal them from each other and chase each other for the last bit! They LOVE THEM! I tried them as well. I don’t prefer mint jello but I can tell you for sure it has that great cooling effect!

If you made  your own flavor and the chickens didn’t like it, you can put the cubes back into the pot and reheat them until liquid. Try adding something you know they love, like strawberries or bananas. Then re-pour, refrigerate and serve again. Have fun! Try new flavors and let me know which one your chickens like best!

Here is my flock enjoying their gelatin treat! Ravenous!

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Look how sad my little Mango is. The girls stole all the treats! 😦

 

What Makes a Good Chicken Coop?

When I first started trying to figure out how to build a chicken coop I was a little overwhelmed.  Dimensions and positions and wire gauges. How the heck can you fit 9 chickens in 3 nesting boxes?! I drew up plans. I drew more plans. Ultimately what happened is I just got out there and started building it and worked on design as I built it. I did do research on requirements for a good coop.

– It has to be safe. If your worried about predators (like I am) then you need to take extra precautions to protect your fluffy butts.Consider building the coop raised off the ground. This will prevent predators from digging into the coop. If your design is built on the ground, bury 1/4″ hardware cloth below the coop floor before building.Use 1/4″ hardware cloth on all coop openings.  This is the hardest material for predators to claw through.Use double motion locks such as safety gate hooks. Single motion locks are very easy for raccoons (and other wise guys) to open.

-It has to be dry. I invested in the coop roof above all other materials. I went with a galvalume metal roof. It had to be special ordered. Its a bit thicker than whats available on the home improvement store shelves. We live in a heavily wooded area and I was concerned about tree limbs. Originally I wanted the clear corrugated roofing, but I read many reviews stating that they cracked, leaked and broke easily when branches landed on them. Here is what I bought.

-It has to have ventilation. The more ventilation the better!  Proper ventilation reduces ammonia build up which is a major cause of respiratory irritation for chickens. Also make plans on how to close off those ventilation windows during inclement weather.  It could be as simple as a tarp as long as it gets the job done.

-It has to have light. Chickens need light to produce eggs. Natural light cycles also promote healthy sleep habits which is important for over all health. Sun light also kills bacteria.

-It has to have room. A coop needs to supply a minimum of square 3′ of floor space per chicken. I have 5. I need a minimum of 15’of floor space. But I read over and over to build it bigger than you think you need it because chickens are addictive and they end up multiplying. Also, the more space they have the less squabbles there will be. They chickens has room to mine their own business. My coop has 32′ of floor space. I hate squabbling. Those are the Have to’s of chicken coops. Thats it. Chickens will lay eggs whether they have a nesting box or not. They can sleep on the floor. I’m not saying thats the BEST for them, its just not required.

-It should have a roost. Look, my chickens still huddle in the corner of the coop on the floor. Is it going to kill them? No, but it’s not whats best for them. Roosting, basically, keeps them from sleeping in poop. Chickens poop a lot. Even when they are sleeping. On a roost, the chicken’s poop will fall to the floor, and they stay out of it. Simple.

-It should have nesting boxes. Nesting boxes provide a secluded, reserved spot for laying eggs. If you train your chicken to not sleep in the boxes, the eggs will stay clean. Having a nesting box also keeps eggs from getting broken which prevents chickens from eating eggs (which is a whole nother problem you’ll have to solve). If you really want to give your girls the best, add curtains to the front of the boxes. This gives them extra privacy. Yes, chickens appreciate privacy when laying. The size of the nesting box depends on the size of the bird. Also, chickens share nests. Thats why you can get 9 chickens into 3 nesting boxes. 3 chickens per nest.

-It should have an attached run. Unless you are free ranging your birds, you really should have a run. The run gives them space to scratch, sun bathe and take dust bathes. It also gives them fresh air and access to bugs. It gets them “out of the house” so they aren’t “all cooped up”. I would say that even if you are free ranging, you should have a run. Sometimes the chickens need to stay safe and confined. Please keep in mind that most predators can tear through chicken wire. Chicken wire is made to keep chickens in, not to keep predators out.

-Food and water? I don’t keep food in the coop or the run during the night. I feed my girls fermented feed in a dish, twice a day. They eat every crumb which keeps the mice from being tempted to visit. I keep water in both the run and the coop. I made drinking jars with watering nipples. They were made properly so they don’t leak and the chickens can’t knock them over or spill them. The jars are also closed containers so the water stays clean. Your chickens should always have access to water. No discussion on that.

Here are a few things I learned on how to make your coop the most functional. Build the coop tall enough to stand in. Don’t build it so you will be hunched over. You will be in there a lot. Take care of yourself.  If you are building it off the ground, make it waist heigh so that you aren’t hunched over when your cleaning it out. Have access doors that allow you to reach every part of the coop. My coop has a door on 3 of the 4 walls for easy cleaning. Use Laminate to cover the floor of the coop. This makes cleaning easy. This is the best investment I made in the coop after the roofing. Screen the coop with bug screen as well as hardware cloth. I know that sounds crazy but mosquitoes and flys can make you chickens ill. I’ve even read of a story where a flock were killed over night by biting flies. You can get screening for next to nothing. I suggest aluminum screening to prevent tearing. You can buy it here.  One last tip, the human entrances and exits need to open into the coop/pen as opposed to opening outward. Having the doors open inwards will help prevent the chickens from escaping.

 

Here are a few photos of my chicken coop set up. The lack of poop and dust shows that this is before the chickens moved in. It is not perfect. I find myself improving it often. What does your set up look like?20140425_193518

 

20140425_193700 20140425_193605 Do you have any tips for building a coop? Please share by commenting 20140425_19381020140425_194030below!

How to protect your flock from Hawks

We have a family of Hawks that live on our homestead.

Before our chickens moved in, we loved watching the Hawks swoop down and catch squirrels and mice. The Hawks will perch in the trees and eat their prey. It really is amazing to see the circle of life in front of you.

Now that we own chickens I HATE HAWKS!!! My neighbors think I’m crazy clapping my hands and yelling at the trees to “Get out of here!!”

I have done some research on methods to help protect my flock from those pesky hawks. I hope that you can use some of these methods to help yours as well.

Buff Orphington

Buff Orphington

-Chicken color- If you know you have a hawk problem before you have chickens, do some research on the type of chicken the best suits your needs and has a neutral color. I went with the Buff Orphingtons. I chose then because of their sweet demeanor, large size, and their coloring helps them blend into their surroundings making it hard for the hawks to see them.

 

Owl Decoy

Owl Decoy

-Owls – Hawks and Owls are natural enemies. Keep a plastic decoy owl near the coop/ foraging area and most Hawks will stay away.- -Over head protection Hawks don’t like to fly into areas where they cannot escape easily.

 

 

Chicken-Coop jpgZig zag string across the top of your chickens run or fenced area. White string works the best because it is easily visible.

 

-Chicken wire or netting over the run can reduce a Hawks desire to fly into that area but a determined hawk can easily tear through netting, so chicken wire is definitely recommended. Side note- Chicken wire is meant to keep chickens confined, it is NOT made to keep predators out.

 

pennant-48962_640-Pennant flags – you know those cute birthday strings with the adorable little, multi-colored flags hanging from them? Well, apparently those cute little decorations worry the Hawks when they flutter in the wind.

 

IMG_20140509_165859-Dogs – Hawks aren’t stupid. They know they can be eaten. If you have a dog that you know will not eat your chickens, allow it to spend time in the yard with the flock. Guard dogs are a great asset to any homestead.

 

IMG_20140516_155334-Rooster- If you haven’t considered it, a rooster is a great protector. Roosters are known to fight to the death to protect their flock. They will also scream out warning calls if they see something suspicious.

 

00H0H_irqf5a1SjrK_600x450-Guineas- Guinea birds are noisy and they are down right annoying when they see something unusual on THEIR property. Guineas will sound the alarm a the slightest suspicion. They have also been known to fight to protect their flock and property against snakes and mice. They also LOVE ticks and other bugs. If you can deal with the noise, Guinea birds make a great addition to the homestead.

-Hiding spots Be sure to plant shrubs where your chickens will be hanging out. They make great hiding spots. I recommend planting multi-purpose landscaping such as blueberry or mulberry bushes. This provides hiding spots and food!

-Laundry! – I have my clothes line in my chickens foraging area. This gives my chickens a visible barrier and also makes the hawks nervous about easily escaping. The laundry fluttering in the wind also causes the hawks the avoid the area.

IMG_20140507_104541The best protection I give my chickens is my presence. Most hawks avoid human contact, although some are known to be very arrogant, like the Cooper’s hawk. I spend as much time in the yard with my girls as I can. I am sitting in the yard now writing this entry as they peck at my toes. Oh look I’m doing laundry too, multi-tasking at its finest!

If you have a concern with hawks, or any other chicken predator, take some time to determine which species of hawk, or other predator, you have. Knowing your enemy is your best defense.

Do you have any tips or tricks? Please share them with me by commenting.