Thursday, February 28, 2013

Growing (green) Fodder for Chickens

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I really want to grow my own green fodder for my chickens this year, so I've been investigating all the nutritional aspects and how-to to get growing in my own suburban backyard.

But this is not just for chickens!
Goats, sheep, horses, and cattle will love it.

Packed full of vitamins and minerals that also saves on fodder costs. $$$

It can be as easy as growing sprouts in a jar - but in a larger tray...or hydroponically.

Remember growing seeds in cotton wool or on a piece of damp paper towel at school?
No soil required!

Direct sunlight is not required either.
But they can be placed next to a window or left on the kitchen bench.

Any seeds that your animals or poultry would normally consume can be grown in this manner.

Flax is said to be a little trickier to use as it can go goopy and more prone to going mouldy. Wheat, barley and oats are often the favourite seed of growers.

To begin, make sure that your seeds are:
  • Clean
  • Not coated
  • Not mouldy
  • Not pearled

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How to start growing your own fodder


Starting with 2 flat trays or ice cream containers.

Simply soak you seeds in a container that has holes, set inside another container without holes.
The water level must be twice that of the seed. Rinse your seed well before leaving to soak. The water should be clear. The next day, give your seeds a good rinse and spread evenly out on the tray/container.

Seed Germination Temperature is ideally 17-18ºC (60-65ºF) to 21ºC (70ºF), so long as it dips below 21ºC over night. If it is too warm mould will grow, so the cooler time of year is preferable. Choose your storage place wisely.

Every morning, give the trays a good rinse in the sink (the tray with holes will be nestled inside the other tray without holes, so remember to separate them for this part). Place them back on their shelf.

It is better to slightly over water than under water, just make sure that the grain is perfectly drained so that they are not sitting in water when they are put back on their shelf.

Rinsing is usually done only once or twice a day.You want the seeds to be moist INSIDE but not overly wet on the outside for very long or it will promote the growth of mould.

In 6-8 days your harvest should be ready.



Nutritional Information


Oats vs. Wheat
Courtesy of SkipThePie


A big thank you to everyone on www.backyardchickens.com forum for all the fantastic growing information. I am particularly indebted to forum user, pawtraitart. Thank you♥


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Introducing New Chickens To My Yard

My new extra large chicken coop
Adding to my flock of girls has been many months in the planning and there has been a sad farewell to one of my two old faithful Isa Brown chickens in the early part of February this year. Dear Molly passed away suffering ongoing kidney issues due to her high egg output. But if it wasn't for her passing I may never have set my plan into action of increasing my chicken flock.

This time around I really threw myself into researching different breeds and located some fancier and possibility healthier breeds locally. Thank God for the Internet for linking up breeders with backyardians like myself, and providing so much information on every chicken variety available.

And here's my beautiful new girls who arrived this week!
Two Light Sussex and three Silver Laced Wyandottes.


Change of Breed


I have been a keeper of chickens by proxy ever since I moved to Sheidow Park, as my neighbours could not  look after their flock due to their rental agreement and lack of knowledge about poultry. I took on standard white chickens and some fluffy white bantams with feet in a terrible condition. In essence, I became a mini RSPCA for chickens. And I absolutely loved it! My yard was full.

In between I also added my first two Isa Brown chickens. Later, I gave them away to a hobby farmer as their egg production ceased and the visitation of native pigeons to their water and food was out of control and causing constant worm problems.

So I set about to fix my yard so as to keep the pigeons away before I added any new chickens. Their health was my number one priority.

I purchased another two Isa Browns as they seemed to be the only breed I could obtain in Adelaide. Again, I ran into issues with the that breed, but now with the pigeon issue resolved I could see the Isa Brown traits clearer. I called a local mobile vet to inspect my girls and she gave me a better understanding about their inherent health problems due to their high egg output.

I later caught up with Dr Karl Kruszelnicki's radio show on TripleJ tackling the question of 'why do chickens make such a noise after laying an egg/'. It opened up all sorts of theories from pride to pain. However, the best answer came from one caller who explained what chickens were like prior to domestication.

Originally, undomesticated, wild poultry only laid an egg every 20 days or so. As man has refined breeds to suit their eating habits, the chickens egg production has been inevitably increased to a daily output (such as the Isa Brown, Ancona, Australorp, Rhode Island and Star breeds).

With an increased egg output also comes a shorter lifespan.
These breeds often suffer from liver and kidney problems.

My desire was to have more chickens, as I adore their company, their manure is great for my garden and they tackle any pest problem very effectively.

But having more chickens meant I would have more eggs than what I could handle.

Chickens that lay less are more meatier and larger in size. If you desire to also eat your poultry the meat/egg breeds are ideal.

Until it dawned on me that my desire for a fancier breed could be to my benefit. It all seemed to make sense to have a chicken variety that had a slower egg production.  In fact, I could increase my flock size considerably and still benefit (within our local Council regulations of course).

Sally is my last remaining Isa Brown chooky. She is my constant companion in the yard, curious as anything and helps where ever I am weeding. But as of this week she is a little put out, a little annoyed and out of sorts because her coop has been moved over slightly to make way for an even bigger coop with some new additions.

Light Sussex poulette

Introducing New Chickens To Your Flock


When introducing new chickens to your existing flock, even if it is just one chicken, there will be issues, and I'm talking about the pecking order. It can be a very stressful time for all involved.

The easiest way to introduce new chickens to have them all around the same age. Placing young poulettes with older hens will not work which can result in the lowest of the pecking order being pecked to death.

Adding a Second Coop

This involves:
1. Quarantine (to guard against introducing an disease and illness to rest of your flock)
2. Observe their Pecking Order
3. Give the appropriate feed for their age (poulette crush or pellets)
4. Do not mix age groups.
5. Slowly introduce other food into their diet which will be a regular in your yard such as greens, peelings or other seeds as a treat.
6. Training them to use the feeders and waterers of your choice.
7. Keeping them locked in their new coop (if going Free Range) will also teach them that that is where their territory is and that is where they must lay their eggs. Duration: 1-3 weeks (longer if very young).

If your existing flock's coop has been moved or given a new coop, make sure that they are locked into their shed overnight. You may need to take them physically to their shed so that they are retrained where to roost for the night and to reset their laying habits.

Another Reason For a Second Coop

You may have decided to add all of your chickens together, in which case it must be done during the night so as to lessen any fights. Allowing the chickens to all wake up with each other in the morning is far gentler than a middle-of-the-day addition.

However, all introductions will have their teething problems as their pecking order is established. Sometimes this can result in one hen being pecked in the bottom until it bleeds and dies for its injuries. Inspecting your girls daily is essential and may require the pecked hen to be separated from the flock to her own coop for safety.

A second coop can also act as a quarantine area for illness to prevent the rest of the flock from being infected.

You may like to choose to have a mini coop or chicken tractor as an alternative chicken coop for these circumstances if you do not want to have another large coop in your yard.


Choosing a Chicken Coop Size


How many square feet per chicken can depend on your farming method.
For a serious commercial farmer the size range can be incredibly small, but for most backyardians it can be far more generous and ethical.

Roaming room: 4 square feet or 1.3 square metres per chicken

Roosting room: chickens like to bunch up when they sleep so space becomes less of an issue. Just ensure that there is adequate ventilation for the hotter months so that the birds can cope with their body heat during the night roost. Keep in mind that they may spread out a little more during summer so allow extra room for the season.

Nesting room: 1 nest per 4 birds
Chickens lay only one egg per day at the very most. Hens like to lay on top of each others eggs, so layer sharing is very common.

Silver Laced Wyandotte poulette

Chicken Breed Information


Need to do some more research for yourself?
I found a great chart to explain every chicken breed and their egg output over at My Pet Chicken.
Click here for the breed chart.


Further reading, grab a copy of How To Care For Your Poultry from your local newsagent. ($14.95)




Saturday, February 9, 2013

Cucumber Salad


Every year in summer I always have such a big harvest of cucumbers and find I really need to get through them fast if I don't give enough away. Sometimes, all you need is a really simple, quick and easy basic cucumber salad that could use some of our garden herbs.

Here's one of my favourite recipes to help you with your summertime cucumber abundance.

Completely delicious!


Cucumber Salad

Ingredients

2 Cucumbers (based on Burpless or Continental types), sliced or chopped

Fresh Dill, torn
Fresh Basil, leaves torn
Fresh Coriander, leaves torn

Dressing

1/4 cup Olive Oil (fresh type is fruitiest)
2 Tablespoons White Sugar
2 Tablespoons White Vinegar
1 teaspoon Salt
Cracked Black Pepper, to taste
(Put in jar and shake well to combine)

Method

Let the herbs sit on the cut cucumber for a few minutes to infuse before pouting over the handmade dressing.

If the cucumber appears too watery, allow them to sit on a paper towel to dry a little before returning them to the bowl to dress.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

What's eating my plants?


The mystery begins when each day those beautiful new seedlings you have put in start looking decidedly smaller and eaten.

Here's a few of my quick and easy solutions.


My poor coriander plant last winter. Rats!
1.) First course of attack is to look for signs of slug and snail movement. Slime trails and shells are the evidence. Is there any creature under the remaining leaves? Caterpillars tend to hang around a good thing until they have had their fill.

If the leaves are left but slightly nibbled, slugs,snails and caterpillars tend to be the cause.

SNAIL FIX: Snail bait or beer in saucer.

CATERPILLAR FIX: Pick off and squash, or spray (do not spray plant it is currently in fruit)


2.) Failing the snail hypothesis, the second plan is look for signs of droppings or holes in the ground nearby. Inspect the area for any changes in the garden fence - both top and bottom.

If your plant becomes completely headless, suspect a rodent or larger intruder.

Fencing off a damaged plant will prove to be useless if it is a rat or mouse as they can easily manoeuvre their little bodies through the tightest of spaces. This will help rule out the possibility of possums.

RODENT FIX: Toss bag baits (which are only attractive to rats and mice; not cats and birds). Bait especially at any holes or detected routes.

POSSUM FIX:  Smear a mixture of Vicks VapoRub and Vaseline (petroleum jelly) along the top of any fencing and around the garden bed edges. The possums hate the smell and feel of this mix and are readily deterred.

Possums don't like it! Use it to good effect♥


Saturday, February 2, 2013

School Gardening Resources

Launching into a new school year with gardening activities which needs to link in with the school canteen and kitchen for cooking lessons is always a tricky task in the planning. Many schools now have only one committee that oversee these three as they inseparable in learning and action.

Having spent a really good part of the Christmas/New Year school holidays reading numerous blogs from other parents who are also volunteer gardening teachers from across Australia, it is so good to see such a hive of activity and resources made available to share.

Here's a few of my personal favourite resources to get planning!

Available at the ABC Shop is Australian Chef, Stephanie Alexander's book, Kitchen Garden Cooking With Kids.


Stephanie's book is divided into three main parts as she explains the foundations and planning of an effective school garden plan by practical example. Then moves into detailing year by year how the garden matures for different gardening lessons. The remainder of the book is great for planning the school kitchen cooking lessons with really easy to use recipes for in the school grown produce according to season.

Back cover of Kitchen Garden Cooking With Kids
Teacher roles are superbly detailed to define the job of a garden teacher
How to recruit volunteers and their value in the school
Don't forget the school kitchen pantry staples
Kid friendly recipes are divided into seasons to go with available produce
I really like this book. Such an easy book to use, however, the pages may be a little difficult to photocopy as hand-outs from due to the size of the big pages.

Another book I can't wait to get my hands on is the California based How To Grow A School Garden: A Complete Guide For Parents and Teachers, written and complied by Arden Bucklin-Sporer and Rachel Kathleen Pringle.


Check it out online via Amazon to have a look inside this book.

Again, this one is also packed full of recipes to try but they do include a few ingredients that are not known to Australians. The resources section is entirely American based unfortunately, but the garden layouts are inspirational and fun to try which makes this book still a great one to get hold of.

But I think the best is yet to come as I have ordered for myself an amazing Australian DVD created by Leonie Shanahan, Edible School Gardens.

This DVD is available online (with PayPal option) at the Edible School Gardens website.
The preview is on the website and looks very inspiring and practical.

It is so good to see more and more Australian based School Garden books and DVDs becoming available.


If you are tackling your school garden as a teacher or volunteer, I would love to hear from you♥