Monday, November 29, 2010

Homemade suet recipe from Megan Paska

My buff brahma as a pullet

"Bantam brahmas are gentle sweeties with feathered legs and feet and profuse, fluffy feathering. Originally from India, these birds were bred for meat production, though the hens lay relatively decently and are great setters and mothers. This fancy breed of chicken makes a great pet for its quiet and tame nature, tolerance to the cold, huggability and sheer chic-ness!"

My friends at Food, Inc.

From my friends at Food, Inc.
Watch it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Listening to sound of b

August 23, 2010 Warm Humid 6:12 pm

“Close your eyes. Listen to the sound of the bees”, I said to my mom.

If anyone had seen us I think they would have thought that we had been attacked by a swarm of mad bees. Instead it was just me and my mom, in our full bee suits, just stretched out in the grass. I thought it would be cool to lie down right in front of the front door of the hive and watch them. In a way become part of their colony for a few minutes. It was hard at first to be still and to just listen to the sound of the hives. Every now and then a guard bee would bump up against my veil just making sure I wasn’t an intruder.

The sound of the hive was so soothing. I have heard that the note that bees “hum” or “buzz” is b. Of course it’s b. Today it was a calm soothing b. Not an angry b, or an impatient b, just a comfortable soothing b. The hive also smelled so good. It smelled of a combination of honey, wax and propolis (which is basically sap). I actually would love to be able to bottle that smell and have it in my room.

“Oh, cr*p”, said my mom

It was the first thing either of us had said for several minutes so I was totally surprised to hear my mom yell out “cr*p”( she doesn't usually say that)

“I have a bee in my suit. She is in my armpit!”

“Just be calm and try to gently let her out” I said to my mom calmly, hoping that if I were totally calm she would be too. Bees can tell when you are alarmed, and they react to it with a sting.

Luckily my mom was pretty chill and didn’t freak out. She just rolled over, unzipped her suit and scooped the little bee on out. Nice job mom.

After about 10 minutes neither of us wanted to get up. We weren’t talking we were just listening, smelling and watching the bees. The bees are really active at this time of day because they are returning from their foraging flights and heading home for the day. It was a traffic jam as they entered the hive. We just stayed there and watched the whole thing and after a while the bees didn't mind us anymore. We weren't a threat, we were just part of their ecosystem.

Imagine walking along and coming across two people in full white bee suits (they kind of look like HazMat suits) lying down in the grass, not talking to each other, right next to three beehives. I guess our family definition of normal is a little different than others. Thank goodness.

Sunlight in the winter

Chickens need a lot of sunlight. I think that the steady supply of light in the coop contributes to good wintertime egg production and Happy Chickens!

I do two things to help with light for my hens:

1. See above. My dad and I enclosed the outdoor run in clear corrugated plastic, so it is both warm and sunny all day. I have seen coops where the outdoor run is closed in during the winter with wood, so the coop is dark all day. I try to get as much light to them as possible. The indoor coop is well lit because the roof of the barn has some clear panels as well.

2. I set up a crazy light / timer system for the indoor coop.
- Set a plug-in timer to come on at 4pm and off at 8pm.
- Then I clip these industrial lights on the overhead beams of the coop and the light comes on when it gets dark outside. Hens need anywhere from 14-16 hours of light a day.


Photo by my friend Tamara Staples

The Wyandotte is an American breed. Silver Laced Wyandottes were developed in New York State in the early 1870s and were admitted into the standard in 1883. The other varieties accepted in the American Standard of Perfection are the Golden Laced, White, Black, Buff, Columbian, Partridge and Silver Penciled. Layers of good-sized brown eggs and reaching a weight in the males of 8 1/2 pounds, Wyandottes are good dual purpose birds, especially the White and Silver Laced varieties which have been bred for utility, as well as for show.

Dried Mealworms

I like to feed my hens a special handful of mealworms.
We usually buy 2 11pound bags! The birds just love them.

Even more nutritious for your birds are live mealworms.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Winterizing the hives

I've been asked what I do to overwinter my hives, honestly this is my first year so I'm not sure I'd listen to what I have to say, but here goes. Everyone has their way to do it and they are probably all right. Here's one way..

1. Feed the bees. For the last few weeks I have been feeding the bees a simple syrup (2:1 ratio sugar to water) to help them prep for the winter.

2. Stop feeding the bees. My bee mentors recommended I stop feeding them this week (11/7/10 - I'm North of Boston) to make sure whatever they have taken they can convert to food. Too much syrup is dangerous because of all the water in it. It needs time to convert. The water can create a risky environment in the hive. Too humid. Too moist. Frozen. Not good

3. I don't medicate. Ask any beekeeper and you will get a different answer. I may be making a mistake, but I think they hives are strong and I guess I just don't love the idea of medicating something that is healthy. I will let you know how it goes. Some give a dose of Fumadil B to avoid winter dysentery.

4. Put the entrance reducer in. Now is when visitors arrive. Mice! It is warm and cozy in the hive so mice often try and sneek their way into this little warm box. You want to keep them out.

5. Put a layer of homosote and insulation above your inner cover. Bees generate humidity. This moisture can be dangerous for the bees and needs to have an easy way to vent out the top of the hive. I put a homosote layer on top of the inner cover to absorb the moisture, then I put styrofoam insulation on top. Some people take a large super and fill it with hay as an insulation layer. I might try that on one hive to see how it goes.

6. Make sure your honey stores are right above the brood.

7. Leave 100 pounds of honey per hive. I should have put this first. Leave it for them, don't take it. Each frame is about 7 pounds of honey, so each super is about 70 pounds.

8. Wrap your hives in black tar paper. I wrap my hives in simple black tar paper, then tie it with string or a bungie cord. Duct tape doesn't really work in this environment. It keeps the hive dry and on sunny days it helps warm the hive so the bees can move to the honey stores. It makes the bees happy!

Everyone seems to have a different view on how to do it. This is just one way. I'd love to hear your suggestions.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Winterizing the coop

I've been asked what I do to winterize my flock and coop. Here are a few of the things I do:

1. Add Cracked Corn to their feed. They LOVE it! and it is helps keep their body temperature up.

2. I use heated dog bowls for their water, I find them much easier to use than the heated bases and metal watering towers.

3. I wrap my the outdoor part of my coop in heavy plastic so that they can still go outside. They need as much sunlight as possible during the day. By wrapping the coop it turns into a little cozy, sunny greenhouse.

4. I add more mealworms to what I give them each day. It makes them really happy.

5. I obviously go out to the coop every day, but during the freezing times I may go more often and I inspect each bird to make sure their combs and feet are ok. Sometimes I will put vaseline on their combs to protect them from frostbite (i even add some euclyptus oil to it)

6. Check for drafts and fill them.

7. I also use deep bedding
for the indoor coop. I think of it like a big blanket for them!

I think that is about it, if I remember anything else I will add it. Oh, don't worry your eggs shouldn't freeze.

Please let me know if you do something else that would be helpful to list.


Ruling the Roost - funny

The Daily News of Newburyport Fri Oct 22, 2010, 03:58 AM EDT NEWBURYPORT —

Orren Fox is a guy who knows chickens. With more than eight prizes for his birds that include best standard in show and grand champion, this 13-year-old boy is becoming a local expert. This year at the Topsfield Fair, the young Orren took home three prizes in the youth category with the best bird in show, the grand champion and the best bantam. READ HERE