Hens and Herbs – A Love Affair

My chickens love their herbs! Every morning after I feed them their wet fermented mash, I cut them fresh culinary herbs. I walk down through my vegetable garden and meadow clipping fresh tarragon, fennel, parsley, sage, basil, mint, catmint and even spinach gone to seed. I chop them all up and add the herbs to their food dish and offer several dishes of herbal tasty treats. In a short time every bit of fresh green herbs are eaten.

Eating and posing USETHIS ONE

Herbs the breakfast of champions!

It’s important to teach my three-month-old Rhodies to eat these fresh herbs now, because I am already drying many herbs for winter eating for when the deep snow is on the ground and live greens are hard to find. Last spring when they were just tiny chicks, I fed them dried sage, oregano and kale which they gobbled up. Their absolute favorite was the dehydrated kale and I was thrilled because I know how healthy kale is.

babies corner food and herbs USE

My Rhode Island Reds feeding station and hang out place. I give them food, water, herbs, a tarp for shade and a roost bar for an afternoon rest.

I’m the first to admit that feeding fresh herbs is not my original idea. A number of chicken bloggers choose herbs for their many health benefits and many knowledgeable chicken keepers are feeding their hens and chicks fresh herbs every day.

Herb bed 6-2015

In my opinion as a chicken keeper this is definitely a nutritional strategy that is worth the time and effort. If you desire to learn more about the benefit of herbs for chickens, I recommend you visit the Facebook community, Susan BurekPoultry Natural Living & Herbal Care started by herbalist Susan Burek for lots of great information. You can also visit her website Moonlight Mile Herb Farm, http://www.moonlightmileherbs.com

Moonlight Mile LOGO

I am attending the Great Lakes Herb Faire this September and am anxious to hear Susan present and learn even more.

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2015 Great Lakes Herb Faire logo. I’m signed up!

My herbs have been chosen for their soothing and healing properties as well as their nutrition. Their fresh smell is delightful too. I had thought that perhaps the strong taste of some of the herbs, like fennel for example, would be too strong to be accepted but this does not seem to be the case. My laying hens and pullets gobble them all up. 

Herbs hanging on old rake USE

I hang a bunch of mint and tansy on my coop where the hens dust to help with fly control.

Yes, hens need their grains, vitamins and minerals to stay healthy but fresh live green are like a nutritious summer dessert. Now why can’t we humans have nutritional desserts every day too? I vote yes, do you?

Herbs and mash

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

 

 

I Signed Up for The Great Lakes Herb Faire

I did it. I made my commitment to the September Great Lakes Herb Faire today and I am now registered for this amazing event. Their website is greatlakesherbfaire.org/about.html

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The first Great Lakes Herb Faire will be held on September 11-13 2015, at the Chelsea Outdoor Center which is located at 2500 Pierce Road in Chelsea, Michigan. This three-day event is dedicated to the sharing of herbal knowledge.

Many community-building activities, like  morning yoga and tai chi, and evening drumming and Contra dancing are planned as well. There is also a vendor opportunity for sellers and buyer alike.

Herb bed 6-2015

One of my herb beds planted in very old RR ties to contain them.

While I am nervous that I have may have over scheduled myself this fall (I have two trips planned in Sept.) I am very excited about this learning opportunity.

Artesemesia close

Artemisia/wormwood in my meadow; primarily used in aromatherapy and as a de-wormer for chickens. This has a sage like scent with mint undertones.

I can’t wait to meet others of like mind, to listen to what the many talented herbalists and teachers from throughout the Great Lakes bioregion have to share.

Comfrey close USE

Comfrey in my meadow; Used as a fertilizer, conditioner for soil and activator for compost. I use it to make compost tea for tomatoes. Also used as an herbal medicine for healing scrapes and bruises.

And what I am really “over the moon” about is that I will be able to meet and take a class with herbalist Susan Burek of Moonlight Mile Herb Farm http://www.moonlightmileherbs.com/

Moonlight Mile LOGO

I am a member of her Poultry Natural Living and Herbal Care blog, https://www.facebook.com/groups/herbalpoultrycare/ and quite frankly, I am in awe of her herbal knowledge and skills.

I am thrilled to finally meet her, purchase some of her special herbal avian tonics and tremendously interested in learning more about her experiences, natural chicken keeping tips and her unique way of using herbs in her chicken keeping.

I grow many herbs here at The Small House Homestead but I do not always feel confident about the best way to use them.

For additional details about the faire or to register go to the Facebook page; Great Lakes Herb FaireFestival ImageSmall House Homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

 

Adventures in Holistic Chick Raising-Adding Greens

DAY THREE – Highlight of the Day:

1) Today the chicks began to scratch and peck in their brooder. I found out they also like to sleep under the paper towels…whew…for a minute thought I lost one!

2) Sassy responds to the chicks peeps. They peep and she comes running to see what is the matter. That is the cutest mothering thing she has ever done!

3) Today Report: Poop. Sleep. Eat. Poop.

RIR Babies jpeg

If you’ve been following our blog you have read about the new chicks on our homestead. If you have ever had chicks you know just how they consume your time and energy. In fact, they have seemed to take over my life right now!

Chicken adventures day one and two can be seen here…https://smallhousebigskyhomestead.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=2046&action=edit

The RIR chicks spent a lot of time napping and resting today in their brooder box. Once or twice they all began to peep loudly so of course I drop everything go and check on them. Nothing looks off, but their water seems very warm to me so I change it out for the Susan Burek cooled garlic and honey water. They sip it and that seems to be just what they need. The peeping stopped  and peace again reigns in our household.

Based on herbalist Susan Burek’s recommendation I am feeding our new chicks chickweed, dandelion and a few other greens today as well as the fresh minced garlic. It’s only day three and the chicks are already pecking, beginning to scratch and eating greens. This quite blows me away!

I made a Burek tea of garlic and honey and put it in one of the chick waterers. The second waterer has a steeped green tea made from various organic greens like dandelion greens and chickweed.

Chicks Fresh Greens Tea:

Gather dandelion greens, chickweed, comfrey, and wheatgrass greens and place in a quart canning jar.

Boil water and pout over greens. Let cool. Pour into glass chick waterer.

My goal is to acclimate them to the taste of the garlic from day one and for them to get all the nutritional and medicinal benefits of the raw honey and garlic as well. I used raw honey from our local beekeeper and added some chopped organic steeped garlic I bought at the store. I put that in their waterer today. She does this for at least three weeks.

Chicks Raw Garlic and Raw Honey Tea

Smash and mince four cloves of fresh garlic

Fill a quart canning jar with water and boil the water

Add garlic and steep until the water is cooled

Pour into chick waterer

I will continue this tea for at least three weeks. The greens, garlic and raw honey are all immune system boosters.

Morning and night I clean out the brooder box, putting down fresh paper towels. I always add chopped fresh greens and chopped garlic.  I can’t say for sure if they ate any significant amount if either but they are very interested in it. They peck at everything in general and  worked the greens around. I did see a piece of green grass sticking out of a chicks moth when they came to drink. If nothing else they are getting used to the smell, texture and taste. I call this a good first step to eating holistic herbs and live greens.

They are already growing too. They stretch their necks up tall and practice lifting and flapping their wings. They run from one side of the brooder to the other. Their growth is evidenced in their pronounced pin feathers.

I used raw honey from our local beekeeper and added some chopped organic steeped garlic I bought at the store. I put that in their waterer today. She does this for at least three weeks.

I also tried handling the chicks throughout the day too. They are a little skittish right now, and peep and squirm, but I have no doubt that continued handling will help to tame them.

I did some more introductions of the chicks to Sassy too.  I sat on the floor of the laundry room with a chick in my hands. Sassy hears them cheap but can’t quite figure out where they are located.  She thinks they are in the base of the brooder stand and looks for them there. When I hold one in my hand, stroking it, she sits in front of me and watches what I am doing. A couple of times she tried to nose or lick the bird and I quietly said, “Gentle.” I am hoping she gets the idea of what I want. Once she mouthed it but moved back at my command.

Please know that I am not taking credit for these holistic chicken management techniques, this is a Susan Burke developed system. I totally trust her judgment and experience and I am just following her suggestions.

I am getting up twice a night to change out water and give me chick starter feed.

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

Adventures in Chicken Keeping: Chicks Have Arrived

DAY ONE:

Our four new Rhode Island Red chicks arrived from the hatchery yesterday. My friend Dawn, who is a huge chicken lover, graciously pick up four for me and she took home 102 new chicks for her farm!! I’ve come to realize I can handle about four at a time with our life here on the homestead as it currently is.

Chicks in box at Dawns

 Piles of chicks trying to stay warm in the chick box.

I had the brooder and red light ready and when the call came I turned on the light, upped the house heat and drove over to her farm just 10 minutes away from us to pick them up. Within 15 minutes they were in their new home.

Donna with Rhode Island reds day one 4-20-15

Here I am with one of my new baby chicks.

 My brooder is not unusual; a sterilized plastic bin, with paper towels on the bottom. A red chick light, new thermometer, chicken water, organic chick starter  and a bit of grit on the towels (so they can easily see the food) a bit of grit I put Nutradrench in the water so they got a bit of a head start on vitamins from day one.

Brooder set up

A repurposed microwave stand as base and a sterilized recycle bin as brooder.

They were pretty exhausted from their big day. I dipped their beaks into the waterer so they knew it was therefor them but they were more asleep than awake. I watched them until I was sure they were all drinking and eating and then check in on them every little while. Some were pooping a kind of clear liquid that I assume is the fluid in their body from the liquid matter in the egg shells from before they were born.

Sleepy Girls

Sleepy girls cat-nap on and off in their first hour in their new home.

We also introduced our Lab Sassy, to them while they were peeping heavily when they first got home. She was very interested in their peeping noises and smells. She was exploring all around the converter brooder and spent a lot of time trying to figure out where exactly these peeps were coming from. We let her explore with supervision and told her to “leave it” a few times. So far she has been real good and we did not have to put up the baby gate in the doorway as I thought we might.

I decided not to handle them too much today in order to let them rest, recover and acclimate to their new home. It was a big, big day for them. They were cat-napping and wobbling around and doing well when I went to bed.

It was blessedly uneventful night. I got up at 5 a.m. to check on them and give them fresh water.

DAY TWO:

As I mentioned above I was up at early morning day two. I wanted to make sure they did not run out of water or that it was dirty.  I changed their paper towel litter and gave them fresh food and water. I have two chick waters and I am swapping them out frequently since their water warms up quickly from the 90 degree heat in the brooder.

I went on-line this morning to research what herbs new chicks could have and  at what age. I found a great article written by Susan Burek,  herbalist and owner of Mile High Herb Farm,  called Raising Chicks Naturally.  That same article can be accessed through the Poultry Natural Living Facebook group and then by going to the “files.” I whole-heartily recommend this herb based chicken group for additional learning and this article for anyone with new chicks who wants to do things as holistically as possible.

We are all off to a real good start!

Small House homesteader and chicken keeper, Donna

Easy to Make High Protein Chicken Feed Medley

I believe that healthy food is our best medicine and in using garden herbs for chicken health. So when I discovered this easy to make infused oil mixture for extra winter protein and nutrition for my chickens, I was thrilled.

Close up

A healthy and happy chicken has bright eyes, glossy feathers and ample energy.

While I can’t grow everything in my garden I do have a number of herbs that I grow and feed directly to our chickens. But winter feeding of herbs is so much harder.

Drinking out of red waterer

Lots of fresh water daily is also important to a chickens good health.

PLEASE NOTE: The credit for this original infused oil mixture goes solely to Susan Burek of Mile High Herbs, This came as a result of a post she made on the Poultry natural Living found on Facebook. This is my favorite chicken group of all time. https://www.facebook.com/groups/herbalpoultrycare/

Snoozle time

Mid afternoon snuggle down time.

While some of you are in states that are getting warmer, some of us “lucky ones” in the Midwest still have 3 to 5 ft. of snow on the ground!! And while our 10 degree below temperature have waned, it is running around 30 degrees at night. I’ve discovered that our woods holds in the snow and cold longer after it is melted in other more open spaces.

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Snow on the coop and covered run.

 So this means we are still feeding our chickens high caloric and protein feed for a few more weeks to help to keep them warm at night. I’ve tried all kind of feed type and combinations and this is the one I have the best luck with. It is versatile and can be adapted in many ways. I make the infused oil up ahead of time and then add that oil to whatever I am feeding that day.

Freckles close

This is Freckles, a Phoenix/Cochin mix and the top bird of our group.

This also kills two birds with one stone (likely a BAD analogy for chicken lovers!) but it gets the oils of the crushed garlic into the chicken as well as giving them the fuel that they need for cold nights. I feed garlic as a preventative measure to keep my birds as healthy as possible and basil for mucus membrane health and for its antibacterial properties.

Cloves of fresh garlic goes into my chickens food and their water. Some times they ignore it but some of them, like Freckles picks it out tosses it on the ground and then eats it. Freckles is the top chicken in our small flock.

Headingout the door of the enclosed run to the outside

Our girls heading outdoors for a little bit of sunbathing!

STEP 1: Garlic Infused Oil:

  1. Pour about 1 cup to cup and a half of a high-grade of virgin olive oil into clean a canning jar.
  2. Peel, crush and chop up 7 garlic cloves and add the garlic to the jar of oil
  3. I like to add dried oregano leaves but you can add almost any of your chicken healthy herbs that you might have on hand.
  4. Cover with lid and let this mix infuse several days to a week before using. The longer it infused the more it smells of the wonderful wholesome and healthy garlic.

STEP 2: Add Oil Mixture to Your Feed of Choice

I’ve been experimenting with many different combinations this winter but the one my chickens seem to like the best and the one they leave the least amount of waste behind.

Making the Oil and Protein Medley:

  1. I toss two handfuls of black oiled sunflower seeds in an ice cream bucket.
  2. Toss in a half a handful of dried meal worms.
  3. I add a large scoop of fermented organic chicken grower feed
  4. Add a chunk of cut up wheat grass
  5. A splash of apple cider vinegar
  6. Stir and feed

Add this mixture in your feeding bowl or pie plate and watch your girls rush in, cluck, cluck, and go to town!

Sitting pretty

Sitting pretty!  The girls today on their roost in the covered run.

You would never know today that these chickens were rescued chickens from a flock that was fed nothing but cracked corn. It’s taken me 7 to 8 months of providing fresh water and carefully selected food but they are now 8 months old and beginning to lay the mostly beautiful brown eggs.

The results of my feeding regime? Happy, healthy and well fed chickens. It is worth the effort!

Small House Chicken Keeper, Donna