“Whey” to treat your chickens..

Here at The Chicken Fountain™ we are always looking for ways to stretch our dollar, especially when it comes to our feed bill.  The cost of good layer feed seems to be going up every day so we look for ways to supplement our feed with good healthy sources of protein.

One way I’ve found to really give the girls a protein boost is by adding whey to their feed. For those of you that don’t know, whey is a liquid high in protein  and  it contains 9 essential amino acids. It is a byproduct of cheese making and I was lucky enough to get two gallons of raw milk to make fresh cheese over the New Years holiday.

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When you make your own cheese you will quickly see why good quality artisan cheeses are expensive. An entire gallon of raw milk is required to make a baseball size of finished cheese.  You are left with a little less then a full gallon of whey to use in many things. We like to use whey as a substitute for milk in pancake and biscuit recipes. I also like to use it in warm treats for the flock. Whey is a yellowish in color and closely resembles water but has a interesting flavor. Don’t let it fool you, it is packed with protein and amino acids and great for you and the flock but as with everything moderation is important.

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One way I like to use whey is in our Winter Flock Porridge. In the recipe below I will substitute whey for the water to help boost the protein and moisten the porridge…

Winter Flock Porridge

1.5 lb. Old Fashion Oats
1/2  cup Flax Seed
1/3 lb. cooked pasts (cut into small pieces)
1 cup frozen berries (thawed)
2 cups ground beef or other protein (leftovers work well here)
1 1/2 cups mixed frozen (thawed) or fresh veggies (think leftovers)
8 egg shells (baked and crushed fine)
1 cup scratch
4 cloves garlic chopped
Variations:
Raisins
Cooked beans (never uncooked!)
Fish meal
Whole grain cereals (no sugar)
Black Sunflower seeds
Other veggies
Cooked Rice

Process:
I start by placing the oats in a large deep aluminum pan (a catering pan works great).  I then add approximately 4 cups of very warm water (or whey) allowing it to sit while the oats soak up the liquid.  My cooked veggies, pasta and ground beef are then all mixed in along with my fruits and garlic. At this point I decide if I want to add more warm water (or whey) to make the consistency just right. If so, then I will warm the water (or whey)  before adding it so it helps to heat up the oats and other ingredients. (Just make sure that you do not allow the mixture to get too hot.  It should be warm similar to the temperature of a baby bottle.)  Just before I bring it to the flock I add my flax seed, egg shells, and scratch so they stay a little “crunchy”. That’s it!

Hope this post helps you keep your flock just a little bit warmer, naturally and another use for that whey you may have leftover this winter…..

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Making Mozzarella Cheese in no time!

Making homemade cheese can be fun and rewarding. The kids love helping out because they can see the liquid change to solids right in front of their eyes! Around here we let them choose the “additives” to flavor our cheese. This recipe is for Garlic Herb Mozzarella and boy is it good!

There are a lot of methods on the internet while I don’t want to downplay the art of making cheese it really is a simple process and one that only uses a few items and not much time at all…Here is how I do it..

 

Equipment you will need:

Heavy bottom pan (stainless steel not aluminum)

Slotted stainless steel spoon

Stainless steel colander (you can use cheese cloth or a flour sack towel)

Microwave safe container

Plastic food wrap like Saran Wrap

Thermometer

Measuring cup

Measuring spoons

 

Ingredients: 

1 gallon whole or 2% milk (don’t use ultra pasteurized)

1.5 tsp Citric Acid

1.25 cup water

1/4 tablet or tsp Rennet (enzyme)

Salt / Herbs

 

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Slowly heat the milk in the heavy bottom pot over medium-low flame on the stove  top. Stir the milk so you get no hot spots and don’t heat too fast or you will burn it on the bottom. Using the thermometer heat 1 gallon of milk to 85°. Once at this temperature mix 1.5 tsp of citric acid with one cup cool water and add to the milk. Stir gently for 20 seconds with a slotted spoon. Continue heating the milk until it reaches 100°. Dissolve 1/4 tablet rennet in 1/4 cup cool water or if  using liquid rennet mix 1/4 tsp with 1/4 cup cool water.  Add the rennet mixture to the milk and stir in a “up down” motion for roughly 30 seconds. You will now see the curd separating from the whey in the milk. Increase the heat of the milk to 105° and then turn off the stove and move the pan from the burner. Cover the pot and allow to sit for 10 to 12 minutes. You will see a yellowish liquid forming in the pan, this is your whey and a white solid which is your curd. At this point the curd will be forming a solid layer on top of the whey. You can test to see if the curd is fully formed by pressing a spoon in the top of the curd. The spoon should leave a indentation in the curd when fully formed.

Now it is time to drain the whey away from the curd. Take a knife and cut your curd into chunks. Using the slotted spoon remove the curd from the pot and place into the colander. Use your hand or the back of the slotted spoon gently press the curds to release as much whey as possible. Continue pressing and draining until you get very little whey left in the curds.

Move the curds from the colander to a microwave safe bowl and heat on high in your microwave for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and again press the curds to release as much whey as possible from the curds. Continue pressing the curds to draw the liquid whey out until almost no whey is left. Reheat the curds in the microwave on high for 30 seconds. Remove and begin to knead the curd until it begins to take on a smooth appearance. At this point you are almost there, just a little stretching left to do…

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Its important to stretch the curds to help them relax and form a ball. Stretching can only occur when the curds reach 135° so you may need to place it back in the microwave for 30 seconds on high. Take a temperature and once at 135° begin to stretch. Allow the curds to fold over on itself and make a ball. At this point I add the salt and herbs and continue stretching and folding in the seasoning. Don’t overdue it a 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp garlic powder and 1/2 tsp pepper and 1 tsp Italian seasoning does just fine but add to your liking. Continue to stretch the curds and incorporate the herb mixture. Remember you can reheat the curds in the microwave to make stretching easier.

Form the curds into a smooth ball and wrap in plastic food wrap. I then will take aluminum foil and wrap it around the ball to help it hold its shape while cooling.

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Remember to save that whey, there are so many uses for it from baking to added  protein for your flock.

 

Enjoy

 

Frank

The Chicken Fountain™

 

Need a Little Heat?

“Need a little heat” ~ Well the real answer to that questions is “maybe”. In the vast majority of cases, chickens do not need a supplemental heat source. If in doubt, think of the small sparrows and other winter birds that visit your feeders in the middle of winter…

Furnishing your flock with a well-ventilated, draft-free coop and adding insulating material will help keep them comfortable all winter long. A little scratch about 30 minutes before bedtime will help as well. It’s also important that you select the correct breed of birds for your environment, but hopefully you have done that prior to winter arriving…

There may be times that you do want to add a little heat. Typically this is when you have a sick or injured bird, young birds, or birds that for one reason or another have lost their feathers.

When you make the decision to add heat its important that you don’t overdue it. This is a perfect example that if a little of something is good, too much of it is deadly!  Here at The Chicken Fountain™ when I make the decision to add heat it is not taken lightly.  Adding heat is dangerous no matter how you do it!  Just think about how dust, dander, small flammable creatures running around, wooden structures, heat, and electricity can add up to a disaster.  Be careful and think this through…

When I add heat I do it with a radiant heat source.  You can purchase some really nice (and expensive) units, or you can easily make one yourself. While I do have one of the commercial units when I have a lot of chicks brooding,  I mostly use my homemade version which preforms just as well for a fraction of the cost. I call it our Flower Pot Heater and the directions are below.

 

FLOWER POT HEATER

  1. Items needed:
    1.  One 10″ to 12″ inch flower pot with a center hole in the bottom
      1. You can use a terracotta pot or a clay pot but don’t use a plastic or compression pot.
    2. Lamp fixture with cord.
      1. I purchased an old lamp at the second hand store for $2.00 and just disassembled it, all my parts were there.
        1. You will need the bulb fixture, extension tube,  assorted washers, retention nut and a cord with plug.
    3. One 12″x 12″ concrete paving stone.
    4. One 60 watt light bulb.

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Step 1 ~ Make sure the flowerpot is cleaned out and completely dry.

Step 2 ~ Disassemble the lamp and retain all of the parts.

Step 3 ~ Slip off the cover of the bulb fixture and loosening the screws remove the cord form the fixture.

Step 4 ~ Attach the bulb fixture to the flowerpot by using the nut and washers from the lamp. You will need a extension tube (available at Lowe’s $1.00) but many lamps already have one you can reuse.

Step 5 ~ Slide the cord through the extension tube and hole in the bottom of the flowerpot. Reattach to the bulb fixture.

Step 6~ Place a dab of silicone on the opening where the lamp cord enters the extension tube. This will seal out any dust or dander from getting into the fixture.

Step 7 ~ Ensure you replace the cover on the bulb fixture.IMG_2344.JPG

Step 8 ~ Install a 60 watt incandescent light bulb. Please note: Don’t use a LED light bulb as these do not produce the heat needed.

Step 9 ~ Flip the unit over onto a clean 12″x 12″ concrete or brick paver roughly 1″ to 2″ thick and turn the light on. Make sure that the concrete paver completely covers the opening of the flower pot. Allow to warm up.

Step 10 ~ Place the unit inside the coop ensuring that you route the cord in a manner that the birds can not become entangled in it.

My flock loves this type of heater because they can deiced for themselves if they need any supplemental heat. If they do they sit closer to it if not they leave it alone. This set up works great with young birds who may not be completely feathered out as well as birds who may have suffered feather loss or are ill. A healthy mature flock does not need any supplemental heat.

This low cost Flower Pot Heater produces just enough heat to allow your birds to snuggle up next to it and not run the risk of getting burned. The clay material will warm from the inside out and radiate the heat to the surrounding area. It is not designed to heat a coop which is never recommended but it does produce enough heat to help keep their bodies warm.

A note of caution… Anytime you add electricity to a coop there is risk involved!  Always make sure that you use quality materials. Frayed or split lamp cords loose electrical fixtures poor quality extension cords and open plugs can all pose a potential fire hazard. If in doubt get professional advise.

Frank@TheChickenFountain™

 

 

 

 

Winter will soon be here

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It is hard to think of the cold days of winter while many of us are sweltering in the heat but it will soon be here and now is the time to begin your winter preparation for your flock.

It is much easier to fix a leaky roof or broken side board in the summer months then it is in freezing weather! With a little prep work now your flock will have a comfortable winter in the security of their coop.

To help your flock survive the cold winter it is important that you provide them with a draft free well ventilated environment out of the elements. Depending on your region you may or may not need to add insulation to your coop but you should never add supplemental heat. Heat sources are not only unnecessary they are dangerous! Each year coop fires that are the result of supplemental heat sources account for thousands of dollars in property damage and countless lost lives. If you still choose to add heat take time to investigate some of the “safer” ways to do so, or consider the inexpensive radiant heater I built, take a look https://www.facebook.com/TheChickenFountain/photos/pb.273663239396519.-2207520000.1438885757./705424652887040/?type=3&theater

If you are anything like me the it is best to create a checklist to make sure you have covered everything before its too late. I’ve listed some of the things I review to ensure my flock and coop are ready for the cold….

  1. Repair any roof/wall leaks
  2. Secure any loose boards
  3. Seal drafts properly
    1. Consider installing our CoopTight™ it really helps!
  4. Clean gables and ensure good ventilation
  5. Check insulation and prepare to add if needed
  6. Correct drainage issues
    1. Note: Water should flow away from your coop and run
  7. Winterize The Chicken Fountain™
  8. Make sure your first aid kit is fully stocked

Taking a few minutes now to review and address these issues will help your flock have a successful and comfortable winter season…Now its time to reapply the sunscreen….

Got mice?!? Build a better mousetrap….

Have you ever gotten a mouse around your coop you just can’t seem to catch? Often our birds will take care of the problem themselves but there are times when they need just a little help. Keeping feed off the floor and ensuring that and spilled feed is cleaned up quickly will help keep mice away from your flock. Those cute little mice can carry several diseases harmful to you and your flock. Living on a small farm we always will have a mouse or two especially when the fields are being cut. Our barn cat the “mouser” seems less and less interested in doing his job as he grows older.  I’ve learned that when you have just a couple of mice you quickly can become overrun. A mouse can breed 5 to 10 times per year and can have up to 14 mouse pups (yes they call them pups) in a litter. That’s a total of up to 140 mice from just one female! Now you do the math and you can see how quickly it can get out of hand! There are a number of ways to eliminate an infestation of mice, traps, poison, electronic devices are just a few. It is extremely important that you safeguard your flock from whatever method you choose to use. Birds can become entrapped by mouse traps breaking a toe, beak or worst. Poisons are never a good idea to use around the flock. Mice consume the poison and die leaving their body to be eaten by your birds or other household pets.  I’ve never had much luck with the electronic mice deterrents and to use these you typically need electricity which many coops don’t have. One thing I’ve learned is that no matter how “inaccessible” you think something is, your flock can find a way to get to it! So what do I do, I build my own! This is a simple, effective and cheap method to rid yourself of mice. Its also a great project to do with the kids. This trap only takes about 15 minutes to make and can be done for less then $5.00 and can be used over and over again. Best of all it is not hazardous to your flock although it is to the mouse or rat.

Materials needed:

One 5 Gallon bucket 2-inch PVC end caps x 2 5” piece of 2” PVC pipe 16-inch piece of stiff wire (I used electric fencing wire) Peanut butter Drill Pliers Start by gathering your items: IMG_3702 Next drill a hole in the center of each of the 2” PVC caps. The hole should be slightly larger then the wires diameter so the cap freely spins on the wire. IMG_3703IMG_3704 Now drill two holes roughly 1” down from the top edge of the bucket. Drill the holes direct across from each other on the top edge of the bucket. IMG_3705 Insert the wire through one 2” PVC caps then slip the pipe onto the wire inserting it into the cap. Then slip the other 2” PVC cap onto the wire and connect it to the other side of the pipe. There really is no need to use glue. Slip the wire through the hole in one side of the bucket and through the hole in the other side so the wire and pipe span the bucket. IMG_3706 Using a pliers bend the end of the wire that protrudes to the outside of the bucket so it does not pull through. IMG_3707 Liberally apply Peanut Butter to the center section of the pipe and position the pipe in the center of the wire. IMG_3709IMG_3710 Place the bucket next to a shelf, wall or anything else a mouse could use to climb on and get to the peanut butter. You can also use a board leaned against the bucket acting as a ramp. You would be amazed at how resourceful a mouse can get to get to the peanut butter. IMG_3712 The mouse will climb out onto the pipe to get the peanut butter and when they do the pipe will spin dumping the mouse into the bucket. Now if you are using a high walled bucket then the mouse can’t get out until you get him out. A mouse can jump almost 12″ vertically.  An alternative is to fill the bucket with 10-inches or so of water and the mouse will drown, either way works and best of all its safe and cost effective….

Thanks for reading…

Frank

The Chicken Fountain™

http://www.chickenfountain.com

Pallet egg candler…

I recently started up our incubator for a friend of ours, he wants to see if any of his 12 eggs would result in new baby chicks. I have everything I need but was lacking one thing, a good egg candler. In the past I’ve used the flashlight and toilet paper tube approach but based on the fact that I plan on doing some presentations I wanted something a little more professional looking, but still cheap!

Kicking around I had a few extra pallets. Now I’ve seen everything built with a pallet from furniture to homes. The wood is strong, normally untreated and best of all free.  I thought I’d take a little time and put together an egg candler and is a great project to do with the kids..

Materials needed:

One pallet

Heavy-duty aluminum foil

Light bulb socket and cord

1 inch I/D rubber washer

Screws

Glue

Saw

Screwdriver or drill driver

Here is how I did it…

Start by picking a pallet that has several decent boards. The boards I used off the pallet were 5 inches wide.

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Next remove the boards and cut 4 pieces of wood 11 inches long all of the same width.

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In one board make a 7/8 inch hole two inches from the end in the center of your board. This will be where you place the eggs to candle.

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Using glue, secure the 1 inch rubber washer to the observation hole. This will give you a tight seal so light does not escape.

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Join the boards together with screws, forming a tunnel. It is important to pre-drill the holes so you do not split the wood.

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Take a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil and liberally spread glue on the non-shiny side of the foil.

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Carefully line the inside of the tunnel with the aluminum foil smoothing the foil to all sides of the tunnel. Make sure you punch out the foil where it covers the observation hold in the board.

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Cut two boards to fit the ends of your tunnel.

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Cover one end board with aluminum foil (shiny side out) using glue.

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Secure this board to the end of the tunnel. Make sure that you secure it to the end that has the hole cut in the board. Note: This will be the non light fixture end.

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Take the second end board and drill an appropriate hole size in the center to install a lamp fixture. Note: I used an old lamp we had in the attic, I just disassembled it and took out the bulb fixture. You can also find surface mount fixtures

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Next cover the end board with aluminum foil using glue to hold the foil in place. Remember to punch out the aluminum foil so the light fixture can go in place.

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Mount the light fixture to the end board and install a maximum of a 60 watt bulb. I like to use the low energy bulbs because they burn much cooler.

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Secure the fixture end board to the tunnel making sure that there is sufficient clearance for the bulb.

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Plug in your unit and place an egg over the observation hole to candle the egg.

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Is your feed dusty? Read this…

I am one to always try and save what I can and use it whenever possible just ask my wife, at times it drives her crazy! The thing that has always driven me crazy is the amount of feed dust inside the feedbags I buy for the flock. It doesn’t seem to matter what type it is, what manufacturer, organic or not there is always a huge volume of feed dust inside the bag. After I fill my feeders and the birds finish eating there is even more feed dust remaining in the bottom of the feeders. Sometimes it is so much that it clogs up the gravity flowing of the feeder in to the bottom tray…

I have talked to my feed store, written to the manufacturer but I’ve really seen no change. I decided to do something to help with the issue and didn’t want to spend any more money trying different things. Here is a quick and simple way to help reduce the amount of feed dust from getting into your feeders.

1) Take a standard 3-quart plastic feed scoop.

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2) Drilled a series of holes all around the bottom and sides of the scoop. The drill bit I used was just large enough to allow the dust to flow out but small enough to keep the feed inside the scoop. (Make sure you remove all of the little plastic particles so they don’t get into the feed.)

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Now when I scoop the feed I shake it a little to allow the dust to flow out of the little holes and keep it out of my feeders. Today I was able to save ½ pound of feed dust that I’ll use for something else. Based on how long a bag last me I’m estimating that I’ll save almost 2.5 pounds of dust per bag. That is roughly 5% of the volume of the bag!

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Instead of allowing this to go to waste I’ll now add the dust to my winter protein mix, oatmeal or whatever treats I may be able to incorporate it into…Its good for the birds and for my wallet…

“Waste not want not…”

 

Frank

The Chicken Fountain™

http://www.chickenfountain.com