“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
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.
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.
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
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
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…
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.
Remember to save that whey, there are so many uses for it from baking to added protein for your flock.
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.
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.
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
Cooked beans (never uncooked!)
Whole grain cereals (no sugar)
Black Sunflower seeds
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…..