Taking Stock and Making Stock

As the year winds to an end, I’ve been thinking about all we’ve accomplished and all we are hoping to accomplish in 2012.  Despite a terribly rainy summer, we were lucky to bring in about 1/3 of the tomatoes we were expecting, and when I say that although it is a blessing, it truly was — many of our friends got no tomatoes after a wilting blight struck pretty much the entire area.  We planted two new fruit trees (cherries!) and six blueberry bushes (three high bush and three medium bush), and we did a first round of pruning on some old apple trees that have been on our property forever.  I also put in a strawberry patch and hope to finally get some asparagus in this spring.  I bought some year old roots this past spring (2011) but never got them in — does anyone know if they’d still be viable?

The chickens were really our greatest accomplishment, though.  In late April, 27 arrived from Murry McMurray Hatchery (26 Buff Orpingtons & 1 Spangled Hamburg “Mystery” Chick).  They all lived, though one of our girls had a bit of trouble at first, and we ended up with 2 roosters, 8 hens, and and 17 denizens of Freezer Camp, after a trip to the local Amish for butchering.

Abby and her four week-old flock in the hoop house. At this point, I was transporting them out in a plastic tote on warm mornings.

I will say that one of the biggest changes that these chickens brought into our lives was a need to really use their meat and eggs mindfully since we’d been so careful in their upbringing.  They spent their days in an open air hoop house that we built and their nights in their closed-off coop, making the voyage back and forth with the help of our Australian Shepherd, Abby, and the occasional carry-over from me or Jason (for our really stubborn birds).  At fourteen weeks, I selected out our best (friendliest) five hens and one rooster to keep permanently and moved them over into the A-Frame, so they could bond and I could get attached (I tried to maintain some distance from the meat birds since we couldn’t decide to keep all 27).  And four weeks later (right before the trip to the Amish), I selected an extra rooster and three more hens (two of which had started laying!), and they blended pretty seamlessly back into the flock of layers.  We chose our roosters for their gentleness with the girls and were careful in selecting a clear Alpha and Beta; we haven’t had a single cock fight, and it’s quite clear who’s in charge (Beta doesn’t seem to care and Alpha is pretty gentle with everyone).

Roasted, home-grown chicken.

As such, whenever I roast a chicken that we raised ourselves, I’m diligent in making stock and ensuring that we use every part of the bird before the carcass heads out in the trash.  Initially, I really struggled with what to do with three quarts of chicken stock every few weeks, but I’ve found a few quick solutions.  I either freeze it in quart bags (after it has cooled!) or turn it into soup, as I did yesterday.  I’m not sure why I didn’t start making stock sooner, as it is so simple; I think I may have been a bit scared of my Crock Pot, particularly leaving it on overnight.

So here’s my simple stock recipe.  Please feel free to modify it to your tastes.

Simple Stock from a Roasted Chicken Carcass

This recipe makes three quarts of chicken stock. Do note its color in this photo. One of the biggest differences I have noticed between our organic, grass-fed birds and the grocery store variety is the richer color and flavor of the stock!

Ingredients:
1 Chicken Carcass – Picked Clean (or Nearly Clean) of Meat (I use bones & skin)
–> Neck, Heart, Liver (Set aside before cooking & added raw to the Crock Pot)
1 Large Onion, Quartered
3 Carrots, Cut into Large Chunks
2 – 3 Ribs of Celery (I add this if I have it)
4 Cloves of Garlic, Peeled and Halved
Water to Cover Stock Ingredients

  1. Roast chicken  and enjoy with your family!  Save any meat that is left over for sandwiches, soups, casseroles and stews, separately.  There is no need to add this to your stock!
  2. Clean chicken carcass and place bones & skin in Crock Pot (I use our 4.5 qt. CP).

    Combine ingredients before adding water.

  3. Peel & cut up garlic, onions and carrots and drop into pot.
  4. Cut celery into large chunks and add to the pot (you may want to add a few of the leafy celery greens, as well!).
  5. Nestle the neck, liver and heart into the pot.
  6. Cover everything completely with water and place the lid on your Crock Pot.

    Cover ingredients completely with cold water.

  7. Turn Crock Pot onto low and leave on your counter-top for eight to ten hours (I usually cook it overnight).
  8. The liquid will range from bright yellow (grocery store chickens) to a deep brown (organic, home grown chickens).

    Eight hours later...

  9. Strain your stock through a metal sieve and discard bones and vegetables.

    I use a metal sieve and the bowl of my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Just be careful if your stock is still piping hot (I usually let mine cool for an hour with the lid on before processing).

  10. Store your stock in the refrigerator for 1 week or the freezer for 2 – 3 months.  My choice method of freezing involves cooling the stock in glass canning jars in the fridge and then pouring the stock into quart freezer bags, sealing and laying them flat to freeze (so you end up with flat bricks of chicken stock that stack easily in the freezer).  Another method would be to freeze stock in ice cube trays (if you need smaller amounts of stock in your recipes) then break apart and place in freezer bags, working quickly so the stock doesn’t melt.

What is your favorite chicken stock recipe?

Turning on the Lights

Twas the night before Christmas, and Abby was eagerly watching her stocking…What were Jason and I doing?  Trying to figure out whether or not the girls needed a heat lamp in their dwelling, and by the girls — I mean the roosters.   Last week, while I was picking up the last of the holiday supplies, I also tucked an infrared heat lamp bulb into my cart at Tractor Supply, thinking that maybe the local weatherman’s predictions of cold temperatures coming might necessitate a few hours of warmth in the middle of a very cold night.  Then I stopped watching the news for three or four days in the rush of the holidays.

Christmas Eve: We’d just finished the gift exchange at Jason’s grandmother’s when he went to load a few things into our car, and I felt the shock of cold air through the door.  I knew the temperature was going to drop, but even I was surprised when I read the possibility of -17 online as soon as we got home.  He went upstairs to work on his latest project, a cigar box guitar, while I started doing some serious cold weather research.  I wasn’t sure what temperature necessitated heat, but I was fairly certain that -17 without factoring the windchill might be that temperature.

After looking at Backyard Chickens and searching through a few of my favorite home reference texts, we decided to plug in.  Many chicken keepers in the north choose to and not to heat their coops for a variety of ethical reasons, and we’re certainly not going to install any kind of permanent heat in our coop (beyond the water font warmer), but with temperatures that low and a breed of chickens that have protruding combs on the roosters (who won’t tuck their heads under their wings at night), heating for the six coldest hours of Christmas Eve night seemed the way to go.  I decided on six hours of heat through the coldest part of the night, with an early shut off time to ensure that the birds wouldn’t become acclimated and then freeze if (or possibly when) our power goes off for a few hours this winter.

We hung our lamp from an eye hook and metal chain about five feet above the perch (and three feet from the insulated ceiling) — enough to keep wattles and combs warm without significantly increasing the heat of the space and shocking the birds.  My only regret is that we waited until it was -4 to do the installation (many cold fingers), so it’s all solid but a little aesthetically sloppy.

I was happy to find everyone cozy and warm Christmas morning and can report that 3/4 of the flock laid eggs, despite the chilly temperatures.

Christmas Eve Traditions

This is only the second Christmas I’ve spent away from home, and as much as I’m missing the younger siblings (who arrived home together at 5:30 this morning to surprise Mom instead of waiting until that time to leave their respective cities), it is nice to be spending my first holiday with my future in-laws and sleeping in my own bed.   So much of this holiday feels like the first steps toward building future family traditions, while still participating in the traditions that Jason and I grew up with.

Our holiday table (with cat in residence).

We woke this morning and made french toast with our own eggs, and I’m currently baking loaves of Portuguese Corn Bread (more like a really rustic artisan loaf than typical American cornbread) to bring to his Gram’s tonight for their annual family gathering.  Tomorrow morning, we’ll host our first Christmas breakfast at the house and tomorrow afternoon, we’ll go to his cousin’s for Christmas lunch.

This year's sewing project - two homemade stockings.

Hand-Stitched Stocking Detail.

Our cornbread recipe came from the great book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which is my go-to cookbook for all things quick and bread-related.  I spent about six months on the fence about buying this book and it has been worth every penny.  I think my next cookbook purchase will likely be their Healthy Breadbook.

Freshly baked bread!

Perfect Holiday Goodies

Over the last few years, I’ve compiled a few go-to holiday recipes for family and work gatherings.  While I was always very, very skeptical of homemade holiday candy (can you say flaming burnt sugar and pans cooling off in snowbanks?), the guys over at Culinary in the Country had me hooked with their simple Almond Roca and Gingerbread Popcorn (or ginger-crack as my boss calls it).

I’ve included some of my own pictures here, but I’m going  to redirect you to Culinary in the Country since I’ve made only very small changes to their core recipes.

Gingerbread Popcorn

With this recipe, the only change I make is adding double the cinnamon and an extra teaspoon of ginger (for super-spicy popcorn).  I also bake mine on cookie sheets, rather than 9 x 13 pans.

Almond Roca

This recipe is perfect, as-is!

Peppermint Cookies

I will note that when I made the peppermint cookies for the first time last night, I was particularly concerned about the melting of the white chocolate, as it was something I have always struggled with.  I used Baker’s Premium White Chocolate and – shockingly, even to me – was able to melt it in a microwave safe bowl.  I will note that the quantity of chocolate is correct (I had to buy four boxes of it in order to do all the cookies), but the cookies came out beautifully!  I think they’re really going to be a hit at my future in-laws’ Christmas eve gathering!

I also used pure mint extract, rather than peppermint and preferred the milder mint taste.

Happy baking!

Pumpkin Sage Macaroni and Cheese

When the temperature drops, I’m always looking for healthy, simple meals that come together easily after a long day at work and taste great!  Admittedly, this dish takes a little longer (30 minutes active + 30 minutes baking), so I typically save it for vacations or Saturday nights at home.  But don’t be scared away too easily — this dish is simple, creamy and delicious!

Although I use fresh or home-frozen pumpkin (see preserving methods below), you can also use canned pumpkin or (thawed) frozen squash in this recipe.

Pumpkin Sage Macaroni and Cheese

3 Large Servings or 4 Small Servings

2 c. dry pasta, boiled in lightly salted water until finished
2 T butter

Ingredients!

2 c. milk (I use 2%, but skim or whole will work)
3 T flour
1 c. pumpkin puree at room temperature
1/2 T sage (dry) or 3 T diced fresh sage
1/2 T salt (to taste)
1 c. sharp cheddar (I use Cabot Hunter Sharp)
3/4 c. bread crumbs or cracker crumbs (I use Panko, but Ritz crackers work in a pinch)

  1. Melt the butter in a large saute pan.  Meanwhile, prepare two cups of dry pasta as directed.
  2. Add milk to butter and warm to a simmer.
  3. Remove 1/2 cup of warmed milk and whisk in the flour.  Transfer flour and milk mixture back to the main pan and whisk until fully combined.
  4. Add pumpkin and stir in completely.
  5. Add sage and cook until sauce thickens (to a cream sauce consistency).
  6. When sauce is the desired thickness, add cheese and stir until combined.
  7. Drain cooked pasta and fold into the sauce.
  8. Pour pasta and sauce mixture into a greased 8×8 pan.
  9. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs.

Bake at 350 degrees 25 – 30 minutes.

To Roast Pumpkin:

Cut a small pumpkin in half, scoop out the innards, and roast for 1 hour at 325 degrees.  When cooked through (fork tender), puree in a blender or food processor.  Then, it’s ready to use!  I usually cook five or six pumpkins at a time, separate into 1c. servings (in sandwich bags) and freeze in larger freezer bags.

Coping with Cold

It’s been a cold two nights in Northern Maine.  Not any  colder than what one would normally expect at this time of year, but after a perilously mild November and early December, watching the mercury sink below zero for the first time this morning was a bit nerve wracking, particularly since our girls were out there in their coop and I, sitting by the pellet stove, had nothing better to do than worry about them.

Even though we have gone with a cold-hardy breed (Buff Orpingtons) and they’re in a draft free but fairly natural coop (no real source of heat), I find myself as fretful as I was when they were two week old chicks and a freak-mini-tornado blew out our power for 48 hours, taking with it their access to their heat lamp-sun.  I can happily report that not only is our egg production still up, despite the cold temperatures (today’s high was around 12 degrees F) but everyone still seems pretty comfortable, if a bit more puffy than normal.

I will admit that with tonight’s low predicted around -6 F, Jason and I spent fifteen minutes taking some extra precautions to ensure a safe and healthy evening.  I started out by applying a thin coat of Vaseline to the comb and wattles of each chicken, focusing more on the roosters than the hens because our girls sleep with their heads tucked up under their wings (they look like feathery little footballs!).  We then refilled the feeder (it wasn’t empty, but I did top it off), refreshed the grit and oyster shell (just because it was a convenient time), checked the water (still plenty and running clear) and tossed down 3/4 c. of cracked corn to get everyone up and moving before bed.  Several of the sources I’ve been reading suggested a later evening feeding to ensure that the flock goes to bed with full crops to ensure that the digestion process helps keep them nice and warm overnight.

I’ve also continued watering with hot water each morning (typically by six a.m.) to give everyone a nice warm start to the day ~ their version of my coffee habit.

Here’s hoping everyone stays nice and warm tonight!

Preparing for the Holidays: Cheese Danish

Christmas was always a special time for my family when I was growing up.  Even now, as an adult, I still have vivid memories of the twinkling lights of the Christmas trees at midnight mass, the smell of gingerbread in the oven, and the holiday music my mother started playing the day after Thanksgiving at all of our family meals.

As Jason and I start building our lives together and shaping holiday traditions, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I want to preserve from my childhood.  The first thing that comes to mind is Mom’s cheese danish.  Cheese danish, in my family, is a holiday staple.  My mother would make several batches weeks in advance, bringing it to holiday parties at school (she is also a teacher), and saving three or four thick loaves for our own Christmas breakfast.

The night before Christmas, after the traditional reading of that eponymous tale, she would whisk it out of the freezer, where it would warm on the counter until the next morning, when she would frost it and serve it up in front of the tree with cinnamon rolls for my younger brother (allergic to eggs), as something to tide us over until Christmas brunch with my grandparents.  I still remember getting up early with my sister, to make coffee so we could lure mom out of bed to help us whip up the frosting and get Christmas morning started.

This recipe is older than I am, and though I know at one point it was torn out of a magazine and adapted, I couldn’t tell you which magazine or what adaptations mom made to it.  I have included a few variations below the recipe, so you can adjust it to your tastes.

Mom’s Cheese Danish: (This is a two-day recipe!)

One the First Day
Dough:
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. white sugar
1 c. sour cream (regular or low fat, but NOT fat free)
1 t. salt

2 T yeast
1/2 c. warm water
2 eggs, beaten

4 c. all purpose flour

  1.  Place butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan over low heat. Once  butter is partially melted, add the sour cream, sugar, and salt. Stir regularly until completely incorporated. Cool for 30 minutes.
  2. Once dairy mixture is cool, dissolve 2 T of yeast in  water in a large mixing bowl (I use my KitchenAid stand mixer for this). After 5 minutes, add the dairy mixture and the two beaten eggs and mix on low to combine completely.
  3. Add all four cups of flour and mix until fully incorporated. You will be left with a moist dough.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.

The Next Day…
Filling:
16 oz. cream cheese
3/4 c. white sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/8 t. salt
1 T vanilla

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut into four equal pieces, then roll into large balls and place on a floured surface.  Prepare two cookie sheets by lining them with aluminum foil and greasing the foil.

  1.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut into four equal pieces, then roll into large balls and place on a floured surface.
  2.  Meanwhile, beat together the cream cheese and sugar until fully incorporated, then add the egg, salt and vanilla. The result will be a smooth creamy mixture.
  3. On your floured surface, roll the dough into approximately 12” x 8” rectangles, about 1/4” thick.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, gently spread on the cream cheese mixture.
  5. Roll into a log and tuck the ends underneath the danish. Place on a greased cookie sheet (2 danish per sheet, about 4 inches apart).  Note: Greasing the cookie sheet is crucial!  I use shortening, softened butter or Pam, depending on what I have available in my kitchen.
  6. Cover with a lint-free dish towel and allow to rise for 1 hour.
  7. 30 minutes into the rise, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  8. Gently score each danish about 3/4 of the way through in five or six places with a sharp knife.
  9. Bake for 12 -15 minutes until golden brown.
  10. Cool completely

Frosting:
1/2 c. shortening
2 – 3 c. confectioner’s sugar
1/8 t. salt
1 – 2 T milk
1 t. vanilla

  1. In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar and salt into the shortening.
  2. Add the milk and vanilla until a creamy frosting emerges.
  3. You may need to add more or less sugar depending on you preference.
  4. Frost and serve danish.

Variations:

  1.   You may substitute 1 t almond extract for 1 T of vanilla in the cheese filling.
  2.   You may add 1/4 c. strawberry or raspberry jam spread thinly onto each danish (in addition to the cheese filling).
  3. For the holidays this year, I hope to add some chopped sour cherries that I have frozen in the basement to see how they change the taste.
  4. You may also crush walnuts or almonds and sprinkle them over the frosting before it sets.

Happy baking & Happy Holidays!

Holiday Traditions: Decking the Halls

This year's tree (and first snow!).

I come from a long line of holiday house decorators.  Some of my fondest memories involve dragging out boxes of ornaments and garland to dress the house the day after Thanksgiving, but by far, my favorite memories involve my family’s yearly holiday tree.  My mother was, admittedly, picky about tree choice, as she grew up without a live tree, and she would drag the three of us and my father through lot after lot.  That said, the ritual of the tree became very important in our family, and it’s something that I still look forward to every year, even if we’ve traded tree lots for open forests.

Once the tree was home, Mom and Dad would put it up and string the lights, and after giving the tree several hours to settle, they would bring out the boxes (and boxes) of family ornaments.  What made this tradition so special was that every year, each child was gifted an ornament, somehow related to what we had done that year (I have a field hockey player, a pair of hand-painted (by Mom) ceramic ice skates, a hot pink pig, and many more).

The ornament I bought myself for my first Christmas away from home.

When I went to grad school and faced my first Christmas away from home, I was nearly brought to tears by the arrival of a Christmas package from mom, filled with all 21 of my holiday ornaments, dating back to my first Christmas.  Putting them on my own tree in that far-away town not only brought back fond Christmas memories, it brought my family into my own home at Christmas time.

What I love about the tradition of gifting ornaments to children is that it doesn’t have a to be a costly, commercial affair.  In lean years (and my family had lean years), we would craft holiday ornaments with my mother.  Each ornament is not necessarily expensive, but it is distinctive, and my tree is full of unique pieces that remind me, every time I look at them, of the happiness of holidays at home.

Jason and I have continued this tradition by purchasing ornaments whenever we go away on vacation, so we can continue to chronicle the years on our tree.  And, someday, when we have children, we hope to continue my family’s tradition of decorating our tree with warm memories.

Abby the dog's 2010 Ornament.

Step-by-Step Coop Winterizing Preparations

Over the last week or so, I’ve noticed that the majority of my readers are looking for ways to prepare their coops for winter.  As such, I’ve decided to add just one more post (which will occasionally be updated) on exactly what we did, why we did it, and (as the winter passes) how it’s going.

  1. Early this spring, while I was traveling in China, Jason started by building a floor for our chicken coop.  The coop itself, used to be a storage space attached to the garage (three solid walls, a roof, and a sliding wooden door).  It had a dirt floor, but given our rural location and the amount of predators we were facing, I wanted a wood floor to get the girls off the ground and protect them (at that point, I still wasn’t sure about keeping roosters).

    Exerior view of the coop in the summer.

  2. We next framed the room into two separate areas — a stall for the chickens and a work area for storage, cleaning and – eventually – raising young chicks.
  3. We then went to work framing in the chickens’ room with chicken wire, and Jason moved the light fixture to a more central spot and lowered it about 18” to keep it away from any insulation we would add later.
  4. A week before the girls showed up, I whitewashed the coop (see instructions in earlier post).
  5. For the summer, we added a gravity-fed chicken nipple watering system, which provided the birds with fresh water when they were in the coop at night, though they spent the majority of their days outside in the chicken tractor we built, and I used our Australian Shepherd to move them back and forth every morning and evening.
  6. As winter neared, I began making modifications.  I started by removing the drip watering system and switching back to our tried and true double wall metal  5-gallon waterer.  Now, admittedly, I hate using this in the summer because it makes a HUGE mess.  That said, I’ve found a few modifications that have allowed it to work successfully.  I placed it cinder blocks to get it up and off the floor (and out of the shavings).  When I fill it, I also use one hand to pull metal arm that holds the washer (which regulates the water) in place, so the font doesn’t fill with water and overflow as I’m filling it from the top.  Problems solved.
  7. We placed the waterer on a Farm Innovators heated base from Tractor Supply  (http://www.tractorsupply.com/chicken-equipment/farm-innovators-heated-base-for-poultry-water-feeder-2167298) and have had great luck with it so far (fingers crossed for those REALLY cold nights).
  8. Every morning, I bring out a gallon of hot tap water and refill.  This warms the girls up without asking them to expend extra energy to raise their drinking water to body temperature before they can process it.  I’ve found that a gallon of water for ten birds is enough each day, though I do double check it every night.  The waterer gets a full wash every Saturday morning.
  9. In September, when the temperatures started dropping, we insulated the ceiling with basic rolled insulation from Lowe’s.  Since our ceiling is so high, we’re not terribly concerned about mildew, but I’m very careful to keep the humidity in the coop at a reasonable level (between 70 – 80%).  The natural low humidity of winter in our part of the country is helping.  If you are keeping chickens in more confined quarters, you definitely want to use blue board, or cover up your rolled insulation with another layer of plywood to keep out the mildew.
  10. The north wall of our coop leads into the garage, which provides a great wind

    View of my work & storage room from the interior of the coop. Note that I usually move the birds into this space when I am adding DE to the composting floor or working with the hay rake (which they are a bit frightened by).

    block.  The west wall has negative space insulation, whereby there is an outer wall, six inches of space and an inner wall.  I’ve also lined this wall with 10 hay bales, which provide both insulation and something for the chickens to play with during the day (I throw in a small flake of hay every morning for them, along with their food, water, and oyster shell).  The south wall is negative-space insulated on the lower half and uninsulated above 8′.  The east wall consists of a sliding door that we keep open in the summer (during the day).  We built a temporary retaining wall to keep out drafts on the lower half (it’s about 6′ high), and as it gets colder, I will stack hay bales in front of the outer door.

  11. We run one 90 watt light bulb 9′ above the chickens 24/7.  There is a lot of contradictory research out there, but this is what has always worked for us.  It adds a bit of extra heat, and it seems to calm the girls at night.  We’ve had no problems with picking, and our egg production has been consistent.
  12. We replaced our summer perches with wider board perches (6” wide) that allow our roosters and hens to keep their toes nice and warm under their feathers.
  13. If the temperatures really drop (below -10 F), I have plans to add an additional infrared heat lamp above the perches, but – for now – everyone seems happy and fluffy, growing nice thick feathers and spending a lot of time moving around during the day.
  14. The final step was starting the composting floor to add extra heat (through the process of composting!

Successfully Composting  on a Wood Floor:

  1. The key to a successful composting floor is regular maintenance.
  2.  We cover our floor with local pine shavings (bought at the feed store from a mill about 20 minutes away from where we live ).  They are kiln dried and come in paper wrapped bales (so there is very little residual waste once they are used (as the paper goes right into the garage wood stove).
  3. I started by dumping out 2 full bales of shavings to give a nice firm lower layer for the girls to work with.
  4. Every morning, I bring out a 3 gallon bucket and scoop out the chicken droppings (most are below the perch).  These get deposited into our compost bins.  Every few weeks I remove most of the shavings from below the perch, as they get the most “use”.
  5. Then, wearing my knee-high mud boots, I scuff up the shavings on the floor, to ensure the microbes are moving around.
  6. Every other day, I add between two or three handfuls of new shavings to keep things fresh.
  7. On Saturdays, I toss down 2c. food grade diatomaceous earth (DE), purchased at the feed store and carefully scuff it in, trying not to raise too much dust (it can be a bit caustic, so I usually let the girls outside or into the work area while I’m doing this).  DE naturally repels mites and lice, so it has that added benefit, and since it is present in most chicken food, anyway, it is fairly harmless, but please take care not to inhale it directly (I wear gloves and open the door to the coop for added ventilation when I use it).
  8. On Sunday, I throw down a cup of cracked corn, and when the chickens pick through it, they distribute the DE further by disrupting the pine shavings.

I don’t want to make it sound like this is a worry-free process.  I spend much of my spare time, when I’m home, checking on everyone and carefully monitoring daily behavior (Abby, our Australian Shepherd, loves this!).  When I see a change that needs to be made, I adjust things (such as adding the heat lamp on really cold nights).  That said, our forefathers kept chickens long before we had electricity and central heating, and so much of our process of chicken keeping focused around wanting to keep birds that were naturally resistant to the cold to ensure their health and safety.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please comment below!  And welcome, again, to our coop!