Homesteading and Livestock
Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Garlic As Holistic Remedy for Poultry

garlic for poultry 

I am a big proponent of holistic medicine, and have a whole arsenal of natural remedies for just about every complaint from fever and sore throat to chest and muscle pains. I don't irrationally avoid doctors and conventional medicines, but I always think twice before taking a sick child to a doctor, knowing it's more than likely to catch an even worse virus in the waiting room.

Taking this into account, it's surprising that I didn't think twice before giving my young peafowl antibiotics in increasingly strong doses for persistent respiratory symptoms. The birds, however, not only didn't get better, but appeared weaker. An experienced friend whom I consulted recommended that I discontinue the antibiotics as they most likely have compromised the immune system of my peafowl, regardless of the initial complaint, try giving my birds fresh garlic, and observe the effects. Anxious to strengthen their immune system before the winter, and not seeing much to lose, I decided to give it a shot.

Disclaimer: I'm not a vet, and the following account is purely anecdotal evidence. However, the healing properties of garlic have been known since ancient times, and many poultry keepers use it to promote the health of their flock.

I gave the garlic by finely chopping it and mixing it with mashed up hard boiled egg, a combination my peafowl find irresistible. After a few days of giving them this treat, I happily noted symptoms of amendment in my birds, and increased the dose of garlic. To my surprise, I also noticed a quantity of worms being flushed out in their stools. I have never suspected them to be plagued by worms, but surely having them contributed to a weakened immune system. Now, knowing that I have an issue with worms, I treated my chickens with garlic as well, just in case.

The best part of this was knowing that I'm giving a safe, natural remedy I don't need to be afraid to try. When I gave antibiotics in drinking water, I knew I'm unnecessarily exposing all my flock to a harsh substance, as I don't have a separate space for my peafowl. When I switched to giving antibiotics in food, I had to avoid the other birds getting at it. But I don't need to fret this way about garlic, as it has no adverse side effects.

I have read that giving garlic to poultry may adversely affect the taste of eggs, but we have never sensed any of it so far. It might be that very large amounts of garlic in the diet may influence the taste.

Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna's books are on her Amazon.com Author Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna's Mother Earth News posts here.


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Loner's And Remote Living

 

We have lived in the Sangre de Cristo mountains for over 20 years and with each new day we seem to learn something different about our environment and ourselves. I was reading through a social media venue the other day and came across an article about loners. We all know that social media sources are  not always reliable and often difficult to verify. As unreliable as some articles are this one really impacted me. As I read the short topic it was describing me as a loner. I had never considered myself a loner but this article was hitting all the points of my life. That information got me to wondering if being a loner is a prerequisite for remote living. After much thought I have concluded the answer is both yes and no. I came to that definitive answer after very careful self examination.

Loner Characteristics:

Some people prefer to have a smaller circle of relationships and are not the least bothered by being alone. Loners are very selective over who they choose to be friends. When they are alone they do their best thinking and never seem lonely. They could be the last person on earth and never feel lonely. They are believers in having firm boundaries and also respect the boundaries of others.

They are loyal to a fault and do not crave attention. If you happen to be their friend you have a very loyal friend indeed. The article says they are open minded but introspective. It is sometimes perceived that loners are antisocial and not friendly. Nothing could be more wrong as healthy minded loners simply value their own company over others and are quite friendly and sociable. Loners do not panic or run in the face of adversity; instead their self analysis and thinking usually has them prepared for adversities. They may feel stressed on occasions but when that occurs they usually take some alone time to recharge their batteries.

Loners value time and they are rarely ever late. They don’t waste others time and don’t want others to waste their time. Loners recognize that no one is perfect, both in others and themselves. Therefore they are not easily distracted by the actions of others and simply keep on doing what is right for themselves and others.

Self Analysis:

I wouldn’t qualify as even an amature on defining personalities but reading that article hit me like a bolt of lightning because I had never considered myself a loner. Regretfully I was unable to find the originator of that article as it disappeared before I could reference it. However by putting ‘loner’ in any search engine will bring forth a plethora of pages with articles on being a loner.  

Three Levels of Loners - Level One - Reclusive:

From my own observation on loners I have discovered we seem to fall into different categories. There is the extreme loner that is a recluse and prefers their own company above any interaction with others. This to me does not seem to be totally healthy but I have known such people over my lifetime and they have functioned very well and were good citizens. They did not seem to possess any nefarious intent nor were they radical in conduct.

Level Two - Occasional:

Then there are what I would term as occasional loners who seem to function satisfactorily in dual worlds. They thrive in large social circles but regard their time and boundaries as sacrosanct and hence based upon their own need for aloneness they too are loners. Take away that alone time and they quickly become agitated and frustrated.

Level Three - Forced Or Compelled Loners:

Finally there are those who are forced into being a loner. Being pressed into being a loner is not all bad as we are perfectly comfortable and content to be in our own company and thoughts. Having a partner which is very compatible or maintaining pets can go a long way to being self satisfied and content without being lonely. Those compelled to be loners can either be self induced or they can be compelled by environmental circumstances to be alone. Living in a small community as we do where some in the community are insincere, deceptive, antagonistic and retaliatory can compel a person to be a loner for self protection purposes.

Summary

So returning to the original question regarding whether it is beneficial to be a loner in order to live remotely - the answer is still yes and no. Some people can live remotely and be very content,  happy and not lonely. Others may move in and out of being a loner or a combination of any of the above. If people thrive on external events and relationships to be happy there are few places left whereby even living remotely they would be deprived of that more extroverted lifestyle. On the other hand a true loner will find solace in being alone and stays clear of non-stop interaction with others.

So again the answer solely depends on the individual and the environment they choose to exist in. In my case I had no idea I would gravitate to being a loner until we moved remotely. I quickly discovered I liked the alone time which, when I was in the working world, was next to impossible to find on any consistent level. Being alone with my wife and our dogs can be highly therapeutic and not stressful. Living remotely and being completely comfortable if not deliriously happy in your own skin is something that envelops you in peace, happiness and tranquility.

It is not that we don’t have our occasional crisis but when you are happy and content you are able to deal with it on a much calmer basis. Doesn’t everyone seek a little alone time or peace and quiet sometimes? When stress does come our way we take a little alone time and deal with it more effectively.  

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and remote living in their cabin with their three dogs go to:   www.brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com


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Should You Raise Heritage Chicken Breeds?

 

Though all chickens are descended from the red junglefowl (Gallus gallus), in the course of human history different climate and selective breeding have produced a vast selection of shapes, sizes and colors in this most common domestic fowl. All chickens can interbreed, however, and hybrids can work just fine in terms of egg production, meat production, pest control, hardiness and attractiveness. So why should one invest in a heritage breed, bearing in mind the initial higher cost of the stock?

By raising heritage breeds, we connect ourselves with the history of humankind and farming, and preserve the unique beauty of a breed that had been developed by hundreds of years of targeted selection – though there are also some new breeds, the age of which is measured in decades.

Predictability – unlike hybrids, pure-bred heritage chickens breed true. If you start with a flock of, say, Wyandottes, a few years down the road you will still have a flock of Wyandottes, with largely the same qualities of egg production, growth rates, adaptation to climate, and appearance (though you can improve your flock by hatching eggs from your finest, best-looking, hardiest specimens). With mutt chickens, you can always expect surprises.

Profit – apart from the initial cost of purchasing your purebred flock and/or hatching eggs, it doesn’t cost more to raise heritage breeds; you provide the same food, housing, care, etc, for any chicken. On the other hand, if you have some extra chicks or pullets for sale – and if you plan on breeding your flock at all, you will almost certainly have extra stock in the course of time – people will be ready to give you a better price for purebred stock than for mutts.

On the other hand, when your chickens cost more (even if you raised them yourself and/or acquired them by barter, without paying out of pocket), the stakes are higher – it feels a lot worse to lose birds to predators or disease, or a batch of hatching eggs to a malfunctioning incubator, when you know you could have sold them for a nice bit of cash, and perhaps had counted on it. I still think it’s worth the effort, however.

Another consideration is that, if you plan on raising more than one breed, you need to provide separate space for each one to keep them from mixing. This may raise the cost of housing and fencing. I have met breeders whose space is so limited that they must break it into tiny cubicles and confine each breeding pair/flock to this tiny little space, unable to ever let them roam free. This, no matter how high the quality of the stock, appears sad to me.  

At the bottom line, I would recommend heritage breeds to anyone who plans to have a self-sustaining flock which produces new chicks from year to year. If you only plan to have a few hens for eggs, without breeding them or even keeping a rooster at all, it doesn’t really matter whether you keep purebred birds or hybrids.

Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna's books are on her Amazon.com Author Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna's Mother Earth News posts here.


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The Harvest, The Hunt, and The Balance of Money and Life

Readers may recall that I typically write about harvesting energy from renewable sources, but I also harvest living, growing things.

Food

This was an excellent fruit production year in Vermont. I filled the pantry with quite a few jars of pear, grape, and apple preserves. Someday I’ll figure out how to keep curculio off the plums without the heavy duty toxic treatment and make plum jam too. The bees did well with strong hives and good honey stores moving into the fall.

preserving the harvest

Energy

The solar harvest was also excellent, filling the batteries almost daily. October is typically a fairly rainy month, leading right into the dismal, gray, stick season of November and December. This year though, it was sunny, warm and dry through almost all of October. That put a damper on the foliage, but the weather is finally turning now. I try to capture at least part of those winds of transition with the wind generator atop a 100 foot tower to help power my off-grid home.

residential renewable energy

More Food

Farm animals are being harvested now too. My own “Back-40” has supported chickens, sheep, and pigs over the years. Slaughtering and butchering animals are two of my most favorite things to be done with. Hunting season is open for turkey, whitetail deer, moose, rabbit, grouse, among others. Every couple of years, when I have the luxury of time to spend in the woods, I hunt for deer; and every so often I get lucky and top off the freezer with venison.

This morning I watched a doe for quite a while as she grazed in the field near my home. She was square in the cross-hairs of my cross bow and well within range. I braced for a long day of tracking, gutting, hanging, and cleaning. Pulling the trigger is the easy part of the hunt. But I didn’t pull the trigger this morning because right behind the doe was a younger, smaller deer whose mother was showing off the best places to eat locally. My sense of respect for family kicked in, and I suspect that the two will be back later this week unless another hunter takes one.

The Balance

Later, I got to thinking about my own family and how I have more time than money this year, which is different because usually I’m equally short on both. When the money is flowing, I can afford to not take the shot, but that’s an unfortunate habit when faced with the need to feed the family. Stepping off the treadmill and trading money for life offers an entirely different perspective on opportunities that present themselves to replace the need for money. But the decision making process to accept or decline those opportunities also changes. Thinking too much about things always makes them take longer, but hopefully the end result is something that at best makes life better and nourishes everyone, and at worst leaves you at peace with yourself.

Mindful Carnivore

I came to hunting intentionally in middle life as a thoughtful carnivore. You can read about that process and my first deer (and my other first deer) in my Back-40 series e-book called Coming into Hunting. Next week, I’ll post an excerpt from that incredible journey.

coming into hunting 

Where there are doe, there are buck. And when I see him, I’ll probably hesitate on the trigger again wondering why it’s more acceptable to take the life of a hormone-crazed male than a peacefully grazing female. They both contribute equally to the balance of creation. With all this cogitating, it’s a wonder I can eat at all!

It’s been a bountiful year so far. There may yet be venison in the freezer. Tomorrow will tell.

Paul Scheckel is an energy efficiency and renewable energy consultant, author, and hands-on/off-grid homesteader.


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SmartBee Cold Storage: Giving Bees a Chance

 

Israel Bravo has been on a quest for the past decade to help bees and beekeepers. He has been keeping bees professionally for over 17 years. And while working as a team foreman for a large scale beekeeping operation in Idaho, he was inspired to help his fellow pollinator stewards.

Over the years, Mr. Bravo became familiar with cold storing of bees as various beekeepers were routinely placing their hives into potato cellars for overwintering. The idea to put bees into cold bunkers through the winter is not a new idea, but it has been of mixed results since humidity and CO2 levels have been able to be controlled. 

Israel recognized that there were issues with high humidity which lead to fungus, mold and mildew issues. Beekeepers would close their bees in the potato sheds and then have to go open it up at night to let fresh air in since the bees continue to respirate and CO2 levels would increase. With increase humidity, certain conditions manifest, such as chalk brood (Ascosphaera apis), which is a fungus that mummifies honey bee larvae.

He became dedicated to finding a solution to help bees and beekeepers. Little did he know that he would be able to find what he needed in his own backyard. He approached Agri-Stor, which specializes in modern potato cellars and sheds. He asked them if they had a "brain" that could help to control air flow in and out and also humidity. 

They did, and thus began a relationship to help bees and beekeepers. Israel has always wanted to help bees. One doesn't stick with beekeeping for close to 20 years for any other reason. His efforts demonstrate that a small-scale beekeeper can help both small and large operations. It takes creative folks to look outside the norms and to visualize dreams that have been inspired by nature.

The inspiration is based in nature. Mother Nature and her cyclical seasons bring warm and cold, wet and dry climes across our landscapes. Bees that are able to overwinter in a cooler climate through the dearth have more potential to be healthier in that they are getting a break from the high paced race of spring and summer growth. The ability to rest during the dearth, and in an atmosphere of constancy, allows the bees to revive in the spring with higher fat bodies (vitellogenin) which allows them to rear their initial spring brood without the stress of mild winters (which doesn't allow them to fully rest).

For more info: magicvalley.com/news/local/local-beekeeper-helps-bees-by-building-winter-warehouses/article_7f09a41a-71d9-56f4-8f6e-c91d544a8079.html


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Why and How We Use Comfrey at Our Country Home

Comfrey is a celebrity plant among homesteaders for its healing properties, its composting acceleration, its soil-building abilities, and its use as livestock fodder. We were lucky enough to find two Russian Comfrey (Symphytum.x uplandicum) plants growing next to an old compost heap on our property. We’ve since dug up those plants and transplanted a root segment at the base of each fruit tree in our orchard. This will result in a more resilient orchard, thanks to the multitude of beneficial services comfrey supplies to the soil and any neighboring plants.

As we are discovering the many uses of comfrey, we’re appreciating this plant more and more. While not an exhaustive list, what follows are some of the ways we are using comfrey at our country home.

Russian Comfrey in Orchard

Healing Herb

Comfrey is a potent herb for healing. While it should not be used internally, it can be applied topically to speed the healing of bones, cartilage, and wounds. The healing properties lie in the plants three active ingredients: allantoin (stimulates cell re-growth), rosmarinic acid (anti-inflammatory), and mucilage (soothe inflammation). In fact, comfrey can speed healing so rapidly that it should not be used on open, dirty wounds, as it can trap dirt beneath the new skin.

At our home, we dry comfrey leaves and use them to make a salve that we spread on bruises, scrapes, sprains and strains. Comfrey is also an ingredient we use in the Basic Balm recipe that we found in the Winter 2014 issue of Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series: Guide to Self-reliance and Country Skills.

Soil Builder

Comfrey has deep roots that penetrate far into the soil and provide channels for water to percolate, air to circulate, and soil organisms to travel. Because of these roots, comfrey is a dynamic accumulator; its roots mine the soil and pull nutrients up into the plant’s stems and leaves. When the aerial portion of the plant is cut and spread as a mulch, those nutrients are released back into the upper soil layer and are available once again to shallow-rooted vegetation. The three key elements for plant growth (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) are readily available in comfrey. The leaves, especially, are high in nitrogen and the plant’s high potassium content is beneficial to vegetables, berries and fruit trees.

We chop our comfrey with a scythe and spread it on our gardens. In our raised beds we simply lay it on the soil and leave it to break down. In the ground level garden, we spread out the comfrey and drive over it with a lawn tractor to chop it into a finer mulch and speed its decomposition (this is after we’ve harvested our crops from our garden).

Compost Booster

If you need to give your compost pile a boost, mix in some comfrey leaves. That high amount of nitrogen breaks down quickly and activates the compost pile so it transforms into ‘black gold’ sooner rather than later. As the comfrey decomposes, its nutrients are released and the compost becomes richer because those valuable nutrients are now bioavailable.

We’ve chopped comfrey and tossed it into our compost pile. To rev-up the decomposition, we turn it over to mix the comfrey with the carbon-rich brown matter in the pile. I know of people who grow comfrey next to their compost heaps for the purpose of periodically cutting the leaves and adding them to the compost.

Attract Beneficial Insects

Each April, perennial comfrey re-emerges above ground and by late May it offers purple, bell-shaped flowers full of pollen and nectar. Pollinating insects are quick to respond. We’ve seen bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds visit the comfrey in our orchard; these are precisely the insects we want, after all, without them, we would not have any fruit, berries, or vegetables to enjoy.  

But it’s not just the pollinators that come to the comfrey. Predatory insects also come. The plants’ leafy canopies provide many places for predators to hide or lay their eggs. Spiders, lacewings, and parasitoid wasps associate with comfrey. These predators in turn prey upon the insects that damage our crops and fruit trees. A win-win!

Russian Comfrey in bloom

Livestock Fodder 

Yet another use of comfrey is livestock fodder. Chickens, pigs, and sheep like their comfrey fresh, whereas cows, pigs, and horses like their comfrey wilted prior to consumption. When we chop our comfrey we also toss some to our chickens. Any comfrey not consumed by them is churned into the leaves, grass clippings, kitchen scraps, and chicken droppings in their run. Later we collect this mix and spread it over our gardens as a fertilizer.  

The uses for comfrey go beyond what I’ve shared here. Others are using their comfrey to prevent powdery mildew, to produce a liquid fertilizer, or to prevent weeds.

Warnings

Don’t use comfrey internally as herbal medicine; the plants contain toxic alkaloids. See here for additional information.

Some people consider comfrey to be invasive since it is difficult to remove. The different varieties of comfrey range in invasiveness, with Common Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) being the most invasive and Russian Comfrey (Symphytum.x uplandicum) being the least. Cutting comfrey and not letting it go to seed does a great deal to stop it from invading.

If you want to remove comfrey, don’t try to dig it out. Any bit of root chopped off by the spade and left buried in the soil will sprout. The best method to naturally remove comfrey (i.e., not the glyphosate quick-fix) is to cut the aerial part of the plant and then smother the roots under a sheet mulch (cardboard or plastic mulch). The roots will not attempt to spread out and grow around the mulch. Be sure to place something heavy on the sheet mulch so the comfrey attempting to grow beneath it cannot lift the mulch and escape its confinement. I have not attempted this removal method, but I understand it can take two or more growing seasons.

Rebecca Harrold homesteads and homeschools on a 23-acre property in rural Ontario, where she is engaged with all types of wiser living skills. She believes that restoring the land to its healthy, sustainable state will increase its resilience, and in turn, the resilience of the people who depend upon it. Connect with Rebecca at Harrold Country Home and on Instagram. Read all of Rebecca’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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Wise Choices in Chicken Breeds

 

Once prospective chicken owners decide on setting up their own coop, the next question is usually, Which breed should we choose? The variety of chicken breeds offered by hatcheries is dazzling, and it’s often difficult to make a decision. So, which breed?

The answer, like with so many other things, is it depends - on what you want to get out of chicken-keeping, your local climate, how much space you have available, and your budget. The most popular reason for keeping chickens is eggs, but some people raise their own meat birds, and other focus on heritage breeds and hatching chicks for sale.

For eggs, I always recommend sturdy reliable egg-layers such as Rhode Islands, Plymouth Rocks or Sussex. These are actually dual-purpose breeds which won’t put on weight as quickly as commercial-raised meat crosses, or lay eggs as soon as commercial layers, but will have a longer and more productive life on the homestead or small traditional farm where the same flock often provides both eggs for breakfast and chicken for the crockpot.

White Leghorns are generally considered to be the champions of egg-laying, and indeed, they lay remarkably well and their eggs are large – however, one must also take into consideration that they eat a lot. Right now I have two White Leghorns and five other adult chickens (plus a number of younger birds), and the Leghorns, as far as I can estimate, eat (and poop!) as much as all the other chickens combined. I also find their eggs a little bland-tasting, and have observed that they are prone to have thinner, easier to crack shells (even with a calcium-rich diet). However, if you just want to have plenty of eggs and don’t mind chickens that are champions at gobbling up feed, Leghorns might very well be the breed for you.

Climate is yet another important consideration. We adore Brahmas for their docile temper, gorgeous plumage and impressive size, but this cold-hardy breed, unfortunately, doesn’t do very well in our hot climate, and is susceptible to heat stroke, especially in young birds. On the other hand, Brahmas may be the very thing for people who live in cold climates – while Leghorns and other Mediterranean breeds, with their large combs that are prone to frostbite, will probably do better in milder weather.

If you are into heirloom chickens and want to keep several different breeds from which you would raise your own pure-bred chicks for sale, you would need to provide separate living quarters and ranging areas for each breed – otherwise they will mix. I always recommend keeping pure-bred chickens, because this way, if you have extra birds for sale, you can get a better price for them. For many people, however, keeping the breeds apart is too much of a hassle, which is why settling on one breed that does well for you (and perhaps several layers of other, or mixed breeds, for variety) is probably a good choice. We plan to do this ourselves in the near future, and are only going back and forth between Black Orpingtons and Marans.

If you plan on handling your chickens a lot, have young children, or want to keep your chickens together with other birds (ducks, guineas, peafowl) it is a good idea to choose a docile breed such as Orpingtons, Australorps or Wyandottes.  

Finally, don’t get a lot of the same breed at once – start on a small scale. Chicken keeping is highly practical, and some things are only learnt by trial and error. It would be frustrating to order, for instance, thirty Marans only to discover, at the end of one season, that this breed isn’t quite the thing for you after all. Better start with 3-4 birds of one or several breeds, and figure out which you like best. You can always expand your flock later.

Whichever breed you choose, make sure you get your stock from a reputable hatchery or private breeder. This is the only way to guarantee you get healthy birds (or fresh, good quality hatching eggs) that come from pure bloodlines. Don’t be tempted by unusually low prices, and shun places where birds are kept in substandard conditions, or are looking sickly.

The world of chicken keeping and chicken breeds is a vast and fascinating one. I invite you to dive into it, learn as much as you can, and choose the breed that works best for you.

Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna's books are on her Amazon.com Author Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna's Mother Earth News posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.