Information and unique products for Dogs, Cats, Rabbits and Backyard Chickens

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Four Places to Pet Your Cat — and One to Leave Alone


Petting a Cat
Thinkstock

Four Places to Pet Your Cat — and One to Leave Alone



Some things really do get better with age. I have long joked that my hairline isn’t one of them, but I know one thing that is: My ability to understand cats better, and to build a stronger, more fulfilling bond with the felines in my life and in my practice.


Which is not to say that I haven’t always loved cats, and had them in my life. But on the Idaho dairy farm where I grew up, everyone had a job, and the cats were employed keeping mice and other vermin from taking over the place. Ours was a professional relationship, an admiration of coworkers.They did their jobs, and I did mine. Workplace romance was strictly limited to a little heavy petting now and then.

I’m no longer a farm boy, but I’m still more than a little bit country. Up here on our Almost Heaven Ranch, I still have barn cats, but they are much more than coworkers now. They’re family.

 

Feline Love: Breaking the Code

I’ve spent my life caring for and about animals, and I’ve always been a careful observer of what makes them happy. I know the “sweet spots” on every pet I’ve ever met, and since Almost Heaven is a horse ranch (with Quarter Horses whose personalities rival Golden Retrievers for sweetness), I know what makes equine hearts sing too.

But I also know if you hit the wrong note on many a cat, you won’t be singing a happy song for long. And while most cat owners eventually figure that out on their own, you could be one of those people whose current cat tolerates pretty much anything. Your next one, though, could be scratch-happy if you don’t know where to go.

Which is why I love sharing about caring, and in cats that means sticking to four top spots for heavy petting, and ignoring one spot that dogs love but that most cats never will.

 

Do Not Touch!

Are you ahead of me on the one spot most cats don’t like but most dogs do? If you guessed “belly rub,” you’re right! Why the difference? While dogs are generally pretty secure in their identity as a predator — even tiny dogs seem to imagine that they’re really big, scary wolves — cats have to be more careful when they’re on the prowl. That’s because they are very aware that they are both predator and prey. To a mouse, a cat is an effective killing machine. To a coyote, a cat is lunch.

What this means for a cat is that he's always looking over his shoulder at what might be coming up behind him. When a cat is in a fight for his life, there’s no territory as important to protect as the belly, since that’s where all the vital organs are readily accessible. A touch there from a cat who hasn’t learned that you don’t mean any harm will trigger a defensive maneuver. Claws and teeth come out, even if they’re not fully engaged.

While some cats can learn to accept gentle belly rubs, others never will. Honestly, it’s probably better to stick to the spots cats do enjoy, even if your cat shows his belly all the time.

 

Scratch Here, Please

The places cats enjoy being petted are those where their scent glands are concentrated. When your cat rubs on you or the corner of your couch, it’s his chin and the head that make the contact. When a cat does that, he’s leaving his scent on the item (or person). Spreading his scent makes him happy and content, since it makes his environment smell familiar. (Synthetic versions of these pheromones — Feliway is the feline version — are great for helping cats get through stressful events such as moving or going to the veterinarian.)
When you pet a cat in these areas, you’re making him feel wonderfully content. And you’re also helping him to mark you with his special scent, which makes him even happier. So what are these hot spots?
  • Base of the chin. Rub your cat gently along the underside of the chin, especially where the jawbone connects to the skull. You’ll likely get the purr-motor running hard, as your cat pushes into this pleasant caress.
  • Base of the ears. Like the area underneath the chin, this spot is great for scent-marking. When your cat bumps his head against you — this is called “bunting” — he’s marking you as his own.
  • Cheeks behind the whiskers. Hit this spot right and you can often get your cat to show his pleasure keenly by rotating his whiskers forward, as if to say, “More! More! Yeah, right there!”
  • Base of the tail. I call this “Elevator Butt.” A gentle caress down the back with pressure at the base of the tail. Repeat, repeat, repeat!
Work your way through these kitty hot spots, and the love you share will only grow. You’ll have earned your tabby stripes as a cat whisperer, and your cat will love you for it.

http://www.vetstreet.com/dr-marty-becker/four-places-to-pet-your-cat-and-one-to-leave-alone


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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

6 Pests That Can Wreak Havoc On Your Coop

Banish These 6 Coop Pests from Your Coop—Naturally! Photo courtesy Catherine L. Walters/iStock/Thinkstock (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy Catherine L. Walters/iStock/Thinkstock

6 Pests That Can Wreak Havoc On Your Coop (And How to Banish Them Naturally!)

Watch carefully for signs that mites, ticks and other nuisances are at work in the coop, and take immediate action to get rid of them for good.

By Audrey Pavia


Although your chickens may be the darlings of your farm, once a pest invasion strikes the coop, nurturing them back to health can be a headache. Chickens are keen at hiding signs of weakness, so you might not notice right away if they’re being attacked by biting lice, mites or flies. It’s important to take careful notice of signs that these poultry pests are at work and take measures to keep them and other chicken threats out of the coop. Here are six of the most common coop pests and natural ways to keep them at bay.

1. Ticks
A species of bloodsucking anthropod, Argas persicus, commonly known as the poultry tick or fowl tick, can discretely feed on your chickens. You’ll likely discover these pests by taking a close look at your coop—ticks hide in the crevices of the coop structure and crawl out at night to feed. Although it’s difficult to see ticks on your chickens, you’ll get a clue to the presence of these arachnids when you notice your chickens are reluctant to go inside the coop at night and seem agitated when they try to roost.
Treatment: To minimize the risk of ticks in the coop, caulk the crevices, which is where ticks hide and breed. If ticks have already taken up residence, use a knife to scrape out the ticks from every crevice and hose out the entire coop. Once the coop is dry, you can then fill all crevices with caulk.

2. Mites & Lice
Northern fowl mites (Ornithonyssus sylviarum) and chicken mites (Dermanyssus gallinae) can infest chicken coops, making your birds’ lives miserable. Like poultry ticks, they hide in dark coop crevices during the day and come out to feast on the blood of the chickens at night. They can cause chickens to stop laying eggs and to scratch and over-preen. You can see these tiny insects crawling around if you examine your chickens at night while they’re roosting.
Treatment: If your coop has been infested with mites or lice, scrub out the coop with a 3-to-1 water-to-bleach solution. Scrub coop crevices using a toothbrush, and dust the coop (and your chickens!) with food-grade diatomaceous earth. Give your chickens a tub with fine dirt or dust sprinkled with some of the DE so they can self-treat with therapeutic dust baths. In the case of a severe infestation, a vet may need to prescribe a medication, such as oral ivermectin.

3. Rodents
Mice and rats like to visit chicken coops and help themselves to the food. Lured by chicken feed, scratch and other chicken treats, rodents will leave their droppings behind and contribute to unsanitary conditions in your coop. They might even bring mites along, which can infest your chickens.
Treatment: Rodents are most active at night, so remove scratch and pelleted food in the evening and put it back in the morning. Surround your coop with tight wire mesh, attached to the frame, so mice and rats cannot squeeze through. If you already have chicken wire on your coop, reinforce it by putting the smaller mesh overtop.

4. Flies
House and stable flies are the most common fly pests to invade your coop. Attracted by fresh feces, they can cause terrible damage to chickens with open sores, so chickens that are being bullied and have missing feathers and wounds are most susceptible. Some flies even lay eggs on chicken’s vents if the chicken has diarrhea.
Treatment: It’s easy to keep flies at bay by cleaning your coop regularly and changing the bedding often. Monitor the health of your chickens, and intervene if one or more chickens are being pecked at repeatedly. Watch for chronic diarrhea, and treat with the help of a poultry vet. Practice natural fly control on your property by eliminating damp areas where flies breed, and by using sticky fly traps near the coop.

5. Ants
If you like to give your chickens fresh food, you’ve probably discovered ants in your coop. These busy scavengers are experts at locating fresh produce, no matter where it is. Ants are also drawn to broken eggs, and will swarm a coop not long after an egg breaks. While ants can’t harm a healthy chicken, young chicks or sick or injured birds can become victims of biting ants.
Treatment: To prevent ants, remove uneaten fresh food after the chickens walk away from it and clean up any broken eggs right away. If you find ants swarming in your coop, spray them with an all-natural kitchen cleanser or a 1-to-1 vinegar-water solution. This will kill the ants without harming your birds.

6. Predators
The deadliest pests to invade a coop, predators can decimate a flock. If domestic dogs and cats, coyotes, raccoons, or even bobcats find their way into your coop, your chickens can be seriously injured or killed.
Treatment: The best way to keep predators out of your coop is to ensure it’s secure. The coop’s mesh wire should be no larger than 1-by-1-inch and should be securely fasted to a wood or metal frame. Dogs and coyotes will try to dig under the coop to gain access, so a cement or attached wooden floor is essential to keep your flock safe. You can also bury mesh or wood to deter digging predators, but it needs to be at least 1 foot deep. Raccoons are dexterous and will open latches. Make sure doors are raccoon-safe by using a carabineer to secure them.

About the Author: Audrey Pavia is a frequent contributor to Hobby Farms magazine. She keeps a flock of bantam chickens at her home in Norco, Calif.


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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

6 Winter Tips for Your Flock

Keep your chickens warm, healthy and productive this winter with these cold-weather guidelines.

By Kristina Mercedes Urquhart

Flock of four chickens standing on snow
Courtesy Hemera/ThinkstockHelp your chickens avoid frost-bitten feet by clearing a path in the snow for them in the chicken run.
When Old Man Winter moves into town, your chickens are counting on you to help guide them through the season. Luckily, chickens are bred to gradually acclimate to the coming cool weather. In fact, most heavy chicken breeds prefer it to the searing heat of summer. Even so, they’ll need a little help in certain areas to get through without a hitch. Here are six tips for successfully overwintering your flock.  

1. Fight Frozen Water 
Perhaps the most frustrating (and foreseeable) part of overwintering any livestock is the endless battle against frozen water. Unless you have electricity in your coop or barn, I’m sorry to say that all solutions include a bit of heavy lifting. 

One option is to use a heated dog bowl or heated waterer base. It’s easy to install and inexpensive, but there is one catch: You must use a double-walled, galvanized-steel water fount in place of the standard plastic. 
If running electricity to your coop is not an option, you may be carrying your weight in water to the flock several times a day. In this case, have two or more waterers ready to alternate by thawing indoors.  

“One idea is to fill the waterer with hot water and then drop a chunk of ice (or a good amount of ice cubes) into the water to slowly cool it down over the course of several hours,” recommends Ashley English, chicken keeper and author of the Homemade Living book series. 

Whatever method works for you, the important thing is that your chickens have access to fresh water at all times.  

2. Protect Combs and Wattles 
In a cold spell with below-freezing temperatures, your chickens' combs and wattles may be susceptible to frostbite. Use petroleum jelly (or olive oil, as a natural alternative) to fight frostbite by applying it to the affected areas. Apply the lubricant when your chickens have gone to roost at night. They may not find it pleasant, but it beats the alternative. 

Keep in mind that chicken breeds with large combs and wattles, such as Leghorns and many roosters, are more prone to frostbite. You’ll find that cold-hardy breeds with small combs, such as rose or pea combs, will fare better come winter.

3. Provide a Path in the Snow
If the snow is piling up to a few inches or more, shovel out a path for your chickens. Frostbitten toes or feet can be very painful but are easily avoided by protecting chickens from the snow.

“You don't want an intrepid flock mate deciding to brave a wall of snow,” English says. “The snow will win, every time.” 

4. Heat the Coop—or Not
Some chicken keepers swear by heating the coop during the harshest of winters. While there is a benefit to using a heater or lamp (supplemental light means more winter eggs), consider the safety risk. Heaters plus dry pine shavings or other bedding can quickly become a fire hazard unless properly or professionally installed. Also consider the possibility of power outages and a subsequent drop in temperature. Chickens cannot adapt to a sudden plunge in mercury, and it could spell disaster for your entire flock in one night.
As an alternative, you can allow your chickens to gradually acclimate to the cooler weather during autumn without heat. In the fall, check your coop’s roof to ensure it won’t leak during heavy snows. Protect your chickens from heavy drafts, but be certain there is adequate ventilation in their enclosure. Accumulated moisture during the cold months can lead to frostbite. 

Finally, don’t underestimate the effectiveness of insulation in your coop. Your birds will roost together and create a good amount of heat on their own (the equivalent of 10 watts of heat per chicken). All you have to do is help the heat stay there. 

5. Give Feed a Boost
Consider supplementing your flock’s diet with cracked corn or scratch.
“The fattiness of the scratch will allow the birds to pack on an extra layer of body fat, which aids them in better combating colder weather,” English says.

That said, scratch and corn are treats and do not contain the complete nutrition your flock needs.
“Continue them on their regular feed, tossing a few handfuls of scratch during evening rounds,” she says.

6. Collect Eggs Often
If you’re one of those poor souls, like me, who makes multiple trips to the chicken coop to change out water, remember to collect eggs each time you go. Because chicken eggs are nearly 75-percent water, they’ll freeze and crack quickly once exposed to the cold air.

Use your judgment when it comes to your flock and your particular setup—what will work for some may not work for others. As always, check your flock daily and look for signs of illness. And once everyone is tucked in, curl up with a hot cup o’ something and enjoy the season.  

About the Author: Kristina Mercedes Urquhart writes from the mountains of western North Carolina, where she lives with her menagerie of animals, including a mixed flock of chickens. She contributes to several Bowtie publications, and you can find her regular column, “Fowl Language” in each issue of Chickens magazine.
http://www.hobbyfarms.com/livestock-and-pets/6-winter-tips-for-your-flock.aspx

More tips from Kristina:
If you give your chickens supplemental lighting on a timer, it should come on early in the wee hours of the morning and continue until it is light outside. If you want to leave it on 24/7, that seems to work also. Do not set the timer to come on at dusk and go off after it is dark. Since birds are night blind, the light will go off while they are still active and they will be unable to find their roosts in the dark. If you set it to come on at 3 or 4 AM, they will crow too early, but will use the natural dusk to migrate to their perches to sleep. I use a clear heat lamp and just leave it on 24/7. So far no problems and they still come into the coop and put themselves to bed when it gets dark outside.

Our domesticated fowl require a balanced diet provided by most commercial feeds. Layers, in particular, need the correct ratio of protein, calcium and other nutrients to be healthy due to their high egg production. All chicks should be fed a Starter feed (labeled as such), until about 19 weeks or so -- or until you see the first egg. Once a pullet begins to lay, she should be switched to a Layer feed, also labeled as such. It is highly recommended that you provide grit to break down any treats (usually commercial feed has some grit in it), and oyster shells to provide for added calcium. Both should be offered free choice at all times -- a hen will only take what she needs when she needs it.

Scratch and cracked corn have their benefits, but consider them like candy for the chicken world. It is not a sufficient daily diet, and should only be offered as a treat. Given sparsely in the winter, scratch will increase a hen's body fat and allow her to stay warmer. Because of the same reasons, do not give scratch in the summer. If fed scratch/cracked corn year-round, your hens may run into trouble due to unecessary fattening, such as egg binding and prolapse.

Last tip: allow them to free range and pasture as much as possible, but remember your flock still requires access to Layer feed to be healthy. 
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Monday, September 15, 2014

Multi-level Cat Climbing Platform



Cat Climber


Multi-level climbing platforms Why didn't someone think of this sooner? 

Designed to hang on any standard door in your home, the Cat Climber from SmartCat is the perfect choice for smaller homes or people who don't want to swap an end table for a traditional cat tree. 

Now your cat can scratch, play, sleep, and exercise safely on this patented product. 

The climber is easily moved from door to door because of its spring loaded bracket system. 

The natural sisal post is ideal for scratching. Made of durable wood, the climber will withstand years of use. "I have three in my house, one for each cat," says designer Angela Moser. 

“Our cats love it when we move them around the house, it’s like a new adventure for them."
 

Features and Benefits: • 
Rigid construction for years of use •
Patented technology • 
Easy assembly & disassembly • 
Provides hours of entertainment • 
Great source of exercise • 
Enhances home d├ęcor • 
Space saving - fits on virtually any door

$89.97 ea


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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Chickens are like potato chips









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Why raise bantams? They are Fun to Raise, Easy to Keep



 A red Cochin bantam cockerel.
Why raise bantams? 

First of all, they are fun to raise and watch grow and come in all small shapes and sizes. The smallest are just a little over a pound and go to as much as three pounds. 

Generally speaking, I would suggest that bantams be kept in separate pens/coops and away from the larger fowl. Keep in mind, however, that bantams are able to fly much easier than the large fowl and should have covered coops to prevent their escape. 

As a rule, you can house 10 bantams in the same space that three large fowl would occupy. They are excellent in incubating their own eggs within pens to produce their own offspring.

Bantams lay eggs which are edible and useful just as those of the larger fowl. About three to four bantam eggs are equal to two large fowl eggs when using them in the kitchen.

The feed requirements of the bantam and the standard (large) fowl are basically the same — they both do well with a 16% protein layer feed. For bantams, a crumble or mash would be better than a pellet. They often enjoy grain to scratch for in their diet.

Bantams are much easier to handle because of their size and lend themselves to locations where you may not want larger fowl. The rooster’s crow does not have the decibels that the larger/standard bird might have and is easier to live with in more densely populated urban areas.
 

( Top of page is a a Red Cochin Bantam Cockerel.


A bantam is a small or miniature chicken. Many standard chicken breeds have a bantam counterpart, often referred to as a miniature. Miniatures are usually one-fifth to one-quarter the size of the standard breed. A true bantam has no standard-breed counterpart. Examples of true bantams include the Japanese, Dutch, Silkie and Sebright.

 Two alert Sultan bantams look cautiously at the activity below them.   Two alert Sultan bantams
Photos by Dawn Kopp, Dryden,


By Lowell Sherman, American Bantam Association, Director, District 14

I suggest you try bantams. I believe you would be pleased with them.
To learn more about the American Bantam Association, visit: www.bantamclub.com; write: P.O. Box 127 Augusta, NJ 07822; call: (973) 383-8633

http://www.backyardpoultrymag.com/bantam-breeds/



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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Happy Halloween Screen Print Dog Shirts





Happy Halloween Screen Print Dog Shirts


Fashion meets furry with this fun shirt! A poly/cotton sleeveless shirt for every day wear, double stitched in all the right places for comfort and durability!


$12.70 ea



Choose Color:  Black Grey  or White
Sizing

Important:

Chose color from Pay Pal drop down menu

Chose size by indicating your choice in the notes or comments section of the Pay Pal invoice when checking out - or - email blueridgemarketing@mindspring.com





Halloween Shirt Colors



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Happy Halloween Screen Print Dog Bandanas



Happy Halloween Screen Print Dog Bandana


Our bandanas are 100% cotton with overlock stitching on the hems to ensure rugged durability, free from fraying and raveling.

BOTH SIZES ARE FOR TIE-ON ONLY, THERE ARE NO BUCKLES ON THESE PRODUCTS

Small is a 14" x 14" square that is easily folded in half to create the triangle look needed. Roll the bandana until the desired length down the back has been achieved, then tie around the dog's neck.

Large is a 22" x 22" x 31" pre cut triangle. While this size will fit most breeds of dogs, we recommend rolling the bandana to the desired look before tying around the pet's neck. Our designs are placed in the lower corner to allow for this.

Price: $9.98 ea

Black   - Bright  -   Pink  - Emerald Green  - Grey   - Lime Green  -  Light Pink -  Navy Blue
Red   -  Turquoise  -  Yellow  -  Cocoa  -  Purple  -  White

Sizing

 IMPORTANT:

Chose size (Small or Large) and and wording ( Happy Halloween or Track or Treat ) from drop down Pay Pal Menu
Chose color by indicating choice in the notes or comments section of the Pay Pal invoice when checking out - 0r - email your choice to blueridgemarketing@mindspring.com



       Halloween Dog Bandanas




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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

5 Ways to Make Coop-Cleaning Easier

5 Ways to Make Coop-Cleaning Easier - Photo courtesy iStock/Thinkstock (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy iStock/Thinkstock

Cut farm-chore corners without putting the health of your chickens at risk with one or more of these coop-cleaning techniques.

Admit it: Raising chickens is fun, but cleaning the coop can be a hassle. However, it’s a necessary part of the chicken keeper’s job, preventing health problems and decreased production in the flock. Because I work a couple side jobs in addition to a full-time farming and breeding program, I need a coop-cleaning method that’s fast and efficient. Fortunately, there are many ways to clean a chicken coop, based on your location, housing and the number of birds you keep. Here are some methods you can try on your farm.

1. Hay
Although in Florida, where I live, many chicken coops have dirt floors, I like to cover the dirt with barn lime to dry the ground and kill bacteria, then add a layer of hay overtop to minimize health issues. Hay is easier to manage than straw and is clean and dust-free, unlike pine shavings. Plus, hay is economical and easy to obtain. Although you’ll need to change it out weekly, it can be dumped straight into the compost bin.

Diatomaceous earth is often used in coops to keep mites at bay, but I prefer barn lime. Poultry experts recommend against DE because it causes respiratory illness in chickens and is harmful to their lungs. Barn lime, on the other hand, is made of crushed limestone, or calcium carbonate, which aids in the formation of eggshells. Bear in mind, barn lime is different from hydrated lime; hydrated lime should not be used for animals.

To clean the coop, we rake the ground and move the old hay to the composting bin, then rebed with barn lime and fresh hay. We clean the coop every two weeks in hot, dry weather and once a week during the wet season. For a chicken coop of 100 chickens, it takes us about 1 hour to re-bed.

2. Dropping Boards
Chickens naturally head to the coop at night to roost, so you’ll typically find a hefty number of droppings waiting for you in the morning. Minimize your morning work by placing dropping boards under the roosts. Dropping boards are plastic trays or wooden boards that can easily be installed into your chicken coop by nailing, screwing or just placing them on the ground. You’ll need to measure your coop fit the appropriate size dropping boards. As an alternative, some chicken keepers build their coops with dropping pans, wooden boxes under the roost to aid in easy cleanup.

You can find manure scrapers on the market to clean the dropping boards, but a spare taping knife or spatula can be used instead. To clean, use the scraper to pull all the droppings into a bucket. Voila! You’ve cleaned the coop! Compost the manure and use it as a natural fertilizer in the garden.

3. Removable Roosts
Many coops are constructed with built-in roosts, but you can opt for removable ones for easier cleaning and disinfecting. Use undiluted distilled vinegar or Oxine, an animal-safe product effective against bacteria, fungi and viruses, for disinfecting the roosts and inside the coop.
 
4. Deep Litter Method
For colder climates, the deep litter method is a wonderful way to keep your coop warm and easy to manage. As the name implies, the deep litter method is a way to allow your litter to build up and compost over a period of time, from a couple months to a whole season. As the litter and manure composts in the pen, it provides warmth to the chickens. For the colder states, the litter can build up the entire winter. To start the deep litter method, sprinkle barn lime to help with odor and fly control. Top with 4 to 6 inches of pine shavings or hay. Every few weeks, stir the litter, adding more barn lime and fresh shavings or hay to the mix. For natural mite and lice control, you can mix in ash once a month.

5. Tarp Method
My friend Hope E. Tolda, owner of Fancy Feathers Farm, uses the tarp method on her farm and is able to clean 15 coops in less than 1½ hours. Lay a tarp on the coop floor and top with straw. When the straw needs to be changed, fold the tarp and dump the manure and straw into the compost pile. Pressure wash the tarp and disinfect it with vinegar or Oxine before rebedding the coop.

About the Author: Alexandra Douglas is the owner of Stellar Game Birds, Poultry, and Waterfowl and author of Coturnix Revolution (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2013). She graduated from Oregon State University in 2009, majoring in Animal Sciences with a Poultry and Prevet option. She specializes in quail and shares a diversified farm with her partner, Eric.


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5 Steps to Get the Best Eggs Possible

Treating your layer hens to a little TLC will mean delicious, golden-yolked eggs for your morning breakfast.


Back in the days before my layer flock came to enliven life on our farm, I would have picked the egg for sure—or maybe the egg carton. After all, the runny, pale-yolked eggs I cooked came from cartons sold at the grocery store, not from any chickens that I could see. My perspective changed, however, when I brought home our first fuzzy chicks, watched them grow into gawky pullets and waited—and waited—with bated breath for our first farm-fresh eggs to magically appear.

I eventually learned that not only did you first need chickens to have eggs (obviously), but to start getting eggs, you also needed your pullets to reach about 20 weeks of age. And to get an ongoing supply of good eggs, your chickens needed the right food, clean nest boxes, sufficient daylight and more. In other words, because an egg’s quality reflects the care and management the hen receives, getting good eggs takes some work—and not just on the chicken’s part. Take it from anyone who has ever kept a layer flock, the delicious results are well worth the effort.

If you think fun chickens giving delectable eggs every day sounds like a recipe for hobby-farm happiness, our guide to getting good eggs will help you collect the right ingredients.
5 Ways to Get the Best Eggs Possible
Courtesy Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock

What’s In an Egg?
Before we look at what should go into a laying chicken, let’s talk about what comes out. That amazing chicken egg has a protective, external, porous shell consisting mainly of calcium carbonate covered with an invisible protein barrier called the cuticle that shields the interior from bacterial contamination.
These structures, along with an inner membrane, surround a cushiony, cloudy albumen (the white), composed mostly of water and protein. The albumen in turn envelopes the nutrient-packed yolk, the egg’s main nucleus of protein, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. On average, a chicken egg contains about six grams of protein and six grams of fat.
 
Provide the Basics: Food, Water, & Coop

Food
To keep its body functioning and to produce one of these self-contained, nutrient-rich units each day, it’s essential a laying hen receive a balanced diet with adequate levels of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals.

For laying flocks older than 16 to 20 weeks, experts generally recommend a balanced layer ration containing 16- to 18-percent protein and approximately 3½-percent calcium to promote strong eggshells.
Many raisers also offer free-choice oyster shell for extra calcium in case their feed falls short of this important mineral. Calcium deficiency can result in thin-shelled eggs and leg problems. You may need to offer your birds the higher-protein feed during periods of peak egg production and when hot weather causes birds to eat less.

If you keep your flock confined, don’t forget to provide them with a source of insoluble grit to assist in grinding the feed in their gizzards. You’ll find oyster shell, grit, formulated layer rations and various types of feeders at your local feed store. Some even carry balanced, organic layer diets, if you prefer your flock dine on food free of antibiotics and grown in a sustainable fashion.

Chickens allowed to free-range pastures, orchards, gardens or other outdoor areas will consume a nutritious and diverse mix of insects, grains, berries, seeds and plants in addition to their formulated fare. Many chicken keepers treat their flocks to other goodies, too, from bread to surplus cow’s milk. However, a number of poultry experts advise against this practice.

"A lot of farmers try to save money by feeding scratch grains and household food scraps,” says Jacquie Jacob, PhD, poultry extension associate at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. "This dilutes the nutrition of the laying feed and can result in shell weakness or cessation of production altogether.”

Water
Laying chickens also require a constant supply of fresh, clean water. Not only does a chicken’s body use this life-sustaining liquid for numerous physiological functions, but water also comprises more than half of an egg’s volume. You must ensure your birds have a reliable water source during both hot and dry periods and freezing weather or their egg production will suffer.

Coop (The 5 Steps)
Along with a balanced diet and ample water, your chickens need protection from the elements, predators and disease to stay alive and healthy—and thus keep laying eggs. A cold, wet chicken, for example, will be forced to spend its energy reserves trying to stay warm rather than on egg production. A sick or stressed chicken will often reduce its egg output or completely quit laying. And it goes without saying that a bird killed by fowl cholera or a coyote will not be giving you any more eggs—ever.

1) A Proper Coop
A snug, secure, well-built and properly ventilated chicken coop will offer your flock shelter from inclement weather, give your birds a predator-safe spot to roost at night, and discourage the presence of disease-carrying rodents and wild birds.

Outdoor access into a covered coop or pen gives the chickens a protected place to dust bathe, scratch for bugs and preen in the sunshine. However, not all raisers keep their birds cooped round-the-clock; many allow their flocks to free-range around the farm during the day, while others utilize pasture-based systems that incorporate mobile chicken tractors or moveable poultry netting.

Both confinement and free-range systems have their pros and cons, Jacob says. Free-ranging birds may have more room and increased opportunities to behave like chickens and forage for a varied, natural diet, but outdoor living does pose definite risks.

"Many people think that having chickens romping around a pasture is idyllic, but they can’t imagine all the threats the birds are exposed to, such as diseases and predators,” says Francine Bradley, PhD, an extension poultry specialist with the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of California, who recommends confining layer flocks. "If your birds are enclosed, you’ll also be able to quickly find the eggs. You can supply a clean nest box so the chicken lays there instead of hiding its nest somewhere or laying its eggs in a mud puddle. This increases your chances of getting clean eggs.”

2) Keep the Coop Clean
Whichever raising system you use, avoid crowding your chickens and keep their environment as clean and dry as possible.

Regularly layering fresh litter in houses, preventing mud formation in pens and raking up droppings will help prevent your birds from tracking feces and mud into their nest boxes and onto their eggs. Hygienic conditions promote healthier hens, as will paying attention to biosecurity issues, such as quarantine periods for new fowl and limiting visits to your farm from other chicken raisers.

"If a visit is necessary, the farmers should have showered before coming to the farm and should not wear clothing, including baseball caps, shoes and boots that they’ve worn anywhere near their own birds,” Jacob stresses.

3) Provide Nest Boxes
To get eggs—especially nice, clean, intact ones—you’ll need to persuade your chickens to lay where you want them to lay, not in some poopy corner of their coop or hidden in tall grass somewhere out in the back 40.

Bradley stresses providing plenty of covered nest boxes for your flock; one for every four hens. You can purchase easy-to-clean nest boxes from poultry supply companies or build your own from wood. Install the boxes about 2 feet off the floor and deeply layer each with clean, soft litter, such as non-toxic wood shavings, to provide cushioning for the eggs and to absorb droppings.

"You might want to tack a little cloth over part of the opening to make it secluded and dark. Chickens like this and it will help prevent egg eating,” Bradley says. "You’ll want to put a plastic or rubber egg in the box first to attract the chickens to the nest box.”

For birds allowed outside, Jacob suggests keeping them inside until later in the day so you won’t have to embark on an Easter egg hunt every morning.

Most chickens finish their egg-laying by 10 a.m. or so. Knowing exactly where your birds deposit their eggs will enable you to find and gather the eggs promptly, making it less likely for them to become broken and attract a hungry chicken’s attention.

"Egg eating is a very bad vice and one chicken can teach the others this habit,” Bradley says. "It’s best not to let the habit start to begin with.”

4) Set Up Lights
Light is another important factor that affects egg production and a good many neophyte chicken keepers have been left scratching their heads and wondering why their chickens quit laying as winter set in. (Note: Hens will also cease laying during molting periods.)

"Hens come into production with increasing hours of light per day and go out of production with decreasing hours of light per day,” Jacob explains. "A minimum of 14 hours of light per day is necessary to maintain egg production. Timers can be used so that the [artificial] lights don’t have to be on all day; they can come on before sunrise and/or stay on after sunset in order to maintain the required number of hours of light per day.”

5) Clean Eggs Well
Frequent egg collection coupled with clean, dry, uncrowded nest boxes and coops will go a long way toward keeping your flock’s eggs clean. Not only is a pristine, freshly laid egg a thing of beauty, but it can go right into a carton and into your fridge, no scrubbing required.

"If eggs are found clean, there’s no need to wash them since it would remove the bloom, or cuticle, which is the invisible, protective layer naturally found on eggs,” Jacob says.
But despite our best efforts, sometimes dirty eggs happen. With a small amount of dirt or droppings, you can:
  • Dry clean the egg by buffing it off with some fine-grit sandpaper.
  • Wet washing, although the normal procedure in commercial operations, can result in bacteria being sucked into the egg if done improperly (for example, in a cold bucket of water).
  • Got some really filthy eggs? Toss them out to be on the safe side.
  • As soon as you collect them, stash your fresh eggs small-side down in a dated egg carton in the refrigerator. Don’t store them with or near odorous foods like onions or fish. When cooking with raw eggs, be careful you don’t cross-contaminate other foods and always cook eggs thoroughly. Wash your hands well afterward with warm water and soap.
Once you figure out the right ingredients, getting good eggs from a small layer flock actually doesn’t take that much time and effort on a daily basis.

In fact, it’s a wonder more people don’t keep chickens, given that fresh-from-the-coop eggs look and taste so much better than store-bought. As Golson has discovered, the straightforward recipe for optimal egg production has changed little over the years.

"I have a favorite book, first published in 1895, called The Biggle Poultry Book, which gives advice for the ‘urban hennery,’” she says. "It used to be that most everyone had a few hens in their backyard to provide eggs for the table. The advice that worked then is just as good now: Provide a secure shelter, access to a yard and sunlight, good food, and keep it clean. That’s it!”

Get more egg and chicken-keeping help from HobbyFarms.com:
About the Author: Cherie Langlois is a former zookeeper and a freelance writer who has kept a variety of chicken breeds—and enjoyed dozens of fresh eggs!—on her Washington farm for over 17 years.


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Sleepypod Earns FiveStar CrashTest Rating for its Clickit Sport Harness

Sleepypod’s Clickit Sport dog safety harness has earned a five-star crash-test
rating—the highest possible rating—by the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) in
its Harness Certification Program. The rating spans three size categories: small, medium and large.
The CPS Harness Certification is the first formal crash-test rating system for pet travel harnesses, and manufacturers voluntarily participate in the program.

Testing and evaluation methods by CPS to determine harness safety included measurement of canine excursion, hardware/webbing migration, and hardware/stitching integrity. The test protocol, which is a result of the 2013 Harness Crashworthiness Study conducted by Center for Pet Safety, outlines a consistent test methodology and evaluation program to ensure pet safety harness restraints offer crash protection.

“Clickit Sport is packed with state of the art technology that is the result of a dedicated and intensive engineering effort by Sleepypod’s design team to keep larger pets safe when traveling in
cars,” says Michael Leung, Sleepypod co-founder and lead product designer. “The Center for Pet Safety awarded Five Star Rating to Clickit Sport is a meaningful validation of Sleepypod’s steadfast commitment to pet travel safety innovation.” - 


http://petbusiness.com/articles/2014-09-09/Sleepypod-Earns-FiveStar-CrashTest-Rating-for-its-Clickit-Sport-Harness-#sthash.96YEZeJZ.dpuf


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Monday, September 8, 2014

DOG HALLOWEEN COSTUMES - CELEBRATE THE SEASON



Scarecrow Witch Dog Costume


Two piece scarecrow witch dog costume, includes fringe trim tiered dress with attached petticoat and witch hat. Easy to wear front closure.

WARNING: Small parts. This product is intended for pets only. Keep out of reach of children
Price: X Small, Small, Medium & Large $36.00   -   X Large $42.00
Sku: AP1078

Sizing
Costume Prices: X Small, Small, Medium & Large $36.00   -   X Large $42.00

WARNING: Small parts. All of these costumes are intended for pets only. Keep out of reach of children. Always supervise your pet when given any new toy or garment. Remove from pet if any part becomes loose or detached






Sea Captain Dog Costume


Two piece sea captain dog costume, includes navy officer captain's uniform with button down detail and adjustable drawstring hat. Easy to wear front closure.

WARNING: Small parts. This product is intended for pets only. Keep out of reach of children
Price: X Small, Small, Medium & Large $36.00   -   X Large $42.00
Sku: AP1068







 

Honey Bee Dog Costume


Two piece adorable honey bee dog costume with metallic gold wings, black floral lace dress and attached white lace petticoat. Adjustable drawstring antenna headpiece included. Easy to wear front closure.

WARNING: Small parts. This product is intended for pets only. Keep out of reach of children
Price: X Small, Small, Medium & Large $36.00   -   X Large $42.00
Sku: AP1065







 

Royal Queen of Hearts Dog Costume


Two piece royal queen of hearts dog costume, includes tiered lace trim dress with red heart accents, attached petticoat and heart crown. Easy to wear front closure.

WARNING: Small parts. This product is intended for pets only. Keep out of reach of children
Price: X Small, Small, Medium & Large $36.00   -   X Large $42.00
Sku: AP1072







 

 

Pirate Captain Dog Costume


Two piece black and white stripes pirate captain dog costume, includes brown pirate coat with gold trim and white lace collar and sleeves, and matching pirate captain hat with red bandana and crossbones print. Easy to wear front closure.


WARNING: Small parts. This product is intended for pets only. Keep out of reach of children
Price: X Small, Small, Medium & Large $36.00   -   X Large $42.00
Sku: AP1054







Gangster Dog Costume


Two piece gangster dog costume, includes black pinstriped suit vest with red neck tie and adjustable drawstring fedora hat. Easy to wear front closure.

WARNING: Small parts. This product is intended for pets only. Keep out of reach of children
Price: X Small, Small, Medium & Large $36.00   -   X Large $42.00
Sku: AP1064







Sizing
Costume Prices: X Small, Small, Medium & Large $36.00   -   X Large $42.00

WARNING: Small parts. All of these costumes are intended for pets only. Keep out of reach of children. Always supervise your pet when given any new toy or garment. Remove from pet if any part becomes loose or detached


Anit Accessories


DOG HALLOWEEN COSTUMES


Choose costume style design from drop down menu 
Choose X Large at same time if desired

Choose all sizes other than X Large by indicating choice in notes / comments section of Pay Pal invoice during check out or e-mail blueridgemarketing@mindspring.com 


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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Black Suede Fur Lined Dog Coat


Black Suede Fur Lined Dog Coat Harness with Rhinestone Heart Buckle and Leash



  • We are Introducing a New Minky Plush Fur Lining on all of our Coats this Year. The New Lining will give the coats a softer and richer look and feel. We have paired up our Traditional Classic Brown Plaid with our New Minky Lining and the result is Pure Class and Quality !!
  • We've continued the Quality with Double Box Stitch Re-enforced D-Rings attachments.
  • The Black Suede Coat is adorned with a Brilliant Rhinestone Heart Shaped Buckle. "Classic Sweetheart Bling"
  • Each Coat comes with a Matching Leash
  • Available in Sizes: XS thru XXL (3 thru 60 Pounds)
  • Harness Style Coat with Velcro Neck and Chest Closures.
$29.89 ea plus shipping


Sizing
XXXL TEMP OUT OF STOCK

Choose size from Drop Down Menu below


Black Suede Fur Lined Dog Coat




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Ultimate Warmth For Your Dog - Bomber Jackets



Brown and Black Faux Leather Bomber Dog Coat Harness and Leash


Our High Quality Classic Bomber Coats last Winter Sold out completely. So, this year, we are bringing it back, in a Vintage Styling AND we have added a Matching Leash for extra Value.

It is made with Dark Brown Faux Leather Outer Body and complemented with Black Faux Leather Pockets and Belt Loops. It also features an Embroidered Wings Emblem, that says Co-Pilot...(for your little Co-pilot buddy)

We've added additional Quality by lining it with Extra Soft Cream Color Minky Fur.

It also has a Re-enforced Double Box Stitched D-Ring for added strength and quality.

It closes with adjustable Hook and Loop Chest and Neck, which makes it very easy to put on and take off. It also allows for a Great Fit and lots of room to adjust.

Comes in Sizes: XS thru XXL (3 thru 60 Pounds)              $35.99 each plus shipping

Sizing
Temp out of XXXL  - Email us for availability.  blueridgemarketing@mindspring.com







 

 "Ruffin It" Black and Grey Two Tone Snow Suit



Our New Black and Grey Snow Suit is designed to keep your little boy Warm, Cuddly and Dry on those cold fall and winter nights.

It is fully lined inside, with a very soft and thick Sherpa Fleece.

The Outer Shell is made from a soft, flexible water repellant Polyester/Nylon Blended fabric, with words "Ruffin It" silkscreened on the middle back area.

We also designed it with a zipper Removable Hood and can be worn with or without the Hood Feature.

The Snow Suit comes with a D-Ring on the smaller sizes.


$35.99 ea plus shipping

Sizing


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       JACKET STYLE
 

Chose jacket style using drop down menu - chose SIZE by indicating in PayPal Notes section of invoice when checking out.   Or email size to blueridgemarketing@mindspring.com
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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Spend More Outdoor Time With Your Dog


Outdoor Time With Your Dog


Keep your favorite four-legged fan warm with a Varsity Dog Jacket and show support for your school at the same time!

Made of fleece with faux leather sleeves and pockets, rib trim, snap closure.


Extra Small, Small, Medium, Large & Extra Large all the SAME PRICE

CHOOSE SIZE FROM DROP DOWN MENU BELOW - CHOOSE TEAM BY INDICATING CHOICE ON PAYPAL INVOICE AS YOU ARE PAYING.



COLLEGE JACKET SIZE


For more information email blueridgemarketing@mindspring.com

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