7/31/14

TIPS: Caring for your hens in the heat

Heatwaves are stressful times for chickens. The way chickens cool themselves, because they do not have sweat glands is to rely on their respiratory system, and panting. As chickens pant the water in their throat evaporates and lowers their body temperature. A normal body temperature for a chicken is about 105 degrees. I also sometimes freeze water in old water bottles and place in waterers to keep the water cool.

1 – Water and plenty of it. Hens will need access to cool, clean water all the time. This is true year round but is obviously critical to hens surviving the heat. I also put a little pool of shallow water in the coop to provide an opportunity for them to stand in it if they want.

2 – Chickens need space, especially in the heat. They need to get away from the body heat of other birds and need access to a well ventilated, shady spot.

3 – In my coop there is food available 24/7. In the summer heat chickens tend to eat in the cool of the morning, and not during the high heat of the day. Make sure there is plenty of food available in the cooler parts of the day. I also change the feed ratios to a higher protein ratio, because they are eating less this will help them maintain a proper nutritional balance. I go from layer feed at 17% protein to grower feed or gamebird feed at 20%.

4 – Check on your hens frequently throughout the day, if possible. If a bird begins to show signs of heat stress, take them out of the coop and place in a cool quiet spot. Eliminate as much stress as possible.

5 – Replace the deep litter with a shallow layer of bedding. Shavings with droppings in it can create heat.

6 - Consider adding electrolytes to the water if your hens seem particularly stressed, a sign to look for is pale combs, spreading their wings away from the body, limp, extraordinary panting. A great recipe for homemade electrolytes from Gail Demerow is :

HOMEMADE ELECTROLYTE SOLUTION
1/2 teaspoon salt substitute
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 gallon water

Do not administer this to healthy hens this is only if your birds seems in distress. During the rest of the year I add Apple Cider Vinegar to the water, do not do this during high heat times.

Travel Nepal 2014

My friend Piper and I arrived in Nepal about 10 days ago. It has been an amazing journey. We are currently in Surkhet, Nepal working with Maggie Doyne. Piper has a great blog about our trip. Please feel free to follow it here. I am setting up some beehives and Piper is a theater arts fellow. More later.

6/25/14

Bee The Change. I believe we can all make a difference.

BEE THE CHANGE!
Please consider a donation
http://tinyurl.com/beethechange

This summer, my friend Piper and I are traveling almost 8,000 miles to Surkhet, Nepal. Surkhet is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, and is home to our friend, Maggie Doyne, her 44 children, and the school she and her team built for 350 of the region's children (Kopila Valley Home and School). Maggie is the founder and executive director of the BlinkNow Foundation. BlinkNow is the sole provider of funding for Kopila Valley Home and School.

Piper and I will be working with the children at Kopila Valley, and helping Maggie any way she needs us.

Before I leave for Nepal, my dream is to raise $10,000 dollars for Maggie and her amazing team at Kopila Valley to sustain and grow their home, school and community.

$10,000 is a big goal, but I know with your help we can make it happen! Every donation helps, no matter how large or small. 100% of your donation is tax deductible and will go directly to help support BlinkNow, a registered 501(C)(3) charity.

When Maggie and I met at the DoLectures USA we dreamed a little about bees at Kopila. At the time it seemed to be simply that, a dream. Well, now it's a reality. This summer we will help Kopila start a bee program (and Piper, who is an amazing guitar player will be helping with the arts program).

Here is the wonderful note Maggie wrote to me:
"Orren, I'd like to offer you one of our Summer Sustainability Fellowships. After hearing your Do Lecture I haven't been able to get bees off the brain :) We could really use your expertise in setting up some hives at Kopila. I'd also like you to work with the Kopila kids on educating them about beekeeping, chickens and work along their side to set up a coop on our new campus."

I named my campaign BEE THE CHANGE, because I believe that we can all make a difference. Thank you friends and family for being the change with me.

To learn more about Maggie:
Read this New York Times cover story featuring Maggie and her project.
Watch her DoLecture
Explore the BlinkNow website.

To learn more about me:
Read this magazine piece in Edible Boston, and watch my video.

2/17/14

Beekeeping with Maggie Doyne at Kopila Valley, Nepal


I was really lucky to meet Maggie Doyne and her daughter Anjali in September 2012 at Do Lectures in Hopland, CA at a beautiful place called Campovida.

Maggie is a very inspiring person who started an organization called BlinkNow. It is called Blink Now because she believes that in the blink of an eye we can all make a difference in the world. She did exactly this a few years ago and started Kopila Valley children’s home and school. It is amazing what she is doing.

When we were at the Do Lectures we dreamed a little about bees at Kopila. At the time it seemed simply like a dream. Well, now it isn't a dream.  This summer we will help Kopila start a bee program and I will be going with a good friend who is an amazing guitar player so she will be helping with the arts program.

Here is the amazing note Maggie wrote:
“Orren, I'd like to offer you one of our Summer Sustainability Fellowships.  After hearing your Do Lecture I haven't been able to get bees off the brain :) We could really use your expertise in setting up some hives at Kopila.  I'd also like you to work with the Kopila kids on educating them about beekeeping, chickens and work along their side to set up a coop on our new campus.” 

Now the research begins. If you have any knowledge about beekeeping in Nepal or starting a program for kids please feel free to email me - happyhoneybeesATgmailDOTcom also if you'd care to help support this project that would be great. Here is what I have found so far : Bees for Development.

The Honey Hunters of Nepal



I will be going to Nepal this summer to work with bees. Doing some research.

10/24/13

Chickens in the winter - what not to do.

Chickens in the winter – what not to do. 

1. Do not let the water freeze, even for a few hours overnight. Hens that get even just a little dehydrated are much more prone to getting weak and it takes them a very long time to get rehydrated, hens just aren't that thirsty in the winter. I do like heated dogbowls. Many don’t care for them, but I find them very very helpful. I am at school all day so am unable to tend them throughout a freezing cold day. I also put a little splash of Braggs into the water, I just think it is good for them. They like the taste so drink more water.

2. Do not let your eggs freeze. If they freeze they crack a bit from the expansion. A cracked egg isn't a good idea to eat. When I find cracked eggs I try and scramble them up for the hens. Many people will disagree with this, they will tell you that your hens are more likely to eat their own eggs as a result. They are probably right, but I haven't had that experience and they seem to love scrambled eggs. I hate to waste an egg. So collect the eggs more often when it is cold.

3. Do not heat or insulate your coop too tightly. While it is true you don't want big drafts rolling through the coop a tight coop is just as bad. When chickens breath they put moisture in the air and because they spend more time in their coop in the winter there is just is more moisture in the coop in general from breathing and droppings. Moisture and humidity can create an unhealthy situation with mold and potential respiratory issues. Also a really tight coop can have the smell of ammonia to build up which can be terrible for you and the hens. A good guide is protected, well ventilated and not drafty.

4. Do not let your hens get bored. Cut up a squash, sprinkle corn cobs around, hang a cabbage, put a roost in a new spot. I don't think they need "toys" they just like scratching about for snacks.

5. Do not deprive your hens from light. Let your chickens out of the coop for a walkabout, let them out in the winter even in the snow. Don't keep them cooped up in the coop (make sure they are protected). Chickens need lots of light to continue to lay through the winter. I use lights on timers. It costs more in electric bills, however hens need light. I also have covered their outdoor run in clear corrugated plastic roofing so when they not in their nesting boxes they have access to natural light.

6. Do not forget to go over each bird to look for signs of cold distress. Do this often. I apply Vaseline to their combs in the winter. Also make sure the coop is clean: see moisture above. A good technique in the winter is the Deep Bedding Method. It is very easy to manage, you end up with compost, they birds are always entertained scratching about, and it keeps your birds healthy.

Book Review: Gardening with Free-Range Chickens for Dummies

Believe it or not chickens are great gardeners. I have quite a few chickens and I used to put them into my little garden to help weed, fertilize and manage pests. This book by Bonnie Jo Manion and Rob Ludlow is a simple introduction to gardening and chicken basics. If you are familiar with raising chickens but would like to know more about gardening with them or you are an active gardener and are about to get chickens this would be a good book for you

The first chapter Joining Forces: Companion Gardening with Chickens has some very helpful information on various types of free-range methods. The book definition for free-range “as allowing chickens to access their outdoors freely with sun and soil, and with the ability to forage freely for their natural diet in a sheltered and protected plant landscape.” For me the key word is “protected”. I happen to believe that if your birds are out and about we have a responsibility to make sure they are safe, therefore if your garden does not have a fence around it please keep an eye on your birds.

Also included in this book is a simple overview of chicken breeds, what you need for a healthy coop, what to expect when you get new birds, in addition to garden basics.

Here’s the thing about chickens and gardens, chickens are great helpers but they can also take over a garden. As far as they are concerned the garden is theirs. It is a little difficult for them to differentiate weeds from seedlings and everywhere they look is an opportunity for a dust bath. Even having your chickens in your garden for a few hours each week is beneficial for both the birds and the garden, but there comes a point when they are no longer helpful.


This book is a super helpful starting point for both the basics for chickens and gardens. I would completely recommend it as part of a library for gardeners with chickens.  

8/31/13

"The Reason I Keep Bees" for Edible Boston



By Orren Fox / Photos by Michael Piazza


As I pick my way around the brush, being careful to avoid poison ivy, I hear an insect zoom by my ear. I glance up and realize it is one of my roughly 200,000 honeybees. She swerves left, then right, as her baskets, full of pollen, weigh her down. When I arrive at the hives, all four of them buzz loudly, full of life. Before I suit up, I merely observe the bees for a moment. Every second, hundreds of them land and take flight, ready for another day of foraging. After a few seconds, I grab my veil and zip the rest of my suit. I grab a couple of necessary tools and head over to the first hive. As I pry it open, the sweet smells of honey, pollen, and beeswax fill my nose. When I peel the lid back, I am met with a wave of curious hive-dwellers.
For the remainder of the day, these little guard bees constantly bump into my veil with harmless, silent little thuds. I put my face closer to the hive and peer down into the frames. The smells are so strong, they’re nearly overpowering. Since it is a hot, sunny day, the propolis inside the hive is gooey, and due to this extra heat, the bees have been cooling their hive with their wings and blowing the scents out of the hive and up into my veil. The hive is strong; thousands of bees are hard at work both inside and out. I realize that this moment, with thousands of them buzzing around, is the reason why I keep bees.


7/18/13

Seeking CCD Internship / Partnership #bees

I am looking to do a internship / partnership with someone doing research on Colony Collapse Disorder. Would love any suggestions of someone who could use a data collector, photographer, statistician. Suggestions? Thoughts? Thanks for any ideas > happyhoneybees@gmail.com


6/4/13

Kinfolk Magazine Workshop. Thanks for including BeeHappy honey.



Photo and words by sowingbysea.com

"On an unseasonably warm evening in the hills of upper Ojai, an intimate group of folks from all different walks of life gathered to enjoy good company, good food, and have a go at arranging flowers. We each brought a handful of flowers to add to the mix, while Jodi gave us a lesson chalk full of tips and tricks of the trade on how best to arrange the blossoms. We sipped Rhubarb Tea, noshed on an array of cheeses and Seville Orange marmalade, all before sitting down for an equally delicious dinner. It was the type of evening that gets you out of your comfort zone – where you meet others you most likely never would have otherwise. Yet, if you lived in the same town you’d instantly be good friends. Sling Shots & Flower Bombs, honey & infinity scarfs were just a few of the treats that filled our arms upon departure. It proved to be an evening to reconnect with nature, reconnect with ourselves and (re)connect with others."

5/3/13

Baby Silkies


Review of - Chickens in Five Minutes a Day


Chickens in Five Minutes a Day by Murray McMurray Hatchery
Raising, tending and getting eggs from a small backyard flock.

Murray McMurray Hatchery has just published this nice simple book about caring for chickens “In five minutes a day”. The main point of this book is – caring for hens is not complicated and doesn’t have to take a lot of time, 5 minutes a day. As Mr Huseman and employee at the hatchery says “The task of raising chickens at first seemed daunting, especially because I didn’t grow up on a farm. We only had a dog. I remember thinking what are we getting into? But it’s easy. The chickens just need food, water and shelter. That’s it”

The book has a nice seasonal guide for raising chickens and also a daily guide, below are some of the steps outlined in the book:

Watering – “Your chickens need access to clean water every day” I would add, even in the dark cold frozen winter. It can be a challenge in the winter making sure the hens have access to water 24 hours a day. I use a heated dog bowl to ensure this.

Feeding – “A balance chicken feed that is stored in pest – proof containers and housed near the coop for easy access”. I would also add consider adding some diatemaecous earth to your feed to help manage lice. Simply toss a small amount on your feed when loading it into your pest proof container.

Collecting – “When your chickens start laying eggs, you should check the nesting boxes in the coop at least once a day for fresh eggs”. When I go to the barn I simply take a peek in to see if there are any eggs. Just a note that hens need lots of light in order to lay eggs. We have clear panels in the roof of the barn so that even when the hens are in the inside coop, not out in the outdoor run, they are exposed to natural light.

Observing – “Good backyard farmers get to know their chickens and can spot lethargy, loss of appetite and other symptoms that might be the first signs of illness”. This is a very important part of raising hens. Knowing and understanding your hens is critical: are they broody, do they have lice, is anyone on the bottom of the pecking order, are the nesting boxes clean, is the coop completely safe (no holes in the fence for predators)

My favorite section in the book is "Choosing your Chickens". There are some very useful tips in this section for example, what is the right sized flock for your backyard?, Which chickens are best for you and your location, and breeds listed by temperament, multi colored eggs or exotic looking birds. Honestly I want all of them. I have 32 birds of various breeds, bantams, standards, good egg producers, roosters, you name it I probably have it and it all works out.

Obviously, the section titled “Everything you need to know for those first few weeks” is very very complete, this is a book from MurrayMcMurray after all. If you are considering getting chicks, get this book. This section of the book gives you critical, life saving information on how to care for your new birds: Pasting up, how to introduce them to water, huddling, pecking order. Read this chapter, then read it again to make sure you have it all. 

There are only a few things I might think twice about. One is on page 110 "Tips for Protecting Your Chickens from Pests and Predators". This is a very critical part of the book, in fact I think one of the most important. I don't have much patience when neighborhood dogs attack and injure hens. I think it is our number one task to keep our chickens safe, at all times. So I would recommend chain link instead of chicken wire. Where I live a fox or coyote could easily get through chicken wire. Keep your hens safe and happy.

3/24/13

Review of HOMEGROWN HONEY BEES @storeypub

 This is a great book for getting started with beekeeping. It is organized very simply and is jam packed with great photography.

A few of the chapters are titled:
Why bees?
How do I get started?
The first month.
The first season.
Congratulations and condolences.

As you can see from the chapter titles the book is very practical but also weaves in a bit of humor. There are many very scientific focused books out there (my favorite is The Beekeeper's Handbook by Diana Sammataro - you have to have this book in your beek library). Homegrown Honey Bees is quite different which makes beekeeping seem very fun and not so intimidating. On page 66 there is a page about the 'gear' you will need to consider for beekeeping - the title is "Gorilla Suits and Other Inappropriate Dress". I actually think it would be awesome to tend bees in a gorilla suit.

The chapter I found most useful, as a rookie, was the Varroa Mite chapter. I have read quite a bit about Varroa, and seen them but for some reason I still feel as if I don't know anything about them.  They are mysterious. This book has a chapter with four bullet points for what to look for, this was incredibly helpful: Lots of brood cell cappings with small holes, indicating dead pupae, bees that are stunted or have shriveled wings (accompanied by very good pictures).

Lastly, throughout the book are pages dedicated to Urban Beekeepers from New York to New Mexico. These profiles of beeks are very interesting because it is fascinating to see and understand how other people tend to their hives. I am going to keep this book in my bee kit.



3/16/13

Thank you @ktranell and Scholastic Magazine

Thank you Kim Tranell and Scholastic Magazine for doing this article on teen bloggers.  It is a great article about building your own blog and what is possible. Also included in the article are bloggers @bentpieceofwire @jessenort and @donotenterdiary.

See entire article HERE

Lucky to speak @DoLecturesUSA last fall

I was really lucky to speak at the DoLectures last fall, with amazing people. My talk was about being a rookie and failing, failing all the time. Go to the site to check them out: Anjali Karki and her mom Maggie Doyne (I am hoping that maybe we could install some hives at their home in Nepal), Cheryl Strayed author of Wild, Charlie Engle, Brenda Chapman director of BRAVE to name just a few. 

All photos by Richard Beaven

Tipis

Anjali Karki, Kopila Valley Student

Charlie Engle, filmmaker (Running the Sahara), runner

Brenda Chapman, Director of BRAVE

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