Our First Standard Rex Litter


I had almost given up on Tuna. We attempted to breed her once she hit six months old at the farm where she was born. She lived with the buck for nearly three weeks there and then… nothing. Then we acquired Timmy, who was formerly a pet rabbit and also had Black Otter coloration. Perfect! The first time we tried to breed these two, again, we got nothing.

But it looks like the third time’s the charm! For a first-time mom, Tuna did a great job. By her attitude, I was almost sure that this breeding was going to be another failure. She didn’t look any bigger, and palpation seemed to show nothing happening. She kept her appetite up throughout the pregnancy and her demeanor was always the same. Sweet and lovely. In fact, she got even sweeter and more cuddly!

Last night she pulled fur, and had all nine kits right where they were supposed to be, in the nest box. All alive and well. Though we were expecting Black Otter, there look to be some paler kits in the bunch so that’s very exciting. Since Timmy’s background is unknown, we’ll just have to wait and see what develops.

Fermenting Feed for Chickens


My current fermented feed setup

I’ve been making my own fermented chicken feed for a few months now, and it’s been a great success. The chickens and ducks love it, and consider it a special treat. I usually give my small flock about four small scoops a day in a little dish, and it gets cleaned up in about ten minutes. It has a pleasant smell, like unfiltered sake. Even the dog enjoys the few little grains that fall to the floor during preparation.

My recipe is simple. I just mix in whatever feed grains I have on hand, add a bit of kelp meal and then some water and give it a good shake. Right now I use corn, wheat, oats, barley, millet, black oil sunflower seeds and peanuts. Wild bird seed also works well. Over the next few days the grains lacto-ferment, which introduces Lactobacillus, Leuconostoc, Pediococcus, and other beneficial bacteria and yeasts into the culture.

Technically you can ferment normal pelleted or crumbled chicken feed as well, but I like to use whole grains. My poultry don’t usually get scratch, but sometimes I fill up the feeder with whole grains instead of pellets. I’ve never understood the saying that scratch should be considered “like candy” for chickens. I mean, these are whole grains. If I planted them they would grow. They store nutrients much better and are a lot less processed than commercial feeds, and I’m pretty darn sure commercial feed is made from processed whole grains, I mean come on.

You can start your fermentation jar or bucket by simply adding grains, adding water to cover and leaving it to sit at room temperature for about 3-4 days. Once it starts to smell sour and you see bubbles forming, then you know it’s ready; but even minimally soaked grain has improved digestibility by reducing the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors found in all grains, seeds and legumes. Every time you remove some of the feed, refill the jar with more fresh grain and water and continue the cycle. In their lactic acid bath, the grains will be preserved indefinitely.

There’s enough natural lactic acid bacteria in the air and on the grains to get your culture going without adding anything else. If a white scum develops on the surface don’t fret, this is the scoby, and is normal. Just shake up the jar to mix it back in. The longer you keep your jar going, the more beneficial it becomes as the culture ages and matures, much like a good sourdough starter. It’s recommended to keep your jar covered and it goes without saying if you see mold developing, best to toss it out and start again.

Fermented feed has been found to increase egg weight and shell thickness, as well as boost intestinal health by forming a natural barrier to acid-sensitive pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella. It also lowers feed consumption due to more effective digestion, according to a British Poultry Science study from 2009. Another 2009 study by the African Journal of Biotechnology showed that fermented feed reduces the level of anti-nutrients found in grains and seeds, and greatly improves the bioavailability of vitamins and minerals during digestion.

Not only does fermentation preserve vitamins in grains, it also creates new vitamins, especially B vitamins like folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, and thiamin.

I haven’t noticed much of a difference yet in my hens but fermented foods have long been known to be conducive to good health in many species, including humans. I encourage you to give it a try!

Why Quail are Better Than Chickens


1 week old Tibetan type Coturnix quail chick

Ok, I don’t really think quail are better than chickens, but I do think that they are vastly underrated.

The type of quail I have are Coturnix, or Japanese quail. They are a small, hardy gamebird that are very easy to raise and need very little space. Consider them as low-maintenance pets that are fun to watch and provide the added benefit of meat and eggs.

-They are ground dwellers who rarely fly and so require little headroom. 8 to 10 inches is sufficient. They also require very little living area, about one square foot per bird.

-Quail mature much faster than chickens. The hens begin laying beautiful, edible speckled eggs at approximately 6 weeks of age and continue to lay almost an egg a day for about a year or so before production slows. About 8% of their overall body weight per day!

-Quail meat is absolutely delicious, and quail are incredibly quick and easy to process. I can do one in about three minutes flat with a pair of kitchen scissors.

-Male quails don’t have a piercing crow like a rooster, it’s more of a wild-sounding trill which many people find pleasant.

-Quail eggs are very easy and forgiving for someone just learning to hatch. I’ve heard it said that you could probably leave quail eggs in the trunk of your car for a few weeks and they’d hatch.

-Quail eggs have more protein and nutrients than chicken eggs by weight, and are safely eaten raw. Not that I don’t consider chicken eggs safely eaten raw as well.

-They are friendly little birds who will come running when they see you approaching with dinner. I once had one lay an egg directly in my hand. Their feathers can also be used for fly-tying.

Personally, I think quail make ideal urban homesteading pets, especially in locations where chickens are not permitted. Their curious antics and beautiful plumage will suck you in just as much as their plentiful gourmet egg production. A perfect way to start? Get a trio of two females and a male. Now you have fertilized eggs that can be hatched out in an incubator to renew your flock when required, which is generally every six months to a year or so.


Adult Coturnix quail

What Do You Get? Silver Marten X Creme d’Argent

This was something I researched a lot when I was first getting into cross-breeding rabbits but couldn’t find a whole lot of information. I wanted to see what the resulting bunnies would look like. There are lots of “cross-bred” rabbits out there but I’m talking about F1 hybrids which supposedly benefit from “hybrid vigor”.

I didn’t want to cross-breed necessarily but I wanted rabbit meat and it was my only option at the time. I actually found the coats of the offspring to be very attractive and wild-looking and the growth rate was good. The kits had very cute black eyeliner and ear tips.

So, what do you get when you cross a Silver Marten sire with a Creme d’Argent dam? You get this:


Silver Marten X Creme d’Argent hybrid kit at about 12 weeks old, just prior to processing

A large brown rabbit that looks very much like you would expect a wild rabbit to look. Of course, that’s just what I got. I’ve had a few litters where the kits look consistently like this. A few end up a bit darker, but otherwise they look like agouti coats. I’m considering eventually keeping a doe for breeding and would mate her to a third breed, supposedly maintaining hybrid vigor. I’m definitely excited to try more hybridization in the future.


Looks like agouti