3 Years, 1 Bucket – Fermented Grain for Chickens


So, how does my fermented grain bucket look after 3 years of being refilled and never completely cleaned out or changed? Great!

Above you can see my 5 gallon bucket ready to be restocked. There’s about a gallon of liquid left and a few inches of grains. I always refill it before it gets too depleted because I want the goodness of all that mature bacteria to get spread around as much as possible.

Every morning my ducks get one scoop and my chickens and pigeons get two heaping scoops from this bucket and believe me, it’s the highlight of their day. They know they’ve been bad if I make them wait for it (like when they try to wake me up early for it by screaming bloody murder) and I like that I can continue to feed it all winter long and provide them with at least some type of “living” food when the plants are dead and gone.


I add supplements every other time I refill the grains. I put in a good 2-3 TBSP each of kelp powder (the cheap stuff for gardens), garlic powder, cayenne powder and turmeric. I get these all for very cheap at a bulk store. Then they usually get two number 2 scoops of whole corn, two scoops of whole wheat, and a smaller scoop each of whole barley and black oil sunflower seeds. If I have other things lying around like wild bird seed that the wild birds don’t care for, I’ll dump that in too. The only thing I advise against using is pelleted or crumbled chicken feed. I tried that once and I got mold on top.

Everybody’s favorite is the (most expensive) corn and that gets gobbled up first. Least favorite and cheapest is the barley, but they eat it eventually. I always do my refill in the evening so the grains have a chance to absorb the liquid. I love the smell of the contents of the bucket, it reminds me of really good salad dressing!



Eggshells Instead of Bone Meal for the Garden


Plants need calcium, especially things like tomatoes which will suffer from blossom end-rot without sufficient amounts.

I save all my eggshells and my birds generate about 5 to 10 pounds worth per year. I dry them, crush them and every spring I spread them all over my gardens. Today was eggshell-spreading day! There are usually none left over, but when there are they get fed back to the birds who love them.


I really appreciate that I don’t have to purchase bone meal, which is a by-product of the beef industry. It’s nice using fertilizers that are generated right here on the property and it saves me money. I don’t bother crushing them to a powder, I just do the best I can and they decompose over time.

It’s a myth that eggshells will prevent slugs in your garden. Tests have shown that they actually attract them! If slugs are a concern for you, turn your eggshell into the soil so they’re covered. I don’t bother with this because my ducks eat most of the slugs around here and I like the way the shells brighten things up.



Springtime Duck Family


Well, our little lonely duckling born in the cold month of December is now all grown up into a beautiful female! That means she gets to stay. The Muscovy duck family is now up to three ducks and a drake and they have had full run of the yard since winter. They spend their days eating grass and bugs and rooting through my compost pile. They are very happy birds.

For now my youngest duck is a solid brown, but she will soon moult into her white head and wing patches. Her mother is already well underway on her next nest and has at least a dozen eggs laid already. I’m really hoping for a full, healthy clutch of ducklings this spring. It’s so cute to see them all running and tumbling together after their mom. We’ll know how it goes in about 45 days!

New Winter Duckling


While I was away visiting family for the holidays I received a text from my house sitter right around x-mas: “You have a new duckling”.

I knew my two Muscovy hens had been sitting on eggs for some time, but I didn’t expect any to hatch in the cold weather we had been experiencing. Apparently there were initially three ducklings but two didn’t make it past their first day. I gave instructions to add a shallow water dish and change the feed over to chick crumble in order to try to keep the remaining duckie alive.


We’ve been having the coldest winter since I moved here and I wasn’t sure this little duck would be able to stay warm, but somehow he has. He’s a few weeks old now and doing very well. Since the gardens are now kaput I’ve opened up the duck pen to give them free reign of the yard and now they meet me at the back door every morning for their portion of fermented grains. Such a cute little family!


Preparing Muscovy Duck Feet


My trio of muscovy ducks only produced one duckling this year, and it was a drake. He ate very well for a few months, but the air is growing chilly now and there’s no need to overwinter two big drakes. It was time to harvest him.

I got two great big breast steaks and two nice legs, around five pounds of meat total. Normally I give the feet to the dog, but this year I wanted to see if I could use them. Duck feet are full of collagen and make excellent stock, but it’s best to remove the outer layer of dirty skin before dropping them into your stock pot. It’s actually a fairly simple process.


Rinse off and scrub the feet if they are very muddy, and bring a pot of water to a boil. Submerge the feet for one minute, or until the skin begins to flake off when rubbed. You’ll only be removing a very thin layer, much like a snake shedding their skin. It will smell slightly fishy and the feet will tense up a bit.


Then just peel away. It’s easiest to do while the feet are still hot. Soon you’ll have a little pile of flaky skin and some nice, clean duck feet. Sometimes the outer nail covering comes off as well, but in this case his nails stayed intact. Now they’re ready to pop into the freezer for the next time I make a big pot of bone broth. Can’t wait!


Fermented Grain for Chickens 2.0


I wrote some time ago about fermenting grain for my chickens. Back then I was doing it in a large glass jar in my kitchen. Yeah, that was never going to last.

Last fall I started getting serious about fermented grain. I tried so many times to grow fodder for my hens over the winter, but nothing I did could prevent mold from taking over every tray. I wanted the girls to have something ‘alive’ to eat during the cold months, so I set up a 5 gallon bucket beside the coop and dumped in a bunch of different grains and covered them with water. That’s about how hard it is to get started.

Currently I use whole corn (it’s crimped in the photos because the feed store gave me the wrong stuff last trip), whole wheat, whole black oil sunflower seeds, whole millet, whole oats, whole barley and some wild bird seed that the wild birds couldn’t care less about.


It worked great. I read somewhere that you could add layer pellets to the bucket too, but when I tried that I soon had a case of moldy top scum on my hands. I dumped that batch out and started over, and now I don’t put regular pellets or crumbles into the mix. I haven’t had any more issues with mold.


After a while I got adventurous and started adding things. I got some kelp powder, turmeric, garlic powder and cayenne. Now each time I add new grain to the bucket a tablespoon of each supplement goes in too. It smells great and the birds love it. Not simply the chickens but also the pigeons, ducks and pheasants.

The cayenne keeps rats away and was the trick to jumpstarting my Ameraucana hen into laying again this spring after she seemed a bit ‘stuck’. Did you know cayenne is one of the ingredients in the special red-factor ‘color enhancement’ food you can buy for canaries?  Birds don’t have the ability to taste capsaicin so to them it’s just extra delicious.



New Ducks


One-eyed brown duck in the foreground

My lonely, one-eyed brown duck now has a nice little family! Recently I traded a rabbit for this nice young pair, a black barred drake and a brown barred duck. Research says that once they mature the barring will probably only be visible on their chests. I think it’s a nice feature that gives them a wild look.

Once these little friends arrived I invested in a large livestock tank for everyone to swim in, since I know they came from a home with a pond and I didn’t want them to be too disappointed in their new digs. The tank doubles as a mosquito hatchery which the ducks harvest daily.

These new ducks are very well-behaved, but all Muscovies are nice when young. It’s when the hormones kick in that the real personality comes out. My last drake needed to be culled because he became incredibly aggressive with my chickens, he was obsessed with trying to rape them and I was afraid he’d kill one before long. (He was also not the first Muscovy drake I’ve had who thought chickens were fair game.) Once he was removed, my Black Copper Maran head hen decided to get her revenge by poking out one of brown duck’s eyes. Thankfully she healed up ok and there have been no further incidents, but I think it’s absolutely time to get the ducks and chickens separated.

So, I’m in the beginning stages of figuring out where the new duck pen will go. Now that I have a very tall security fence around my property I am considering having an open top pen with 5 foot high fencing. The only thing I can imagine getting in would be a raccoon, but with six cats and two dogs on the property I doubt any raccoon would be foolish enough to try. I’d also like to set up their new tank under a downspout so they can enjoy fresh rainwater from time to time. You know, if it ever rains again, ever.

Poultry Update

DSC_0021Yesterday I drove out to the Quennel Lake Livestock Conservatory and picked up these two beautiful ladies. They are a pair of Welsumer (or Welsummer) hens.

Since lately I’ve been selling a lot of eggs to my neighbors, I needed to increase the production around here. Although these girls are in their third year, they are reported to still be laying well and were only $5 each. They are in lovely shape and will be laying eggs the color of wet terracotta. I was also told that they may go broody, so in that case I’ll probably find some fertilized eggs to put under them and see how they do.

DSC_0013Poor white chicken is going through a hard molt, the first hard molt I’ve ever seen here. She looks pathetic and her egg production has slacked a bit. Since she was at the bottom of the pecking order, she was delighted to have the two Welsumer girls show up so she could give them a few good pecks and move up the ranks. Other than that there seems to be no real squabbling amongst the hens. The new girls are sticking together and respectfully keeping their distance for now. The duck and the pheasant seem particularly interested in them.

DSC_0015The pheasant cock is still doing very well. He is a very calm and happy bird and makes delightfully musical little chirping noises. I have read that he will probably go through a molt this summer and that’s when his adult plumage will really come in. I’ve also read that it’s common for their tail feathers to get wet and freeze in the winter and get stepped on by other birds, causing them to break. I’m hoping that since he is now being kept in a covered run, that this will prevent further breakage. The tails are very impressive so it would be a shame for him to break it again. I’ve also hopefully lined up a lady pheasant for him this summer, from the same breeder that he originates from. Very exciting!

My Ducks


The lilac drake

Muscovy ducks were the first livestock of choice here on my little homestead, and unfortunately met to an untimely end.

Since then, I’ve had many more Muscovies and am now down to just two, a nice little brown duck and a mottled lilac drake, both with white heads. I hope to get a second hen at some point soon to form a trio. Muscovies are great for urban or city coops because they are basically silent, brood their own ducklings, are prolific, do not require a pool and you can keep a male, unlike with most chicken bylaws.

I like the solid brown, bronze or black coloration in these ducks. I had a beautiful solid brown duck last fall who flew away permanently after my other duck went crazy and chased her out of the yard. She also killed my solid black drake by biting his neck until he bled to death. She foiled my plans good. Needless to say I was pretty pissed at her, and she ended up being culled. She was the mother of these two but I’m pretty sure they had different fathers. They seem like much nicer ducks than their mom, thankfully.


The brown duck

Amazing Turmeric

I sure wish I had known more about healing herbs and plants when I was growing up, it sure would have saved me a lot of money, time and hassle. After trying more and more natural cures, I don’t understand how certain commercial products can be so popular. So many of them just don’t work. There are things that do work though, and they work very well. They are also cheap and may already be lurking in your spice cabinet.

DSC_0074I recently learned about turmeric while I was researching ways to heal my broken foot faster. Turmeric has many healing properties, but my current favorite uses are for acne and for wounds. Not just human wounds, but poultry and livestock wounds as well.

I already had a little turmeric in the pantry for use in making curries. Recently at the Superstore I saw them selling it in kilo bags. Really? Who needs that much turmeric? Well, if they’re selling it someone must be buying it. It was cheap. I had been reading about its many uses. I bought a package and brought it home.

It turns out I needed it almost right away. I have three young Muscovy ducks that are in the process of growing up to become new breeders. I had them separated from the main coop but decided to try to integrate them since they were getting pretty big. It turns out the chickens decided that it would be fun (and tasty) to peck out the pinfeathers coming in on their tails. After just one day all three ducks had big, bloody holes in their tails and it was obvious they needed to be separated again. The wounds looked very nasty and I didn’t want them to continue to pick at each other after they were separated, so I made a quick, runny paste with olive pomace oil and turmeric and slopped it all over their tails. I had read it worked well for open wounds. The ducklings all calmed down immediately like they felt relief from the pain. The next day, the wounds looked amazing. They were not red or angry and they looked like they had dried out and closed up almost completely. The color seemed to discourage any more picking. Turmeric and oil is now my go-to remedy for any poultry wounds. It’s amazing.

My second favorite use is for acne. I suffered a lot from acne as a kid and eventually had to go on Accutane to calm it down. I still get a few zits on my face now and then, usually right before my period. Generally they are of the blackhead/whitehead, raging red and angry type that I can’t leave alone because they look gross and hurt. Despite better judgement I usually try to squeeze these things to relieve the pain and of course this usually makes them worse. They weep and will sometimes resist healing, forming a new zit in the same spot. Until now I used my favorite (pre-turmeric) remedy, Polysporin; which works well for a lot of stuff but somehow not for zits. I think by keeping the area moist it’s counterproductive.

Well, the cure my friends is turmeric. Make a paste of water and turmeric and put it right on your zit. You will feel a warming sensation and any pain will instantly recede. If you have popped a zit and it is weeping, dot some dry turmeric on the spot. It will stop the weeping and calm down the redness and pain. You will be left with a small, dried-out spot that will heal very quickly. The only side effect is your fingertips and sink/washcloth may stain yellow. It will stain your face a little as well, but I’ve found this not to be noticeable enough to care about. Seriously, if you have acne problems, you need to try turmeric. It will change your life.