Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fresh Eggs Daily: a Fresh Take on Chicken Keeping (& Book Giveaway)

"There is a TON of conflicting information. You can rest assured that I will only give advice based on MY personal experience."

These were among the first words of wisdom shared with me in an email from Lisa Steele more than a year and a half ago.  I was in fervent research mode preparing for the arrival of our chicks and found myself quite puzzled.  It seemed that of each book I read, every website I reviewed and all the magazine articles scoured, I was met with as many opinions on chicken keeping as there were authors.  While a few did provide research or statistics behind their logic, many took on a 'just because' air in which I was simply supposed to trust what the writer was stating.

I was relieved to have Lisa tell me her approach to chicken keeping, which I'd been keeping up with via Fresh Eggs Daily's Facebook and her Fresh Eggs Daily blog, was tried and true for her.  Her thriving, healthy flock was just what I was hoping for in my little chicks future, so I began paying close attention to Fresh Eggs Daily and conversed quite regularly with Lisa...and my poor friend hasn't been rid of me since!

I was thrilled when I learned her first book would be published and knew that so many could benefit from her experience and advice.  In reading through the chapters, I found that Lisa was able to convey her passion for raising healthy, happy animals with clarity for those inexperienced and offering a fresh outlook to shake the dust off the old school keeping methods.

This is not a beginner's how to raise chickens manual, nor is it another book filled with the same recycled advice you'll find in other basic poultry care books.  (It even kindly says so toward the end of the introduction)  It is a wonderful companion book to your chicken health library. This book is an absolute go to resource for strengthening the health of your flock while also improving the quality of their lives.  By using Fresh Eggs Daily's advice, you will be incorporating herbs into your chickens diet in order to prevent certain illness, offer them the immediate beneficial effects of the herbs and also to give them nutritious treats.
Could the catnip I was growing for our feline
friends offer benefits for my birds?  You bet!

I knew that herbs had positive health benefits, but I truly had little idea a fraction of what they were capable of.  Repelling mosquitoes?  Blood clotting?  Pain relievers?  Yes, all these things and much more!  In my inexperience, I simply thought that they were just good for them - kind of in the way that I know vaguely the benefits of eating vegetables are.  I never thought that I could use them to help prevent illness in my hens or, if the worst came, I could rely on them as part of my first aid kit.

In true Fresh Eggs Daily fashion, there are also several recipes and how-to projects to make your coop kids happy with healthy treats and sprays to make their digs clean and smelling great too!  Lisa knows I love to spoil my animals, so I was thrilled to see a few new snack ideas for them in the chapters.  My girls will be distracted this winter by a few tasty creations!

Again, this is not old school chicken keeping.  The book offers it's share of tried and true advice, but you won't just get bare bones basics of raising poultry.  Can you raise a flock without herbs?  Absolutely.  You can offer them basic chicken feed straight from the bag, feed only cracked corn (as a few I know do) or let them free range and hope they get enough from scavenging.  It has been done for countless decades past.
But consider this: if you ate the bare minimum of food and nutrients you needed to survive, what could you expect your health to be like?  Do you think you'd be very strong or lively?  How happy would you be to sit down to a basic, bland diet every day?

In caring for animals, as in caring for people, you absolutely get what you give.  

In spending a small amount of money and time growing herbs, you can offer your flock a nutritional boost, protection against illness and a fun treat.  (Also in having herbs grown for the chicken, consider the ways you can incorporate them into your life)  Some may think such things are frivolous, but I disagree.  You will be rewarded with more nutritious eggs and healthier birds.  And who doesn't love a big beautiful egg or watching their girl's gorgeous feathers shimmering in the afternoon sunlight?

This barren planter box will hold a
bevy of beneficial herbs come spring!

If the minimalist approach to animal care is for you, I wish you luck.  You will need it eventually, I fear.  As for me, I will eagerly look forward to spring and deciding what herbs I'll try my hand at growing for my girls.  As always, I will turn to Fresh Eggs Daily for more insight and wisdom that works!  This beautifully photographed and highly informative book will remain front and center in my chicken keeping library - and now I'd like to give you a chance to put it to use in your own flock!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Entries will be accepted until Friday October 25.  The winner will be announced Saturday October 26!    If you aren't that lucky winner announced, be sure to go to order a copy today!  Good luck to you all!

My Fresh Eggs Daily Review, by Meredith Anderson

*Mom Disclaimer: my daughter is an animal lover with a thirst for knowledge, so it didn't surprise me one bit that she too wanted to read Fresh Eggs Daily.  She has read through all the books and magazines I've collected on the subject, and while some of it was a bit above her comprehension level, she wanted to learn all she could about her feathered friends.  She read this book on her own and in turn wrote a review.  All mom did was type, hit spell check and post.  BE KIND OR HOLD YOUR TONGUE!  Mama Tina gets pretty protective when it comes to her girl!*

Taking notes for the review!
Hi, my name is Meredith Anderson.  I'm 9 years old and in 4th grade.  I have had chickens for about 1 1/2 years because I thought they would be a fun 4-H project.  I love my chickens because they always cheer me up.  I have large breed laying hens and I have 6 bantam babies.  Raising chickens has made me want to learn more about them and I have tried to read everything I can find on them.

My mom's friend Lisa wrote a book about chicken keeping and she said I could do a review on it.  I think Fresh Eggs Daily is a good book for kids because there is a lot of good information for kids to learn.  This book is different from other books I've read because it is about doing things naturally.  In most other books it wants you to go out and get medications for your chickens, but Lisa talks to you about making your own treatments for your chickens with herbs.  I never knew there were so many good herbs for your chickens!
Herbs can help my chickens
lay better eggs!

My favorite chapter in the book is chapter 7, When You Want to Spoil Them, because there are a lot of good treats you can feed your chickens and bad treats you should not feed them.   My favorite recipe idea for chickens to eat would be the Cranberry Scratch Wreath in chapter 10.  It looks like the chickens would really enjoy this because there are many healthy foods in the wreath.

Munchkin the silkie and I can't wait to try some herbs!
I have learned a lot about how to help take care of my chickens in this book.  I will read this book again when I need helpful information about making my chickens healthy and happy in a natural way.  My birds and I love Fresh Eggs Daily!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

GIVEAWAY & Being Perfectly Imperfect: What a Chicken and a Dog Can Teach You

This book is a visual delight for everyone to see
and the story of Percy's struggle for perfection is touching
We are all well aware of the standards of perfection that are impressed upon us on a daily basis.  How we measure up, quite literally and figuratively  from our newborn days til the last of our lives somehow become an unnecessary definition of who we are.  These concepts have lead to increased incidents of bullying in our schools, lowered self esteem and higher rates of depression and anxiety.  In short, we are so worried about being perfect that we are letting it control our lives.  But what is perfect?

I had the opportunity to examine this exact question from a unique and unexpected angle after visiting the Ohio National poultry show in November.  No, it wasn't the striking plumage of some rare breed or the shining display of trophies that put my mind in action.  It was a chance meeting there with a wonderful man who has accomplished many things.  While pursuing the vendor tables and club displays, a table set up caught my eye.  A book, but not just any book.  A brightly colored, vividly illustrated children's book beckoned to me from a few stands away.

Roo relaxes with a young reader and enjoys hearing a great story
I simply adore books and couldn't resist straying that way.  I am one half of a registered therapy team and, along with my partner Roo, together we do something we truly enjoy.  As a Pet Partner therapy team and a Reading Education Assistance Dog team, we visit our local elementary school several days a week.  While we are there, we work with students one-on-one in a safe, supportive environment where they do something truly special: they become a storyteller to a canine friend.  The young student reinforces literacy skills by reading aloud a story to Roo, who listens to them without judgement of their possible hesitations or mistakes.  They find a love and support without limits or conditions from Roo, and a friend to offer assistance from me.  We call our little group Read to Roo, and we love our time at the school.  (please visit Roo's facebook page, Roo's blog or Read to Roo's website to learn more)

The children get to read along with the book via projector
A few moments after approaching that table, in meeting Rick Rieser and learning more about his wonderful book, I knew I wanted him to come to our school.  In a kind and professional manner, Mr. Rieser spoke to me about Percy Learning Farms and his experiences with children's advocacy and his efforts to help strengthen anti-bullying efforts employed by schools.  His book, Percy the Perfectly Imperfect Chicken, takes a message that so many have tried to help instill to children today and puts a new spin on it.   

Percy is born into a flock of hens who are obsessed with perfection - so much so that they threaten a pecking to the newly hatched chick if he is found less than to their standards.  What's a youngster to do?  Afraid that he will not look just right for them, he hides away while he grows.  Soon he finds that he is far more different that they had ever imagined and the hens begin to gang up on him.  He flies away in fear and finds that from that birds eye view (see how that works?) things with the hens are not quite as they would like it to seem.  They too are hiding little flaws from the others and Percy tactfully points them out to them one by one, allowing the reader to draw personal comparison that perhaps bullies are hiding something of their own which makes them insecure.  The story ends in a most heartwarming way, with the coop learning a lesson about acceptance and love.  My favorite lines of the entire book are that of the last page:

"Mama what's perfect?" Percy still did persist.
Mama said, "Percy, it's nothing.  It doesn't exist." 

Roo's Lucky Foot
and his stylish brace
This really resonated with me, because my wonderful therapy dog is often viewed as being imperfect.  Allow me to explain, because at quick glance you might never see it.  He is a healthy, beautiful example of a dog who is intelligent, kind and gentle.  His manners are exceptional and he is as friendly to a stranger as he is a life long friend.  In watching him walk however, you would begin to see his differences.  Rather than the graceful fluid movements of a collie, his gait is bouncy - more like that of a horse's trot.  You see, Roo was born with a deformity in his front left leg and paw.  The leg itself is narrowed through to the foot, and his paw only has three toes.  They aren't sure why this happened to him when the rest of the litter was unaffected.

People often pause and ask "what's wrong with him" when they see Roo walking toward them.  Some days his differences are made even more obvious when his arthritis flares and he needs to wear his leg brace.  When I hear people question me with that all familiar phrase, I usually respond in the same way: absolutely nothing is wrong.  He is just right.

He may walk differently, lay down differently.  His left leg and foot might appear quite different when it's compared to the right.  But nothing, nothing is wrong with this remarkable dog.  In fact, I'm grateful he is so unique.  If not, he might have ended up in the show ring, a show dog like his parents were, instead of doing what we love to do so very much.  What makes him special has brought him to this time and place he's in today and sharing his life with the children he adores!  I will forever be grateful for his differences and embrace them as something to be celebrated.  His left foot has even earned the nickname of "Lucky Foot", because we feel it was very lucky for us that he came into our lives.

...and you simply cannot deny that it bears a strong resemblance to a rabbit's foot, a long-believed superstitious charm.

Please visit the Animals for Life Foundation
for more information about this amazing organization
Over the summer I wrote and applied for a grant through a wonderful foundation called the Animals for Life Foundation.  This organization strives to educate the public and supports the many ways that animals play a positive part of our lives.  I was honored to be one of their grant award recipients and their grant has helped fund our 2012-2013 school year supplies, activities and events for Read to Roo.  Because of this wonderful grant from the Animals for Life Foundation, I was able to host an event in which we could have Rick Rieser come in and share his book with our school.  

Rick helps explain to the children why we should all be proud
of the things that set us apart and make us unique
On March 5, our students in grades K-3 all enjoyed grade specific assemblies in which Mr.  Rieser shared Percy the Perfectly Imperfect Chicken via projector.  During the assemblies  the students were involved in the story, being asked questions about how they thought different characters were feeling and if they had ever felt the same way.  They were encouraged to go to a trusted family member or school official if they ever felt like they were being judged harshly or bullied, like Percy had been.  We all had a wonderful talk (see Roo's interview with Rick)...then, the feathers really began to fly...

Rick and Little Percy (left); Sprinkles calmly stands & watches (center); Hershey meets friends from the audience (right)

This was, of course, all in the best of ways!  Rick brought along three of his own chickens for the children to meet, each one looking strikingly different than the next.  Sprinkles the Silkie, Little Percy the Serama and Hershey the Chocolate Orpington all were fun and entertaining to show the children that we can all look different and beautiful in our own special, unique ways.  Everyone had such a wonderful time meeting Rick and his friends and sharing in the special message that Percy's book has for us all.

I would love to share that message with some of you as well.  I'm proud to announce that I will be hosting my very first giveaway!  Two Grand Prize Winners will receive an autographed softcover copy of Percy the Perfectly Imperfect Chicken and a Percy Learning Farms T-Shirt.  Three additional winners will receive a Percy Learning Farms T-Shirt.  (only sizes XS and XL are available)

Follow the link below to enter for your chance to win!  The contest ends March 20th and the winners will be announced on March 21st.  Good Luck!

Click HERE to Enter!