Monday, December 31, 2012

Farewell 2012

2012, all in all, was a year of learning experiences for me.  And while not all lessons in life are easy or enjoyable, they shape who we are and how we will take on the future.  Chinese tradition called it the year of the Dragon, but for me it was the year of the Chicken. Our first steps into this new found hobby (albeit obsession at times) has brought much into my life.

Raising day old chicks this spring with my family showed me how to appreciate the joy in new experiences.  Watching the little fluffy creatures grow and change, so rapidly, was something that my daughter and I were in awe of.  From their first bites of a new food to their first time out in grass all the way to their first attempts at roosting, watching their reactions brought us laughter and a chance to bond.

As our girls matured I was able to teach my daughter a bit more about life cycles as we looked for signs that our girls were ready to lay eggs. Carefully, quietly, kindly we interacted with them more and more, always vigilant for changes in their behavior or appearance.  One glorious afternoon we were treated to another chance to bond; discovering our hens first egg together!  We were both so overjoyed and shared a moment that will remain forever a treasured memory.

A day before Thanksgiving we noticed one of our hens acting distressed. She was displaying signs of being eggbound.  Watching our sweet Ursula so uncomfortable, hunched up, labored breathing, we were very concerned.  No matter the holiday, we set up a dog kennel inside our home for her and she stayed inside with us for five days.  She was carefully monitored (by all family members, human and animal) and received what treatments we could do to help.  Epson salt soaks, gentle massages, warm moist heat...nothing helped.  

This would be her first egg, but it seemed as if she wasn't quite ready to lay it.  A few days after the holiday she perked back up and acted good as new.  False alarm on being eggbound!  She went back out and hasn't had any problems since. I suspect she just wanted an invitation to holiday dinner, but changed her mind once she saw the turkey wasn't the "honored guest" she thought!  We all realized though just how attached we had become to the girls.

I never thought I'd be a "chicken keeper" in my lifetime, but I am now.  I love it and I'm very glad and grateful for what this has brought into my life.  They have caused me to slow down and appreciate the simple things a little more.  It also introduced me to a wonderful group of Farm Chicks who have enriched my life more than they know.

The last two months of this year have been particularly difficult for me. Medical issues in my family have arisen and shaken us deeply.  Another lesson I have learned this year is that I should no longer take a single day for granted.  Do what makes you happy.  Help others.  Be a good friend.  You may not have another choice to try a new experience again.

2012 was the year of the Chicken for me.  2013 will be the year of Family.  Whatever you may choose to dedicate yourself to this year, I wish you much luck and a very happy 2013.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Manna Pro Product Review

the trifecta of Manna Pro products I set out to try
There are many products available on the market to help make a chicken keeper's life easier. From chick rearing to health care supplies to feed and nutrition; if you've got money to spend, someone's got JUST the product for you! But let's not count our chickens before they hatch! I'm going to take a closer look at three products out from Manna Pro to help save you a little time and help keep your chicks happy and healthy.

A very well respected chicken-and-homestead blogger, author and magazine featured Farm Chick (who I greatly admire and I am lucky enough to call a friend) sent me these products from her sponsor, Manna Pro, and asked me to try them. Lisa of Fresh Eggs Daily has the livestock company as a sponsor of her blog, a wonderful partnership of two very animal savvy groups! (Read what Fresh Eggs Daily has to say about the products here)  I was thrilled to get the chance to try them and I set off to use right away.
photo from Manna Pro website

First up on my product review is the Wipe 'N Wash egg cleansing towelettes. These biodegradable wipes made from recycled paper are a wonderful alternative to harsh chemical cleaners. As soon as I took the first one out of the container, I noticed that that the wipes were practically fragrance free. The sturdy, thick wipes held up well to scrubbing (even much more vigorous scrubbing than was necessary - strictly for test purposes!) My egg rinsed clean as the instructions indicate and was left with no residue, and my wipe was still ready to take on more eggs. Prior to this, I was subscribed to the 'no wash' method for my eggs and only washed down the dirty ones with warm water. Now that I have this easy to use, gentle cleansing alternative, I'm definitely keeping a container of Wipe 'N Wash on hand! My girls are novice layers, having only been at this about a month, and sometimes get a little messy in their nest boxes. Droppings and mud don't stand a chance against these wipes and I'll be using them to spot clean from now on!

Some of my hen's beautiful eggs, all shiny and clean, after using Wipe 'N Wash

The other products I had the opportunity to use were the Manna Pro Poultry Protector spray and the Coop 'N Compost coop odor neutralizer. I decided the best way for me to utilize these products was to incorporate them to help with my winter coop prep I needed to do.  I wanted to get one last good cleaning in before I started doing the deep litter method over the winter and I knew these products would get me on the right track to keeping my coop safe, clean and protected.

I started by ushering my girls outside and closing the chicken door access to the coop.  No worries!  They were completely distracted with the frozen Apple Pie Muffins and Pumpkin Muffins I threw out for them and didn't mind one bit that I was poking around their house.  I started my cleaning by removing all the old bedding and nesting materials so  that I had a clean base to start from.  Once all of those materials were removed, I reached for the Poultry Protector spray.

photo from Manna Pro website
While the product can be used on the birds directly to help ensure that they don't become infested by parasites such as lice, mites and fleas, I chose the method of application for the coop itself.  In September we had noticed a few mites crawling on the exterior of the coop, but thankfully the hens themselves had not been infested.  So back then we locked the girls outside in the run all day while we let a harsh chemical treat the coop.  I was a Nervous Nelly for the next few days, terrified about the possible side effects of using this chemical could  do to my girls.

photo from Manna Pro website
You could imagine after that my relief in finding that the Poultry Protector uses much gentler, natural ways to help treat for parasites.  I applied the product as directed, to all surface areas of my coop - including the roosts, ceiling, nest boxes, and around the windows and doors.  My coop is 40 square feet and the bottle contained enough to cover it all with some to spare.  It was so nice to treat the coop without being knocked on my backside by harsh fumes and have to carry on the chores with watering eyes!

a close up look at the granules
After giving the product a little time to dry, I opened the Coop 'N Compost.  I shook out a fine layer of the granules on to the coop floor as the label indicates to do.  It has a wonderful clean scent that was not at all overpowering.  I laid out the bedding over top and it was done that quickly!  Plenty remained in the container and I look forward to using it to refresh the bedding through the winter during the deep litter method.  I can definitely say that I much prefer the Coop 'N Compost granules to the powder I had used prior.  Rather than getting blown all over, I can be sure that this product is actually sticking inside my bedding and doing its job!

Visit Manna Pro's website

I have to say that to me, these products are worth trying again and are items I would recommend to  other chicken keepers to help with their flocks.  One of the best things about raising chickens is having peace of mind that you are providing them the very best that you can in life (in their food, their shelter, their health and safety) and in return they provide you a bounty of nutritious eggs and companionship beyond compare.  Next time you are out at your local supply store, be sure to pick up these Manna Pro products and give them a try.  Better yet, why not check out Fresh Eggs Daily's Farm Shop and Farmacy and pick up a bevy of wonderful products that have been Farm Chick tested and approved!

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