Upcycle your empty feed bags #2 – Garden Planter Tutorial

Here is another great tutorial from our friend Lisa at Fresh Eggs Daily:

When you raise animals you naturally end up with lots of empty feed bags. It’s such a shame to just throw the Nutrena feed bags away because they are really pretty, as well as sturdy and water-resistant.  Why not sew some of yours into these cute patio garden planters? They are functional and light enough that you can move them around as needed into the sun or shade. The bag drains really well but also holds moisture. One of these planters with some started fruits, veggies or flowers would also make a great Mother’s Day gift or housewarming present!

 

Here’s what you’ll need:
One Nutrena feed bag,  rinsed off and dried
Cotton webbing (or fashion straps from the excess you cut off the feed bag)
Piece of window screen
Potting soil
Seeds or plant starts
Coordinating spool of thread and bobbin
Sewing machine fitted with a 90/14 medium-weight needle
Tape measure
Pinking shears
Sewing scissors
Straight Pins

Here’s what you do:
Cut about 8 inches from the bottom and four inches from the top of the bag.  Turn the bag inside out and sew a straight line across the bottom edge, leaving a 1/2″ seam allowance.  Then with the seam side facing up, fold each bottom end into a triangle to form the flat bottom and sew across each diagonally, about four inches from the point.

Cut across, removing the triangle tip of each end, leaving a 1/2″ seam allowance.

Fold the top of the bag over twice and pin some cotton webbing in place to make handles. The handles don’t need to be very long nor fancy since they will only be used to move the bag on occasion as needed.

After sewing a zigzag stitch along the lower seam, flip the handles up and sewed a straight stitch seam along the top edge to secure the handles in place.

Turn the bag right side out and cut some generous drainage holes in the bottom with scissors and then cut a piece of window screen to fit on the bottom to help hold the soil in the bag and put it in place.

I placed the bag up on two bricks on our back patio to elevate it off the ground and allow for better drainage and then filled it to within an inch of the top with some composted soil from our compost pile.  I planted some lettuce, kale and Swiss Chard seeds and then covered them with more soil and watered them well. 

A wide variety of mini crops can be planted in a bag container like this. I chose cold weather crops that are hardy enough to be planted early in the year but other vegetables with shallow root systems would work just fine as well.  Strawberries would make a beautiful bag of goodies also.

In a week or so, your bag should look like this and in a few more weeks be ready for picking! 

What could possibly be better than fresh greens right by your back door?  The bags can be emptied, rinsed off and reused, or used several times through the growing season for different harvests.

Tutorial courtesy of Lisa from Fresh Eggs Daily
www.fresh-eggs-daily.com

 

 

A dirty way to keep poultry clean!

At first the term dust bath seems like an oxymoron. Like “jumbo shrimp”, the two words just don’t seem like they belong together. But believe it or not, getting themselves completely dirty is the best way for chickens to get clean! Dust baths also help chickens stay cool and keep parasites away.

Chickens that are allowed to free-range will naturally find a cool, dirty spot to take a dust bath. If allowed, they usually enjoy digging up mulched garden beds (soil is cool under the mulch) and making a chicken-sized impression!

Chickens in your coop still need dust baths, so remember to give them the opportunity to get dirty. Fill a kitty litter pan or other shallow plastic or metal container with sand or a mixture of particles that can even include some fireplace ashes. Diatomaceous earth is also an optional addition to this mixture. It is a non-toxic powder made from fossils of freshwater organisms that has many uses, including being a natural way to keep parasites off your chickens. It is available at most feed stores.

In addition to keeping pests at bay, dust baths are great for keeping poultry cool on hot summer days. Since they cannot sweat, regulating their body temperature involves using the cool earth for their version of a shower! The particles of dust or sand settle in next to the chicken’s skin and help absorb any excess oil and moisture, making the chickens “clean”.

So, whether in a coop or roaming the yard, be sure to offer your chickens the opportunity to take a dust bath. You will get a laugh observing them enjoy their dirty way of staying clean and cool!

Upcycle your empty feed bags: garden/chore apron tutorial

Do you ever wish there was something fun you could do with all those empty feed bags? In the tutorial below, courtesy of Lisa from Fresh Eggs Daily, you’ll learn make this fun and easy care apron from one or two of those empty feed sacks!

Nutrena feed bags are not only attractive and use vibrant colors, they are also made of waterproof material.  I thought the pattern on this particular Nutrena Layer feed bag would be a natural for a garden apron that will not only keep you clean, but be a cinch to hose off when you’re done. This apron would also be perfect for washing the car, mucking stalls, tending to a sick or injured hen, or any other messy chores. If you’re the least bit crafty you can whip up an apron in just minutes! 

Here’s what you’ll need:
One Nutrena feed bag, rinsed off and dried (you’ll need a second one if you choose to add the optional pocket along the bottom)
Two 30″ long pieces of webbing or wide ribbon for the waist ties
Coordinating spool of thread and bobbin
Sewing machine fitted with a 90/14 medium-weight needle
Tape measure
Pinking shears
Sewing scissors
Straight Pins

Here’s what you do:
Cut off the bottom of the bag and then cut straight up the back of the bag so it lies flat. 

Centering your cut depending on the design on the bag you choose, cut out your apron using the measurements below.

 From one of the discarded side panels, cut your neck strap to measure 26″ long and 2 1/2″ wide.  If you choose to add the optional pockets, cut a piece from a second bag the same width and 10″ high to match the design of lower portion of your apron.

 

To assemble your apron, fold each long edge of your neck strap over so it ends up being about 3/4″ wide and then sew using a zig zag stitch up one side and down the other to secure.

 Sew along the top edge of your pocket then align where it will go on your apron and pin it in place.

Turn the curved edges along the sides of the apron under about 1/4″ and pin, then turn all the straight edges over 1/2″ and then 1/2″ again and also pin in place, positioning your neck strap and two side ties in place and securing them also with pins.

 Tuck your neck strap and side ties under the seam allowance and then flip them over into place.

Starting at the bottom edge, sew all the way around along the seam, removing the pins as you go.

 

To make your pocket compartments, sew straight up from the bottom edge to the top of the pocket – one or two times depending on how many sections you want. 

And you’re done! 

 (apron without the optional row of pockets along the bottom)

(apron with the pockets)

Your apron can be hosed off, sponged off, or even tossed in the washing machine.  I wouldn’t put it in the dryer though. And don’t try to iron it unless you use a cloth in between the iron and the apron.  Same goes for using this as a bbq apron….while not flammable, the apron WILL melt if touched with an open flame or hot bbq utensil, so use caution and common sense.

Tutorial courtesy of Lisa from Fresh Eggs Daily
www.fresh-eggs-daily.com

Colorful eggs from your coop

Do you want to keep finding pretty and colorful eggs all year long, even now that Easter is over? If you want to discover a rainbow in your nest boxes each day and get naturally colorful eggs from your hens, choose Easter Egger chickens to join your flock!

Easter Eggers, as their name implies, lay beautiful eggs that can be various colors from green (pictured), to shades of blue, yellow or even pink.

The Easter Egger is not an official breed, as these chickens are a cross between either an Araucana or an Ameraucana with any other breed of chicken. Both Araucanas and Ameraucanas are purebred and lay blue eggs. Both of these breeds are somewhat rare and can be hard to find here in the U.S.

But you don’t need an Ameraucana or Araucana in your flock to have colorful eggs, just look for an Easter Egger instead. While the American Poultry Association doesn’t recognize them as a distinct breed; that doesn’t make them any less inviting!

Confused? Don’t be. Easter Eggers are diverse and fun. Due to small, almost non-existent combs and wattles, most are cold-hardy, some have unique green legs and feet, and they have beautiful feathers in a variety of colors and patterns depending on their parents’ breeds. “EE’s”, as they are also called, may have muffs and beards instead of ear tufts, which give them a unique look. Their behavior is usually friendly and active, and they should fit in well with other breeds in your flock.

If you’re looking to add a colorful surprise to your carton of eggs, consider Easter Eggers!

Keeping Hens and Horses

A recent post on our Nutrena Chicken and Poultry Feed Facebook page asked an outstanding question – is it okay to let my chickens out in the pasture to range with my horse? Not only is it okay, it is actually a good idea! Keeping chickens along with horses is a time honored tradition that certainly can be manageable, and even beneficial – here’s why:

  • Chickens are opportunists. When a pellet or kernel falls, they’ll be there to pick it up. This saves your horse from mouthing around on the ground to find bits of feed (a practice that can lead to ingestion of dirt and sand) and it reduces the amount of feed that is wasted.
  • Chickens are good horse trainers. A horse that has had exposure to poultry won’t “have his feathers ruffled” by sudden movements, loud noises, or the occasional appearance of an egg…
  • Chickens help prepare your horse for the trail. If you plan to take trail rides where wild turkeys, partridge, chuckar, etc. populate it can be beneficial to have your horse used to the patterns and noises of fowl by keeping a few chickens around. A little exposure to flapping, squawking and scurrying can go a long way to desensitizing your horse to those types of events out on the trail.
  • Chickens are nature’s fly traps. You and your horse hate bugs – but chickens love them. Chickens eat flies, worms, grubs, bees; if they can catch it they’ll nibble on it, which means it won’t be nibbling on you or your horse.
  • Chickens are low maintenance. Provide them with a cozy place to sleep, fresh clean water, free choice oyster shell for strong eggshells, grit for digestion and some layer feed and they will be happy and healthy.
  • Chickens help with the chores! One of a chicken’s favorite things to do is scratch the ground for hidden treasures. Give them a pile of horse droppings and they think they’re in heaven! They’ll have the manure broken down, spread around and out of sight before you can even think of grabbing a pitchfork and wheelbarrow!
  • Chickens are pets with benefits. Besides being a colorful and entertaining addition to your stable yard, chickens provide one thing your horse can’t – breakfast! Now if they could only cook it and serve it to you in bed…

A few words of caution about keeping chickens with your horses – make sure that your chickens are fed seperately from your horse and that your horse can’t get into their feed. This will eliminate the risk of your horse consuming layer feed that is not designed for his digestive system. Also, provide roosts for your chickens that are away from your horse’s feeder if they are not put into a coop at night to eliminate waste of feed and hay due to chicken droppings. Make sure both your horse and chickens have fresh, clean water that is easily accessible to them at all times.

 

Understanding Poultry Digestion

Instead of asking “Why did the chicken cross the road?” poultry hobbyists may better ask, “How does the chicken chew its feed without any teeth?” Even without teeth, chickens have one of the most efficient digestive systems in the animal kingdom. Let’s take a look at how the poultry digestive system works.

Food is taken in with the beak, which is the perfect tool for pecking feed in crumble or pellet form, small grains, grass or insects. Chickens are omnivores – meaning that, in addition to a commercial feed, they can eat meat (grubs, worms, the occasional mouse) and vegetation (grass, weeds and other plants). A small bit of saliva and digestive enzymes are added as the food moves from the mouth into the esophagus.

From the esophagus food moves to the crop, an expandable storage compartment located at the base of the chicken’s neck, where it can remain for up to 12 hours. The food trickles from the crop into the bird’s stomach (proventriculus or gizzard) where digestive enzymes are added to the mix and physical grinding of the food occurs.

The gizzard is why chickens do not need teeth. It is a muscular part of the stomach and uses grit (small, hard particles of pebbles or sand) to grind grains and fiber into smaller, more digestible, particles.

From the gizzard, food passes into the small intestine, where nutrients are absorbed. The residue then passes through the ceca, a blind sack along the lower intestinal tract, where bacteria help break down undigested food. From the ceca, food moves to the large intestine, which absorbs water and dries out indigestible foods.

This remaining residue passes through the cloaca where the chicken’s urine (the white in chicken droppings) mixes with the waste. Both exit the chicken at the vent, the external opening of the cloaca.

And don’t think of chicken manure as “waste” to be disposed of…it makes a great fertilizer for your flower beds or vegetable garden. Because it is high in nitrogen, it is recommended to let it age for a bit in a compost pile before adding it to your gardens.