Sunday, August 28, 2016

Breed Spotlight: American Guinea Hog

Pic via wikipedia commons
Homesteaders and hobby farmers often seek the most self-sustaining and backyard friendly breeds of livestock that are available to them. Given pigs' reputation for being lazy, half-ton beasts that destroy literally everything on the occasion they do get up, many choose to cross them off that list completely. They're also known for being foul smelling and horribly temperamental! But what if I told you that there is a breed of hog that is smaller than your average farm pig, and is much more capable of sustaining itself off of the land? Meet the American Guinea Hog!


Guinea Hog at the Roger Williams Zoo park (pic via wikipedia commons).
The Guinea hog weighs only 150-300 pounds, and twenty-two to twenty-seven inches high, making it much smaller than your average farm pig! This breed is solid black in color, the only exceptions being white-tipped feet, and the very rare and recessive red. They also have longer, thicker hair than most pigs, allowing them to avoid sunburn and handle weather well. One of the most notable aspects of the American Guinea Hog is their ability to forage. The hogs can live off of much poorer quality forage than most breeds of pig, giving them the potential to be very valuable on a homestead. Another excellent quality of this breed is their calm temperament! They are known for being easy to handle, even adult males and females with piglets! They are known to be attentive mothers, rearing healthy, hardy young and raising them to forage themselves.
Guinea Hogs are generally processed at around six months of age, and the carcass can range from 50-100 pounds. The meat of the Guinea Hog is often considered gourmet, as the unique texture of their fat as sparked interest in making old-world cured meats. Their meat is also known to be very tender and flavorful!

Origin and History

While its exact origins are somewhat unclear, it appeared during the 19th century and evidence suggests that is was bred from the Essex, an English breed of hog that, like the Guinea Hog, is small and black in color. It is often mistaken to have been related to the Red Guinea, a hog that was imported to the US from the Canary Islands. Despite the similar name, the American Guinea Hog has no relation to the Red Guinea Hogs that were originally imported. It is likely that the "Guinea" in the name refers to the animal's small size.
This hardy breed was and commonplace on American farms during the nineteenth century, and it was expected to forage for their own food, eating roots, reptiles, and rodents. Families would often keep them near the house to clear the area of snakes - a favorite food of the hogs. As time went on, fewer and fewer Americans were living on homesteads, and the American Guinea Hog nearly disappeared. It lived on in only a few isolated farms throughout the Southeastern US, and has made a recent comeback with rise in popularity of homesteading and small-scale farming. It is listed by The Livestock Conservancy as "threatened," although more and more people are discovering the potential of this perfect pig and making the addition!

On Your Homestead

American Guinea Hog at Norfolk Zoo (pic via wikipedia commons). 
The Guinea Hog is the ultimate pig for homesteaders, preppers, and hobby farmers. Their small size and gentle demeanor allows for easily handling, which is especially important if there are children involved. The fact that this breed can thrive by foraging for food, even in places where it may not be the highest quality, makes the Guinea Hog extremely valuable to someone who is trying to be as self sufficient as possible. When forage is not available, such as in the winter months, they can live largely off of food scraps from the family. This is where their small size comes into play, as a smaller pig doesn't require as much food. Pound-for-pound, the Guinea hog is capable of producing a lot of meat with little cost to the farmer. They are the most ideal pig for a free-range setting, hands-down!
Care must be taken not to overfeed a Guinea Hog, particularly grain, because they are designed for foraging and have a tendency to become overweight when fed a rich diet. 
Some homesteaders have found a new use for the hogs - tilling and fertilizing the garden. The pigs can be placed in an area that needs tilled, such as a place where grain had been planted and harvested as a cover crop, and the pigs turn up the ground as the forage through what is left of the crop. When the hogs are finished, they leave plant-ready ground!

Where to get Guinea Hogs

Guinea Hogs are becoming easier to find! I've seen several people selling them on local sale pages on Facebook! If you wish to breed, however, it is best to invest in quality stock to contribute to bringing the breed back! The American Guinea Hog Associated has a directory of breeders in the US. There are breeders in nearly every state! If you simply wish to have them for your own homestead, scour local livestock ads and online classifieds. There is likely a farmer near you that has them!

Do you have Guinea Hogs? Or are you just thinking about adding pigs to your homestead? Leave a comment! Don't forget to check out our Facebook page and our Instagram for updates and pictures! 


"The Livestock Conservancy." The Livestock Conservancy. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Aug. 2016. <>.

"History of Guinea Hogs -." AGHA. American Guinea Hog Assn., 2006. Web. 28 Aug. 2016. <>.

"American Guinea Hog Breed Description -." AGHA. American Guinea Hog Assn., 2006. Web. 28 Aug. 2016. <>.

OHM, Rachel. "Farmers and Rare Guinea Hogs Help Each Other out - The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram." The Portland Press Herald Maine Sunday Telegram Farmers and Rare Guinea Hogs Help Each Other out Comments. MaineToday Media, 07 Sept. 2014. Web. 28 Aug. 2016. <>.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Poultry Feeds Explained

One of the most confusing things for a first-time flock owner is what to feed their birds! It seems like it would be so easy, just go to the store and buy "chicken feed," but when you get to the feed store, there are dozens of different types! What are all these different types of feed used for? Each of these feeds have a different purpose, and several of them may suit your flock.

Layer Feed

Layer feed is specifically designed for the laying hen, making sure she gets enough protein, calcium, and other minerals to keep her eggshells strong and her body and bones healthy. Layer feed is available in crumbles and pellets. There is a common misconception among holistic and organic bloggers that layer feed has hormones in it to make the hens lay more, but this is untrue. In fact, layer feed will not make hens lay more at all; it only keeps them healthy and keeps eggshells strong! 
Layer feed is best for hens who are more than 16-20 weeks old or laying, whichever comes first. Layer feed will not make them lay, so there's no rush! Do not feed it to young chicks, as their developing kidneys cannot handle the extra vitamins and minerals. Some believe that layer feed may cause kidney disease in roosters, which is a valid concern. However, many people have fed their roosters layer feed with no problems, myself included. Because of this, I believe that a rooster can handle the extra minerals as well as we can handle a multivitamin that gives us a little too much. 

Medicated Chick Starter

Medicated chick starter is for young chickens. This feed has a small amount of the drug amprolium which helps the chicks as they are exposed to coccidia without getting too sick. Coccidia is the single-celled parasite behind coccidiosis, a word which gives chicken keepers quite the headache. When using medicated feed, the chicks are exposed to the coccidia in the dirt, may contract a very mild infection which the amprolium in the feed helps them fight off before it gets too bad. They can still get a severe infection, however, if their waterers, feeders, and environment are not kept reasonably clean. Amprolium has no withdrawal time and there is no evidence that it is harmful to humans, although it cannot be used in an organic setting. 
Medicated chick starter is recommended for a minimum of 8 weeks of age, but you can feed it up to the point that you switch to layer (or other adult feed). It is mainly for chicken chicks. Game bird chicks (like guineas, turkeys, pheasant, quail) will need a higher protein feed than chickens, but you can still find a medicated version of these feeds. It is commonly said that medicated feed is poisonous to ducklings. This is both true and untrue. Previously, medicated feed was made with a different type of drug which waterfowl could easily overdose on. Now, that amprolium is mainly used, medicated feed will not hurt them, but it is not necessary. Waterfowl are extremely resistant to coccidiosis, so they don't need and help preventing it. However, if you are raising them with chicks that eat medicated starter, it will not hurt the ducklings. Just remember to at a niacin supplement for ducks!
*UPDATE* Medicated feed is now controlled by the Veterinary Feed Directive and requires a prescription by a veterinarian in order to obtain. 

Unmedicated Chick Starter

It is as it seems - a basic chick starter with no drugs to control coccidiosis. It is nutritionally complete for the growing chicken! Chicks can develop immunity without the help of drugs, but it is more difficult on the chicken keeper! When feeding unmedicated feed, you must slowly expose them to coccidia by introducing them to dirt when they are around 2 weeks old, and gradually increase their exposure. The organic/med-free keeper must also take extra care to keep waterers, feeders, and bedding very clean, as a dirty environment exposes them to more of the coccidia's oocysts, which causes infection. 
Chicks and ducklings can eat starter up until it's time to switch them to layer feed! If using for ducks, remember to at extra Niacin (B3). Using brewer's yeast (NOT bread yeast!) is a good way to supplement for Niacin.

Game Bird Starter

This feed is for baby "wild" fowl, like turkeys, pheasant, and quail, and is available in medicated and unmedicated versions. Game bird starter is very high in protein. Game birds require more protein than chickens or ducks, so it is important that they have a higher-protein diet. They are generally fed this feed until about 8 weeks of age. 

Game Bird Feed

This is mainly for adult game birds. It provides turkeys, quail, pheasant, and other wild fowl with adequate protein and nutrition in their adult years. It is also often used for chickens and ducks during molting, to help regrow feathers quicker and easier. It can be given to ducks and generally is higher the the niacin they need, but may be too high in protein and cause angel wing in younger ducks. 

Grower/Finisher Feed

Although Purina started marketing this for layers, it was originally only for broilers, like the Cornish Cross. It is designed to lower protein to prepare these broiler chickens for butchering, and is usually given to them at 6 weeks old. 

Purina Flock Raiser

Purina's Flock Raiser is meant for the mixed flock of different ages and species. At 20% protein, is is nutritionally similar to most unmedicated chick starters. A mixed flock is difficult to feed, and a general flock raiser is a good solution, although some of them may need a supplement! For ducklings, you may need to add a bit of Niacin. Leave out free choice oyster shell for the layers (don't worry! The others won't eat it unless they need it). This feed is pretty well-rounded and a good choice for those who raise a mixed flock. 

Nutrena Feather Fixer

Feather Feather Fixer is designed for the molting bird to grow in strong, shiny feathers. It can also be used for birds which are exhibiting signs of protein deficiency, such as feather-eating. According to Nutrena, Feather Fixer has extra protein, vitamins, and greens for ideal feather regrowth. Many people have found that their birds grow more healthy-looking feathers and get through molts quicker when using this feed. 

Waterfowl Feed

Waterfowl feed is ideal for ducks, geese, and swans. With most other feed, they must have niacin added or suffer a painful deficiency or risk getting angel wing, a deformity of the wing caused by a too high-calorie, high-protein feed. When using waterfowl feed for adults or young, you don't have to worry about adding supplements because it is complete for them. If you are raising waterfowl separately from other species, and this type of feed is available to you, it is highly recommended to use feed specifically for waterfowl!

We hope that we helped clear up some confusion! What feed do you use for your birds? Leave a Comment! Remember to check out our Facebook Page and our Instagram for regular updates and cute pictures!

"NatureWise Feather Fixer Poultry Feed for Molting." NatureWise Feather Fixer Poultry Feed for Molting. Cargill, Incorportated, 2016. Web. 17 July 2016. <>.

Gerhold, Richard W., Jr. "Overview of Coccidiosis in Poultry." : Coccidiosis: Merck Veterinary Manual. Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp, 2009. Web. 17 July 2016. <>.

"Metzer Farms Duck and Goose Blog: Can Medicated Feed Be Used for Waterfowl?" Metzer Farms Duck and Goose Blog: Can Medicated Feed Be Used for Waterfowl? Metzer Farms, 30 Nov. 2011. Web. 17 July 2016. <>.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Breed Spotlight - Cayuga Duck

Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

The Cayuga duck is an American breed of duck, originating from the state of New York. This breed is characterized by it's black feathers, which are iridescent  in the sun. They are among the oldest American duck breeds, and have been fairly popular since the mid 1800s. 

Traits of the Breed

Image Source: Wikipedia Commons
The Cayuga duck has black feathers, with a beetle green iridescence in the light. They are as close to solid black as it gets - their bill and legs are black, and their eyes should be very dark brown. This medium-sized breed weighs between 7 and 8 pounds, and are a dual purpose breed, once being the most popular duck for meat before the Pekin was imported to the US. One reason this breed is desired among backyard keepers is the eggs that they produce. High-quality ducks produce black eggs, although they slowly fade to light grey as the female's egg cycle progresses. Cayugas are known for being good foragers, but also being quieter than other breeds such as the Pekin, making them a good choice for the urban duck enthusiast. Male Cayugas are frequently mute!


The history of the Cayuga duck is fairly unclear. The breed originated in the state of New York and is named after Cayuga Lake, of the Finger Lakes region. One theory states that a miller in Duchess County found a pair of black ducks on his property, and bred them to get the Cayuga breed. Experts disagree, and say that there is no evidence to support this claim. A more likely theory is that the breed derives from the English black duck, which were once popular in England. These black ducks were then bred to mallard ducks, leading to the breed as we know it today. Although the origin is still unknown, it is most likely that the Cayuga originated from these domestic black ducks, rather than mutated wild populations. 

Cayuga ducks became less popular when the Pekin was imported from China, as their black feathers made their carcass less desirable on the table than the Pekin's soft white. The Cayuga is making a comeback as backyard enthusiast are often attracted to their beauty and novelty over the utility of other breeds. 

Where to get them

As Cayugas have become common among backyard farmers, they are available at most large hatcheries that sell ducks. For the best, show-quality and darkest eggs, you should buy them from a breeder with stock proven in shows, who will show you his/her birds' eggs before you buy the ducklings. 

Sources:"The Livestock Conservancy." The Livestock Conservancy. The Livestock Conservancy, n.d. Web. 30 May 2016. <>.

"Cayuga Duck." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 30 May 2016. <>.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Poultry Illness - Chronic Respiratory Disease

There are many potential diseases that effect poultry. Chicken keepers must always be aware of symptoms their chickens may be showing so they can determine what is wrong and find a solution quickly. Some illnesses can be spread between domestic poultry and wild bird populations. Today, we discuss the highly feared Chronic Respiratory Disease.

At a Glance

Chronic Respiratory Disease (CRD), caused by the bacteria Mycoplasma Gallistepticum (often abbreviated MG), affects the respiratory system of birds and is highly contagious. To make matters worse, there is no cure for this condition, although there are treatments to control symptoms. It is often brought into a flock by bringing in a new bird and not following proper quarantine procedures. M. Gallistepticum can be transmitted to some wild birds, making it a potential risk to wild populations. Once infected, a bird will continue to carry the bacteria for the rest of it's life, spreading it to any other bird it is in contact with.


Turkeys are susceptible to MG, making it a big problem for commercial turkey farms
M. gallisepticum is highly transmittable. It only takes coming into contact with someone who has come into contact with an infected bird, or bird's feces. The disease affects many captive species, including chickens, ducks, geese, pheasant, pigeons, and quail. Turkeys are especially susceptible to the bacteria, and infections are often more severe to them. When a bird shares a feeder or pecks the ground where someone's contaminated shoe was, it contracts the bacteria. Once that bird is infected, it spreads it to all of its flockmates, making the whole flock a carrier. CRD is transmittable through the egg, so offspring hatched from those eggs may have the illness. Chicks with CRD often die early on. Adults will likely not even show symptoms unless they are stressed, although there will likely be low hatch rate from their eggs and, as previously stated, their chicks may die quickly after hatching. All infected birds are carriers for life, and will transmit the bacteria to any bird they are in contact with. Humans can not be infected with M. gallisepticum. 

Symptoms and diagnoses 

The most common symptoms of CRD include wheezing, sneezing, coughing, decrease in egg laying, nasal discharge, and sometimes swelling of the face. There are many other diseases that cause these symptoms, so it is advisable to have your flock tested for M. gallistepticum before you make any decisions. If a bird dies, save it in the refrigerator and contact your local Department of Agriculture to see if they offer testing for common diseases. If they do not, call your nearest avian veterinarian and see if they can test the bird. A test must take place to identify MG specifically, as many other respiratory diseases follow the same symptoms. If it is positive, then you will have some tough decisions to make. 

Treatment and Options

The M. gallistepticum bacteria is resistant to penicillins, which affect the cell wall of the bacteria. They are susceptible to some broad-spectrum antibiotics, such as tetracyclines and tylosin. Treatment with antibiotics, given when there is a flair, will control the symptoms, but is not a cure for CRD. This can become costly over time. Do not sell or give away any eggs during the withdrawal period of antibiotics. Some people are allergic to certain antibiotics, and residues are left in the eggs while and after the birds are being treated. It can vary from seven to twenty-one days, and they package of your antibiotics should have it in the instructions.
Because infected bird will be a carrier for the rest of their lives, regardless of treatment, it is a wise decision to cull an entire infected flock and start over with new birds. While this sounds harsh, it is a reality. Your flock, as much as you love them, could pose a risk to native wildlife simply by being there. Not only that, but you can never sell a bird or hatching eggs, and any bird you add will also be infected with the bacteria. If your chickens are also you business, it will not be able to operate effectively when infected with this disease.

Most songbirds are resistant to MG, but it can be a big problem for Finches and other birds!
 If you choose to keep an MG positive flock and do periodic treatment, it is imperative that you have strict safety precautions, making sure that absolutely no wild birds can come in contact with your flock or their bodily fluids. If that means double-fencing or keeping your coop surrounded by a huge screen, so be it. If you go to friends house or to a feed store, make sure you're wearing shoes and clothes that have not come into contact with your chickens, and shower before going. Do not allow an MG positive flock to free range! It is your responsibility to make sure the illness doesn't leave your flock. 


CRD is prevented by basic biosecurity measures. If you visit another farm, you should shower and change your clothes and shoes before coming into contact with your flock. Any new birds should be quarantined for at least two weeks, preferably four, to see if the stress of moving brings out symptoms. Quarantined birds should be totally away from the flock, and you should change your shoes (or wear shoe covers) and clothes after you come into contact with the new bird, before caring for your healthy flock. If you take a bird to a show, also quarantine them before adding them back to the flock. They may have come into contact with the bacteria from other birds at the show. Obtaining chicks and chickens from NPIP certified breeders and hatcheries is also a good way to prevent your flock from becoming infected, as NPIP tests regularly for disease. 

Quick Recap

Chronic Respiratory Disease/ Mycoplasma Gallisepticum:
  • is extremely contagious.
  • is a permanent condition; all infected birds are carriers for life.
  • can be a threat to native avian populations.
  • is NOT transmittable to humans.
  • has symptoms treatable with certain antibiotics.
  • is a particularly menacing threat to turkeys and finches.
  • needs a test to confirm diagnoses.
  • is preventable through basic bio-security procedures.
  • is tested for in NPIP certified flocks.

Have you ever dealt with CRD? Do you think your flock may be infected? Leave a comment, ask a question! Remember to check out or Facebook page and our Instagram for regular updates!


Ley, David H., DVM, PhD. "Mycoplasma Gallisepticum Infection in Poultry."Merck Veterinary Manual. Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp, Sept. 2013. Web. 16 Apr. 2016. <>.

"Mycoplasma Gallisepticum Infection, M.g., Chronic Respiratory Disease - Chickens." The Poultry Site. The PoultrySite, n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2016. <>.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Should Raw Milk Be Legal?

Most US states currently do not allow retail sale of unpasteurized (raw) milk, some barring it completely. Some states allow for the sale of raw milk to be allowed through herdshares, where customers pay for a share in a herd and receive their milk like a subscription. Those in favor of the sale of raw milk believe that it has certain health benefits, and that raw milk poses no significant health risk. Those who oppose it claim that it is too great a health risk, and that customers may not understand the risks of the drinking raw milk. So should raw milk be legal?

What is Pasteurization?

Pasteurization is the process of slowly heating milk to kill bacteria that could be contaminating it. It was developed by French scientist Louis Pasteur during the Victorian Era, and became routinely used in the US in the 1920s. The purpose of this was to reduce the number of foodborne illness caused by dairy, and is known to have been a great success. 

Potential Risks of Raw Milk Consumption

CDC and FDA data show that unpasteurized milk is significantly more likely to cause foodborne illness than pasteurized milk. The CDC reporting 1,571 known cases of foodborne illness were caused by raw milk between 1993 and 2006, and of those illnesses, 202 required hospitalization and 2 resulted in death. 60% of foodborne illness caused by dairy was due to raw milk, a disproportionate number considering how only a small percentage of the population drinks unpasteurized milk. The infections caused by raw milk were also more severe than those caused by pasteurized milk. Sanitary conditions can help reduce contamination of the milk, but cannot eliminate it entirely. Given this information, the CDC concludes that you are 150 times more likely to contract foodborne illness from unpasteurized milk than pasteurized milk. 

The CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics especially advise against giving raw milk to young children, as they are particularly susceptible to some of the bacteria that unpasteurized milk may be carrying. Pregnant women, the elderly, and anyone with a suppressed immune system should also avoid raw milk, the CDC says. 

Claimed Benefits of Raw Milk

Many people believe in the power of a glass of raw milk!
Many people believe that raw milk is more nutritionally complete because the pasteurization process destroys fat molecules, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals that exist naturally in the milk. Advocates of raw milk say that it improves hair, skin, and nails, reduces allergies, helps increase bone density, and builds a strong immune system, among other things. They claim that raw milk has more fat soluble vitamins than that of pasteurized milk, and that is is higher in the fatty acid butyrate, which studies suggest can help people with Chrone's disease. Unpasteurized yogurt and cheeses supposedly have more probiotics than their pasteurized counterparts, theoretically making them better for the digestive system. 
An article on, a website dedicated to healing through food, claims that pasteurization reduces the levels of vitamins and minerals in milk significantly. According to doctor of natural medicine Josh Axe, 66% of iron, 70% of zinc, 38% of B-complex vitamins and up to 70% of vitamin C are destroyed by pasteurization. In addition to vitamins, Dr. Axe says that important enzymes are destroyed once the milk is heated. Since many Americans do not get their recommended daily vitamins and consume a lot of pasteurized dairy, many raw milk drinkers attribute their health benefits to raw dairy. 

Legal Argument Against Raw Milk

Even healthy, free ranging cattle can carry disease
People against raw milk sales argue that it is a public health risk. This is backed up by the CDC's data that says raw milk is more likely to cause food poisoning, which can result in death. They also note that 75% of milk-related food poisoning occurred in states that allow the sale of raw dairy, solidifying the link between foodborne illness related to said dairy. The majority of people who fell ill from raw dairy were under 20 years old, suggesting that unpasteurized milk is more dangerous for younger people who may not know the risks of drinking it. 
Large factory farms produce the majority of milk to the general public, and it is nearly impossible to keep things totally clean in such large farms. They could easily take advantage of legalization and risk the safety of the public to make a profit by skipping pasteurization. If raw milk were sold on such a large scale, outbreaks could be much larger, threatening the whole of public health. According to the CDC and FDA, even if conditions are kept perfectly clean, it does not eliminate the risk of contamination because livestock carry
bacteria all over their skin. 
According to FDA research, pasteurization does not significantly reduce most of the vitamins in milk, and of those that are reduced, milk is not a good source of anyway. Their research also suggests that the enzymes that are deactivated during the process are not necessary to digest the milk and are not beneficial to human health. The reduced risk of foodborne illness outweighs the slight reduction in vitamins. They say that the claims of benefits from drinking raw milk are purely anecdotal, and that people are being mislead into believing they are fact. 

Legal Arguments in Favor of Raw Milk

Many advocates of raw milk claim that unpasteurized dairy is not dangerous when done cleanly, and agencies like the CDC and FDA manipulate statistics in order to maintain an anti-small-farm agenda. For example, rather than stating the actual chances of getting food poisoning from raw milk, they say that you are 150 times more likely to get sick from it than pasteurized milk. Considering that your risk with pasteurized milk is almost nonexistent, chances of raw milk causing illness in an individual is still too low to consider it dangerous. Others believe that the government simply should not have the right to decide what kind of food they can and can't buy. They believe, when it comes to their own health, they should be able to do their own research and make that decision themselves.

People in favor of raw dairy also note that, while the CDC recommends against raw milk, they advocate or do not wholly advise against many other potentially dangerous activities. For example, approximately 117 infant boys die due to complications with circumcision surgery per year in the United States alone. That number dwarfs the 2 deaths in thirteen years from unpasteurized dairy, yet the CDC formally recommends infant circumcision to parents. There are also 88,000 deaths caused by alcohol each year, yet is perfectly legal to sell, with a license of course, in all but a few US counties. No states have outlawed tobacco, yet smoking alone causes a whopping 480,000 deaths per year, with  over 40,000 of those deaths caused by secondhand smoke. Over 40,000 people who don't even take the risk of smoking are killed per year! The CDC advises against smoking, but no states currently ban tobacco. Raw meat dishes, such as sushi, sashimi, and steak tartare carry the same potential risk as raw milk, yet they are allowed to be served in restaurants. Given we are allowed to decide for ourselves whether or not to take these risks, raw milk supporters think that a person should be able to buy whatever kind of milk he or she wants, and it is an individual's responsibility to understand the risk of getting sick.

According to Dr. Ted Beals, an individual is much more likely to get sick from contaminated meats than from raw milk. Dr. Beals also says that many of the bacteria present in raw milk are harmless or even beneficial to our health, and people are afraid of them because they have similar names. For example, he says that there are many types of E. coli which are harmless to us, but because one type is infectious, people feel that it all must be eradicated. This mentality causes the an unnecessary fear of raw milk.

My Opinion

I cannot say whether raw milk has any health benefits. There are virtually no studies on the matter, and I do not like to use purely anecdotal evidence to reach a conclusion. Given statistics, it's pretty safe to say that you are more likely to get sick from unpasteurized dairy than their pasteurized counterparts. However, I also eat sushi, foods with raw egg, and kiss my ducks and other pets, and I accept the risks because these things make me happy. If it makes me happy to buy milk from my neighbor that came out of a goat less than an hour ago, shouldn't that be my right? I do not believe that the government should be able to tell me that I can't pay someone for unpasteurized milk. I believe that a government which regulates my basic dietary decisions, which affect no one but me, is a government that has too much power. Sometimes, we have a personal responsibility to keep ourselves safe, and it is not up to the government to prohibit decisions that only affect one's personal safety. If I can legally give myself alcohol poisoning, smoke around my kids, and eat all of the gas station sushi my heart desires, I should be able to buy milk in its raw form. I can then risk food poisoning and drink it raw, or I can pasteurize the milk myself. That should be my choice!

However, I do understand the need to keep the general public safe. Because the majority of the milk in this country is produced by very large farms, it is very difficult to maintain cleanliness and keep track of the milk. One infected batch can reach a lot more people than one gallon of goat's milk from a single goat. Also, larger companies often mislead consumers with clever marketing tactics and information that is iffy at best. For this reason, I understand that milk from those farms must be pasteurized, but there needs to be exceptions for very small farms and hobby farms, which often only have a few gallons of milk at a time and don't sell goods in grocery stores. They should be able to sell their milk either directly or through herdshares. With these exceptions, farmers should fully disclose the potential risk of raw dairy, and should maintain certain standards of health and cleanliness. Farmers also shouldn't use rumored benefits to market their dairy, as that is misleading. Many laws make it difficult for small farmers and hobby farmers to sell their goods because they are designed to regulate factory farms. With the increasing popularity of backyard flocks and herds, legislators need to adjust laws and make exceptions for people with these small operations. 

What should you do?

Sanitary milking procedures reduce - but don't eliminate - contamination risk
Before buying or drinking raw milk, you should do plenty of research from varied sources. Raw milk should be treated similarly to raw eggs and meat. For example, I like to eat batter from cakes and and some dishes contain raw egg. In order to reduce the risk of illness, I crack the egg on the counter, rather than the bowl, to help prevent contamination of bacteria that is on the shell, and I wash the eggs well before I use them. This practice doesn't eliminate my risk, but it reduces it. If you're milking an animal, make sure your area and equipment is clean, and wash the teats and udders thoroughly. If you're buying milk from a farmer, make sure that the milking area and procedures are sanitary. Much like raw eggs and sushi, it is highly inadvisable for pregnant women, very young children, the elderly, or those with suppressed immune systems to consume raw dairy. People in these groups are at the highest risk of illness, hospitalization, or even death from foodborne illness. 

If you buy raw milk, you can pasteurize it yourself easily by heating it to 165 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds. In order to maintain the quality of the milk, you should heat slowly by boiling water and placing a smaller pot of milk inside the larger pot of water, or you can use a double boiler. Use a candy or meat thermometer to assure that the milk has maintained a temperature of 165 degrees for 15 seconds.You can also pasteurize milk using a microwave. For more detailed instructions, click here!
Many states do now allow the sale of raw milk in any way. If you would like to try and change those laws, start with a letter to your state legislature. Letters do a lot more than people think - it lets lawmakers know where voters' concerns are, so they can know what would be best for the state. Your letter should be formal, typed, legible and without spelling and grammatical errors. Explain why you want to be able to buy or sell raw milk, and why you think they should listen to you. Voters change the world, and so do their voices!

Would you dip your cookies in raw milk?

Is raw milk legal in your state? Do you produce, sell, or drink raw milk? Leave a comment! Don't forget to check out our Facebook page and our Instagram for regular updates!


 "Nonpasteurized Disease Outbreaks, 1993-2006." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. US Department of Health and Human Services, 12 Dec. 2014. Web. 4 Apr. 2016. <>

.Axe, Josh, Dr. "Raw Milk Benefits Skin, Allergies and Weight Loss." Dr Axe. Kymera, 13 Mar. 2014. Web. 04 Apr. 2016. <>.

Beals, Ted, MD. "Those Pathogens, What You Should Know." A Campaign for Real Milk. Weston A. Price Foundation, 31 July 2011. Web. 04 Apr. 2016. <>.

"Raw Milk Questions and Answers." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.US Department of Health and Human Resources, 20 Feb. 2015. Web. 04 Apr. 2016. <>.

"The Dangers of Raw Milk: Unpasteurized Milk Can Pose a Serious Health Risk." Food and Drug Administration. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 4 Apr. 2016. <>.

"Tobacco-Related Mortality." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. US Department of Health and Human Resources, 18 Aug. 2015. Web. 04 Apr. 2016. <>.

"Alcohol Deaths." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. US Department of Health and Human Services, 30 June 2014. Web. 04 Apr. 2016. <>.

"Just a Harmless Snip? 100+ Circumcision Deaths Each Year in United States." Circumcision Information Australia. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Apr. 2016. <>.

"Male Circumcision." Pediatrics 130.3 (2012): 1-7. Centers for Diseason Control and Prevention. US Department of Health and Human Services. Web. 4 Apr. 2016. <>.

"Home Pasteurization of Raw Milk." OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY Extension Service (2011): n. pag. Oregon State University Extension Office. OSU, Mar. 2011. Web. 4 Apr. 2016. <>.

"Pasteurization." International Dairy Food Association. Milk Industry Foundation, n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2016. <>.

All images used in this article were obtained via Creative Commons, and are licensed for non-commercial use. 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Breed Spotlight: Ameraucana

The rare and beautiful Ameraucana chicken takes today's spotlight! These rare and expensive birds are among the newest admitted to the American Poultry Association for breeding and show. They are prized for their weather hardiness and beautiful blue eggs. This breed is a bit of a status symbol among the chicken world, similar to owning a luxury vehicle or rare dog breed is to everyone else.


Blue Ameraucana rooster
Ameraucanas have a very distinct appearance. They always have muffs and beards which should nearly cover their face completely. They come in the colors of black, blue, wheaten, blue wheaten, brown red, buff, silver, and white, according to the APA recognized standard. The lavender Ameraucana is becoming popular among enthusiasts, but has yet to be admitted to the Standard of Perfection. Body shape is full, but still slender. Due to the beard, the wattles are very small or absent. The Ameraucana has a pea comb, slate-colored legs, and is clean-legged, meaning there are no feathers on the shanks and toes. Males weight around 6.5lbs, females 5.5lbs.

Lavender Ameraucana hen

A Brief History

Ameraucanas descend from the Araucana chicken, which they are often confused with. They have been around for many years, bred from the Araucana chicken by those who wanted a blue laying bird with beards, muffs, and tails. They were first considered a variety of Araucana, before being admitted to the APA in 1976 as a specific breed. This led to confusion, as many breeders of muffed "Araucanas" continued to show their birds as such, sometimes as "American Araucana". In response, the APA began further development of the breed standard of the Ameraucana, thus becoming the breed we know of today. 
Since its introduction, this breed has been sought after for it's blue eggs, a rarity among chickens. This trait is shared with only a few other breeds, and is desired due to the beauty and novelty of the color.
(To the left) A blue chicken egg

Breed Confusion

Due to mislabeling by hatcheries, Ameraucanas are often mixed up with the common blue-green laying hybrid, the Easter Egger or Easter Egg chicken. Hatcheries often label Easter Eggers as "Americana" to mislead people and make their chicks sound more appealing. The problem is that people buy these birds and breed them without knowing what they have, selling them as "Americanas" just like the hatcheries. Ameraucanas breed true - their leg color, muffs, comb type, egg color, and all other distinguishing features. Easter Eggers do not breed true, and further generations of EEs will show brown eggs, any color legs, clean-faces, weird colors and patterns, and single combs. Due to the same mislabeling, Ameraucanas and EEs are often confused with the Araucana as well, which is a very rare tailless breed with ear tufts, but no beard or muffs. Chicks that are $2.99 at feed stores are Easter Eggers, as Ameraucana chicks generally cost more than $15 per chick!

A pair of Easter Egger chickens - note the green legs and non-standard coloring

Silver Ameraucana hen

Availability and Where to Buy

Due to the rarity of the Ameraucana, they are not as readily available as common farm chickens. There are only a handful of hatcheries which carry true Ameraucanas. Of these hatcheries is Meyer Hatchery in Ohio, but they are extremely limited and one of their most expensive birds. Your best bet is a local breeder, but this breed is costly. Birds from show-quality parents can cost you upwards of $35 a chick! Some breeders are willing to ship eggs or chicks, but make sure to do your research on the breeder before buying online. Also assure that you understand the breed standard so you can tell if someone is selling actual Ameraucanas or Easter Eggers. If you're willing to pay the price, they lay beautiful blue eggs that many people are willing to pay more for than typical white or brown eggs!

Do you own or breed Ameraucanas? Do you want them? Leave a comment! Remember to check out our Facebook page and Instagram for regular updates!


American Poultry Associasion. "APA Recognized Breeds and Varieties." APA Recognized Breeds and Varieties (2012): n. pag.Http:// 1 Jan. 2012. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.

Orr, Richard A. "ABC Breed History." ABC Breed History. Ameraucana Breeder's Club, 1998. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <>.

"Ameraucana Breed Standard." Ameraucana Breeders Club. American Poultry Assn., 1998. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <>.

All images in the article were obtained via Creative Commons and are licensed for noncommercial use.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Few Things That the Chicken Books Didn't Tell Me

When I first got chickens, I read every piece of material I could get my hands on. Books, magazines, pamphlets, anything! While these helped me learn a lot of things I needed to know about caring for chickens, they didn't tell me everything. My chickens have taught me plenty of funny, joyful, and painful lessons, from not-really-significant to pretty darn important.

They're smarter than you think

Sylvie, our very intelligent chicken!
The books told me that chickens weren't entirely stupid, but they didn't tell me they could be as smart as they are. So, our entire bantam flock feels like they need to roost on our porch, rather than the safety of their coop. This means every night we have to carry the five bantams and one overly docile salmon Faverolles in to their coop. One of those bantams, a silver Sebright named Sylvie, really doesn't like to be caught! While the others have given up on evading capture and just let us pick them up and put them to bed, Sylvie has adapted to every single method we have thought of! She quickly caught on to the first method of "catch her while she's asleep". So, since chickens can't see well in the dark, we came up with a new method. "Point the light in the other direction so she can't see us coming to grab her". Eventually, she figured out where the light was coming from, and that we were slowly moving towards her. Off she flew. Then, our new method "catch her in complete and total darkness" worked for a couple of months. But eventually she started listening to our steps and flying off as soon as we got close. Our newest method, "walk past her as if you're not trying to catch her and grab her before she realizes what you're doing" probably has about a week left. Sure, keeping her in the coop and not letting her free-range would solve the problem, but that's no fun!

Don't wear flip-flops in the coop

For some reason, I didn't think of this before getting chickens. No book has ever advised me not to wear flip-flops, but they should! If you have a freckle, or your toenails pained, a scratch or even a spec of dirt, the chickens will feel the need to peck it. A lot. I have one teenie, tiny freckle on my left foot, and every time they saw me in flip-flops, they tried to peck it off, and do the same to my painted toenails. For a quick, cool slip-on shoe, I recommend nurses shoes!

You will spend way more time watching your chickens than you thought

For some reason, chickens are fun to watch. Many owners refer to this as "chicken TV." Watching "chicken TV" is like listening to waterfalls or watching a nature documentary, it is calm and relaxing. In a world where we are constantly stimulated by our devices, chickens provide an outlet to observe something with no story and no problem solving. It's a type of entertainment that allows us to take a moment to just watch and enjoy animals doing what animals do - and that is a lot more satisfying than it sounds! Sometimes I spend an hour just watching them out my window as they peck around, and my rooster periodically chases his son away from the hens. After watching them, I feel very relaxed and entertained, even without my smartphone in my hand. 

The first chicken death is really hard... but it gets easier

 One of the most unfortunate things about keeping livestock, especially chickens, is that they are prey animals, and they die often. While a chicken can live for 10 years or more, it's more common for them to first be taken out by a predator, illness, or simply failure to thrive. My first chicken death was also my favorite chicken, named Blossom. We had let the chickens out to free range, but had to leave for the hospital due to a family emergency. When we returned, blossom was in the driveway with a note from our neighbor that she had been hit by a car, and he didn't want us to see her lying there in the road (thanks for very kind neighbors). That was very hard, but it prepared me for the following year. That summer we had a dog attack and an outbreak of coccidiosis that took out several of my spring-hatched birds both times. Each time, it got a little easier to deal with. It's still a little upsetting when one dies, but now that I have twenty-something birds and I have experienced a few chicken deaths, it doesn't make me want to give up. Even if an illness wiped out half of my flock, I could now learn to cut my losses and start over. I believe this has helped me a lot in life.

You probably won't get just a few chickens

Commonly referred to as "chicken math," this is a more serious problem than you would think. After our first six hens, we got a rooster. We figured we could hatch some new hens, since our coop had enough room to nearly double the flock size. Now we have two coops and a duck pen, and we are adding a bigger coop and a fence for waterfowl. We are adding several chicken breeds, one or two more ducks, and most likely a goose or two. This all started from getting six pullets from Tractor Supply. This is something you'll have to be careful about if you live in the city, where they usually have limits as to how many hens you can have. If you don't live somewhere with ordinances, plan for expansions. Chicken math will get you!

Nothing tastes better than the food your chickens provide you

So, maybe a home-grown chicken egg tastes just like a storebought egg in a blind test. Maybe it does cost twice as much to raise chickens than just buy eggs. But producing your own food, collecting those eggs that are waiting on you every morning, eating an egg for breakfast that is just hours old, it's rewarding! When you were a kid, and you grew a vegetable plant for school, nothing was better than when you finally got to eat it, no matter how gross is actually was. Something that is produced in your own backyard just tastes better to you. It gives you a sense of accomplishment! This is especially true in kids; I've had kids beg to collect the eggs for me when they come over!

I'm sure I will learn many more lessons throughout a lifetime of chicken keeping, as I have many more years to go. What have your chickens taught you? Leave a comment! Don't forget to check out our Facebook page and our Instagram for regular updates!