Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Turkey jerky dog treats

broad breasted White turkeys
    On many occasions we find ourselves with older breeding stock and wondering what to do with them. Poultry that is more than 6 to 9 months is usually pretty tough to eat.  One of the simplest solutions is simply turn them into dog treats such as turkey or chicken jerky. 
Ronco non-forced air dehydrator
   Start with lean meat and trim all fat, skin and bone off of meat. Slice the meat into thin strips, usually 1/4 inch or less. Thinner meat strips take less drying time. (Do not add seasoning, salts or sugars as this is for dog treats and is not needed.) It is also one of the big advantages over store-bought jerky that usually has preservatives added to it.  From here there are two different ways to dehydrate meat. One is in the oven at 200° for several hours. Place the thin strips of meat you wish to dehydrate over wire racks sitting in baking pans. The wire racks allow any remaining fat to drain off into the pan. Periodically check the meat for dryness every 30 min. or so. The strips should be leathery to brittle in consistency.  Any pieces that are spongy or not dry will require additional drying time. 
         The second method uses a dehydrator. The Nesco-american Harvest Snackma (Google Affiliate Ad)  is a good one to start with and cost less than $70. It uses forced air which reduces drying time and cuts down on the electric bill.
 The advantage to a dehydrator is that it's more cost-effective and in hot weather doesn't heat the whole house.
    Meat that is greasy or oily may require freezing or refrigeration to prevent spoilage. If you intend to freeze your jerky be sure and add a silica gel pack to the bag to prevent moisture. Usually I will create my jerky in small batches. I freeze the meat sliced until I need to make jerky. During the summer months I sometimes give the dogs slices of frozen meat sickles instead of jerky. Always smell the jerky for spoilage before you give it to your pet. Unpleasant odors are an indication of spoilage and jerky should be thrown away.

In the end you will save more money and give your dogs healthier treats if you make your own jerky. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Nesting boxes

The best and least expensive nesting boxes are made from 5 gallon plastic buckets.
Round or square it doesn't matter, square buckets just stack easier. Check with your local restaurants to see if they have any they're throwing out. Many restaurants will give them to you free or at low cost.
Simply cut a hole in the lid or bottom and you have your instant sanitary nesting box. Make sure you leave a fairly large lip on the bottom edge. A 3 " lip should keep eggs from rolling out. Add straw or other nesting material to keep your eggs clean and the box is ready to go. Note: good nesting material such as straw eliminates most of the need for a bubblier to clean the eggs and instead of having to clean all your eggs you only have to clean a few. It can be screwed to a wall or placed in a wood rack. Be sure and mount your nesting box lower than the roost so the chickens do not try to roost in or on the nesting box. This will also keep them from defecating in or on the nest box. The plastic nesting box will be cleaner than a wooden box and will help prevent mites and other parasites. 
   Note; if you intend for your chickens to hatch their own eggs, be sure and place the nest box in a spot close to the ground. The mother hen will try to lead her chicks back to the nest they hatched out of each night. If the nest box is high off the ground the mother hen will not be able to get her chicks back into the nest and they may not survive. Not to mention the baby chicks trying to get out of the box high off the ground may fall to their death. The buckets also makes it easy to relocate the hen and her chicks if need be.
cat litter box re-purposed as a chicken nesting box
     Nesting boxes can be made from just about anything. The nesting box to the right was made from a cat litter box. Stones were placed on the lid to keep the box from blowing away in the wind and in front of the opening for easy access. A nesting egg (fake egg) is placed in the nest to encourage chickens to use the nest. Plastic Easter eggs also work really well for this. Be sure to weight the eggs down and glue them shut. Keeping in mind that a nesting box close to the ground is vulnerable to predators, I placed this one inside the chicken run for added protection.

Commercial nesting boxes are available such as the one above. And can be easily mounted to the inside wall of your chicken coop.