Chickens for the Soul

… No Soup Necessary!

Studies have shown that pets relieve stress and relieve blood pressure. Anyone who has a dog or cat can tell you that they feel good when spending time with their pet. But have you ever considered a chicken as a pet? Try finding a cat or dog that will not only run up to you for a scratch, but will also give you fresh eggs daily!

For centuries, chickens were found on every homestead around the world. Shortly after WWII, small farms and homesteads began to disappear and folks regularly bought their meat and eggs at the market or grocery. But times are changing with higher gas prices, food prices, and the ever-increasing reality of commercial food causing widespread illnesses. More people are looking again at the lowly chicken, and are surprised at what they discover.

A small flock of chickens can be kept on relatively little land for little cost, and the reward is well worth the expense. A half dozen hens can be kept in a small coop or “chicken tractor,” which is simply a portable coop that allows chickens access to fresh grass and forage when it’s moved every few days or so. Allowed to free range around the yard, and you’ll see a significant drop in ticks, locusts and other small pests. Some chickens have even been observed catching and eating mice!

Six hens will provide an average of 4-5 eggs per day almost every day, with a drop in eggs during molting and in the winter. That amount of eggs is usually plenty for a small family. Besides getting fresh eggs delivered to you daily, you also reap the benefit of having eggs high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are very good for you and usually demand high prices at the grocery stores.

But the best reason for having chickens is they’re fun! Watching their antics as they run, scratch and explore is more entertaining than any television show. The more you observe them, the more you realize just how much is going on in those little bird brains. Chickens have a very complex social structure. One hen will be ‘top dog’ and is entitled to the best perch locations, top spot at the feeder and the best nest boxes to lay their eggs. Each hen will have her own place in the pecking order, ending with the bottom hen. Roosters also have a pecking order, and the head rooster will get the best hens and so forth. But it’s the hens who rule the roost!

For eggs and pets, no rooster is necessary. The hens will continue to lay eggs regularly, although they are not fertile and won’t hatch. A very interesting phenomenon with a rooster-less flock is that one hen may decide to fill the vacant position and begin to act like a rooster herself, even to the point of crowing!

If you are in the position that you can have a rooster with your flock, they are well worth a little extra noise. A good rooster will take care of his hens, making sure to find the best treats for them. When a rooster finds a delicious bug, seed or other morsel, he will immediately begin to call the hens over with an excited “buk buk buk!” The hens will race over and he will offer it to his favorite hens first. He will also keep an eye out for ground and air predators, and give the proper warning for each so the flock can know when and where to run for cover. Roosters will also go above and beyond to protect their flock, and there are many stories of valiant roos who have driven off raccoons and hawks, and even gave their lives for their ladies.

With treats and frequent handling, most chickens make excellent lap pets, and some will jump right up into your arms to be snuggled. Roosters seem to be the more people-oriented and loveable of the sexes, but both hens and roosters make excellent pets. Do some research on which breeds are best for you for not only eggs and climate, but for personality, too. Some of the breeds that are noted to be the friendliest are Buff Orpingtons, Cochins, Silkies, Jersey Giants, Brahmas, Americaunas, Plymouth Rocks, and Dominiques. Silkies or Bantam Cochins are a great choice if your main purpose is a pet. They will be content to sit in your lap for hours, and one or two can easily be kept in the house just like rabbits if you are so inclined. Be forewarned, however, Silkies are notorious for being highly addicting and are oftentimes compared to potato chips by Silkie owners.

Those trying to decide on the perfect small pet should consider chickens. They offer everything traditional pets do in terms of love, entertainment and companionship, plus much more.

Originally Published 2011 © Associated Content, All rights reserved.

Blogging, Image Copyrights and You

This scene happens every day all over the internet. A blogger comes up with a great topic, writes their blog post, then hops on over to Google Images to find that perfect photo to add to the post.  But did you know that grabbing a random image off the internet can end up costing you big bucks if the image is copyrighted?  Google Images is a great way to find a certain photo or graphic, but the vast majority of these photos are owned by someone and not available for use by others.  At best you may get away with using the image and no one knowing. At worst, you can find yourself contacted by a lawyer informing you that you now owe their client upwards of a $1,000 for stealing a copyrighted image!

Using random images from the internet is not something to be taken lightly. Owners of the image can and will legally demand payment for use of those images. So what can you as a blogger do to make sure that you don’t end up as an “image thief?”

There are sites available where you can find just about any image you need, and allow you to use them within certain restrictions. Some websites are pay sites, which may charge you a monthly fee to download from their image archive, and some which charge by the image. Be sure to read the Terms, as some images may be a one time purchase, and some may have an expiration date on their length of use. If you have a limited image on your blog and it expires, don’t be surprised if you are contacted to pay to continue its use or be requested to remove the image.

There are also websites that host totally free images. Some have restrictions for personal use only, and some allow business use.  Some images may also require the user to link back to the website you downloaded it from, or may require you to state somewhere on your blog or site who owns the copyright to the image.

Always be sure to read the fine print and look over the Terms and Conditions of the websites where you find any images you plan to use. – One of the best and most popular of the stock image sites. Images are not free, but are affordable. Currently the site is offering a free 10 image, one month trial. Once the trial is up, it is only $29 for the year to get up to 10 images per month. (formerly stock.xchg) – Lots of great FREE stock photos available here.  *Please Note: when searching for a particular subject, make sure the photo you download is under the “Results for “XXXX” on” heading. Some of the results are Premium photos from and they are NOT free for use. – A great premium stock photo site with a very large collection of high quality photos.  Prices depend on quality and size. You can pay for your purchases individually or buy credits to use toward purchasing images. – Purchase stock photos, royalty free photos, videos, and music to use on your blog or site.

There are many other great sites on the web to find free images to use on your blog. But always remember to read ALL the fine print, the Terms for using any images, and follow the rules.

Article originally published on February 25, 2013. Links and info updated for August 2, 2021.
Copyright 2013, 2021 Lily Plasse. All rights reserved.

I Brake for Frogs: Spring-time Frog Migration

Spring is in the air, and amphibians are on the move. After a long, cold winter, frogs, toads, newts and salamanders prepare themselves for the annual migration to mate and lay their eggs. Mother Nature has to have all the right ingredients to get them up and moving. Typically, a warm, rainy evening when clouds obscure the moon is enough to start a mad rush. The first evening the weather is right, the migration is on. they will even venture across patches of snow if all other conditions are right. These migrations involve hundreds and even thousands of individual animals. The ultimate goal is to reach a nearby pond or vernal pool, usually returning to the same body of water year after year.

Many of these migration routes cross roads. Country road or highway, these obstacles don’t deter them. A large number of amphibians never make it to the other side, and thousands are killed by automobiles during their journey. But many crawl and hop safely to the other side and reach their destination. Once there, it is yet another mad dash to mate and lay eggs for the next generation.

If you are wondering what the big deal is about a few squished frogs, just remember that frogs, toads and salamanders eat a lot of bugs! Flies, ants, mosquitoes, worms, grubs, larvae and other pests are on the menu. Also, tadpoles and adult amphibians are an important food source for many other creatures. Without them, the entire ecosystem would suffer.

Unlike larger road killed animals, dozens of amphibians can be killed by a single car, without the driver even noticing. With the increase in traffic and new roads being built in or near forests and wetlands, the migration becomes more perilous every year. Populations can be severely damaged when migrations take thousands of amphibians across busy roads. Some areas of the country have countered this by building tunnels. These tunnels run under the road and amphibians and other small animals can use them to cross safely.

Being more aware while driving during amphibian migrations is one way to help some reach their destination. Another more involved way is by joining a local group that actively goes out during migrations to transport them across the road. One important point if you would like to help out is to be safe! Wandering around on a dark, rainy road without taking proper safety precautions could very well make you road kill! Wear reflective and light clothing, carry a good flashlight, and use a bucket to collect and move the animals. The buddy system is a good way to go also, so joining up with a local group is a better idea than going at it alone.

The next time you see frogs, toads, newts or salamanders making their way across the road, take note and slow down a bit. If you can, you may even want to forgo traveling in your car that one evening to make it just a little easier for our local amphibians to make it to their breeding grounds. And if you are really interested in helping out, contact your local college, museum or environmental agency and ask about joining a group and volunteering.

Original article published 2011 © Associated Content

Horse Sitting

When most people think of pet sitting, the first animals that come to mind are dogs and cats. But horse sitting is also a much needed service. Many horse owners travel rarely or never, because they can’t find people who are able to put in the time and work to care for their horses. If you have expertise in horse care, and live in a horse-friendly area, you might want to consider horse sitting.

Horses require specialized care, as they need to eat at certain times of the day, and a certain amount of food to stay healthy. Feedings should be scheduled at the horse’s regular feeding times, and the amount and types of feed vary from horse to horse, so keep detailed instructions for each. Also ask about what and how many treats can be given. Horses love eating yummy snacks like apples, but too many can lead to an upset stomach.

Fresh, clean water is also very important. It should be available at all times both in the stall and in the turnout area/pasture. In the winter, freezing can be a real pain, so ask the owner about water heaters.

Brushing and hoof picking is also a daily chore, so make sure you ask where the brushes, halters, lead lines, picks, and other items are located. Have the owner show you how to halter, tie, brush, and pick the hooves, and try it yourself, as some horses can be a bit tricky.

The horses may need to be handled to be turned out to graze or stretch their legs, but riding and longeing is usually not required. If more involved care is requested, you may want to adjust pricing for this, as it will take more time.

Stall cleaning is one of the less glamorous parts of the job, and is a bit more involved than cleaning a little kitty litter box. For shorter sits of a few days to a week, you probably won’t have to do a full stall cleaning. Just scooping up some “road apples” and the wet bedding and replacing it with fresh, dry bedding is sufficient. Longer sits will require a full stall cleaning, which can take a lot of time for multiple stalls.

Knowing the signs of injury and illness is very important with any animal. In horses, immediate care for many problems is essential. Any changes in behavior, eating, moving, swelling, breathing, etc. should be given a serious second look. Have emergency care items and 24 hour veterinary telephone numbers handy.

When meeting with the owner, be sure to ask lots of questions and keep detailed records. Also, have some horse care books handy, especially ones for recognizing and treating horse illnesses and injuries. Two great books to have handy are A-Z of Horse Diseases & Health Problems, by Tim Hawcroft. (ISBN# 0-87605-884-5) and Horse Owner’s Veterinary Handbook, by James M. Giffin & Tom Gore. (ISBN# 0-87605-606-0)

If you feel confident that you can handle all the above and love horses, then horse sitting may be for you!

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