Backyard Eggs Made Easy

Fresh eggs right outside your door… for many of us, it sounds too good to be true! I have several neighbors and friends who have started keeping backyard chickens recently, and while I always loved the idea of it, the details were too overwhelming for me to actually take the plunge.

In fact, if it were not for The Easy Chicken, I would still be dreaming about backyard eggs instead of watching the kids bring them in each day.

The Easy Chicken is a Saint Louis company that provides everything you need for backyard chickens, from the coop and feed to the hens themselves, as well as help with any regulation compliance necessary in your area. Here’s a peek at how they calmed my backyard chicken fears…

Where does one buy laying hens, anyway?

Or a coop or feed or a nesting box or whatever else chickens need to be happy, for that matter? These are not things I see on my weekly shopping trips. The Easy Chicken not only solved that problem by providing everything we needed, but they delivered the whole package to our yard. I didn’t have to figure out how to transport chickens home in my car, and I didn’t even have to haul that huge bag of feed up my driveway.

Is my yard even suitable for chickens?

Our yard is small, full of kids’ toys, has a lot of rocks and mulch and not a lot of grass, and we live in a city neighborhood. This was one of my biggest mental blocks: figuring out if chickens were even feasible or could be happy in our yard. Seth and Maria at The Easy Chicken helped us determine the best way to keep the chickens where we wanted them, and it turns out our yard is working just fine for them. Even if we didn’t have a fenced space where the chickens can free range during the day, the coop they provide is built to be mobile, so 2 to 4 hens will be comfortable living full time in the coop if necessary. All we would have to do is wheel it to a new spot now and then to give them a fresh space for hunting bugs and other goodies out of the grass and dirt.

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What if I get chickens and they go and decide not to lay any eggs?

Apparently figuring out why a hen isn’t laying can be a bit like sleuthing out a mystery, but that is one mystery I won’t have to solve (unlike where in my house is hiding the left shoe of all three pairs of my toddler’s shoes).  My hens from The Easy Chicken are guaranteed to lay, so if I have any trouble, all I have to do is give them a call. But so far, no trouble!

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Am I going to be housing chickens in my basement over the winter?

One of my favorite things about our chickens is that the kids consider them delightful pets, but they never have to come into my house (it resembles a barn often enough without actual animals inside). If we keep the chickens over the winter, they should be nice and cozy in their coop. But the hens’ egg production goes way down in the colder months (did you know eggs are truly a seasonal food?), so with the rental package if we decide we would rather only have charge of the chickens when they are laying, we can simply return the whole package to The Easy Chicken at the end of the peak egg season.

Do I need a license? Do chickens carry any diseases? What kitchen scraps can I feed them? Are my chickens going to take flight over my fence resulting in me chasing a flock of flapping birds up and down the street while the neighborhood kids chuckle from their porches? Do chickens pose any threat to my kids if they’re sharing space, or vice versa? How long does a hen lay? If we purchase a package, what do I do with a hen when it gets too old to lay? Will the chickens destroy my lawn/landscaping? Is it going to be like an Easter egg hunt every day, searching out eggs the hens lay all over the yard? Are they noisy? Can I use the poop in my compost or garden? Are there chicken predators in this area?

The folks at The Easy Chicken took care of all my questions before we decided to get the chickens and even more questions during our initial set-up and consultation, and they had some other useful tips as well (thank you, chickens, for preparing my garden beds for planting!). That’s the final calming piece of their offering: a hotline for any and all hen- and egg-related questions that might come up as you get to know your backyard flock.

And let me just reiterate that my kids could not be happier. They fill the food and water, collect the eggs, close up the coop in the evening, let the hens out in the morning, feed the chickens scraps, and want to know everything there is to know about chickens.

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And did I mention the eggs are delicious? I guess that goes without saying. And if you’ve been finding it difficult to locate non-GMO eggs (from chickens fed non-GMO feed), you can even upgrade to the organic non-GMO feed The Easy Chicken has sourced.

It’s kind of like they thought of everything.

So if you are in the St. Louis area and want to learn more about backyard eggs made easy, check out The Easy Chicken web site, find them on Facebook, or just drop them a line:

The Easy Chicken Contact Info
Telephone: 314.852.2802
Email: contact@theeasychicken.com

They will also be at a few farmers’ markets on various dates this summer where you can stop by, ask questions, and arrange for your own flock of backyard hens:

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The peak laying season is just around the corner – contact them now to get the most out of your backyard hens this summer!

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*Obligatory disclaimer: We are happy to call Seth and Maria, owners of The Easy Chicken, local friends of ours. But friends or not, I would not have made our backyard hens a reality without The Easy Chicken, and I would not have written this post if I wasn’t truly happy with our experience with both our chickens and their company as a whole.

Reduce, Reuse, Repair!

I’m pretty sure it’s Earth Day today, but that and this post are a complete coincidence. I don’t spend much time on a Save The Earth soapbox, because you’d think it would be common sense to realize that it’s a good idea to take care of your home, the source of your food, and the air and water that you require to stay alive. Or maybe that’s just me; common sense doesn’t seem to be very popular lately.

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And we can’t blame it all on big business. We as the consumer feed the madness with the “upgrade” mentality, and the manufacturers are more than happy to oblige. They’ve been obliging us for so long, in fact, that they know it would be a waste of effort to make anything that can last more than a few years (and perhaps their gizmo life spans are getting shorter and shorter to *encourage* our rate of upgrading – the vicious cycle).

This is nothing new to you. We all know that a lot of money is flying around while a lot of junk is being bought and sold and retired to the landfills at record pace. And as much as I don’t like to throw things away, sometimes I feel like I don’t have a choice because we also live in a time when most of us know absolutely nothing about how our machines were made or how they work. So when the stick in the middle of my washing machine starts making squeaking/scratching noises and not spinning so much, leaving the clothes to languish in some soapy water instead of getting the dirt swished out, I can either call a repair man (which will likely cost more than the washer is worth), or push it down the stairs and start scouring sales and Craigslist for a replacement. But let me tell you, I helped wrestle that machine up the stairs when we moved in and I am in no way interested in seeing it from that angle again, let alone tossing some of our budget at a new or used washer.

But wait, there’s another option: I could fix it! Just maybe, I can fix it, and even if I can’t, it’s already broken so why not try?

My mom is the queen of this mentality, incidentally; she will attempt to fix anything, regardless of her level of knowledge of said thing at the start, and she very often succeeds (and even if she doesn’t, she most definitely learned something new). In her fix-it wisdom, she directed me to RepairClinic.

Armed with my washer’s model number, I quickly found that I needed to replace the cam because the dogs (short for directional cogs) had worn down and were no longer spinning the top half of the agitator (the stick that spins the clothes around). I ordered the part, got the correct one on the first try thanks to the search that limits the results to parts for my make/model, and with the help of the video on RepairClinic that even told me what size socket to grab from the tool box, my washer is running like new!

Now, as I said, I grew up in a house where my mom would fearlessly attempt to fix anything and my dad probably can fix anything, so I’m not a complete stranger to tools, but I have to admit that I don’t put them to good use very often (shhh – don’t tell my dad). And obviously, not everything can be fixed, and not everything that can be fixed, can be fixed by an amateur. But with the help of RepairClinic, only $26 and 15 minutes on a Saturday afternoon (with my 8-month-old “helping”) saved my washer from the dump.

I think that is an Earth Day success.

[Side Note: I have no affiliation with RepairClinic; I just used their site to help fix my washer and thought that was nifty.]

[Important Side Note: Please use common sense and do not, encouraged by this post, go electrocute yourself attempting to fix something.]

Jersey Knit Bracelet By V and Co.

A while back, I pinned this Jersey Knit Bracelet Tutorial by V and Co., loving the simplicity and wondering if it might be doable for my 5-year-old crafter. The chance locating of a long-lost jersey ruffled scarf that had long ago lost its ruffle came together with a grey and dreary day to provide us with just the crafting opportunity to find out.

The bad thing about crafting on grey days? Grey pictures. But that didn’t stop my daughter. We watched the video instructions once, then I started her two-finger weave with the first two loops, and she took it from there.

That’s a two-finger weave on 5-year-old fingers – she had no problem at all!

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After a few moments of concentration, she had a long enough braid for her bracelet and I showed her how to tie it off.

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Now, you might be thinking, “the 5-year-old got it, but her 3-year-old sister back there clearly lost focus during the video.”

Au contraire, mon ami! I just wasn’t able to get them both started at the same time. Once I did get her started weaving her fabric strip, she almost caught up to her big sister.

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That’s a 2-finger weave on three-year-old fingers.

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And she’s the accessory princess of the family, so she was definitely pleased with her results.

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My oldest sat down and immediately started, weaved, and tied off a second bracelet as a gift. Then her sister finished another as well, so with the one I made as a test, we had five new fun free bracelets (and half of an old jersey scarf) in about 20 minutes. This little project was just new and complicated enough to get their attention, and just quick enough to keep them satisfied with real results. Perfect!

Egg Carton Flower Wreath

When we lived in New England, I filled the long, grey, dreary months of March, April and sometimes May (jokingly called “Spring”) with bright and cheery springtime crafts: flowers and new grasses and rainbows and blue skies and sunshine and baby animals and warmth and renewal.

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If the weather wasn’t going to cooperate, we could at least use crafting to bring a little Spring inside.

This year, we’re in the Midwest, and the flowers all bloomed and summer arrived before the calendar even officially ran out of winter.

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But that didn’t stop me from pinning this bright and cheery egg carton flower wreath and saving several cardboard egg cartons for this recycled craft. I cut out various flower shapes here and there; my 5-year-old was able to help with that part and came up with some pretty good flowers!

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When an afternoon thunderstorm chased us inside this week, we covered the table in paper and brought out the paints.

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You don’t really need instructions for this craft, but here are a few details about ours if it helps you plan:

  • The background is just a ring cut out of a flat piece of cardboard and painted green.
  • Our wreath is about 12 or 13 inches across the outside because that is about how big the box that an album comes in and we have a lot of those. We fit 27 egg-cup flowers on it. We could probably squish on some more, but we were anxious to finish our project! You can make yours as big or small or full or sparse as you want.
  • We filled in with flat leaves cut from the egg carton lids. We could definitely have used some more leaves.
  • We used run-of-the-mill Crayola washable paints that I already had in the closet. I wish some of the colors were brighter; yellow and orange look a little dingy on the grey egg carton, even with two coats. If you insist on vibrant colors, you might want to brush or spray a layer of white on all the flowers first (or get better paints).
  • When everything was dry, we went to town with the hot glue gun.

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My kids love any painting craft, and I think the end result of this one is really cute.

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It worked well to let my older girls (5 and 3) paint the flowers, and have the 2-year-old in charge of the green wreath and leaves so we didn’t have to worry about him mixing all the colors and turning it all brown.

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Happy Spring!

Printable Wallet Cards: Pesticides in Produce

I want to buy all organic. It’s prettier. It tastes better. It’s better for us.

But I can’t always find all organic. And I can’t always afford all organic.

Luckily, each year the Environmental Working Group publishes a Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, highlighting the best and the worst in their “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists. These little lists at least help you to focus your efforts (and shopping dollars) on buying organic in the cases of the most highly contaminated fruits and veggies, and you can breath a little easier buying conventional produce for those lowest in pesticides.

Here is a handy-dandy printable provided by the EGW of their 2011 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

It’s pretty and colorful and has a little scanny square to get more information, but… it’s too big for me. I printed it and cut it out and I don’t like where it fits in my wallet. So I typed up a minimalist version: no colors or graphics or scanny squares, but just the size of a credit card slot in my wallet.

If you want a smaller wallet reference card also, just click on this link for the pdf (to keep it the correct size): Produce Wallet Card

Then print it out, fold it in half,

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cut it out, and laminate it with packing tape if you want.

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Then slip it in your wallet,

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and head off to the store to spend wisely, and leave happier.