(BPT) - From fresh egg production to natural garden fertilizer, there is no shortage of benefits in raising backyard poultry. But even as families become more familiar with sustainable living and keeping chickens, several poultry myths still exist.
Here to set the record straight for our feathered friends is poultry expert Lisa Steele, creator of the renowned Fresh Eggs Daily brand and author of three top-selling books on the subject. Steele is also a consultant with Tractor Supply Company, the rural lifestyle retailer now celebrating Chick Days with live chicks and ducklings at its stores nationwide.
Here are Steele’s eight most common myths surrounding backyard flocks:
Myth 1: Chickens are difficult to care for.
“There is, of course, a certain level of responsibility required to properly care for any living animal. However, when it comes to backyard poultry, the time commitment is fairly minimal — maybe 30 minutes daily,” Steele says. Here’s what you can expect: In the morning, chickens will need to be let out and fed; waterers will need to be filled. At some point, eggs will need to be collected. Then, around dusk, after the chickens have wandered back to the coop, the door needs to be locked to protect from predators.
Myth 2: Chickens (and coops) smell.
“Chickens themselves don’t smell, nor does a well-maintained coop," Steele says. "On average, a chicken produces about 1.5 ounces of manure a day, which is far less than the average dog — not to mention, when composted, it makes wonderful nitrogen-rich fertilizer for a garden.”
Myth 3: Chickens are noisy.
“Despite what you may have heard, chickens are pretty quiet. In fact, a clucking chicken tends to be on par with normal human conversation (60–65 decibels). In other words, it’s a lot quieter than your neighbor’s barking dog, lawn mower or car alarm,” Steele says.
Roosters are a different story, and some areas prohibit them for that very reason. Be sure to check your local ordinances about keeping backyard poultry!
Myth 4: You need a rooster to get eggs.
Chickens will lay eggs regardless of whether or not there is a rooster in the flock. A male chicken is only needed to fertilize an egg, meaning eggs laid by hens in a rooster-less flock can never hatch into baby chicks. And while there are some benefits to having roosters, they aren’t necessary for your hen to produce a basket of delicious, fresh eggs.
Myth 5: A chicken lays an egg every day.
Fresh eggs to eat and share with friends are one of the best benefits of raising poultry, but Steele says not to expect your hen to lay an egg every day. “The average chicken will produce four to five eggs a week, but that will vary depending on the chicken’s age, breed, health and environment. Shorter days, extreme temperatures, molting (growing in new feathers) and other stressors, such as the presence of predators, can all affect egg production,” Steele says.
Myth 6: Brown eggs are more nutritious than white eggs.
“The nutrient content of an egg is based largely on a hen’s diet, not the color of its egg, which is determined solely by the chicken’s breed,” Steele says. According to a study conducted by Mother Earth News magazine, a free-roaming chicken that consumes grass and bugs will lay eggs with less cholesterol and saturated fat and more Vitamin A and E, beta-carotene and Omega-3s than a chicken fed purely commercial corn/grain-based foods.
Myth 7: Chickens carry disease.
“Chickens don’t carry any more risk of disease than a dog or cat. In fact, they love to eat ticks and other pesky critters known to transmit diseases like Lyme disease, tapeworm and heartworm,” Steele explains. “While salmonella can be transmitted to humans through poultry dander and feces, simply washing hands after handling the chickens keeps the risk of infection minimal.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also cautions against live poultry inside the home and against letting children younger than 5 years old handle poultry.
Myth 8: Chickens attract rodents and predators.
“Wild predators are not any more attracted to chickens than they are to wild birds, rabbits, squirrels and other small animals,” Steele says. “The truth is, predators are likely already living in your midst. The key to keeping them at bay is to keep your chickens safe in an enclosed pen or run area. Chicken feed should also be taken up at night and stored in predator-proof containers to reduce the possibility of flies and mice.”
Now through April, Tractor Supply features Chick Days, where at nearly every location you can see and select live chicks and ducklings. When it comes to raising backyard poultry, Tractor Supply is a one-stop shop with coops, equipment, feed and the expert advice you need to successfully raise chicks into an egg-laying flock.
For more expert information on safe handling and care for poultry, starting a chicken coop and more, visit TractorSupply.com/Chicks.
(BPT) - Zika-carrying mosquitoes had their moment this year as the nation's top headline-grabbing pests, but the arrival of cooler weather means the resurgence of another disease-carrying insect. Ticks transmit a number of diseases, including Lyme disease, that affect people and pets. And while cold weather may kill off mosquitoes, ticks remain a year-round threat.
The ticks which spread Lyme disease - adult black-legged or deer ticks - are most active during fall and winter, according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC), which predicts 2016 will be a banner year for ticks. Annually, about 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme Disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate.
Multiple diseases, multiple risks
The CDC lists 15 different diseases transmitted by ticks, including Lyme, anaplasmosis, two types of rickettsiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF). These diseases can vary greatly in severity and duration; some can be debilitating and even fatal.
Ticks thrive virtually everywhere in the country, with different species preferring different locales. While ticks are commonly found in heavily wooded areas, they also thrive in domestic settings such as gardens, landscape plantings and backyard grasses. In fact, experts estimate that the majority of people who contract tick-borne diseases came in contact with the tick that made them ill right in their own backyards.
Tick prevention starts with deer
Ticks hang out on shrubs, trees and in grass waiting for a host to pass by. Hitching a ride on suburban deer and other animals, including pets, is one of their main means of transportation. Cooler weather means deer are more likely to come closer to homes looking for mates, or to dine on suburban landscapes as wild food sources dwindle.
Ticks may travel to your backyard riding on the deer that's dining on your landscaping, only to stay behind when the deer moves on. Once they're in your environment, it's just a waiting game for the tick to find a host; a person, dog or cat passing by.
While you may know the need to inspect humans for ticks after spending time outdoors, it can be harder to detect their presence when they're hidden in pet fur. Both dogs and cats can pick up ticks that they bring into your home, where the tick may transfer to a human or stick with the pet and make it sick.
The CDC recommends homeowners discourage deer away from residences in order to help minimize potential exposure to ticks.
"Tick populations do not decrease substantially unless deer are eradicated or severely reduced," the CDC says.
You can discourage deer from entering your environment in a number of ways, from long-term measures like planting vegetation deer don't like, to sure-fire but challenging tactics like building a tall fence. However, these tactics have their limitations. With cold weather approaching, you don't have time to install new plantings and deer will eat just about anything available in cold weather. Plus, many communities restrict the height of fences and deer have been known to easily jump over fences as high as 10 feet.
One of the easiest, most effective and practical ways to deter deer is through the use of a topical foliar spray like Bobbex Deer Repellent. The spray can be applied year-round; it uses taste and scent-aversion ingredients to deter deer from grazing on foliage, shrubs and trees. During spring and summer months, gardeners rely on Bobbex to protect their gardens from deer damage. It's also effective in winter to not only protect plants, but also people and pets - by keeping tick-carrying deer away from homes.
It's safe for use around children and pets because the product is all natural. It works in fall and winter as well as during warm weather, and won't wash off under rain or snow. In testing by the Connecticut Department of Forestry and Horticulture, Bobbex was found to be 93 percent effective in deterring deer when compared to like repellents, and second only to a physical fence. Learn more at www.bobbex.com.
Human and companion animal health experts agree: keeping deer away from your home is essential for reducing exposure to disease-bearing ticks. What's more, experts warn, don't rely on the weather for help.
Although drought in many areas of the country could affect tick populations, the nymphs responsible for most of the biting ticks have gone into hiding and missed the worst part of the drought. They'll re-emerge as adults in October, according to an ABC News report.
"(Ticks) have seen lots of changes and are ecologically very successful," Sam Telford, a professor of infectious diseases at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts told ABC. "One or two years of severe weather may depress their numbers, but remember ... the successful feeding of one female tick on a deer translates to 2,000 eggs. It does not take much to reset the clock, as it were, if there was significant mortality for a few years."
With disease-carrying bugs buzzing around, it’s time to take the proper steps in protecting your lawn so that you can enjoy living life outside to the fullest and get the most out of your backyard this summer. Taking proper preventive measures can help protect your family and your yard from nuisance pests. To keep your family and property safe, the National Pest Management Association and the Centers for Disease Control recommends these 6 tips.
Combatting Warm-Weather Bugs
Tips to prevent pest-related illness and irritation this summer
(Family Features) With temperatures rising and homeowners heading outdoors for picnics, parties and gatherings, insect-induced risks are fully in-season. With disease-carrying bugs buzzing around, it’s time to take the proper steps in protecting your lawn so that you can enjoy living life outside to the fullest and get the most out of your backyard this summer.
Warm-weather bugs, such as fleas and ticks, offer risks that include irritating bites and Lyme disease, which is transmitted by deer ticks and is typically accompanied by fever, headache, fatigue and a skin rash. If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause nervous system damage. Ticks can often be found in heavily wooded regions and naturalized areas with tall, un-mowed grass and other plants. Pets and families should be aware of tick problems in these areas if left untreated.
Fleas are also a problem for pets if left undetected. Fleas thrive in warm, dry periods of summer and can be difficult to control. Other lawn pests including chiggers, ants and spiders can be an irritation for families playing in their yard.
Taking proper preventive measures can help protect your family and your yard from these and other nuisance pests. The National Pest Management Association and the Centers for Disease Control recommend the following tips:
Concerned homeowners should also consider contacting an outdoor pest control professional who can help reduce exposure to fleas, ticks and other pests, decreasing the risks for pest-borne illnesses. For example, the TruShield Lawn Pest Control Plan available through TruGreen includes an inspection of your lawn and treatment of any problem areas. The service also includes a broad application to significantly reduce the population of any other active lawn pests, and additional applications every four to six weeks for lasting control and ongoing protection.
“Using a professional to help control lawn pests should be part of a well-rounded, comprehensive defense program,” said Bob Mangan, TruGreen director of technical services. “Because ticks and other nuisance pests can congregate in backyards, it is especially important to help protect yourself and your family so that you can fully enjoy your outdoor time.”
Learn more about how to reduce your exposure to dangerous pests and help defend your home and family from unwanted lawn visitors at TruGreen.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
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