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There are two basic ways of composting; the first being cold, and the other one being hot. If you’ve been composting all along, it’s likely that you’ve been implementing the cold method, which is basically just layering your organic material and waiting for it to decompose over a year or so.

However, if your area is prone to warmer weather, it’s likely that you should use the hot method which is much faster. It allows you to get high-grade compost within a couple of months. If you want to help speed up the process on your own, you can fulfill the requirements for quick hot composting, which is air, nitrogen, water, and carbon. All these factors help feed microorganisms. As a result, your organic matter will decompose sooner.

Vermicompost

Aside from microorganisms that will already be present in the soil, you need the right worms as well to help in producing more nitrogen. This is a healthier way of adding nitrogen to your compost, compared to chemical-based additives.

Vermicompost is also the same thing, except the process of making this type of compost is sped up thanks to worms. These worms eat up organic matter like food scraps and then produce nitrogen-rich castings that are great for your compost.

Remember that you need adequate worms and not just any kind of garden worms. Redworms are what you should look for, and they can be found at pretty much any gardening store out there. Now that you’ve determined the types of compost and how you can make all of them, it’s time to learn as to what you should and shouldn’t be putting in your compost.

What You Should Compost

Here are some of the ingredients for a healthy compost that can make great hummus i.e. soil grower. Fruit scarps are the number one thing on any compost list because they’re rich in nutrients and sugar which can attract plenty of feeders.

Vegetable scraps don’t have as high of sugar content as fruits, but they do have plenty of nutrients that can boost soil health. Other organic materials like coffee grounds and eggshells will do just fine. It’s a no-brainer, but it’ll pay off to put in any plant clippings, pieces of wood from a tree, grass and dry leaves that collect during autumn.

What You Should Not Compost

A common misconception is that any kind of organic matter will do when it comes to compost. The truth is the exact opposite, and there are not just some, but many types of organic matter that you should avoid adding to your compost.

Refrain from adding sawdust or chips if they’re obtained from wood that has been pressure-treated. Foods that contain meat, grease, or oil; these can greatly disturb the ecosystem inside your compost. Clippings from diseased plants, pet feces and products made from dairy shouldn’t be added either because these can rot and ruin your compost rather than benefit it.

How To

Once you’ve gathered all your organic matter that you want to start composting wit, add it to a container and layer it with soil. Make sure to alternate between green and brown matter; green is wet while brown is dry. Too much of green matter will leave you with a smelly compost so make sure to have equal amounts.

Remember to add adequate amounts of water to keep your compost damp as this is the right environment for microorganisms to thrive. Every week, remember to fork through the pile so that there’s plenty of oxygen inside for your feeders and microorganisms. Happy Farming!

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Preventing and Treating Infectious Illness in Your Backyard Chickens

It can be tough to find a vet that has much experience in caring for sick poultry. Often, it falls on the homesteader or farmer to educate themselves about the most common diseases, preventing them, their symptoms, and the best course of treatment. Although we do everything we can to keep our birds healthy, disease and illness can still happen on the homestead, no matter how diligent you are. That being said, the healthier your chickens are, to begin with, the less likely they are to get sick or have sickness spread throughout the flock.

Keeping Your Chickens Healthy

The chickens on our farm are fed a varied diet that includes a high-quality, non-GMO layer pellet, fresh produce, and herbs from the garden in season, and rotated pasture foraging (we use an electric poultry net enclosure for this). They also get apple cider vinegar in their water, and granulated garlic sprinkled on their pellets daily and yogurt a couple times a week. In the winter time, I like to add in some black oil sunflower seeds along with non-GMO scratch grains and corn. They have free access to grit and oyster shell calcium at all times, but they rarely go for it. Sometimes, they get mealworms as a special treat. Keeping a clean coop and yard is also essential.

Preventing the Spread of Illness in Your Flock

In all the years I’ve had chickens, we have never had an infection spread through our flock. At the first sign of sickness, the bird in question is kept isolated from the rest of the flock and watched over carefully, and the coop is disinfected right away. The sick bird is only returned to the flock after 7 symptom-free days have passed.

Also, if you bring new poultry to your homestead, they should always be isolated for at least 14 days and observed for symptoms of illness before you begin introducing them to your existing flock. Be careful of bringing disease home with you from other farms on your shoes, clothing, and used equipment, as well. Cleanliness is crucial to preventing the spread of disease! Clean and disinfect everything that has been in contact with someone else’s birds before it goes near your flock.

Common Diseases and Symptoms

Learning how to spot the signs of illness is the first step in preventing it from spreading throughout the entire flock.

1. Infectious Coryza

Infectious coryza is sometimes called croup. One of my neighbors lost their entire flock of layers to this disease a few years ago, and it was horrible. They suspect that the disease came home with some hens they purchased from another local farmer. Here are some of the most common symptoms:

  • Respiratory symptoms: wheezing, sneezing, coughing, raspy breathing, labored breathing
  • Puffy face accompanied by nasal discharge and watery eyes
  • Pale wattles and combs, possibly with a bluish tint
  • Staggering
  • Discontinued eating, drinking, and egg laying

Antibiotics are usually the recommended course of treatment, and they can sometimes be effective, but not always. Keeping your chickens healthy with a proper, varied diet improves chances of recovery. Isolate any bird that is showing symptoms immediately!

2. Fowl Pox

Many chickens recover from this disease, sometimes before the farmer even notices the symptoms. This disease is much like chicken pox in humans. The most apparent symptom is white lesions that look like blisters on the combs and wattles. Generally, the blisters will scab over and heal after a few weeks. However, in very severe cases, the blisters can appear in the mouth and throat. This can lead to breathing issues and difficulty eating and drinking, which can lead to death. There is a vaccine available for this disease, so that is an option. A healthy flock will often come through this one without the need for further treatment, but sometimes antibiotics are recommended. Separating any bird with symptoms is still a good idea for close observation and to help keep the disease contained.

3. Infectious Sinusitis

Infectious sinusitis can spread across all types of homestead poultry. The most common symptoms include:

  • Swollen eyes and nose
  • Coughing, sneezing, and difficulty breathing
  • Nose and eye discharge

Some antibiotics can treat this disease successfully but keeping your flock as healthy as possible will increase the chances of recovery and lessen the spread of the disease.

4. Avian Influenza

Avian influenza has been in the news a lot in recent years, and for good reason. This disease can be carried and transmitted by any species of birds, including wild birds. It is spread in the feces and mucous of the infected animal. This disease is a virus, so antibiotics are no help in this case. Culling of the entire flock is usually required by law. Here are some of the most common symptoms:

  • Sudden and unexplained death
  • Purplish tint to the wattles, comb, and legs
  • Lethargy and loss of desire to eat or drink
  • Coughing, sneezing, and discharge from the nose and eyes
  • Runny stool
  • Staggering and the inability to stand
  • Misshapen eggs or laying stops completely

Again, there is no known successful treatment for Avian Influenza. Prevention through cleanliness and a healthy diet will help your flock avoid infection.

5. Infectious Bronchitis

This is one of the more common diseases in backyard chickens, and we’ve had a few chickens come down with it over the years. The symptoms can range anywhere from quite mild to very severe and even fatal. Often, exposure comes from wildlife. These are the most common symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite and desire to drink
  • Nasal and eye discharge
  • Respiratory distress
  • Misshapen eggs or laying stops completely
  • Sluggishness
  • Scours (diarrhea)

There is a vaccine that can lessen the severity of this disease and improve chances of recovery, but it doesn’t prevent the infection itself. Antibiotics are usually recommended.

Caring for a Sick Chicken

First and foremost, isolate any chicken that shows signs of illness. Not only does this help to prevent the sickness from spreading, but it also protects the sick chicken from being bullied and picked on by the other chickens. It also allows you to observe the sick chicken closely and control its environment.

Hydration is crucial, so give water with a dropper if your chicken refuses to drink on its own. Consider offering an electrolyte and vitamin supplement for added support. If your chicken refuses to eat, you can crush their regular pellets and add warm water so that you can feed it with a dropper until your chicken starts eating on its own again.

Don’t introduce any new foods at this time. Keep your chicken warm and away from any drafts. Probiotics can also be helpful. Consult with a qualified vet or experienced chicken keeper to see if antibiotics are required, and if so which one. The Chicken Health Handbook, by Gail Damerow, is an excellent resource for any chicken owner, especially if there’s no qualified vet in your area. Once your chicken has been symptom-free for seven days, introduce her back to the flock slowly, just like you would a complete stranger.

Prevention is the best policy when it comes to illness on the farm. Practice good biosecurity and proper care from day one to prevent infectious disease in your flock.


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