Chicken Behavioral Problems

Above: a photo of one of our roosters strutting around. This guy has been occasionally known to have some attitude problems, which are quickly adjusted by a well-aimed sweep with a broomstick. Some roosters are a lot more troublesome, however, and may be found incompatible with the backyard flock owner seeking a quiet, peaceful life.

Admittedly, roosters are often the more problematic part of the flock, being noisy, territorial and sometimes aggressive. It is no wonder that the English language boasts of expressions such as “being cocky”. However, I also believe that at least half of all the behavioral management programs in backyard chicken flocks – whether it’s excessive pecking, aggression toward humans or extreme flightiness – can be dealt with by choosing the breed that suits you best.

Read more in my latest Mother Earth News post about chicken behavioral problemsPredators, pests and diseases are not the only challenges a backyard flock owner will have to deal with. Sometimes the problems are originated in the flock itself, and solving them involves lots of creativity, ingenuity and even diplomacy.

Green from the Ground Up: Book Review

Here’s another book spotlight for you: I’ve been reading this for the past few days, and just love it! While it’s mostly aimed at professional builders, anyone can glean from this book. It’s just jam-packed with useful, solid, comprehensive advice on every aspect of green home-building – foundations, roof, windows and the passive solar aspect, insulation, plumbing, etc. Plus, it’s full of photographs that are very illustrative and demonstrate each point very clearly, even to non-professionals. I wish I had this book in print, since I imagine it would be a lot more comfortable to view this way, but anyhow, it’s one of the most useful books I’ve read lately.

Note: I didn’t get any review request or compensation from the author; I just had to share this because I found it so useful.

From a review: “Eco-friendly housing used to be thought of as expensive, ugly or just plain weird. Now it’s becoming common. David Johnston and Scott Gibson offer guidance on environmentally sensitive home building in Green from the Ground Up: Sustainable, Healthy, and Energy-Efficient Home Construction. The book helps builders and homeowners create houses that conserve natural resources and are energy-efficient and healthful. It’s packed with information, tips, illustrations and case studies that offer wisdom earned from experience.”

Late Summer

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August is approaching its middle, and while the days wan steadily shorter, I am looking forward to longer, cooler nights, autumn rains, and the fresh greenery in the landscape that will come with them.

Late summer is always a busy time for me, as I wrap up my spring and early summer garden (and prepare for a second growing season, that will last well into November). Last week, I pulled up my exhausted tomatoes, after having picked the last of the produce, planted some basil, and started more tomato plants indoors. The first spring chicks are almost pullets now, and two of my hens are sitting once more, probably for the last time this season.

The time of the year is turning me into quite a scatterbrain, and concise writing efforts are getting put off for cooler, serener times, but here are two of my latest Mother Earth News posts for your perusal:

Drying Produce – Herbs are one of the easiest things to dry. Simply cut a good-sized bunch, wash it thoroughly, tie by the stems and hang to dry – outside if the weather is sunny, inside if you have frequent rains or live in a very humid climate. In a few days, depending on the weather and humidity level, you should have a bunch of perfectly dry herbs ready to be stored in a tightly sealed glass jar or plastic bag. You can keep them as leaves for tea or crush them into powder for seasoning.

Dealing With House and Garden Pests – Having lived in town for most of my life, I experienced a kind of shock when we married and moved into a little house on a plot of land. The critters that have invaded our premises over the years could form a small menagerie: we’ve had lizards, snakes, black scorpions, giant yellow centipedes, mice, rats, spiders and, of course, a whole host of insects – beetles, ants, woodlice… you name it.

The Everything Guide to Living Off the Grid: Book Review

The Everything Guide to Living Off the: Reid, Terri

I’m now reading The Everything Guide to Living Off the Grid by Terri Reid and, though there are some sections which are obviously irrelevant to me (such as hunting, fishing and raising pigs), I have found this book a veritable treasure trove of useful information on planning a homestead, gardening, keeping livestock, getting and staying out of debt, and much more.

I have read some of the reviews on this title, and while many readers complain that, rather than provide in-depth information, each chapter barely skims the surface of the subject it discusses, I don’t necessarily find this a drawback. Yes, this isn’t a comprehensive guide on gardening AND building a house AND setting up an off-grid energy system – nor could it reasonably be, unless it were ten times longer; it’s more of a read to whet your appetite to learn more about each of these subjects, and make you brainstorm about what might be the right solutions for you on your individual path to sustainable living. In that capacity, it is certainly a useful book.

I would, however, recommend taking everything with a grain of salt, and cross-compare your information by also seeking out other sources, as I have spotted some obvious mistakes in the text; for example, the author states that beekeeping has been around for 150 years, while in fact it is an ancient practice dating thousands of years.

All in all, I would still recommend this to anyone interested in simple living, sustainability and self-reliance, but not as an exclusive and one-in-all guide. My overall rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.

Beautiful hobbit house

I love hobbit houses with lovely rounded corners and natural materials – and, though living entirely off grid seems a little daunting, I’d move into this super cute little house if I only had the chance! Straw bale building fascinates me so much that I’ve been itching to try it for a while now.

It’s a great inspiration to us all to watch people fight back against mass building and insane housing prices by raising shelters that are sustainable, affordable, beautiful and easy to maintain. In Israel, however, the main obstacle in the way of lowering housing prices are the prices of land. Land is scarce (in most regions – some are sadly underpopulated), and there is also the unfortunate phenomenon of widespread land piracy by Bedouins – which, despite the romantic image of the uncivilized nomad, cannot be tolerated in a small country with few and precious land resources (and, indeed, would not be tolerated in any country with a semi-developed legal system).

I hope, and dream, and pray that one day soon, our government will recognize the potential benefits of low-impact living, with eco-friendly building, environmental awareness and reduced energy exploitation, and will encourage people who would choose such a lifestyle, wishing to tread gently and lightly upon the face of this earth.

Does Self-Reliance Pay Off?

Not long ago, as I was working in the tomato patch, my 8-year-old strolled over and asked, “why bother growing tomatoes? Buying at the store is easier.”

This is a legitimate question, and one many people much older than her have asked. Why should anyone bother growing their own tomatoes, raising their own chickens, mending their own clothes and repairing their own plumbing? Well, one can easily come up with half a dozen ready answers, such as, “it’s fun”, or “I can grow healthier food in my backyard”, or “I like tinkering with my own stuff”, or “I save money that way”, but at the core, this is a conflict between two basic attitudes; one that is for making more money, which can be turned into goods and services, and another, that is for making do with less money, and meeting more of your needs on your own.

Read more on the topic in my latest Mother Earth News post:

“Products and services that are readily available today might not be so in the near future. It is the belief of many wise people that our current economy is not sustainable. I do not have the ability to predict whether we are facing something like the Great Depression in the near future, or simply economical fluctuations, or even nothing at all – but it’s good to be prepared. In case prices go up and store shelves empty, the people who know how to grow their own food, fix their own roof and make a little go a long way will be a lot more comfortable than those who have become used to a lifestyle of frivolous spending.”

Staying safe

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Israel, where beauty and danger, joy and grief walk side by side.

From reading my blog, it’s sometimes possible to forget I live in Israel… I can admit that I forget this myself sometimes as I dig in the garden or scatter some grain to the chickens – at those moments it feels like I might be anywhere.

However, there are moments when reality hits, brutally. Just last Friday night, a terrorist walked into the midst of a family celebration and stabbed three people to death. I do wish I hadn’t seen the photos of the murder scene. They haunt me day and night.

There is an important point which doesn’t come up, in my opinion, nearly often enough when this subject is discussed – namely, that the terrorist didn’t break in or even climb in through the window. He walked in through the front door, which was unlocked.

The Fogel family in Itamar, about whom I can’t ever stop thinking and hurting, actually went to sleep with the front door unlocked, because a teenager was late coming home, and they didn’t want to sit up for her, or be bothered to open in the middle of the night. Five people lost their lives, including a four-month-old baby.

When I pointed this out, people turned on me: am I blaming the victims?! And the answer is no, no, and no. Absolutely not. I believe that the murdering beasts should be shot on the spot. Unless they are tortured first, which I would entirely support. Do I blame a girl who walks alone at night for getting raped? No. But I still say that it’s wiser and more prudent to thwart danger by, say, choosing a different route.

I’m merely saying this: let’s not make it any easier for those who try to do us harm. Locking doors and windows is basic, common vigilance. People living in town always do it on account of housebreaking. But somehow, people in settlements, who have so much more to fear, neglect this simple precaution.

Lock your doors and windows. I repeat; lock your doors and windows. Do it during the day and during the night. I always do. It doesn’t matter if I’m going to sleep or not. The convenience of just being able to tell a neighbor “come in” rather than go and open the door is insignificant compared to the terrible risk. And I don’t open doors to strange men when my husband isn’t present. I don’t care if people think I’m weird or rude. Safety first.

I do hope that one day, we will live in a world where no one has to bother about whether the door is locked or not; and most certainly, where no one pays with their life for neglecting to lock the door or window. But for now, the most important thing is to stay safe.