Jul 3, 2015

Maximizing Your Mini Farm - a book review

I've found Brett Markham's book Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre (see my full review here) one of the better homesteading books available today, so when I saw his newest title, Maximizing Your Mini Farm, I was excited. Excited because, like probably all homesteaders, I'm always looking for ways to streamline - to make the most of the land, critters, and garden I have.

But, as it turns out, this book is poorly named. There is very little here about maximizing your homestead. Disappointing? Yes. But if I set aside the expectations the title gives me, I find this book is still useful.

The first chapter mostly recaps what Markham said about soil in Mini Farming. I understand why he included this short chapter; trying to grow food without making your soil awesome is an uphill battle likely to discourage gardeners. The rest of the first three-quarters of the book are chapters on how to raise particular veggies. I think the author's intention was to give readers his best tips for growing these veggies so they will get the most possible from their plants. But really, this section reads just about like any book on growing organic vegetables. He does make sure to cover pests, weeds, diseases, seed saving, and harvesting, and gives at least one recipe at the end of each chapter. Included are chapters on asparagus (including growing it from seed), beans; beets and chard; cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower; carrots and parsnips; corn; cucumbers; greens; herbs (a little info on his favorites); melons; onions; peas; peppers; potatoes; summer and winter squash; tomatoes; and turnips, rutabagas, and radishes.

I found some of these chapters a little frustrating. For example, the author writes that "the glycemic index of a potato is influenced by the variety grown, where it is grown and even how it is prepared." Yet he doesn't give us any information on choosing or growing varieties that are lower on the glycemix index. Another example is in the chapter on onions. The author mentions multiplier onions, which self sow - making them, I'd think, the perfect thing to discuss in book about maximizing your garden space. But instead, the author chooses only to discuss standard onions, like those found in grocery stores. I also found it odd that the author didn't necessarily mention how you could get the most food from certain crops; for example, he didn't mention eating radish seeds or pea greens. Still, his information on planting, care, and so on is spot on.

The rest of the book is a sort of hodge-podge of useful information: How to make your own, simple, seed planting guide; how to plant small seeds easily; how to make a heated water platform for your chicken waterer (so it doesn't freeze in winter); how to make a PVC trellis; thoughts on weed control; a primer on making wine; how to make vinegar; how to make some simple cheeses; and a chapter with tips on how to make cooking from scratch a bit easier if you're busy (mostly through making up multiple batches, instead of one each night, then freezing the extras).

Maximizing Your Mini Farm has some great information, especially for novice or intermediate gardeners. But I recommend reading Mini Farming first and consider Maximizing Your Mini Farm as a kind of (admittedly large) appendix.

Jul 1, 2015

The Best Tools for Learning Multiplication Facts

Whether their kids attend public school or homeschool, summer is a time many parents choose to have their children learn or practice math facts. And if your child struggles to learn "boring" math facts, I have three fantastic tools for you!

First, Our Story

My 9 year old daughter is a bright child...but when she thinks something is boring, it takes her for.ev.er to memorize or learn it. She's quick to understand how to do math problems, but memorizing math facts? It takes everything I have not to pull out all my hair trying to get her to memorize them. (In her defense, she comes by it honestly. I was the same way as a child.)

We took an extra year of homeschool to go over (and over and over and over and over...) addition and subtraction facts. So when it came time to learn multiplication facts, I wanted to explore more creative options. And boy, did it work! She's still memorizing some multiplication facts, but I have never seen her learn any math facts so quickly! She even thinks it's fun. (And trust me, "fun" is not a word she has ever associated with math facts before!)

Access to the Answers

First, I began by making sure my daughter knew how to skip count. Skip counting is an easy way to count in everyday life, but it also helps kids understand what multiplication is all about. The trouble was, some skip counting just didn't come easily to her. I'd tried using songs to teach her skip counting, but she had a lot of trouble memorizing those songs, too.

Then a friend gave me the Access to the Answers CD. It is skip counting set to music - but the important difference is that it uses songs my child already knew (like "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "Yankee Doodle"). Now she could focus on learning the numbers...and the learning came quickly and easily! (There was one song she didn't know: "Hurrah for the Red, White, and Blue;" it took her a bit longer to learn this one, but she did learn it.)

Incidentally, the CD doesn't teach 5s, 10s, or 11s, but most kids (including mine!) find these easy to memorize without music.

And when I told her that she now knew multiplication, you should have seen the excitement on her face! All that was left to do was memorize multiplication facts, since they are ultimately faster to use than skip counting, for most applications.

Unfortunately, the Access to the Answers CD isn't easy to find, but you can order it directly from the lady who makes them.

Times Tales

When I pulled out the Times Tales booklet and began reading the silly stories to my daughter, she laughed. Yeah, they are silly...and might even seem stupid on the surface. But they really work!

The Times Tales "kit" consists of a spiral booklet that explains the characters used in the stories, plus the stories themselves - which are memory triggers. There is also an instruction manual.

The characters in the stories are "disguised" numbers. For example, 3 is a butterfly; 7 is a school teacher; 4 is a chair; 8 is a snow woman ("Mrs. Snowman"). Each page features an illustration with these characters, plus a simple sentence or two to memorize. Once you child has memorized the easy stories, he knows what are considered the hardest math facts to memorize.

For example, one page shows Mrs. Snowman (the number 8) standing on a chair (the number 4), reaching for some items on a shelf. The text reads: "Mrs. Snowman stood on a chair to reach her 3 buttons and 2 mittens." In other words, 8 x 4 = 32.

I let my daughter recite the stories to me until I was sure she had them down pat, then we moved on to the flashcards, which use the characters in the stories, instead of real numbers. For example, the flashcard for 8 x 4 features Mrs. Snowman x a chair. I let her practice with the flashcards, plus the accompanying crossword puzzles and paper dice for a bit. Then I gave her an ordinary math facts worksheet. She loved the whole process, found it fun...and learned the multiplication facts EFFORTLESSLY.

My only complaint about Times Tales is that is doesn't teach all multiplication facts. It's such a great way to learn, I wish they'd expand the product! Incidentally, kids can also learn many division facts with Times Tales. I haven't done this yet with my daughter, but there are flash cards that come with the kit that simply ask the child what element is missing. For example, there is 32 / Mrs. Snowman. The child only has to recall the stories she's already learned to discover that 32  /8 = 4.

Medieval Math Battle

The final piece of the puzzle is always practice, practice, practice. Sure, my daughter does worksheets. But a much more fun way to practice math facts is with a game. We have tried about a gazillion of them. Some she likes less than worksheets. Others she likes enough to play a few times. But when I had her try Medieval Math Battle, I had to actually tell her to stop because she'd been playing too long. She's also consistently stayed interested in the game. (A winner!)

A bonus: This app lets your child practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. You just set it to whichever type of math fact you want your child to practice. It's also really affordable. The app works on Kindle Fires, Android phones, or any device that can use an Android app.

NOTE: Some Christian parents may object to this game because it features magic potions and dragons.

Jun 29, 2015

Keeping the House Cool in Summer (With and Without AC)

Keeping Cool Without Air Conditioning

1. Keep blinds and drapes closed when the sun is near or on windows.

2. Open doors and windows when the air outside is cool; for example, in the early morning or evening.*

3. Cook outdoors, or use methods of cooking that keep the kitchen cool, such as crock pot cooking.
4. If you have a dryer in the house, try line drying clothes, instead. (Don't have a place for an outdoor clothes line? Check out "Air Drying Laundry Indoors.") If air drying clothes just isn't possible, use the dryer only in the early morning or late evening, when temperatures are cooler outdoors and in.

5.  At night, or when working in a single location, use a fan. On it's low setting, with just a light breeze being made by it, it can make you feel considerably cooler.

6. At night, place fans near open windows to help draw cool air in.*

7. Make your own swamp cooler. Place a metal bowl filled with salted ice in front of a fan that's blowing over the ice.

8. Turn on your stove fan and open your chimney flue. This draws hot air out of the house. (Some stove fans are heat-generating; obviously, if this is the case in your house, try to leave the fan off.)

9. Keep lights, computers, televisions, and other heat-generating appliances off.

10. Use satin or silk bedsheets. They feel cooler on the skin.

11. Close off the hottest parts of your house. For example, if you have bonus rooms upstairs, they likely get very hot. Close them off and don't use them during the hottest months of the year.

12. Install inexpensive heat-reflecting film on windows.

13. Use light-colored roofing materials. Approximately 30% of the heat that enters your house comes from the roof, and having a dark colored roof only intensifies this.

14. Get mini-blinds; they will make your house feel about 50% cooler. 

15. Install overhead fans, which can make rooms feel up to 7 degrees cooler.

16. Add awnings to the outside of your windows. According to the U.S. Department of energy, this can reduce heat felt in your house by 77%.

17. Plant shade trees near the house (but not so near their roots will destroy your home's foundation).

18. Don't use rock, asphalt, or cement on the west or south sides of the house. Unless it's shaded, it will only increase the heat - indoors and out.
19. Weatherize and insulate your house. 

20. Consider making your own $15 - 20 "air conditioner." Here's one example; YouTube is full of instructional videos for variations on this technique.

And if You DO Turn on the Air Conditioner:

1. Do all of the above, anyway. You'll appreciate it when you get your electric bill.

2. Make sure it's the right size. An AC unit that's too small for the room won't be very effective. Learn more about AC units and room size here.

3. Clean the AC air filter at least once a month.

4. Shade the outside of your AC unit; this can make the air coming into your house 10% cooler. (Just don't block the air flow of the AC unit.)

5. Make sure appliances and lights that generate heat aren't near your AC's thermometer.

6. Make sure plants and trees are at least 3 - 4 feet away from your AC unit, to encourage good air flow.

7. Consider installing AC only in rooms where it is really needed. It's unlikely you need air conditioning in every room of the house. However, if you just can't sleep when it's hot, it makes sense to install air conditioning in your bedroom.

* Consider safety, too. Open windows can be an invitation to criminals. Use your best judgement.

Jun 27, 2015

Weekend Links

In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page. (My apologies for not posting Weekend Links last weekend; I busy visiting with my Dad, who lives out of state.)

* Do you have an anger problem when it comes to your kids? This looks like a great resource - and it's free (once you provide your email address).

* Why "I Can't Afford It" may be the best thing for your kids to hear.

* Why boredom is good for kids.

* Should we force our kids to share?

* For a limited time, in honor of Elizabeth Elliott's passing, you and your kids can watch this Torchlighter's movie for free. (I highly recommend the entire Torchlighter's series! Read my review here.)

* Just one of several studies that shows BPA-free plastic is worse for us than plastic with BPA in it.

* I know many of you are sending your kids off to college, so I think this is of interest: The University of California (among other Universities, I've been told) is banning certain words and phrases, including "land of opportunity" and "melting pot." Two thoughts: Schools are supposed to be places where kids are taught HOW to think, not WHAT to think; they should be about expanding minds, not closing them off. And once you start banning words and phrases, you know what comes next? Banning books. Because you can't expose people to books that contain those "offensive" phrases.

* I made apple spice pork chops last week. It was DElish! (Don't be put off by the combo of pork, apples, and onions; trust me, it's tasty.)

* 7 Reasons You Need to Eat More Eggs.

* Ever wonder why backyard chicken eggs have such orange yolks? Fresh Eggs Daily explains.

* Famous Viking drink might be the answer to antibiotic resistance. Hint: It contains raw honey.

* Now that China can sell us food, our government decides it's a good time to make a law saying consumers don't need to know what country their food comes from.

* Our rivers and lakes are full of artificial sweeteners, scientists say.

* I just finished this novel last weekend, and it is EXCELLENT. I rarely give books 5 stars, but I did this one. If you love Gothic novels like Jane Eyre, or you like stories of intrigue, I think you'll love this novel by Sandra Byrd (who is one of my very favorite Christian authors).

Jun 24, 2015

Tumbleweed Junction's Harvest Apron - a Review

If you're anything like me, you often find yourself outside meaning to pull just a few weeds or check the chickens' water level, only to end up harvesting veggies or fruits or eggs. And, again, if you're anything like me, you struggle with how to carry the food you've harvested so you can get it into the house. I usually ending up putting it in the bottom of my shirt - which I have to hold up to make a sort of hammock. But this just isn't practical - it's too easy to drop the food or have it stain your shirt. I've always thought that to solve this problem, I needed a harvesting apron.

So when Lorretta of Etsy's Tumbleweed Junction sent me one of  her harvest aprons to try, I was excited. No more stained, stretched out shirts! No more dropping tender fruit as I walked to the kitchen! And in fact, I've found the apron quite convenient. I just whip it on as I head out to the yard - just in case I find something I might want to harvest. It's light weight and comfortable, but sturdy enough for anything I might want to harvest in my yard.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of Tumbleweed Junction's aprons. They are made from high end quilting fabric (designed to last!), not the cheap sewing fabric sold in too many chain fabric stores. The sewing is also extremely well done. Honestly, better than I could do - and I've been sewing since Jr. High.

I find the apron works extremely well for light-weight food, including eggs, herbs, lighter weight veggies (like beans and peas), and smaller quantities of heavier veggies and fruits. Recently, a friend brought me some lemons from her out-of-state yard, so I checked to see how well the apron would handle something heftier. It did just fine with probably 1 - 1 1/2 lbs. of lemons, but when I tried to fill the apron up all the way, I found I needed to hold the top of it with one hand, or the lemons would spill out.

Another thing I love about this apron is that people of many sizes can use it. I am currently a size 16 (but heading toward smaller sizes!), and some aprons just don't fit me well. They don't have complete coverage, and/or their strings are too short to tie around me comfortably. But this apron has neither problem - and it also fits my 9 year old daughter! Usually adult-sized aprons are overwhelmingly huge on her. That's not true with this apron. (In fact, she loves the apron so much, she's been doing most of the egg collecting, just so she can wear it.)

Occasionally, Tumbleweed Junction offers this apron in a child's size. Lorretta tells me that if there's enough interest in the child-sized version, she'll offer it more often - and may even start selling mother-daughter matching aprons, too. I'm sure you could contact her via Etsy if you're interested.

Also, Lorretta just began offering a sewing pattern for this apron - both the adult and child's sizes all in one package - so you can make this harvest apron yourself, should you wish. It's a nicely printed pattern, too, with color illustrations and clear instructions.

Overall, I'm loving my Tumbleweed Junction harvest apron.It definitely makes life around this urban homestead a bit easier. To order your own harvest apron, click on over to Tumbleweed Junction's Etsy shop.

Jun 23, 2015

How to Prevent Animals from Eating Your Hens' Eggs

Have you ever discovered partially eaten eggs in your hens' nesting box? Or maybe you just aren't getting as many eggs as you think you should be getting, and believe some type of animal is eating your hens' eggs? Yep, I've been there and done that. Here's what I've learned.

Who is the Culprit?

The first thing to consider is whether or not your hens may be eating their eggs. If you find eggs that are completely empty on the inside, with scattered, broken shells in the nesting box or surrounding area, this might be the case. Read my post "When Hens Eat Their Eggs" for more information.

If you find eggs that have only one or two holes in them, and there is still some egg left in the shells, this is not likely caused by your hens. (Chickens eat eggs like I eat chocolate; I don't leave any chocolate behind, and chickens don't leave yolk or much whites behind, either.) However, this may very well be caused by wild birds, like jays.

If you think you have missing eggs, first consider whether your hens might just not be laying well. (See "8 Reasons Chickens Stop Laying Eggs" for details.) Or perhaps they are laying somewhere else in your yard. If this isn't the case, and assuming your hen house and run are well proofed against larger creatures like raccoons, the most likely culprits are snakes or rats. (Rats or mice will also sometimes chew on chicken tail feathers, so if you see indications of this, it's a strong sign rodents are the problem.)

There are several types of jays in the U.S. and all are voracious egg eaters. 

How to Keep Wild Birds Out of the Hen House

The first line of defense against wild birds is an outdoor, domestic house cat. It doesn't matter whether the cat is a "birder" and actually catches and kills birds. Wild birds will see the cat on your property and stay away. (If you have acreage, several cats may be in order.) Cats work so well that I never had any problem with birds eating our hens' eggs - or our berries - until after my little kitty died. Then suddenly, jays were everywhere, scolding me because I was removing eggs from the hen house.

Another easy way to deter wild birds is to tie ribbons around the hen house. They wave in the wind, scaring wild birds away.

However, the best protection against wild birds - and one every chicken owner should consider, since bird flu is being spread to chickens via wild birds - is a cover for the chicken run. This can be expensive, but assuming your run and hen house are attached, it will definitely keep wild birds from eating your hens' eggs. (It will also keep hawks from killing your chickens and will keep just about every type of wild life away from your hens.)

Cats scare birds away and may kill rodents, too.
How to Keep Rodents Out of the Hen House

Rats must adore hen eggs, because they risk their life whenever they enter the hen house; chickens love to eat rodents. But nevertheless, rats and mice sometimes do get into the hen house to eat chicken feed, drink the hens' water, and eat eggs.

If you're thinking rodents are the problem, first examine the hen house for holes that rodents could slip through. General wisdom is that a hole the size of a dime is big enough for a mouse to get through - but I've seen them slip through considerably smaller holes. Plug all holes or slits with steel wool. You may also need to look at your run fencing, and consider covering it with screening material. Collecting your eggs at least once a day also helps deter mice and rats.

If rodents are tunneling under the hen house, you should raise it off the ground. You could also bury hardware cloth around the edges of your coop and run - about 18 inches below the surface of the soil.

It's also important to keep the area around the hen house tidy. By keeping weeds and grass down, removing any scrap lumber or metal, getting rid of brush piles, and the like, you avoid providing homes for rodents. And by keeping feed in metal containers with snug lids (rats can eat through plastic), you won't be inviting rodents to your yard for other tasty snacks.

In addition, keep the hen house itself tidy, cleaning up any feed that ends up on the floor. Use pellets, instead of more messy crumbles, and use waterers with nipples, so rodents aren't likely to use them.

You may be tempted to use rat or mouse poison - but this could inadvertently kill your hens, too. And if a rat or mouse dies in the hen house or run, the chickens will eat it, and may experience second hand poisoning second hand.

A snake that's just eaten an egg.
How to Keep Snakes Out of the Hen House

Chickens like to eat snakes, too, but sometimes a brave snake will sneak into the hen house to swallow an egg whole. The biggest deterrent here is to raise the chicken coop off the ground. Snakes are unlikely to slither up a ramp to get into a chicken coop. You can also look for holes in the coop that may need filling in -  a 1/4 inch hole or slit is plenty big for most snakes. If that doesn't work, you'll need to look at putting screening up along the edges of the run (as opposed to chicken wire or something similar), so snakes can't get through.

Incidentally, if snakes are attracted to your hen house, it may be because there are rodents there, too.

In Conclusion

You can keep all egg-eating pests at bay by following these simple steps:

* Raise the hen house off the ground.
* Fill any and all holes in the hen house with either steel wool or a tough screening material.
* Keep the coop, run, and nearby areas tidy.
* Cover the run. (If you can't do this right away, tie streamers around the hen house to scare birds.)
* Use finer material (like screening) on the run.
* Use raised feeders filled with pellets.
* Use waterers with nipples on them.
* Store feed in a metal container with a secure lid.
* Collect eggs at least once a day.
* Lock the coop up at night.

Images courtesy of Wikipedia Commons and MorgueFile.

Jun 19, 2015

Bleach as a Weed Killer

In an effort to keep chemicals out of the garden (for the sake of pollinating insects, the soil, our water, and our personal health), I've tried many organic means of keeping weeds at bay. Generally, if I stay on top of hand weeding, there's really no problem. (For examples of other organic weed control techniques, see these posts: The Organic, Weed Free Garden; Lazy Ways to Weed the Garden; The World's Easiest, Safest, and Best DIY Weed Killers, and Why Newspapers and Cardboard are Better Than Landscaping Fabric.)

But a couple of years back, I had my husband remove a portion of our front lawn to make more room for vegetables and fruits. The grass stayed out of this growing area...until this spring, when it came back with a vengeance. I find the grass is impossible to pull out by hand; the roots stay stubbornly in the soil. So what to do? My usual organic weed killers just weren't cutting it. So I decided to try something new: Bleach.

The results? Great! By the next day, some very stubborn weeds were dead, as was the grass. And the invasion blackberry vines that are tough to kill even with Round Up? They were dead, too!

A Few Facts about Bleach

* The chemicals in modern bleach have been in use since the 18th century.

* If you have city water, it contains bleach.

* The ingredients in bleach are organic. However, these natural chemicals are definitely processed. (Read more about that process here.)

* According to OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) (which, in my opinion, is extremely cautious), those who use bleach in the workplace must wear a mask and gloves.

* Some people are concerned about bleach and health risks - but most concerns have to do with indoor air quality.

* Bleach kills bacteria, fungus, and molds, and is sometimes used to kill soil diseases. It's also used to kill certain pests (like nematodes). I cannot find proof that bleach kills beneficial microbes in the soil, but I think it's likely. However, you're only spraying the surface of the soil, and bleach dissipates pretty quickly.

Overall, I think that if you can't kill certain weeds by organic methods, bleach is a good option - and far safer than Round Up.

Blackberry vines killed by bleach.

How to Use Bleach as a Weed Killer

1. Choose a sunny, relatively wind-free day. I recommend spraying on the morning of a day that will be hot.

2. Mow, weed whack, or cut back long or tall weeds. This is an important step because a) you'll use less bleach if the plants are smaller and b) the bleach is more likely to kill the plant if you spay near the roots.

3. Rake away what you've mowed or cut off. This ensures the bleach ends up on the part of the plant with roots in the soil, not just on the part of the plant you've cut off.

4. Pour household bleach into a hand held spray bottle. (You could also use one of these.) Use a fresh bottle of bleach, since bleach that's been sitting around quickly dissipates and becomes ineffective. Wear old clothes, just in case you get bleach on them. Wear gloves and a mask, if you like. (I didn't.)

5. Spray the weeds, covering as much of the leaves as possible with the bleach.

6. Remember: Bleach will kill desirable plants, too. If you accidentally spray something you didn't meant to, just clean off the affected area with water. The plant should be fine.

7. Wait at least a day before walking in the area. By then, the weeds should be browning, if not completely dead. Weeds that are in the shade will take longer to die.

8. Wait a week (I think a couple of days would be fine, but let's be extra cautious) before planting anything in the area that's been sprayed. Because bleach may kill some microbes in the soil, I recommend adding compost to the soil before planting, to replenish any soil microbes that might have died.

Jun 17, 2015

When Hens Eat Their Eggs: Advice that REALLY Works!

Imagine one day opening up a nesting box to gather your hens' eggs - and discovering a scattered bunch of egg shells instead. If you own hens for very long, it will happen at some point. Though chickens can be wonderful mothers, they don't usually have motherly feelings toward their eggs. (Unless they are broody.) Hens are happy to eat their own eggs - in fact, they think they are a fine treat!

But you aren't raising pets here. You want those eggs for your family. So what can you do? First, I encourage you to act right away. The longer you let chickens eat their eggs, the harder the habit is to break. And the egg eaters in your flock won't keep their crimes to themselves; other hens in the flock will see them feasting "forbidden fruit" and will start eating their eggs, too.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of Internet myths about keeping chickens from eating their own eggs. So let me tell you what I know works, from experience.

Make Sure it's the Hens

First, make sure the eggs are being eaten by the hens, not some other critter. When chickens eat eggs, they eat the entire inside of the egg, leaving only broken shells behind. If you suspect whole eggs are missing, or the shells are only partially open and there's plenty of egg inside them, your chickens aren't the culprit. (Next week, I'll type about other critters that could be eating your hens' eggs, and how to deal with them.)

What remains after a chicken eats its own egg.

Decoy Eggs

Sometimes you can fool hens by giving them something that looks like an egg, but is unappetizing to them. (Filling real egg shells with hot sauce or mustard or anything else doesn't work. Don't waste your time, my friends!)

In my experience, the best tool for this is golf balls. Yeah, I know they don't look like eggs to you and me, but I have yet to meet a hen who - upon discovering them in a nesting box - doesn't treat them like eggs. You could potentially use some sort of false egg, too, but be sure that whatever you use is safe for the hens to peck at. For example, I wouldn't use a toy plastic egg, because I don't want my chickens breaking it and accidentally ingesting plastic.

Put about three fake eggs in all the nesting boxes. Egg eating hens will peck at them. When they discover they aren't good for eating, they will likely stop pecking at real eggs, too. Soon, they will forget all about eating eggs. (Chickens have terrible long term memories!)
Golf balls or ceramic decoy eggs fool egg eating chickens.
Gathering Often

But the single best thing you can do to keep your chickens from eating eggs is to collect eggs often. In fact, not doing this often leads to an egg eating problem. The hens step into a full nesting box and get clumsy, stepping on an egg. When it breaks, they get curious and peck at it. They discover eggs are yummy and now they want to peck at and eat all eggs. (This is also another good reason to make sure your hens are getting plenty of calcium, since a lack of it makes their egg shells very thin and fragile. Great sources of calcium for hens include oyster shells and the chickens' own egg shells. Just be sure to break egg shells up so they no longer resemble an egg, or you'll just encourage egg eating.)

If I discover I have one or more egg eaters, I try to collect the eggs (or at least check for some) every hour until all the hens have laid for that day. If you can't check every hour, check as often as you can.

Dispatching the Offender

I've never had the above methods not work. But if they didn't, I wouldn't bother with other advice you mind find on the Internet. I've been there, done that, and found it doesn't work. Instead, I wouldn't hesitate to disbatch the offending chicken. It can be tricky to know who the criminal is, and you certainly don't want to kill the wrong hen, so careful observation is necessary. Throughout the day, look closely at the hens, and try to find one with egg on her face - er, beak.

However, you can avoid sending a hen to the freezer simply by being an observant chicken owner, catching the problem early, and using decoy eggs and frequent gathering, as appropriate.