How to Separate Cream from Milk

how to separate cream from milk

Some of you probably read the title of this post…

…and furrowed your eyebrows, wondering “Why on earth does is she even writing about that? It’s so simple!”

But it’s funny how quickly something can become a lost art….”

Take rendering lard and clabbering milk, for example. Not so long ago, lard and clabber were staples of every kitchen. And now, I’m betting if you were to take a random poll of people walking down the sidewalk, the vast majority of folks would have no idea what they were, or how to use them.

The same goes for cream. It used to be common knowledge how to quickly skim the inches of cream from a ice-cold jar of fresh milk and turn it into homemade sour cream, stiff peaks of whipped cream, or bright yellow homemade butter.

But for those of us who grew up with homogenized milk, seeing a creamline for the first time can be a completely foreign, yet awe-inspiring experience. I know it was for me.

how to separate cream from milk

I’ve received a number of emails from folks who bring home their first jars of fresh, local milk, and discover they aren’t quite sure how to separate cream from milk.

So for the cream-newbies out there–take heart. You’re about to experience one of the most beautiful parts of homesteading (aka fresh cream), and I’ll show you exactly what to do with it.

(Remember: This will only work with non-homogenized milk-- if you’re waiting to see a creamline on your homogenized gallons, it ain’t gonna happen…)

How to Separate Cream from Milk

There’s more than one way to skin a cat (er… skim some cream), so I’ll highlight some four of the most popular methods for separating cream from milk:

1. A Old-Fashioned Ladle

This is my weapon of choice because it’s fool-proof, with no extra equipment required. Here’s how to do it:

a) If you are dealing with very fresh milk, let it sit for at least 24 hours, so the cream has plenty of time to rise to the top.

how to separate cream from milk
The magnificent creamline. This will vary depending on your particular gallon of milk.

b) Identify the creamline, so you know what you’re working with. (You’ll be able to see it by looking at the sides of the jar)

c) Gently dip the ladle into the cream layer and allow it to fill. Make sure you aren’t dipping too deeply and getting into the milk. You’ll be able to see the difference– the cream is thick and yellowish-white, while the milk will appear much thinner and sometimes even blueish.

d) Pour the ladle of cream into a separate jar, and repeat until the majority of the cream layer is gone. (I like to leave about an inch of cream in the jar– it gives the milk a better texture, and also ensures I’m not swiping too much milk into my cream, which can upset the butter-making process.)

e) Use the resulting milk for drinking/cooking, and then turn the cream into a variety of beautiful projects (details below).

how to separate cream from milk

2. A Turkey Baster

If you have a smaller creamline, you can use a turkey baster to slurp it off the top (simply follow the same instructions as you would for the ladle). However, my turkey baster skills are rather clumsy, and I’ve ended up spewing stuff all over my kitchen more than once. Therefore, I tend to only trust myself with a ladle…

3. A Gallon-Sized Ice Tea/Lemonade Container

I haven’t personally used this method, but I know many homesteaders swear by it.

Simply pour the fresh milk into a glass ice tea/lemonade dispenser. (I’ve seen them for sale all over the place lately… In both one and two gallon sizes– like this one (aff link)).

Allow the milk to sit for at least 24 hours, then open the spigot at the bottom– the skimmed milk will come out, leaving the creamline floating at the top. Once you are nearing the end of the milk layer, you can capture the cream layer in a separate container.

I haven’t used this idea yet, mostly because my kitchen is tiny and I have limited room for extra “stuff.” But having a spigot of milk in your fridge does sound kinda handy, especially when it does double-duty as a cream separator.

4. A Cream Separator

And last but not least, we have the good ol’ fashioned cream separator.

I’ve seen more than one of these babies for sale on Craigslist, or hanging out in antique shops… Although I’m always tempted by them, I haven’t ever purchased one because:

  • They aren’t exactly cheap…
  • Some of the models are humongous– I don’t have anywhere to put it!
  • I just haven’t found them necessary, especially when my ladle does such a good job.

Now– if you had gallons upon gallons of milk to skim each day, investing in a dedicated cream separator would make sense. Or, if you are trying to capture cream from goat’s milk, a separator is pretty much a necessity. However, for the average homesteader with one or two cows, I just don’t think a separator is a must-have.

So I have my cream… now what?

You lucky duck… Fresh cream is the queen of the homestead, in my opinion. There are so many things you can do with it.

SO. MANY. THINGS.

Here are just a few:

how to separate cream from milk

Planning an Orchard for Your Homestead

planning an orchard for your homestead

I must confess… Just saying the word “orchard” makes me green with envy… Fruit trees do NOT thrive here in Wyoming, therefore, my dreams of a homestead orchard probably aren’t going to happen as long as we live here. So, I’ve invited Angi Schneider, author of The Gardening Notebook, to share her best tips for planning an orchard with us today…

Fruit trees and bushes are important on the homestead, with minimal effort they can supply your family with many pounds of produce every year.

Unfortunately, growing fruit is often one of the most neglected things on a homestead, especially on a small homestead.

Growing fruit takes time. Sometimes there will be years between planting and harvest. So, the sooner you get those fruit trees and bushes in the ground the sooner you’ll have a fruit harvest.

While fruit trees truly do take minimal effort, it’s not as easy as digging a hole, planting a tree and calling it good. There is some planning that needs to happen before you buy and plant your first fruit tree.

SchneiderPeeps - Mulberries ripening

 Planning an Orchard for Your Homestead

1. Make a list of all the fruits your family likes.

This is the time to dream. Even if you think something won’t grow in your climate, but your family likes it, write it down.

2. Do a little research to find out what varieties will actually grow in your climate.

You can search fruit trees for your gardening zone on the internet. If you don’t know what gardening zones you are in, you can find your cold hardiness zone by entering your zipcode in the USDA’s interactive map and you can find your heat zone on the American Horticulture Society’s website.  Talk with local gardening friends to find out what varieties grow well in your area. Also, don’t overlook your local nurseries. They have a vested interest in you being successful, so they are usually super helpful. Master Gardeners clubs can also be a helpful resource. One last thing to consider is chill hours, some fruits need a certain number of hours per year below 45°F to produce fruit. County Extension Co-operatives keep these records so if you cannot find your hours online you can always call your local office.
But don’t cross a fruit off your list just because you’re told it won’t grow in your climate. Some fruit trees grow very well in pots. Meyer lemon and Satsuma oranges are two citrus trees that can be grown in colder climates inside in a pot.

SchneiderPeeps - bee on citrus bloom
3. Learn what trees are self fertile and which ones are not.

Self fertile trees are exactly what they sound like – the flowers from this kind of tree will pollinate themselves. Here’s a list of most self fertile fruits: apricot, pomegranate, citrus, fig, grape, persimmon, most peaches, most berries, and European plums (although they do better with two varieties).
Some trees are not self fertile and need two trees to produce fruit. You need to make sure that the two trees are different varieties that bloom at the same time. Two trees of the same variety won’t work as pollinators and neither will two different varieties that don’t bloom at the same time. Now, that does not necessarily mean you have to have two trees on your property. If your neighbor has fruit trees, find out what kind he has, get a different variety and they can cross pollinate. This is a great way to get fruit in an urban yard, since the trees need to be within 50 feet of each other. Apples, pears, Japanese plums, cherries and nuts trees are not self-fertile and require a pollinator.

4. Determine how much space you have available to plant fruit trees and bushes.

If you live on an acre or less, you can still have an amazing orchard but you might have it spread out in different areas of your property instead of one large orchard area. Consider using any walls or fences and espaliering some of the fruit trees. An espaliered tree is a tree that you will prune in such a way that it fans out over the wall or fence. This is a great space saver and yet you’ll still get a lot of fruit. If you live on an urban or small homestead you will also want to consider planting dwarf trees. Dwarf trees are trees that are grafted onto a root stock that will not allow the tree to grow large so you get the same great fruit in less space. Standard size trees have about a 20 feet spread, semi-dwarf trees have about 12-15 feet spread and dwarf trees have about a 10 feet spread.
SchneiderPeeps - apple blossoms
5. Put your plans on paper.

This is the fun part! Get out some paper and colored pencils and map out your yard or acreage. Take your list of varieties and start putting them on your map.  Go outside and walk the map and make sure your plans will work. Is there enough space for a full size tree of the variety you have listed? Is there enough sun? Is there an adequate water source? When the tree is full size will it cast a shadow on an area that you don’t want shaded, your vegetable garden for instance?  When planning your spacing you can stagger your trees to get more in less space. Make sure you keep this map in a safe place, like your gardening notebook, so you can refer back to it when it’s time to plant your trees.
6. Don’t think you have to plant the entire plan this season.

An orchard is a long term relationship, so you have time. Try to add just a few new trees or bushes each year and before you know it you will have a full orchard. It’s a good idea to start with either the fruits that your family loves the most or the most expensive ones to buy.
Schneiderpeeps - full Meyer lemon tree

How Much Fruit Can a Home Orchard Produce?

Just to give you an idea of just how much fruit these trees can add to your homestead, a mature lemon tree can give you over 200 pounds of lemons, a mature peach tree can give you well over 75 pounds, so can a mature plum tree. That is a lot of fruit!
So, unless you plan on selling your fruit or have a lot of friends who you love to have freshly picked fruit, you don’t need more than one or two trees of each fruit. Diversity is key in the home orchard.

planning an orchard for your homestead
About Angi

Angi Schneider is a minister’s wife and homeschooling mom.  She is passionate about growing food for her family and living a simple life. She blogs their homesteading and homeschooling adventures at SchneiderPeeps.com and is the author of The Gardening Notebook which she wrote to help other gardeners remember all the great information they are learning.

How to Make Sauerkraut

How to make sauerkraut

There are some parts of homesteading that seem almost magical.

Like when watch the cream you skimmed from yesterday’s milk suddenly turn into golden butter

Or when you are able to make vinegar appear from mere fruit peels.

Or when you pack a bunch of cabbage into a jar and it turns into perfectly tangy sauerkraut a week later.

Speaking of that, I can’t believe I’ve been afraid to learn how to make sauerkraut until now…

I’ve never been a huge fan of storebought sauerkraut… I mean, I tolerated it in some recipes, but didn’t exactly crave it. I had a bit of an underlying fear that my homemade versions would turn into a mutated-cabbage science experiment, so I always pushed it to the bottom of my “to-try” list.

Man oh man, was I ever missing out!

How to make homemade sauerkraut

Since I popped the top of my first jar of homemade kraut several months ago, I’ve been pretty much obsessed with it. I’ve literally started craving it, and found myself sneaking bowlfuls here and there throughout the day. Even four-year old Prairie Girl developed an affinity for it, and she actually had a full melt-down one day at lunch when I announced we were out.

Considering the probiotic prowess of kraut, I have a hunch our bodies are trying to tell us something. And I’m happy to oblige!

Keep in mind that in order to reap the health benefits and amazing probiotics of sauerkraut, it needs to be raw. Unfortunately, the canned, cooked, storebought varies will not have the same benefits, since heat destroys most of the beneficial bacteria and enzymes.

(this post contains affiliate links)

How to Make Sauerkraut

  • 1 head green cabbage*
  • 1.5 tablespoons sea salt (where to buy)
  • Clean glass jar (I usually use one average head of cabbage per quart-sized mason jar)

*I’m writing this recipe for one head of cabbage, BUT, keep in mind it takes nearly the same amount of effort to make a lot of kraut as it does a little… So don’t be afraid to make a BIG batch. And it tastes better the longer it ages, too!

How to make homemade sauerkraut

Wash the cabbage and remove any wilted outer leaves.

How to make homemade sauerkraut

Quarter the cabbage, remove the core, and slice the cabbage into thin strips (I shoot for around 1/4″ wide). Try to make the strips as uniform as possible, but don’t feel like they have to be perfect.

How to make homemade sauerkraut

Place the strips in a large bowl, and sprinkle the sea salt over the top.

Allow it to sit for 15 minutes or so, and then start mashing. There isn’t a right or wrong way to do this– just use your hands, a mallet, or whatever blunt object you can find to mash/knead/twist/press/crush the cabbage. The goal is to start the juices flowing. (It helps if you can think of something that makes you mad while you do this–it’s better than therapy, really…)

How to make homemade sauerkraut
Starting to release the juice

I mash/knead for about 8-10 minutes. Hopefully by the end of this process, you’ll have a lovely pool of salty cabbage juice sitting in the bottom of your bowl.

Place a couple handfuls of cabbage into the jar, then thoroughly pack down with a wooden spoon. The goal is to eliminate as many air bubbles as possible.

How to make homemade sauerkraut
Pack it down baby…

Repeat the packing and mashing until the jar is full– just make sure to leave about 2″ at the top.

If there is enough liquid flowing from your cabbage to cover it completely, congrats!

If not, make a 2% brine solution to fill up the rest of the jar. (If you don’t completely submerse the cabbage in liquid, it’s susceptible to mold and other gunk).

To Make a 2% Brine:

Dissolve 1 tablespoon fine sea salt in 4 cups non-chlorinated water. If you don’t use all of the brine for this recipe, it will keep indefinitely in the fridge.

The finer the salt, the less stirring you must to do to dissolve. I particularly like the ultra-fine salt from Fermentools.com, as it dissolves almost immediately.

Cover the exposed cabbage with brine, leaving 1″ of headspace at the top. If you are having troubles with the cabbage floating to the top, you can weigh it down with a glass weight, OR even wedge a piece of the cabbage core on top to hold it down. Any cabbage that is exposed will need to be thrown away, but you were going to toss the core anyway, so it’s no big loss.

How to make homemade sauerkraut
Adding a glass weight to hold the cabbage under the brine

Affix a lid to the jar (fingertight only), and set aside in a room-temperature location, out of direct sunlight, for at least one week.

You’ll probably want to place a small dish or tray under the jar, as they have the tendency to leak a bit and spill over. Also, removing the lid after a day or so to “burp” the jar and release any pent-up gasses is also a smart idea.

Taste and smell your kraut after one week. If it’s tangy enough, move to the refrigerator for storage. If you like a bit more tang, simply allow to ferment for a bit longer.

Should I Use an Air Lock Fermentation System?

For my first few batches of kraut, I simply used a regular mason jar and lid. However, I was excited when Fermentools sent me a 6-pack starter kit to try. Are air locks an absolute requirement for making homemade fermented vegetables? Nope. However, they can reduce the amount of mold on a ferment, and allow the gasses to escape without you having to “burp” the jar. Basically, if you’re new to fermenting, an airlock makes the whole process pretty much fool-proof.

How to make homemade sauerkraut
Using an air lock from Fermentools

The air locks were simple to use with the widemouth mason jars I had on hand, and the glass weights that came in the set were especially handy for keeping the cabbage from floating to the top (and a little easier than trying to wedge a core down in there…)

How to make homemade sauerkraut

Bottom line– you don’t *have* to use a air lock, but they are pretty handy, and often produce a higher quality product in the end. And if you’re making a big batch of homemade sauerkraut, half-gallon mason jars a easier to handle (and less expensive) than one of those big ol’ fermenting crocks. (I got one of the 6-packs, which will handle around three gallons of kraut…)

How to make homemade sauerkraut

Kitchen Notes

  • There are lots of ways to flavor your kraut, such as caraway seeds, juniper berries, dill seeds, or celery seeds. However, I’ve been happy with just the plain version.
  • If there is exposed kraut at the top of the jar, it will turn brown, or a scum can develop. Just scrape it off and you’ll be good to go. Even a little mold is OK, as long as it hasn’t contaminated the entire batch. Remember, lacto-fermented foods have a host of friendly bacteria keeping them safe. However, if at any point your sauerkraut smells rancid or nasty, and beyond the point of that pleasantly sour tang, toss it.
  • Although I used a swingtop jar in my photos (because it’s cute), I used a regular mason jar for the fermentation process.
  • Avoid iodized salt in this recipe, and stick to high quality sea salt instead, like this one.
  • If you’re wanting a good beginner’s kit of fermenting tools, I recommend Fermentools.com

How to make homemade sauerkraut

 

5.0 from 4 reviews
How to Make Sauerkraut
Author: 
Recipe type: Fermented Foods
Cuisine: German
 
Ingredients
  • 1 head green cabbage*
  • 1.5 tablespoons sea salt
  • Clean glass jar (I usually use one average head of cabbage per quart-sized mason jar)
  • *I'm writing this recipe for one head of cabbage, BUT, keep in mind it takes nearly the same amount of effort to make a lot of kraut as it does a little... So don't be afraid to make a BIG batch.
Instructions
  1. Wash the cabbage and remove any wilted outer leaves.
  2. Quarter the cabbage, remove the core, and slice the cabbage into thin strips (I shoot for around ¼" wide). Try to make the strips as uniform as possible, but don't feel like they have to be perfect.
  3. Place the strips in a large bowl, and sprinkle the sea salt over the top.
  4. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes or so, and then start mashing. There isn't a right or wrong way to do this-- just use your hands, a mallet, or whatever blunt object you can find to mash/knead/twist/press/crush the cabbage. The goal is to start the juices flowing. (It helps if you can think of something that makes you mad while you do this--it's better than therapy, really...)
  5. I mash/knead for about 8-10 minutes. Hopefully by the end of this process, you'll have a lovely pool of salty cabbage juice sitting in the bottom of your bowl.
  6. Place a couple handfuls of cabbage into the jar, then thoroughly pack down with a wooden spoon. The goal is to eliminate as many air bubbles as possible.
  7. Repeat the packing and mashing until the jar is full-- just make sure to leave about 2" at the top.
  8. If you there is enough liquid flowing from your cabbage to cover it completely, congrats!
  9. If not, make a 2% brine solution to fill up the rest of the jar. (If you don't completely submerse the cabbage in liquid, it's susceptible to mold and other gunk).
  10. To Make a 2% Brine:
  11. Dissolve 1 tablespoon fine sea salt in 4 cups non-chlorinated water. If you don't use all of the brine for this recipe, it will keep indefinitely in the fridge.
  12. Cover the exposed cabbage with brine, leaving 1" of headspace at the top. If you are having troubles with the cabbage floating to the top, you can weigh it down with a glass weight, OR even wedge a piece of the cabbage core on top to hold it down. Any cabbage that is exposed will need to be thrown away, but you were going to toss the core anyway, so it's no big loss.
  13. Affix a lid to the jar (fingertight only), and set aside in a room-temperature location, out of direct sunlight, for at least one week.
  14. You'll probably want to place a small dish or tray under the jar, as they have the tendency to leak a bit and spill over. Also, removing the lid after a day or so to "burp" the jar and release any pent-up gasses is also a smart idea.
  15. Taste and smell your kraut after one week. If it's tangy enough, move to the refrigerator for storage. If you like a bit more tang, simply allow to ferment for a bit longer.

 

This post is happily sponsored by Fermentools.com, because I love being able to share quality homestead tools with my readers, especially when they make our homestead lives just a little bit easier!

8 Ways to Use Chickens in the Garden

 

how to use chickens in the garden

I’m honored to have Justin Rhodes from Abundant Permaculture guest posting today. Justin is a wealth of information when it comes to sustainable chicken-keeping, and you’re going to love his tips for putting your flock to work in the garden. He is also currently in the thick of producing a documentary all about Permaculture Chickens. I’ve NEVER seen anything like this– this information has been so hard to find up until now, but Justin is making it easy to access. I’ve already donated to the Kickstarter campaign– I hope you will too! This is the kind of information that has the potential to really make a splash!

I am continually blown away by the power of chickens in the garden! They’re such great workers, I would keep them even if couldn’t eat their eggs or meat. Plus, they reproduce themselves, unlike any man-made tool.

In this article, I’ll explore eight different ways you can use chickens in the garden. You’ll discover how you can put chickens to work by providing nitrogen for your compost pile, replacing machine tillers, fertilizing your garden, turning compost, spreading mulch, disposing of your garbage, controlling pests and sanitizing your orchard. Let’s go…

Credit: Ingrid Pullen Photography
Credit: Ingrid Pullen Photography

8 Ways to Use Chickens in the Garden

1. As a Nitrogen Source for a Compost Pile

One chicken can produce eight pounds of manure a month according to Ohio State University. That’s about enough to compost one cubic yard of leaves!

To make great compost, you need a carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio of about 30:1. Chicken manure is very rich in nitrogen and is rated at about (10:1). This means you won’t need much to balance it out with its readily available counterpart; carbon materials like leaves, hay or straw. Leaves for example, are rated at (47:1), so for every 1 pound of chicken manure, you’ll use 45 pounds of leaves! A little goes a long way with chickens manure!

How to do it:

Harvest your flocks’ manure regularly and store it in a leach-proof container until you are ready to build your pile. If you don’t want to store poop, then you can apply the manure with the carbon material as you go. For more information about compost building check out my article on composting with chickens, “I Cut My Chicken Feed Bill 100%

Ingrid Pullen Photography
Ingrid Pullen Photography

2. As Tillers

One chicken can till 50 square feet of established sod in just 4-6 weeks!

By scratching and eating practically all vegetation, chickens make great tillers. Although they take much longer than a machine tiller, they require no fossil fuel, they’re much quieter, and you don’t have to do any of the work. I sold my machine tiller years ago and have been using my chickens ever since. Based on my own experience, 1 chicken can till about 50 square feet of reasonably short sod within 6 weeks. (Jill: Keep in mind that chickens will also till areas you might want to keep, so consider fencing them out if you are wanting to preserve certain areas of vegetation or sod)

How to do it:

Simple leave your flock in one place long enough! For small jobs, like individual garden beds, I suggest a chickens tractor suited for your particular garden design. For larger projects, I suggest mobile housing and temporary electric netting. Feel free to estimate your timing based on the size of you flock and garden plot on the 50 square foot per chicken statistic.

You can see in the photo below how chickens can clear an area of vegetation:

ground cleared by chickens
Credit: Ingrid Pullen Photography

3. As Automatic Fertilizers

One chicken can provide enough nitrogen fertilizer for a 50 square foot garden in a little more than a month.

The chickens nitrogen levels in manure isn’t just great for compost, it’s the key ingredient to fertilizing our gardens. Based on the eight pounds one chicken will poop in a month, the average chicken will extract about a quarter pound a day! There’s 1.5% nitrogen in their manure, so that’s .004 of nitrogen a day. If we’re shooting for a solid .30 pounds of nitrogen every 100 square feet, it will take one chicken 75 days to fertilize a 100 square feet. It doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up quickly when you have multiple chickens. At this rate, 24 chickens could fertilize 1200 square feed of garden in just 6 weeks!

How to do it:

Confine your chickens to the area you want fertilized and figure their length of stay based on the size of the area and how many chickens you have. Be careful not to leave your chickens in one place too long (without mulching) as you can have too much of a good thing!

using chickens to fertilize
Credit: Ingrid Pullen Photography

4. As Compost-Turners

One chicken can help do a quarter of the work of turning a compost pile!

In order for your compost to break down, it must get oxygen. The more air you give it, the quicker it will break down. Many gardeners make a habit of “turning” their entire compost pile regularly when they need some of the precious material quickly. Turning is a laborious job, but your chickens can do at least a quarter of the work for you. I estimate they’ll do a quarter of the work, because they won’t take down the entire pile and they certainly won’t re-stack it for you. However, they will take down a good chunk of it, and all you’ll have to do is turn what they left of the pile and re-assemble what they spread out.

How to do it:

Assemble your compost pile and allow it time to heat up. If contains only fresh ingredients your chickens won’t show much interest. Once it’s warmed up and had time to start to decompose it will be swarming with life! If you need to protect your pile while it heats up, you can put it in protected bin, temporarily fence it off, or keep it covered. Once it’s had time to heat, your chickens will show great interest in the live biota that now makes up the pile. Later, you’ll come back and re-assemble the pile. I re-assembly and turn the piles once a week and within 4 weeks I have finished compost.

how to use chickens in the garden

5. As Mulch Spreaders

One chicken can level a large pile of leaf mulch within two days.

Chickens can level a pile in no time. If I want to spread mulch or compost, I just pile the material where I need it spread and fence in my chickens around it. My flock of 30 can easily spread a large pile of leaves in a half a day, and one cubic yard of compost within two weeks!

How to do it:

Confine your chickens around a pile of mulch or compost where you want it spread. Leave them until the work is done! Time to spread will depend on size of pile, material, and age of material. Older material will have more biota and the chickens will show more interest. If your chickens aren’t showing interest in a pile you need spread (like fresh wood chips), try spreading their feed on the pile, so they have to scratch for it.

chickens spreading mulch in the garden

6. As Garbage Disposals

One chicken can convert up to pounds of food “waste” a month into fresh eggs and meat!

17% of what Americans throw out as “trash” is food according to the Gossamer foundation. Chickens are omnivores, like us, and will eat practically everything we can and more! Why not give our food scraps to our chickens and save money on trash disposal and lessen the burden of our landfills? Based on my own experience, chickens will easily eat a 1/4 to a 1/3 pound of food in a single day. That means a small flock of six could eat up to 60 pounds of food “trash” a month! (Jill: This is also one of my favorite ways to save money on chicken feed!)

Credit: Ingrid Pullen Photography
Credit: Ingrid Pullen Photography

How to do it:

Collect your food scrap in a food grade container or bucket. Chickens will eat practically any type of food your throwing out, including meat. If your not sure it’s safe for you chicken, try it and see what they do. I believe they have the sense to know whether it’s good for them or bad. You can clean up what they won’t eat or let it decompose where it’s at.

7. As Insect Control

One chicken can easily de-bug up to 120 square feet a week!

Chickens will thrive on all kinds of insects, beetles and grubs. They’ll snap up pretty much any thing that moves above the surface and they’ll scratch down more than six inches in garden mulch for grubs! A couple of years ago, I moved a flock of 15 around the pasture in 1700 square feet of mobile electric netting. Those birds easily eliminated the bug population in that area within a weeks time.

How to do it:

There are several options here. Before you plant the garden, you could confine your chickens in a tractor or with electric net over the area, then move them out when you start your garden. You could also free range your birds, while protecting your garden and other areas you don’t want them. I’ve heard of folks fencing the chickens around the entire garden. This would work to protect the garden from any crawling insects and the chicken manure might attract harmful slugs out of the garden, to the chickens. You could also move the chickens around the garden or property with a tractor or mobile netting depending the size of your operation. Finally, you can allow them supervised time in the garden or give them in 30 minutes to an hour before dusk. That way they’ll have just enough time to get at the bugs, and they won’t have any time left for your goodies!

using chickens as insect control in the garden

8. As Orchard Sanitation

One chicken can de-bug an entire fruit tree within an hour, breaking the life cycle of pests and disease.

Disease and insect problems plague your typical orchard, but it should come by no surprise that the that the chickens can help in this area too. With some strategic timing, chickens can significantly boost orchard production! Two years ago some of my friends ran their flock through my granny’s abandoned/low production orchard. That next summer, we harvested so many apples, we’re still enjoying the applesauce!

How to do it:

Typical fruit trees don’t need a lot of nitrogen so you’ll wanted to limit the birds time around them and use some strategically timed planning. I suggest running the chickens through during the spring when the adult worms are coming out to lay their eggs. I would run the flock through again in the Autumn to eat the fallen fruit that that insects might use as housing throughout the winter.

using chickens in the orchard
Credit: Ingrid Pullen Photography

gardening with chickens poster

 

(Want the printable version of this poster, for free? CLICK HERE. A HUGE thanks to Justin and Abundant Permaculture for creating this for Prairie Homestead readers!)

Don’t forget to head over and check out the upcoming Permaculture Chickens film– I’m stoked to be a part of this project by donating, and am counting down the days until it’s released. This is just the kind of information we need more of to empower more people towards homesteading and self-sufficient living.

About Justin: 

Once Justin discovered self sustainable farming around 2004, he has enjoyed many years of practicing “beyond organic” and permaculture methods on his 4th generation, 75 acre, family farm near Asheville NC.
 Justin trained under the highly accredited Geoff Lawton of PRI Australia for his Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) and has trained under popular authors Joel Salatin and Pat Foremen. He’s passionate about teaching from his own homestead on the chicken systems essential to more sustainable living. 
 With a great combination of business and permaculture skills, Justin is well positioned to deliver high quality educational films of this nature.