Keeping Chickens as Productive Pets

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChickens are among the most productive of pets, and if numbers are an indication the back yard poultry movement is booming. Chickens are no longer cast in the barnyard to fend for themselves nor strictly farmed in volume – there are more options including pastured poultry and those with a dozen or less birds for eggs.

For most people interested in raising chickens for their own use it comes to whether you want to raise meat birds or keep hens for eggs. This can make a difference in the choice of breeds or the time from hatching to the table. The commercial industry uses white feathered birds but for home production there is no standard restriction.

Those interested in raising some meat chickens would do well to keep it at 25 or 50 in the order. That’s a chicken a week if they all survive, for the freezer. Many hatcheries will run specials sometimes a “frying pan special” which you can get a good deal price wise. Most of the birds will be cockerels, the less valued side of the quest for hens. Leghorn type are cheap but take a couple extra weeks to get to weight; larger birds can also take slightly longer maturing.

Most people looking for chickens for the back yard will be looking at ordering pullets and raising them for egg layers. Depending on the room available you can choose from white, brown or colored egg layers in a wide range of colors. Generally they will begin laying in about six months or so depending on breed. Some popular breeds for brown egg layers have been Plymouth Rocks, Wyandottes, Orpingtons, Dominiques and Rhode Island Reds.

Those with more room may enjoy the larger breeds such as Orpingtons, Brahmas or Jersey giants. Those with less room can still have the bantam varieties of many of these breeds or silkies which take less room and feed, produce smaller eggs but are still completely edible.

Chickens are often thought of for eggs and meat but another factor when you’re keeping chickens is manure. This can be added to the compost pile for fertilizing the gardens. Typically chickens will scratch dry any wet spots looking for bugs…which reduces flies and other pests.

Confined to a portable or stationery pen they are low maintenance pets that don’t bark all night, can let themselves out of the shelter in most areas and don’t need vaccinations. They don’t need daily walks or expensive toys, eagerly make use of many kitchen scraps and while they aren’t often “lap pets” they’re no less entertaining to sit and watch.

Make sure zoning is not a problem to keeping them, and do strive to keep them contained, odor free and well kept. There is a wide range of colors, feather type, sizes and appearances available from fancy to ordinary.

Did you know – A typical layer hen can mature at standard 5-9 pounds, smaller for bantams. Some crossbreds can be “sex linked” – or have colored females and white males at hatching. Pullets (females) eliminate having to deal with roosters and crowing.

5 Top Romantic Destinations in the South and Midwest

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhether for a romantic vacation, a honeymoon or an anniversary a romantic destination can make memories. Sometimes romance isn’t always where but the surrounding situation. There are many places around the world that are wonderful romantic destinations but the price to get there and enjoy it limits somewhat those who can go. Staying right here in the rural south and Midwest can inspire romance. For those who live in the city it’s a chance to visit an area they might never see otherwise. Here are five of the best romantic getaways for your 2009-2010 romantic trip.

1.Take a trip for two that gets you in one of the most romantic settings in the world. Both USA Today and Glamour called the Monmouth Plantation in Natchez Mississippi “one of the top ten most romantic places in America and it makes this list too as the beginning of a romantic trip or as the sole destination. Sitting on 26 manicured acres north of New Orleans this is a historic home, now a luxurious place to stay that is rich in history and provides a setting for romance. The backdrop is there – you make it memorable! There are meals for breakfast and dinner, but not lunch. Of course that is the ideal reason to pack a picnic for two and enjoy the time with just the two of you.

This is the oldest settlement along the Mississippi River, and in the days before the Civil War was second only to New York City in volume of millionaires. Natchez is also the beginning of ‘the Trace’ – a 440 mile route connecting Natchez with Nashville Tennessee. Get off the interstates, fast paced living and follow this historic route that takes you through some of the most beautiful country in the south. This is not a trip for speed – it’s a trip for romance and memories! At the other end is another romantic destination.

2.Nashville Tennessee is well known for country music but there is more to Nashville than just this. Remember some of the most romantic songs in country music were conceived and written here! Take a carriage ride through the city, hit the historical spots and soak in the southern nightlife. There are organized honeymoon/anniversary getaway trips available that include many of the Nashville highlights including the Grand Old Opry.

3. If you’re looking for a different kind of romance – one with a beautiful setting, outstanding dining and luxury, consider a trip to Jekyll Island in Georgia. Organized packages are available at this seaside destination on the Georgia coast just north of the Florida line. Wedding packages are also available. Enjoy a romantic walk on the beach, massage and a variety of outdoor activities or stay in for one on one time in a beautiful accommodations.

4. Interested in a romantic escape with beautiful scenery, history, wine and vineyards? Yes I said these places were southern and Midwest – Lexington Kentucky is absolutely southern. Several outstanding hotels serve as a base for exploring a historic Shaker settlement, Talon Wine & Vineyards or Elk Creek Vineyard and many beautiful areas Kentucky has to offer. For the couple that likes horses this is a home run hit as there is also a deep history not only in Thoroughbreds but Saddlebreds and horses in general. This may sound an odd romantic destination for some but for those who love horses, history and the outdoors Lexington Kentucky is an ideal choice! Few think of Kentucky as a place for wine, vineyards and romance – which is exactly why you should! Less crowds, more romance!

5. Another escape – this one in Illinois – ideal for kindling romance is a trip to Galena. With beautiful B&B accommodations that sets the tone horse drawn carriage rides and an area that you will see a different side of Illinois. Famously known for being “flat and nothing but corn” or, alternately, “Chicago” this is a chance to see a part of Illinois that many never see. The rolling hills offer solitude and – if desired – indulgence. This is in northern Illinois so do pack for seasonal weather that can be perfect for sharing time in front of the fire on a cold winter night.

These are destinations that can be incredibly romantic, often less expensive than others and less crowded. Get away to the country setting – set the stage for romance. The rest is up to you!