10 Practical Homestead Gifts

practical homestead giftsPractical homestead gifts are simply the best idea. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been creating for years, or just beginning to enjoy delicious homemade items from the homestead. You probably love sharing these products with friends and loved ones. The holiday season often has us scrambling for ideas that will lead to checking off the gift list. Have you thought about using the homegrown and handmade items from your homestead for practical homestead gifts for the holidays? I pulled together a list of thoughtful gifts that reduce clutter, improve health, and are still beautiful and appreciated. 

Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry is known to reduce illness by strengthening the immune system. During the winter I use a teaspoon daily and if I feel a cold or sore throat starting, I will up that to twice or three times a day. There’s a delicious recipe on The Fewell Homestead which is my favorite blend to make. After I make it,  I store most of the batch in pint mason jars in the refrigerator. A smaller amber bottle sits on the kitchen counter so I remember to use it daily.  

If you don’t want to make the syrup as a gift you could print out the recipe, and include the ingredients, package it all in a decorated box or basket and… voila!  Nothing like the gift of good health.

practical homestead gifts

Extracts for Flavoring

Vanilla and other flavoring extracts can be expensive to purchase ready made, and yet they cost much less to brew yourself. You do need to begin a batch a few months ahead of the gift giving season though. Vanilla, lemon, chocolate mint, peppermint, and almond extracts are very simple to make. Use a small funnel to pour into an attractive small bottle and add a ribbon and tag!

practical homestead gifts

Dried Herbs

Do you grow herbs and dehydrate them for winter use? Herbs make practical homestead gifts and like the extracts and elderberry syrup, the trick is in the presentation. Find a set of small jars to add dried herbs to. An Italian collection could include, oregano, parsley, thyme, rosemary and basil. I suggest using baby food jars and painting the lids. You can label them on top using a marker or tie pretty tags to each jar.  

Another idea on this same subject would a started windowsill herb garden. Include care instructions.

practical homestead gifts

Basket of Kindling Wood/Pine Cones/Fire Starters

Give the gift of warmth. Firewood and kindling are practical necessities especially when wood heat is the only source of warmth. If you can’t give the best wood stove for heating the home, here are some other suggestions. For the new homesteader share some resources on how to start a warm fire for heating. Grab a pretty basket and collect some kindling and pine cones. Use the pine cones to make these fire starters. Next, take it up a notch by creating a family fun evening with this S’mores basket.    

Make your own marshmallows too with these recipes from Nitty Gritty Life, Attainable Sustainable and Homestead Lady.

practical homestead gifts

Handmade Soaps

If you make handmade soap, it makes a wonderful gift for friends, co-workers and family. The cold process soaps need some time to cure after cutting but you could make a liquid soap and have it bottled and ready for giving in no time at all. Another idea for practical homestead gifts is homemade bath salts and scrubs. Perfect way to give your friend the gift of relaxation.

Honey (with bread or homemade crackers)

Are you raising bees? Most people now recognize the health benefits of fresh raw honey. Not to mention the delicious taste!  Add a ribbon to the honey bottle and you have an appreciated, practical homestead gift.  Homemade bread is a most appreciated gift. For Sourdough starter I recommend the dehydrated starter package from Alderman Farms. Adding a book about baking homemade bread would be great, too.  I recommend this one on basic bread baking. 


practical homestead gifts



practical homestead gifts

Dyed fleece/roving/yarn

Your friends that appreciate good fleece for spinning would love a bag of hand dyed fleece. Spinning the already dyed fleece yields yarn with more color dimension, plus its fun!

Fresh Eggs Make Practical Homestead Gifts

Chicken keepers know that farm fresh eggs can be rare in the winter months. During and after molting, hens often take a break from laying eggs, while the days are shorter.  An exception would be a flock of first year layers. If you have an abundance of farm fresh eggs during the holidays, gifting these jewels is sure to be appreciated.

Hand Painted Signs

Are you artistic? Signs are an appreciated home accent. There are many thoughtful, poignant or fun quotes to choose from. Examples:  Farm Sweet Farm, Come Sit a Spell, Homestead Dreaming, Everything Goes with Bacon, Crazy Chicken Lady, My Pets Make Me Breakfast  

Canned Goods/ Jams/ Italian style sauce/ 

You might think of your home canned fruits, jams and vegetables as pantry staples but with a little creative packaging they can evolve into beautiful practical homestead gifts. Picture this: A jar of homemade pasta sauce, a box of  pasta, a loaf of home baked bread displayed in a basket with a red checked napkin.  Are you getting the idea? Add a bottle of wine if you want to take it up a notch.  I have often given a jar of our salsa with tortilla chips, and fresh avocados. Jams and jelly paired with a basket of home baked bread or rolls is another delicious idea. 

Want to expand on this theme? Homesteader really love hot beverages like coffee, tea and hot chocolate. Perhaps your gift could include an adult beverage like this Homemade Irish Creme Liquor,  too.

The basic theme here with giving practical homestead gifts is the presentation. Without spending an lot of money or any money in some cases, you can pull together a beautiful gift from your homestead. Need more ideas and inspiration? Check out this list of 100 Homemade Gifts. Do you have ideas that you would add to this list? Please continue the discussion in the comments!


DIY the Best Chicken Coop with Recycled Materials

best chicken coop

Guest Post by Wendy Spencer

Looking for ways to DIY the best chicken coop for your flock? Do you save recycled materials for those just in case scenarios? There are materials needed to house your flock, waterers, feeders and nest boxes just to name a few. I am here to tell you it is possible to achieve your dream even on a budget. All you have to do is think of what you and/or your flock need and get creative.

When I first decided to buy chickens I was completely naive about what exactly that would entail. I thought I would have these birds that I could just put in my yard, throw them some food and be rewarded with eggs.  We all know that is not exactly what happened. Now, I have chickens depending on me to not only give them food but shelter and protection from predators. If you are new to this as I was, predators come in all sizes from the sky to the ground and everywhere in between.

I am going to share with you how we survived this transition using mostly recycled materials. Yes, you read that correctly. One thing I have learned is when there is a will, there is away!  Do not be afraid to think outside of the box, when building the best chicken coop for your property.

Search For Best Chicken Coop Materials

First, I want you to ask yourself, what materials do I have already that can be utilized for basic housing needs? Have you recently torn down and old barn or shed? Do you have used tin roofing, lumber, doors or any reusable hardware? Even better, do you have a building still standing that you thought was a lost cause and considered bringing it down? Believe it or not these small items can save you a small fortune as well as cleaning your place up a bit. Building the best chicken coop for your needs doesn’t have to start from scratch.

After you have searched high and low in your own backyard it’s time to figure out what you don’t have, but, still need for your enclosure. Once I found all I could at home, my next step was to ask friends and family. Most of the time they will have something useful and are beyond happy to have it gone! You may be surprised at this point at just how much you have to build the best chicken coop for your feathered friends. 

Convert a Shed to the Best Chicken Coop for Your Flock!

Once again take inventory. In this part of my own journey I had an 8 x 6 shed without a door, and old metal sign, a wooden screen door frame with no screen, material for roost bars, and old dresser and a large cage made of small gauge steel wire. Making a chicken coop from a garden shed was going well so far. I knew I could definitely work with these items for the roost/ nesting space. It would not be long before they would be ready to free range during the day. I still needed material for a fenced in area for them to roam safely.

best chicken coop

Now comes the fun part. Going out into your community. Do you have shopping centers nearby? A local furniture store? Or even your family grocery store? All of these places that have trucks deliver goods usually deliver on wooden pallets. Your job is to ask them what happens to their pallets once they have been unloaded of the goods. Some may tell you that they reuse pallets, but eventually you will find a store that throws them away and is more than happy to let you take them all!

best chicken coop

That is exactly what I did. Keep in mind that not all wood pallets are created equal, but they are all useful. Some have wood far apart while others will look like a privacy fence when standing on its side. After you find a place to get pallets, it is pretty much a never ending supply of free wood.The possibilities are endless my friends.

Now it is time to make use of the items you managed to gather. I am going to share what I personally did with the recycled materials I found, to give you a better perspective.

Pulling it All Together for the Best Chicken Coop!

I cleared out the shed of anything that could be a potential risk to a chicken. Used boards from the not so equal pallets to patch any holes that predators could slip through. I also reinforced the old dresser drawers with those boards, attaching them between studs on the wall for nest boxes. Inside the coop I attached the wooden boards as roosting bars. Using the wooden screen door frame and cage, I created a predator proof door for exactly zero dollars.

best chicken coop

 I did not want my birds using the screen door each day to reach their run so I did the only logical thing I could think of.  A chicken size hole was cut in the wall of the shed leading directly into the run. I know what you must be thinking. This woman went through all the trouble of patching tiny holes and now she just made a big one on purpose?! Well, that is exactly what I did with the help of my husband.

The metal sign I found was now going to be hung from a rope on a pulley to be their new chicken door! Every morning we pull the rope to let them forage and every evening when they go to roost we lower it to keep them safe inside. Honestly, I thought it was a brilliant idea. 

best chicken coop

best chicken coop

Pallet Use for More Chicken House Ideas

You may be wondering what else did I use those pallets for? I actually did a plethora of things, because like I said, it is an endless supply. The first thing I did was make a fenced in run. I did not take the pallets apart board by board. That seemed silly to me since I wanted them well protected. If stood on its side a wood pallet is like a double wooden fence. They also slide together nicely so they can be screwed together, either side by side or stacked two tall. Pretty perfect if you ask me. My chickens then had a run as big as my house is long!

Cost Breakdowns

Now I would like to share with you the items I had to purchase for building the entire enclosure for my backyard chickens. 1) a pulley from the hardware store for $.89 plus tax. 2) there is no 2 because I only had to purchase the pulley! Pretty amazing that for less than a dollar a safe haven can be created, right? 

best chicken coop

Of course this is only an example of what I did. This can be done with all sorts of materials to fit whatever needs you may have. Since the initial enclosure, I have built an entire guinea Coop with nothing but wood pallets from top to bottom. It cost under five dollars for the hardware. I have also made a quail aviary out of the black safety net used for trampolines that someone was throwing away!

best chicken coop

Use your imagination. Everything you see can probably be recycled, refurbished and reused in your own backyard! Your chickens are going to enjoy living in the best chicken coop made just for them.


Many thanks to Wendy Spencer for this guest post. Follow Wendy on Instagram @wendyalexis78  For more Do it Yourself ideas please look for my recently released book, 50 Do it Yourself Projects for Keeping Chickens,by Janet Garman (SkyhorsePublishing 2018) You can purchase a copy here on this website.  The book is also available through Amazon.com through this affiliate link which does bring me a few extra cents but does not change the price you pay for the book. 

Natural Indigo Ice Water Dye for Wool

indigo ice water dyeMy most recent natural dye experiment was natural indigo ice water dye for wool yarn. After standing in the garden and staring at a rather large patch of Japanese indigo, I searched for ways to use the fresh leaves for dye. Knowing that the color did not last long with fresh indigo leaves, I wondered how folks used the plant besides quickly dehydrating it for powder used in vat dyeing. In these situations, I am grateful we have the internet to search for information. 

Indigo ice water dye came up in my search results. I had not heard of this method before. On two occasions I have worked with traditional indigo vat dye and loved the results. I knew that this method would yield something different but I had a surprise in store for me. Natural dyes demand that you expect the unexpected. I should have known better as natural dyes can be very surprising!

Reading through a few of the articles using the Indigo ice water dye, I saw photos and descriptions of lighter blue and aqua and teal results rather than the traditional blue jean shade of indigo. Ok, I could live with that. I grabbed a few skeins of our Finn wool yarn and the rest of the supplies. 

Where Does Indigo Dye Come From?

Japanese Indigo, Polygonum tinctorium and sometimes referred to as Persicaria tinctoria, is an easy to grow annual. I started my indigo patch with one tiny seedling, purchased at a fiber festival. That tiny plant grew enough leaves for me to dye 600 grams of wool yarn. I saved the seeds, and next year I will plant a larger patch and try some of the other techniques for using indigo.

The process of using the fresh leaves from the indigo plant requires that you work quickly and don’t let the leaves start to dry out. I chose a cool day to attempt this, so ambient temperature would not help dry out the leaves. In addition, I gathered all the other tools and supplies I would need before I cut the fresh indigo. It took me about 8 minutes to strip the leaves from the stalks. You only want to use the leaves as that is where the indican, the precursor to indigo dye, is stored. 

Materials and Tools for Indigo Ice Water Dye

A blender was the only tool I didn’t have on  hand for this experiment, but I located an inexpensive blender quickly. Although Indigo is not a toxic plant, it is also not one that we eat. I prefer to keep my dye pots and utensils separate from our cooking gear, so I will be keeping this blender in my dye work area and not in the kitchen. 

(you can watch the video of this process on my you tube channel and it’s further down in this post, too.)

In addition, you need a large bucket or stock pot, a large fine mesh strainer or fine mesh cloth for straining the leaf smoothie. Rubber gloves are a good idea, particularly if you have sensitive skin. Fresh cut indigo needs to be kept chilled. Have a container of ice water ready to stand the cut stalks in while you harvest the leaves from the stems. You also need more ice cold water or ice cubes and clean water to process the leaves.

indigo ice water dye indigo ice water dye

I initially collected about five cups of the indigo plant leaves. Working in two batches, I put half the leaves into the blender filled halfway with ice water. Looking back, I probably had too many ice cubes in the blender and will pre chill the ice water next time. I mistakenly thought it needed ice and water, when in fact, it calls for ice cold water. 

indigo ice water dye indigo ice water dye

Blend the leaves and the ice water together to make a green smoothie. It will be a bright green liquid. Strain the leaf and water mixture through the fine mesh and into the large bucket or pot. Repeat with the rest of the leaves. Once you have all the leaves processed through the strainer, it is time to add the yarn or fabric. Pre-wetting is helpful in getting the yarn to sink into the dye liquid. Mordanting is not necessary with Indigo dye.

Push the yarn down into the dye liquid until it is saturated. Try not to agitate the fiber while it is in the dye pot. Let the yarn soak in the dye for at least 20 minutes. Pull the yarn out of the dye and feast your eyes on that gorgeous bright green color! I remember that with vat indigo techniques the yarn is green for a few moments as it oxidizes so I waited for the change to begin occurring.

indigo ice water dye

And I waited, and waited and waited. The bright green subtly changed from bright to less bright. But it still remained green! The color darkened somewhat, but no blue was showing up. Did I do something wrong? Was this color even going to last?

I contacted two dye enthusiasts that have more experience than I do. Both of them reassured me that this was the common result from indigo ice water dye on wool. Silk will turn more turquoise or shades of light blue, but wool remains a green shade.

indigo ice water dye

Sage or mint green from Indigo ice water dye. Shown with skeins dyed with Pokeberry dye.

The remarkable thing about this is that green results from only one dye process. Most greens from natural dyes are the result of modifiers and mordants, as yellow is the predominant color from green plant matter.

Final Step in Indigo Ice Water Dye Method

To finish your yarn dyeing, allow the yarn to dry almost completely. Next, soak the yarn in a solution of 25% white vinegar and water for about 20 minutes, to set the color. Rinse completely. You can use a small amount of gentle soap or conditioner intended for care of fine wool. 

Indigo ice water dye

Watch the Video of Making Indigo Ice Water Dye


Other Methods For Fresh Indigo Dye

One source I enjoyed reading, describes a method of creating a traditional indigo vat using the fresh leaves. While not as simple as the indigo ice water dye method, it is something that I will try next year when I have a larger crop. Katie, from Acanthus House blog also clearly explained the chemical process of the indigo vat dyeing method, in laymen’s terms. 

If you are interested in making a traditional Indigo vat, I liked the presentation of steps in this article. It is based on the process described by Rita Buchannan in The Dyer’s Garden.

The indigo ice water dye method is convenient and quick. If you grow a small patch of fresh Japanese indigo, this method is a great way to use the color grown in your own garden. It’s quick and easy, which is good, since indigo is easy to grow but frost sensitive. I am glad I harvested the leaves and saved the seeds from the flowers before the first frost.

Here are a few of my other favorite books on natural  dyes.

A Garden to Dye For

Natural Color

Wild Color

Harvesting Color



Duck Botulism Treatment – Recovering from Limberneck

duck botulism treatmentI did not think duck botulism treatment would be part of my summer. I spent the later part of the summer performing various duck botulism treatment options so my Rouen hen could recover.  Since I had not heard about duck botulism or duck botulism treatment, it was not my first thought when I found Gretyl sitting on the nest for an extended period of time. At first I left her, thinking she just needed extra time and would eventually lay her egg.

Later, I picked her up and found her to be quite floppy. I thought she was hurt. My first thought was the Drake was too rough with her. I cared for her, cleaned her up and put her in a safe spot with food and fresh water. Gretyl took a drink but was mostly disinterested in anything. I did not think her prognosis was very good.

A Rough Road of Healing Begins

I was surprised she survived to the next morning. And continued to survive.  Gretyl couldn’t move. She tried but her body was limp and paralyzed. When I picked her up she would release a large amount of diarrhea. While her neck wasn’t twisted, it was being held at an odd position. She could not preen or reach her oil glands. After I would help her get a bath, I needed to dry her with a towel because she had no oil on her feathers anymore and was quite wet and chilled. If the food was placed right in front of her, she would eat and drink water. 

duck botulism treatment

Not knowing what was going on that first day, I treated her symptoms and tried to keep her dry, clean and comfortable. It was warm weather so unless she was wet, I didn’t need to worry about her getting chilled.

Duck Botulism Symptoms

I searched on line for her symptoms. The symptoms closely matched the effects from avian botulism toxin.

The toxin produced from botulism causes paralysis in the wings, legs, third eyelid, neck and more. The duck will be floppy when picked up and may have diarrhea from the toxins. The twisting in the neck can be mild or severe. When the neck paralysis is severe the duck often dies from drowning. 

I started a progress record and made notes about the duck botulism treatment we gave Gretyl. Slowly she began to regain some body functions and strength. Once or twice a day I would help her get clean in a small pool of water. She couldn’t be left alone as she still leaned far to the right and had no strength to sit upright in the water. After drying her off with a towel, I would move her legs and try to hold her up to stand. Gradually, she would stand for a few seconds. The standing time gradually increased.

Duck Botulism Treatment Notes 8/23

The prognosis is good since Gretyl has survived a few days now. Her left wing is strong as the right wing now and she’s very alert. Continuing with supportive care and hoping she makes a full recovery. We almost put her down to stop her from suffering!  I moved Gretyl and the most docile drake we have into a separate area. Gretyl does better when Milo is around.  8/23

Duck Botulism is also known as Limberneck because of the way the neck muscles contract and bend.  The duck’s neck can be held bent and rigid or be very limp. In Gretyl’s case, it was good that she had a more rigid neck because she could eat and drink if the bowls were positioned just right. It was necessary to clean her nostrils if they became blocked since she wasn’t bobbing her head in water. Her eyes also became crusty because she wasn’t cleaning her face in the water. We used a colloidal silver solution, at a few drops, twice a day, alternating with Veterycin Antiseptic Eye Gel. Eventually Gretyl’s eyes stayed clear and moist without the drops.

Duck Botulism Treatment Notes 8/25

After water time and duck physical therapy, Gretyl enjoys the thick spa towel and a short nap. Her friend, Milo looks out for her while she rests. Her prognosis is good. Every day there are noticeable improvements to her wings and legs. She still can’t support herself but it has only been one week. I read that thirty days is the norm for botulism recovery. Gretyl and Milo have moved in with Jake and his Chickens. There is a private room in that coop for situations.   8/25

duck botulism treatment

What Causes Botulism Illness in Ducks?

The Clostridium Botulinum toxin , types C and E, blocks the nerves in the victim and leads to respiratory and muscle paralysis. Ducks, along with other avian species can ingest the toxin or eat some intermediate host such as the fly larvae and maggots. In addition, spoiled food, and dying (decomposing) plants can harbor botulism toxin. Botulism bacteria need warm temperatures, protein (the invertebrate host), and lack of oxygen (anaerobic) to produce the toxin that leads to illness. The larvae or other host does not die from the toxin. The duck can get sick after eating just a few larvae. 

While unsanitary conditions can be the perfect setting for growing C. Botulinum, certain other conditions can also be hospitable to an outbreak. Standing, stagnant water, and an over population of flies in the wet conditions can also be the right setting. And yes, ducks love any water, so that can be a challenge during rainy weather.  When you have ducks free ranging it can be hard to monitor all the areas they visit.

This past summer was very wet, humid, and steamy hot. It was difficult to keep the pens dry and fly blooms were common, despite our best efforts. Of course it could also have been found in rotting, decomposing plants as not all plants thrive in wet conditions. As ducks roam and forage they can come in contact with the toxin.

Duck Botulism Treatment Notes 8/29

Progress report on Gretyl. This week is not as encouraging because I have to look harder for the progress. But it is there. And she’s gotten really good at projectile pooping on me when i pick her up. She’s able to sit up straight now without listing to one side like the photos from a couple days back. During therapy, both feet have some strength although the left is less than the right. She eats well and drinks a lot.

One eye is still frothy but the Veterycin eye gel and colloidal silver water are doing a great job treating that. Yesterday Gretyl sounded a little raspy so i gave her a couple drops of VetRX too. My concern is that she still can’t groom herself well. It’s super hot this week so she’s not getting chilled. But if the temps start to drop she needs to be dry.  8/29

duck botulism treatment

Is Botulism Contagious to Humans and Other Animals?

The type of botulism toxin that affects birds is species specific and does not affect humans. However, once you have  sick bird from botulism toxicity, cleanliness is extremely important or others may get sick too. The duck should be moved to a dry, draft free location. Give food and water and clean up any food spills promptly. Wipe the eyes and bill clean, especially if the duck cannot dunk it’s head to get clean. 

Clean up the area, removing any feces, spoiled or spilled food, and stagnant water. If you don’t do this, you risk further cases of duck botulism in your flock.

Sometimes, botulism toxin enters a wound. This may require veterinary treatment and even surgery. 

Duck Botulism Treatment Notes 9/5

Gretyl invited some friends (the chickens) to stop by for lunch. She had second thoughts once she realized they would be eating her food. Gretyl’s recovery continues. She is regaining strength in her legs and can stand for a few seconds. She really wants to move around now and is struggling to get moving. It’s been two weeks since we found her weak and unable to move. Her eyes remain clear now and her voice is returning. Both wings can flap!  9/2/2018

What are the Causes of Death from Botulism Toxin

Helping a duck recover from botulism toxin illness was not a simple process. Many body systems were affected that required special care. We used a child’s wading pool for strengthening Gretyl’s legs. At first, we had to watch her closely in the water because she would flop over to one side. She couldn’t make a lot of noise so we could have easily missed her drowning in the shallow water. It seemed that paddling in the water was easier than trying to walk because the water floated her body, allowing the legs to move freely. 

Lack of food and drinking water can cause death, after an infection with the toxin. Gretyl could not move at all the first couple of weeks so food and water had to be placed near her.

Predators would have an easy meal with a duck suffering from Botulism toxin illness. Domestic ducks don’t fly well anyway, and when sick with botulism, they can’t run for cover either. 

In severe cases, death from respiratory failure is a possibility.

Duck Botulism Treatment Notes 9/5

The chickens love their self appointed job as Gretyl’s nurse. I also think they likes the fact that Gretyl receives more frequent refreshments and water refills during the day  9/5

duck botulism treatment

Preventing Duck Botulism Illness

While an antitoxin does exist, it is not readily available to many. Veterinarians may have it or they may have to order it from the Center for Disease Control. The antitoxin needs to be administered early in the course of the disease. Usually by the time you realize what you are dealing with, the duck is on the road to recovery, or has died.

The best plan is to control the fly population, and take care of stagnant water sources. Parasitic wasps may be a good way to control fly populations. Also, have a good plan for manure handling. We use both diatomaceous earth and animal safe lime products to help control flies and keep our coops and stalls sanitary. 

duck botulism treatment

the left foot still was not supporting any weight so standing on her own was not possible

Duck Botulism Treatment Notes 9/8

Showing that she really wants to get moving again. Gretyl is using both feet but not in the usual way. She?s trying to move around which is a great sign. Last night she quacked a few times and her neck muscles are beginning to relax more. Hope she can groom herself soon  9/8

duck botulism treatment

The following notes are the last two entries in my record of duck botulism treatment. Gretyl’s recovery was completely textbook progress. The length of her recovery seems to be longer, although she can eat and drink, and does attempt to keep up with Milo and her new housemate LuLu. 

Gretyl and Milo spent the last couple days in a large pen by themselves. It seems a chicken or two decided to be mean to Gretyl and picked at her wings. She’s getting along pretty well but can only manage a few steps at a time before she reverts to scooting around using her wings. She is maintaining her weight, and eating and drinking. The progress is still there, just small steps. Milo enjoys having a pool again. They return to the safety of the coop at night.  9/27

Gretyl is still making progress in her recovery from botulism toxin. Her neck has loosened up quite a bit.  She can take several steps on her feet before returning to scooting on her belly. Milo is a perfect companion. I was so glad to see her bob her head under water normally although she wouldn’t do it on the video.  Still making progress! 

Oct 6


Gretyl continues to make baby steps of progress. I wonder sometimes if she will ever make a full recovery. Recently, a duck needed to be re-homed and we added LuLu to our farm. She fit in nicely with Milo and Gretyl and the three of them have bonded well. Even though Gretyl cannot keep up with them during free range, I do see them circle back to check on her and call to her while they run about the open area. Duck botulism and the resulting illness from the toxin took us by surprise. It could happen to anyone and I hope that this duck botulism treatment plan can help someone else’s duck to a full recovery. 

Black Walnut Tincture for Worming Chickens and Livestock

black walnut tinctureThis past week I wormed my chicken flock with black walnut tincture. Here’s why. A few days before I saw what was undoubtedly a round worm in a fresh chicken dropping. Since there was no mistaking what I was looking at, I knew I was going to have to treat the flock. But, I was unsure how I wanted to go about this. We try to do everything as naturally as possible on our farm.

I have never subscribed to the practice of treating for things unless I have reason to believe an animal is sick, or is showing symptoms. Seeing the worm alarmed me because I realized that more than one chicken was probably carrying worms. I didn’t want to use a product that required a lengthy egg withdrawal time. What would that product be doing to the chickens? I searched for alternative methods and came upon black walnut tincture for worming chickens.

This was not a new idea to me, but I had not used it for chickens before. I had plenty of tincture made up because I used it to treat our larger livestock.  We have plenty of black walnut trees on our property and I use the raw nuts to make a rich, brown dye for yarn. Making the tincture is another way to make use of the nuts. Black walnut tincture for worming chickens seemed like the best course of action.  If it didn’t work, I could still resort to using the store products. Intestinal worms in chickens are not transmittable to humans.

black walnut tincture

Symptoms of Worms in Chickens

If you don’t actually see the roundworms in the feces, how would you know your chicken is dealing with intestinal tract worms? A pale comb, lethargy, weakness, and diarrhea are some common signals that a worm problem might exist. In many cases, it’s not a matter of does your chicken have worms. Worms are in the environment, and insects are often an intermediate host for the larvae. The problem begins when the worm load builds to a level that causes illness. Stress can be a precursor to a worm overload. So, even though I saw a worm in the feces, clear as day, it doesn’t mean my chickens were sick. In fact, I was surprised to see the worm. Never the less, I didn’t want to let the issue become a problem. I had never wormed my flock for roundworms before, but now I would.  

Symptoms of Worms in Livestock

Livestock can exhibit diarrhea, anemia, rough unkempt coat, weight loss and sudden death. With barber pole worm, Haemonchus contortus, a condition called bottle jaw, or swelling of the lower jaw is seen. Worms can cause dehydration and weakness too.  

black walnut tincture

Being aware of the signs and symptoms of worm infestation is necessary when raising livestock. 

Natural or Not? 

Making the decision on whether or not to use a natural remedy, for your farm animals, is a personal choice. Although I prefer to stay with natural cures, there are times when it’s in the best interest of your animal to use a medication. If an animal or bird is already sickly from a parasite infestation, you may not be able to save it with natural means. This is not something I feel is cut and dry. You need to make a decision based on what you observe. Often, when a person brings home new animals they don’t realize that worms are the cause of the animal not thriving. When the diagnosis is made, it is often too late. 

black walnut tincture

Using Natural Remedies – Good Idea or Bad?

Also, not all natural remedies will be effective against all types of infestation. Some natural substances will make the gut less hospitable to parasites. But if an overload of parasites is already present, it may not do the trick at all. Proceed with caution and use close management of the animal during recovery. Seek a veterinarian’s advice and get fecal samples tested sooner rather than later. It might be too late, if you wait.

There are products on the market and available at farm supply stores that people have used for many years. Even though I prefer to keep things natural, I will not tell you that you shouldn’t use them. I will tell you to read the label precautions carefully, and follow the instructions for dosing. With over the counter medications for worming chickens, the eggs will have to be thrown away for at least 17 days after treatment begins. This is called the withdrawal time. The medication given to the chickens in their drinking water is known to travel to the eggs. The medication is not deemed safe for human use. This is one reason I prefer to use a natural remedy and natural preventatives.

black walnut tincture

when using commercial medications for your hens, be sure to read the egg withdrawal time. Not all medications are safe for humans.

Products you might find on the shelf at your farm supply store are Wazzine, Corid and Ivermectin. The active ingredient in Wazzine is piperazine. Other active ingredients in worming medications for tapeworms would be levamisole or fenbendazole (Safe-Guard). For Coccidiosis, Amprolium is often used, and is commonly found under the trade name, Corid.

Dosage and Treatment

Do your research and read the package directions carefully. The species you are treating and the weight of the animal are two considerations that are relevant to dosing. When a poultry flock is being treated for intestinal parasites the common recommendation is to treat two times per year. 

Usually the suggested time frame for treating to control worms is spring and fall. However, the recommendations also state to avoid treating while the birds are stressed. The medication itself can be stress inducing. Instead of fall, when chickens are typically molting, I would do a mid summer application of the medication. This way the chicken isn’t dealing with a medication and molt at the same time. If it seems complicated, it’s because a good bit of management has to be used when treating or preventing parasites. 

You can see from the above information that it would be very important to know what parasite overload you are treating before administering a commercial wormer to your flock or livestock. If you cannot make a certain diagnosis based on symptoms, you may be better off having a fecal test run by a veterinarian before treatment begins. 

The best case scenario is getting your herds and flocks healthy, and then, through natural methods, keep them healthy. Good management includes regular coop cleaning for poultry and a pasture rotation plan for ruminants.

Going With Natural Treatments Such as Black Walnut Tincture

Many people prefer to treat parasitic worms using a natural anthelmintic like black walnut tincture. If you start your chickens and livestock on natural preventatives early, you may be able to avoid using a commercial medications. 

When you use a natural worming method such as black walnut tincture for worming chickens, there is no egg withdrawal time. Black walnut tincture is an anthelmintic. This compound helps the body expel worms. Humans can also use black walnut tincture to rid the body of parasitic worms. There is some discussion of commercial worming medications leading to resistant strains of parasites. Black walnut tincture will not cause resistant strains of parasites. It works by making the intestinal tract of the bird or animal, inhospitable to parasites. Other natural methods often tried include pumpkin seeds and raw pumpkin and garlic, 

black walnut tincture

Making Black Walnut Tincture

If you have a black walnut tree nearby, you are ready to make the natural tincture. If not you can ask around to see if anyone in your area has this tree. Most of the time people are happy to part with the large round walnuts. They are encased in a green hull. The squirrels love to hoard these for winter eating. The nut meat from a black walnut is harder to extract than the more common English walnut. Tactics such as running over the nuts with a car are often heard when discussing this practice! If you can’t find the black walnuts locally, some sellers offer small amounts via mail order. I sell small priority boxes full via my Etsy shop, when available.

In addition to being a natural anthelmintic, black walnut tincture is an astringent, aids digestion and can lower blood pressure. (Please do your own research as I am not a trained herbalist or medical doctor.)


Gather 10 to 12 ripe, green black walnuts 

1 quart of vodka, (preferably over 50 proof)

1 quart jar with a lid  (I like these plastic lids for making herbal tinctures in mason jars)

smaller brown bottles or other bottles to store the tincture later. Don’t forget to label!

Working with black walnuts will stain your hands and clothing so wear gloves and protect your clothing and work surface. Break off the outer hull. If the nuts are fresh it won’t take much pressure to break open the hull. Lightly tap with a hammer if needed. 

Place the hulls in the quart jar. Pour vodka into the jar until nearly full. You do want to leave some room to gently shake the mixture every day or so.

After 6 to 8 weeks the tincture is ready to strain and bottle. Squeeze or press as much of the tincture out of the hulls as possible. Remember to wear gloves to protect your hands from stains. Discard the hulls in the trash. Adding these to compost isn’t recommended. The juglans contained in black walnut can be a growth inhibitor and that is not something you want to add to your compost.

Label and date the bottles of black walnut tincture. It will last for years. 

black walnut tincture

Dosing Chickens with Black Walnut Tincture

I used 2 cc per gallon of water each day. Dose was repeated for five days in a row, then waited 2 weeks and repeated the dose for another 5 days.  I did not see any further worms in my chicken’s droppings but I am being watchful. 

Since my water buckets for the sheep and goats are bigger than the chicken water bowls, I used two teaspoons of tincture per 5 gallons of water. Same repeat as above.


When you are finished making sure your flocks and herds are healthy, treat yourself to a slice of delicious

Black Walnut Pie!