Food Dehydrator Review – Dry Your Food With the Best

Using a food dehydrator to dry your food at home is a money-saving and healthy hobby. The hardest part isn’t the dehydrating, but in finding how to choose a dehydrator. One of these dryers can cost anywhere from $50 to over $300. Sometimes it’s hard to pick something when you have so many options. Here are few things to consider when shopping for one.

First, consider how much you think you’ll use your dryer. If you don’t think you’ll do a lot of dehydrating, you might be okay with a mid-level unit. Getting the cheapest model isn’t recommended for a couple reasons. One, cheap stuff won’t last. Two, you can hold off on upgrading if (when) you find out you love drying food and want to do more of it.

With the expandable dehydrators, it can grow as your appetite for dehydrating food grows. Be careful though, because the larger your unit gets, the more power it should put out. You’ll want about 100 watts per tray. Every dehydrator will beat that easily, but when you add a lot of trays, you might find it’s underpowered. That means you’ll have to rotate the trays and run it longer.

Get one with an adjustable thermostat. This will let you dry everything, from fruits to meats to potpourri. Some recipes require drying at one temperature for two hours and a lower temperature to finish. Being able to adjust the heat makes your dehydrator more useful.

Home dehydrators move air vertically or horizontally. Some models have a fan on the bottom that blow warm air up through the trays. The bottom trays will be warmer than the ones above, so you may need to rotate the trays periodically. Other models are heated from the rear and have fans that blow air across the trays instead of through them. That means less flavor mixing if you’re drying different foods. Also, all the trays are dried evenly.

You can also choose based on materials. Home dehydrators come in stainless steel or plastic. You can also find plans to build one out of wood, but that’s not recommended. Wood can catch on fire and is hard to keep clean. That leaves you with a plastic or stainless steel dehydrator. If you want to get a stainless model, you’ll have to spend a lot of money. Quality steel is expensive. You’re better off with a high-quality plastic one than a cheap low-quality steel one. If you’re worried about aesthetics, you’ll see that some, like the L’Equip, look great.

Then, you might look at shape. There are cylinders and cubes. I recommend the square food dehydrators because you get more usable drying space. The round ones have a hole in the middle, meaning you can’t lay food down all the way across the tray. And, with a square one, you can place it flush against the wall if you want to leave it on your counter.

Finally, think about getting one with a timer. Food dehydrator recipes vary widely when it comes to drying times. You might dehydrate something that won’t finish until the middle of the night. A timer will turn the machine off at the right time, letting you dry your snacks without stressing over them.

With these considerations in mind, you’ll be able to figure out how to choose a dehydrator for your home. Think of all the great snacks you’ll get to make, and all while saving a ton of money.

From Day-Old Chicks to Laying Hens – How to Grow Your Own Eggs!

Most people think eggs come from the store.

Well, surprise! Not only do they NOT come from the store, but anyone with a little time and a little space can raise lovely laying hens from day old chicks. In about five months’ time, you can be making a delicious omelet from your very own eggs.

Guess how baby chicks come to your door? In the US Mail! Yes, they really do. When baby chicks hatch at the hatchery, the egg yolk from the egg they were in has been nourishing them during their incubation. Because of this stored-up feed, the baby chick doesn’t need to eat immediately, and can be shipped through the mail to your door.

Maximum time for traveling should be no more than 48 hours from hatch to arrival at your home. Most hatcheries will ship only to a specified distance to allow for the baby chicks to arrive safely.

When you pick up your chicks at the post office (go and get them, don’t wait for the mailman to bring them to you), take them home right away. Keep them warm. Remember, these are baby chicks! They are fragile.

The ideal “chick nursery” consists of a draft-free area lined with sawdust or wood shavings, a heat lamp aimed at the floor, a feed trough and a water source. (Your local farm store can help you here. You’ll want to make sure you pick up some chick starter, it comes in large bags.) These tiny chicks know what they need to do to grow up big and strong, but a little help from you doesn’t hurt!

Our best nursery was an old 100 gallon water tank that we lined with wood shavings. The sides are tall and prevent any drafts (killer to baby chicks), and lining the floor with wood shavings keeps the chicks clean and sanitary. Every day add a thin layer of additional wood shavings, which will keep your chicks healthy. (The wood shavings absorb the chicks’ excretions and the resulting decomposition action actually provides some gentle warmth from the floor.) A 100 gallon tank will allow you space to add shavings for at least 3-4 weeks for about 25 chicks, at which time the chicks may be getting too large for the tank anyway!

Back to Day #1, bringing the chicks home. Have a heat lamp with a 100-200 watt bulb ready, placed pointing downward. Take the chicks out of the shipping container and dip their beaks, one at a time, into the water and the food. (Remember, they know what to do with the food and water, but it helps them to see where it’s located.) Then let them go!

Chicks that have been shipped can be a little disoriented, and we’ve found that a little apple cider vinegar helps this tremendously. Add one tablespoon cider vinegar to one gallon water to help settle their tummies. The chickens thrive on it, and we’ve found it helpful for them to have access to the vinegar water their whole lives. This will also stop the chicks from pecking each other.

Add a couple of handfuls of pinhead-sized gravel and sand to the wood shavings. Your chicks need gravel in their “craw,” the bag inside their throat that serves as their “teeth.” You may have noticed that chickens don’t chew their food. What they do is allow food to travel into the craw, where they have a supply of gravel that grinds their food for them. You’ll see your chicks scratching in the dirt, looking for gravel and other goodies. This is normal, and another sign that your chicks are healthy and happy.

You will want to monitor the heat lamp for the first few days. If the chicks lay under it, then they’re probably too cold. If they circle away from it, they are probably too warm. They need to be kept at about 95 degrees until their feathers grow in. Watch them. If you see chicks walk under the light and stretch a leg or a wing and then walk back out of the light, you’re probably in good shape. The optimal distance for the lamp to be from the bottom of the floor is when the chicks lay down in a circle around the light from the lamp. You’ll be able to tell.

Make sure to leave the light on 24/7.

Another sign of happy, healthy chicks is the little chirp, chirp sound they make. Not a distressed “Cheep! Cheep! Cheep!” sound, but a quiet, little, chit-chatty chirping sound. You’ll be able to tell pretty quickly when you have happy chicks, because they will constantly make this sound. If you hear nothing, something is wrong with your babies. Check their heat, food and water. When they’re happy, they’ll sing.

At about 3 weeks of age the chicks will be fully feathered and able to stand differences in temperature pretty well. You can transfer them out of the 100 gallon tank now. Some people will use a hen house, and others will make a cage with no bottom, but lined on the top and sides with chicken wire so that predators can’t get in. If you live out in the country, your happy chirping chicks will be very attractive to skunks, racoons, possums, foxes, owls and other local varmints. Protect them! Make sure nothing can get your babies.

The dietary needs of your chicks are changing as they grow. We’ve found that feeding a cafeteria-style buffet works the best, with their choice of whole or cracked corn, whole oats, brewers yeast and oyster shells. The whole grains prevent parasite problems. Make sure that your chicks have access to fresh, green grass and plant material. They love to eat bugs and greens!

Once your chicks are about three months old, they’ll look full grown. They aren’t though. Give them a couple of months longer and start looking for fresh eggs. Yum!

How to Get Your Chickens to Lay More Eggs

If you own chickens, you will agree with me when I say that you can have fresh, high quality eggs almost at will. I like to call them containers full of goodness. It’s needless to say that few foods contain the kind of nutrients that eggs have.

If you know how to raise chickens, they will lay eggs, irrespective of whether they are fertilized or not. Producing eggs happens naturally in a chicken’s body. However, there are external factors that can reduce their ability to produce eggs. The good thing is there are a few things you can do to increase the amount of eggs your chickens lay.

Here’s how to get your chickens to lay more eggs:

1. Have comfortable nesting boxes… Provide your chickens with nesting boxes and make them as comfortable as you can. Fill them with hay and have a depression at the center of the box to make the chickens feel comfortable when sitting on them. If your chickens feel that they’re in a safe place it goes without saying that they will produce more eggs.

2. Provide warmth… Have a few heat lamps placed around the nesting boxes. Ensure that they’re turned on low heat. Also, make certain that the boxes are warm so as to entice the hens to lay eggs. However, providing warmth may only be necessary during the cold months.

3. Have fluorescent lights in place… Making your flock lay many eggs mean getting creative. Attach fluorescent lights to timers and set them to turn off and on for twelve hours at a time. Have them on during the normal daylight hours and keep them on the power off mode during the night.

Place them so that they can distribute the light evenly in the coop. Indeed, you will have replicated day and night and this will create an environment that will allow your chickens to consistently lay eggs. This tip is especially workable during the cold winter months when it’s darker.

4. Collect eggs routinely… Make sure that you collect eggs for the coop every morning and make it a routine. Leaving the eggs to stay for long periods of time in the nesting boxes may make the chickens want to hatch them, even when they’re infertile. This is a process known as brooding, which makes the chicken stop laying eggs.

5. Be patient with the chickens… The quest on how to raise chickens also calls for some patience. Maybe the reason that your chickens are laying few eggs is because they are not at their prime age. Allow the chickens to be at least sixteen to twenty-six weeks before you can realistically expect them to start laying eggs. As a matter of fact they may start laying the eggs a little bit later, but you’d be disappointed if you expect them to start laying many eggs before they’re sixteen weeks old.

6. Feed the chickens well… If you feed your chickens on cheap, usually low quality food, it may lead to a dismal or complete non-existent egg production. Do you want your chickens to produce more eggs? Feed them right. Research has shown that corn, starchy feeds and oils can lead to a reduced egg production rate. Knowing how to raise chickens means that you give the foods which will supply them with all the needed nutrients this not only ensures they stay healthy, but increases productivity as well. Once in a while, feed your chickens some crushed oyster shells to increase calcium intake, which is very crucial in egg development.

7. Give them a lot of water… You may not know it, but chickens require a consistent supply of water to remain healthy and productive. Check water levels at least twice every day and be sure to replace the water in case it’s dirty.