Backyard Flock

Backyard Flock

Can Chickens Smell and Taste?

Anyone tending a backyard flock quickly learns that chickens can be

as picky about food as a crabby child. Put a pan of kitchen scraps into the run and hens enthusiastically devour bread, meat scraps, and some greens yet shun citrus, turnip chunks and many other goodies. They seem to instantly know what foods are a delicious break from dry feed.





Midsummer is a time of food plenty for chickens and wild birds, and it’s fascinating to watch what they will and won’t eat. Any grasshopper misfortunate enough to hop into a chicken run becomes an instant protein-rich snack. Hens entirely ignore box elder bugs buzzing around them. They’ll eat grasses that grow in their run and shun other plants, like motherwort. How do they know what’s good to eat and what’s not?





Scientists have been debating how well birds can taste and smell for years. Because they have tough bony beaks and small hard tongues it’s more difficult to study their tasting ability than it is with mammals.  According to an ornithologist, Dr. Neil Bernstein, the bird brain is heavily developed for sight, sound, and balance with smell and taste much less acute. Their sense of touch varies by species.

Humans mouths contain about 9,000 taste buds compared with 50 to 500 for birds.  One researcher discovered about 400 taste buds in ducks. Chickens have some taste buds, but they are located in the back of their mouth. So, before they can taste something they’ve already committed to swallowing it.

Studies on the chicken sense of smell and taste are scarce, but more research has been done on wild birds visiting feeders stocked with diverse seeds.  Wild birds, such as chickadees and cardinals, use their keen sense of vision to locate seeds and seem to know which ones are tastiest or most nutritious. For example, they’ll pick every sunflower seed out of a blend of seeds before eating a single milo seed.

Chickens aren’t bird brains. They have intelligence and memory, and this may be a clue on how they react to food.  “I once ate popcorn not knowing I was about to develop the flu.  To put it politely, I tasted popcorn that night on the way out.  It was years before I could eat popcorn again because I unconsciously associated it with illness,” said ornithologist Bernstein.  The same might happen with chickens. A bird who gobbled down a box elder bug and had her throat badly scratched may remember it and take this common insect off her food list.

In many ways, chickens are like humans. People have food preferences. So, do hens.  Although generally, every bird in a flock is likely to like or dislike a certain food, this can vary.  One hen may like tomato scraps, but a flock sister won’t touch them.

Some birds can detect odor. Turkey vultures can locate food hidden under a dense tree cover by chemicals emitted from decaying dead animals. In contrast, great horned owls have been known to kill and eat skunks. “Because skunk spray can hurt owl eyes I don’t think they seek skunks often.  Owls don’t seem to have a sense of smell, but they certainly have food preferences,” said Karla Bloem, Executive Director of the International Owl Center. “For example, they don’t seem to like ground squirrels but love voles,” she added. For a great horned owl having no sense of smell is a benefit. But, how about chickens?

Chickens don’t seem to have much ability to smell or taste. That may be an advantage. They seem to prefer foods of certain colors. Toss scraps of red tomatoes into the run, and they’ll be instantly devoured, while green pepper scraps are ignored. Why hens will eat green grass yet avoid nearby green motherwort or buckwheat plants is a mystery perhaps known only to chickens.

One thing is certain. When given a diversity of foods chickens, and other bird species, have an amazing ability to choose those that are nutritious. One of the benefits of keeping a flock is observing them. It doesn’t take long to learn that they are amazingly perceptive.

Celebrating National AG Week

Celebrating National Ag Week

March 19-25, 2017 marks the week dedicated to celebrating National Ag Week with National Ag Day falling on March 21. This day is set aside to recognize and celebrate the importance of agriculture in our everyday lives. National Ag Week is a time for farmers to receive the recognition they deserve for all their hard work towards putting food on the table for families all across the country. Their efforts do not go unnoticed for they partake in one of the most important practices known to mankind.
Agriculture is the fuel that drives our great nation. As the population across the world continues to increase, the demand for the food and fiber products produced in the U.S. will continue to soar. U.S. agriculture is doing even more and doing it even better to keep up with the growing demands!

Advancements in Agriculture

The agriculture industry has experienced remarkable advancements and only continues to grow and evolve. In comparison with the 1950’s, today’s farmers produce 262% more food with a 2% decrease in inputs such as labor, fertilizer, seeds, etc. Technological advancements are happening everyday in the agricultural industry, including sensors, engineering and more. No, this doesn’t mean we have robotic farmers, but it does mean that our current farmers’ jobs do get more crucial as society continues to advance. Equipment assisting farmers with diagnosis of crops and livestock, and the use of real-time traceability has allowed farmers to produce healthier, fresher yields. New lengths in engineering allow farmers to use more efficient equipment and make the process less susceptible to problems. Staying up-to-date is no easy task, but farmers must keep improving to keep up with the growing demands of the world.

How Many People Does One Farmer Feed?

Farmers dedicate their lives to perfecting their craft and producing plentiful crops including fruit, vegetables, beans, cotton, wheat, and much more! 318.9 million people live in America – and they’re hungry! That’s A LOT of mouths to feed. In 2012, a total of $394.6 billion of agricultural sales took place in the U.S. with an average of $187,093 per farm. Each farmer in the U.S. produces enough food and fiber for approximately 160 people annually. Now that’s what we call a provider!

Agriculture Benefits Everyone, Everyday!

Agriculture touches our lives everyday; from our cotton sheets in the morning to our delicious dinner at night, agriculture is responsible for many of the things we need and enjoy. Millions of farmers work tirelessly on a daily basis to care for their crops, livestock, and land. Agriculture is an essential part of the average American’s life. Meat, vegetables, cotton, grain, rice, soy, and much more come from farm and ranch families, who make up only approximately 2% of the U.S. population. Let’s not forget that around 23% of raw food farmed here in the U.S. is exported each year to feed others around the globe. As you can see, agriculture is a major industry here in the U.S. and only continues to grow.

1 Acre = Tons of Food

In 2012, farmland in the U.S. reached a total of 915 millions acres. A single acre of cotton in the U.S. yields about 795 pounds of cotton a year. The United States is the world’s second largest cotton producer. Cotton is used in 39% of the world’s fibers and is the most used natural, non-synthetic fiber. It’s in our hats, jackets, shirts, jeans, underwear, socks and shoes! Cotton clothes us from our heads to our toes.
A single acre of wheat yields about 50 bushels and produces over 2,500 loaves of bread! Bread is a key component for a majority of the meals we consume, and let’s be honest, it’s delicious! Think about it; thousands and thousands of loaves of bread are produced from a single acre of wheat… That’s incredible! Hat’s off to farmers; we love our bread!

Saying that farmers are the reason we live and breathe is no exaggeration! As you can see, farmers have a direct effect on each and every life here in the United States and many people all around the world. American farmers are on the clock 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to keep our stomachs full, our bodies warm, and our foundation strong. Support your local farms and pat them on the back for a job well done. This week we celebrate YOU – thank you for everything you do!

Chick Breeds: What's the Difference

Chick Breeds: What’s the Difference?

White and Brown Chicken in Coop

Chirp chirp! Chick season has kicked off at your local Big R stores, which means hundreds of baby chicks are looking for new homes to provide some tender love and care. Are you excited to fill up your home with these adorable chicks, but not sure which breed is best for you? With a little bit of research, you’ll find the best chick breed for you.

Just like humans, not all chicks are the same. Therefore, it’s important to understand the differences between breeds in order to choose the right chicks for you and your home environment.

Start by thinking about your own personal interests in regards to chick breeds. You’ll also need to consider what care different breeds of chicks need from you.

It’s essential to consider the main use, geography, space, and temperament in relation to your choice of chickens:

  • Main Use: Will your chicks grow up to be a steady source of food or income? The right chick for you will be an excellent source for egg and meat production, long-term. Also, consider egg color and size. Try some of these birds for good to excellent egg production:
    • Excellent Egg Producers: Brown Leghorn, Golden Comet, White Leghorn
    • Very Good Egg Producers: Production Red, Speckled Sussex, New Hampshire Red, Columbian Rock Cross, Rhode Island Red
    • Good Egg Producers: White Plymouth Rock, Partridge Rock, Buckeye, Buff Brahma, Welsummer
  • Geography: Where are you located? While some birds are bred to withstandthe heat, others are meant for colder climates. See which birds fare better in the dry heat or the wet cold:
    • Heat Tolerant: Brown Leghorn, Production Red, Buff Brahma, New Hampshire Red, Rhode Island Red, White Leghorn
    • Cold Tolerant: Golden Comet, White Plymouth Rock, Production Red, Speckled Sussex, Partridge Rock, Buckeye, Buff Brahma, New Hampshire Red, Columbian Rock Cross, Welsummer, Rhode Island Red
  • Space: Where are you raising your feather babies? Active and lively chickens will flourish living on spacious farms in contrast to a small backyard. Take a look at these breeds who flourish in environments large and small:
    • Adaptable to Confined Environments: Brown Leghorn, Golden Comet, White Plymouth Rock, Speckled Sussex, Buckeye, Welsummer
    • Adaptable to Free-Range Environments: White Plymouth Rock, Production Red, Buckeye, Welsummer
  • Temperament: What are the personalities of your chickens? Your active, sprightly chick may not fare as well as a nervous, quiet chick in the confines of your home’s backyard. Plus, you’ll want to make sure all of your chicks are getting along! These breeds exhibit the following personality traits:
    • Nervous: Brown Leghorn
    • Flighty: White Leghorn
    • Calm: Golden Comet, White Plymouth Rock, Production Red, Speckled Sussex, Partridge Rock, New Hampshire Red, Columbian Rock Cross
    • Quiet: Golden Comet
    • Docile: White Plymouth Rock, Production Red, Partridge Rock, Buckeye, New Hampshire Red, Rhode Island Red
    • Gentle: Buff Brahma, Welsummer,
    • Active, Lively: Speckled Sussex, Welsummer
    • Curious: New Hampshire Red
    • Friendly: White Plymouth Rock, Speckled Sussex, Buckeye
    • Easy to Handle: White Plymouth Rock, Speckled Sussex

Looking to bring diversity to your flock? There are other feathered friends that have good qualities to do just that. Many flocks of birds include ducks in addition to the variety of chicken breeds. Despite the fact that ducks are not usually added to flocks to advance egg production purposes, these birds can serve other purposes, too!

Some duck breeds, such as mallards, are very social, but prefer the company of other mallards, especially because they thrive in parties of two. Mallards have moderate egg production and are shy and flighty, but can tolerate hot and cold conditions. The white pekin has great egg production and is a very docile bird. Lastly, the rouen is deemed one of the most attractive birds, however, they are not known to have substantial egg production. If you’re concerned about predators and pest control, the best addition to flocks is the french pearl guinea. This breed is known to alert against predators, control insect populations, and withstand tough weather conditions.

While ducks and other birds are not essential to the completion of your flock, each and every breed serves a purpose, as does each and every chicken. Remember: with each bird comes great responsibility. Chicks, especially, need incredible amounts of attention, and their home environments need consistent maintenance. Although raising chicks is no easy task, the benefits of raising chicks properly and attentively will certainly outweigh the cost. Need some guidance on raising chicks? Try a crash course on our blog Raising Chicks 101.

Have you considered all of these characteristics, breeds, and personal choices, and found the birds of your dreams? Head on over to your nearest Big R location and make your feathery dream a reality today!

Raising Chicks 101

Raising Chicks 101

Spring is quickly approaching, which means it’s chicken season! Chickens make for great pets; they not only supply eggs, but also provide fresh compost and manage pest control in the garden. However, just like any new pet, they require commitment, patience, and attention. Chicks need safe housing, special food, and maintenance.

If you decide to raise chicks, don’t just wing it! Here’s our beginner’s guide to raising chicks:

Plucking Up the Right Breed

Like dogs and cats, chickens behave differently based on their breed. The American Poultry Association recognizes 65 breeds of chickens so there are a lot of different personalities to take into consideration. Take some time to research the various breeds so you can pick the breed that’s a good fit for you and your lifestyle. Some good questions to ask yourself are: “What kind of qualities do I want in my chicken?” or “Is the focus more a friendly pet or an egg-laying machine?” or “Am I looking for a full-time bug exterminator?” It’s also important to keep in mind that chickens are sociable animals so it’s good to plan for a few chickens.

Set Up Their Living Space

Before bringing chicks home, it’s best to set up a healthy and nurturing environment that they can thrive in. Baby chicks specifically need a space separated from the rest of the chickens. They need their own secure space because they will be picked on by other chickens, especially if they don’t have a Mother Hen to protect. That space is called a brooder.

The Brooder

The brooder is a mini-habitat for baby chicks. You can “build” a brooder out of various materials including a simple cardboard box. Make sure the space has at least 2 ½ square feet per chick so that chicks have enough room to spread their wings and grow. The brooder should have 12 to 24 inch walls to keep chicks from hopping out or you can outfit a lid for their space. If you decide on a lid, you’ll need to make sure it’s breathable so the chicks get fresh air.

Keep your chicks comfortable in their new home by spreading shavings on the floor. This will help them move around and prevent splayed legs. Chicks are very clumsy and have weak legs at first so shavings on the floor will help them until their muscles strengthen. Next, you’ll want to make sure there is a spot for them to get all their essentials – basic feeders and waterers are easy to come by. Smaller feeders or troughs specifically for chicks are great to make sure each chick gets the food they needs. Chicks need to stay warm to survive so be sure to have a heating lamp, heating pad or other heater option in their home. Keep the temperature around 90-95 degrees. But the best way to ensure their survival is to place the brooder is in a safe space out of the elements and away from potential predators.

As the chicks grow into hens, they’ll have to move into a coop.

Watching Chicks Around the Cluck

In addition to setting up the chick’s environment, you’ll need to set aside time to hunker down for the first four weeks because chicks are very vulnerable to diseases. The best way to prevent sick chicks is to keep the brooder clean. Change out the shavings every 3-4 days to get rid of lingering waste.

Chicks will poop anywhere – including where they drink and eat from. So, it’s very important to check on their waterers and feeders. If you’re using a standard watering dish or bowl, you’ll need to get rid of dirty, stagnant water. Be sure to wash and rinse the watering dish frequently as well. It’s a good idea to clean out their food trays every few days too. Chicks are unable to eat every bit and will leave stale pieces in the tray. Baby chicks need fresh food to survive.

In addition to cleaning out poop in their brooder, you may have to clean your chicks’ backsides when they’re very young. Use a warm wash cloth to clean their behinds every four hours or so. It’s important to prevent their stool from hardening to their backside. If this happens they may get a case of the patsy butt and won’t be able to poop, which will lead to death.

One of the best ways to prevent patsy butt is to keep the chicks at the right temperature. Chicks need to be at a constant, suitable temperature to grow and live. Check in on them and observe their behavior. If they are huddled on top of each other under the bulb, they are probably still cold and you’ll need to move the heating lamp closer. If they are on an opposite wall and staying away from the heat, then it’s probably too hot for them. If they are happily moving around their brooder, then the temperature is just right. As the chicks get bigger and gain more feathers, you’ll need to move the heating lamp further and further away to decrease the temperature.

If chicks sense injury or sickness in another chick they will often peck the prone chick to death. If there are any signs of blood or injury on a chick, remove that chick immediately. Blood on a chick will attract pecking from the other chicks. Keep a small first-aid kit for your chicks. You can supply it with Q-Tips for cleaning, electrolyte solution, band-aids to help with splayed leg and a small dropper for chicks that can’t eat or drink. Your first-aid kit will grow as your chicks do but this is a good place to start!

Planning for Chickens

As your chicks grow and become chickens, you’ll have to invest in a chicken coop! These forever homes keep your birds safe and provide a space for them to retreat after a long day. You’ll also need to upgrade your feeders and waterers to accommodate your bigger birds. Upgrade to an off-the-ground feeder that won’t tip over or a hanging feeder. You’ll also need to get a waterer that will hold much more water. Stay stocked up on poultry grit to help your chickens digest their food and keep growing. As your chickens grow, get to know your local chicken expert for insight and advice.

The most important part of raising chicks is spending time with them. Take pride in raising these chicks and eventually producing your own fresh eggs. By watching your chicks and caring for them like any other member of pet family, you’ll be set up for success. Stop by your local Big R store for chick season or to “peck” up any poultry supplies you might need.

Farmer Looking Over His Crops

6 Resolutions Farmers Should Keep for the New Year

Farmer Looking Over His Crops

Congratulate yourself on making it through another year of planting, plowing and harvesting. Over the years, you’ve perfected your craft with hard work, perseverance and patience. involves many years of sweat and endurance. Now that it’s a new year, it’s a great time to evaluate what’s working, what’s not working and how to keep improving the farm work. Here are 6 resolutions that every farmer should keep for the new year:

  1. Embrace Innovation With Technology

Technological advances are happening in every industry – why not utilize technology in farming? Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate that ‘old faithful’ equipment that is no longer so faithful. We’ve all been there – right in the middle of mowing down the grass and that busted old machine that’s given us so much throughout the years takes it’s last breath. Optimize your farming technique and stimulate your crops by bringing in some new tools like the Dewalt – 142 Piece Mechanics Tools Set. Take on the New Year with some new equipment with the Dr Power Equipment – Versa – Trailer Pro Package. If you feel like your tools and equipment have some fight left in them then bring them to our Service Centers; we can take a look at any Big R machines you’ve bought. You can also check out our Parts Store for a quick way to order parts online. Want an easy way of checking on your acres? Drones are becoming increasingly popular and can help you supervise and maintain your land. Technology will only continue to advance. Make sure you are ahead of the competition by keeping up with the innovative technology.


  1. Promote Education in Agriculture

Become an advocate for farm culture. More and more consumers have become curious about where their food comes from. You planted those seeds, worked long hours maintaining and waited for the most prime point of ripeness to harvest. Let the people know how much hard work goes into their delicious meal. Give the public a taste of where it came from. Plant the seeds of knowledge and watch the amount of consumers grow and come to appreciate the process even more.

  1. Keep Learning

Stay on top of your game by learning new tricks and tips of the trade. Being a student can be just as beneficial as being a teacher. Agriculture continues to evolve. Converse with other farmers, maybe they have some insight on something you’ve been having trouble with or maybe they need your expertise. Do your research online. The World Wide Web is an amazing place where billions of people can share their experiences and advice.

  1. Try Something New

Humans are creatures of habit. We hold traditions and habits very close to home because what we know is comforting. It’s hard to break apart from the usual and try something new but how do you know that what you’ve been doing for years is the best way to do it if you’ve never tried any other way? It may be time to try a new technique or head into a different direction. If your crops or livestock seem increasing unhappy, try a new system or rearrange the layout of your landscape. Everyone is a little nervous about trying new things but change is natural and as the nature of farming evolves we must evolve with it.

  1. Use Social Media

If you haven’t yet entered the realm of social media this may be the year to do so. Having a Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram is a great way to connect with potential consumers. You’ll have the ability to share what you’re working on and promote what you’re selling. Instagram is easy to use and you can showcase your crops and new tools, and stay aware of what others are doing as well. Utilize these websites and apps to educate consumers on your products and keep them up-to-date with your progress; build a community online.


  1. Make Time to Relax

The fresh dirt, the growth of a new crop and the ability to eat something you made with your bare hands are some of the best rewards that farming can offer. But after a long day in the field your body is probably aching and deserves a good rest. Make time to enjoy a moment of peace and quiet. There will always be more things to do on the farm and in the house but you need to make time to cool down and unwind. Maybe take your horse out for a ride along the hillside and watch the sunset. Pick up a good book and lay out in the field soaking in the fresh air. When the weather eases up, invite the friends over for a brew and fire up the barbeque with our Pit Boss – 700 Deluxe pellet Grill. Making time to relax and decompress will help you feel ready for whatever else may come up.


Agriculture is an important part of life but it can be challenging and hard work. Embracing change allows you to develop and strengthen your practice. Don’t be afraid to show how proud you are for all the work you’ve done and share your accomplishments. Big R supports farmers big and small so stop in for any of your farming needs. Need tractor parts? We can help you find it with our parts store. Get rewarded for picking up your farming supplies by joining the Ag+ Plus program to get a 2% rebate on any purchases made on your card.

young girl caring for horse

How to Care for Your Horse This Winter

young girl caring for horseWinter can be a great time as loved ones gather together and bask in the warmth of each other’s presence despite the cold weather. But winter might be a different experience for other members of your family – members like your beloved horses. So while you’re enjoying time by the fireplace and warm cider, don’t forget to check on old Nelly. Here’s a few ways to care for your horse during the winter:

  1. DO increase water intake

An average 1,000 pound horse needs around 10-12 gallons of water per day – and eating snow doesn’t count! The special winter feed your horse eats contains less moisture than the pasture and feed they consume in the summer. For this reason, you must increase your horse’s water intake. If you’re increasing their salt intake, you should also give them more water to prevent dehydration. With this simple task, you will be able to keep your horse happy and healthy despite the chill.

  1. DO feed them fiber

Fiber in the form of hay is essential for the wellbeing of your horse during the winter. It helps keep their digestive system in check while warming up their body in the cold winter months. The digestion of hay produces heat to maintain a healthy body temperature that grain alone cannot do. Feeding them hay also helps prevent the number one problem horses have during the winter – weight loss. The perfect amount to give them is 1.5% of their body weight. In addition to fiber, your horse may need some extra nutrients to increase energy and support their immune system. Extra nutrients can be found through horse feed; Nutrena’s SafeChoice Horse Feed is a great and organic choice. Good quality hay and nutrients will keep your horse happy all through winter.

  1. DO keep exercising

Just because you might be in hibernation mode doesn’t mean your horse should be! So keep on riding and exercising them as you would normally. Unfortunately, winter is known to bring slippery and icy areas. You’ll want to avoid these areas as much as possible, and by trying to avoid these areas, regular riding may be out of the question. So if this is the case, try turning your horse out daily in a pasture or paddock to keep him/her moving. Another precaution to take is to change your horse’s shoes to help with their traction in the snow and rain. Keeping up their exercise is a must because it can prevent joint and muscle damage while increasing the overall health of your horse. Don’t let winter become an excuse for laziness!

  1. DO keep your horse dry

Could you imagine your hair being constantly damp and cold from rain water throughout a whole season? No? Well, don’t let your horse suffer through that either! Make sure to cool and dry off your horse from the rain, snow, and sweat that collects on their coat to prevent illness and ensure maximum comfort. If their long winter coat retains a lot of water and it’s difficult to get them dry because of it – it’s okay to trim their winter coat. If you do end up trimming their winter coat, blanketing them is a good way to go. Blanketing isn’t always necessary during the winter but it’s very helpful for when your horse doesn’t have a shelter to keep out of the rain or snow. It can also keep horses comfortable especially if they aren’t used to the intense weather or are very old or young. However, remember that if you do blanket your horse you must continue to do so throughout the winter – the blanket will stop them from growing a winter coat, so be sure to stay consistent. Whether you decide to blanket or not, keeping them dry is a must.

  1. DO regular grooming and hoof care

Just like you must maintain exercising in the winter, grooming consistently is a must! Groom daily or weekly to keep them in good health and to check for early signs of illness or disease. Hoof care is also very important to do for their health. In the winter, your horse is more prone to getting snow/ice in their hooves, so try cleaning these out daily when you check in on them. The easiest way to clean these out is by using a hoof pick. Choose a stainless steel pick that will not break under pressure for situations like these. Be sure to look for potential bacteria build-up or illnesses in the form of punctures, abscesses, cracks or odors when cleaning the hooves. Spray Wound & Hoof Care on the hooves to prevent bacteria and fungus or help with the recovery from wounds. Keep up with your farrier appointments during the winter – the wet ground can cause issues that may not be as noticeable to you as your farrier!

Your horses have a unique spot in your heart just like a close friend or member of your family. You want them to be comfortable, healthy and happy throughout the winter. We at Big R want that exact same thing! Stop by Big R for friendly advice on horse care and to grab essential horse care items for every season.

Delicious Crockpot Meal

6 Hearty Crock-Pot Meals After a Day on the Farm

Delicious Crockpot Meal

Every day on the farm is an adventure. There’s a lot of hard work and sweat involved. But there’s also a lot of good memories being made, especially when you’re on the farm with family. After the crops have been tended, the animals have been taken care of and the chores are done – it’s time to call it a day. What’s the best reward for making it through the busy day? A big meal that leaves everyone very satisfied and ready for what tomorrow brings. Make it easy on yourself by using a Crock-Pot. Here are 6 tasty Crock-Pot recipes that are perfect after a long day on the farm:


  1. Pulled Pork

Pulled pork sandwiches are a classic, and can be easily made in a Crock-Pot. After a long day, there’s nothing better than walking into a house to smell home-cooked BBQ still hot in the pot.


  1. Slow Cooker Cheesy Chicken Taquitos

Cut juicy pieces of chicken and mix it into a creamy concoction of smoky cheddar cheese, cream cheese, jalapeños, red peppers, onions, and other savory spices. With a side of flour or corn tortillas, you’ve got a hearty meal that everyone in your family can enjoy!


Make sure that your cutting board can handle sharp knives as they slice through fresh veggies and protein. Check out this tough board from LEM:


  1. Chili

This 5 star chili recipe is filled with protein-rich kidney beans, thick tomato paste, onions, and ground beef. Eat the chili on its own or with chips on the side for a satisfying crunch; your family won’t resist digging in!


  1. Hearty Salmon Chowder

Nothing makes you feel more like a wilderness expert than cooking fish you caught. If you caught salmon, why not use it for this delicious chowder recipe? This recipe pairs salmon with fresh herbs, onions, celery, potatoes and chicken broth. The heavy soup is a meal in itself that warms the heart in even the coldest winter nights.

  1. Mediterranean Roasted Turkey Breast

Craving turkey? Make it exciting by adding fresh, mediterranean flavors with this recipe. Sun-dried tomatoes, Greek seasoning, and Kalamata Olives help to make this slow-cooked turkey mouth-watering and unique.


  1. Best Ever Beef Stew

This Crock-Pot beef stew is the ultimate comfort food with big flavors of garlic, oregano, Worcestershire sauce, vegetables, and tender, fresh-cut pieces of beef. This recipe, rich and warming, will quickly become a favorite in the family.


If your family manages to not gobble down every last bite, the leftovers will make for another great meal. Grab some freezer bags to store the food. 


If you don’t already have a Crock-Pot, it’s time to get one! A Crock-Pot saves you time and effort as you make delicious, comforting food for your big group of hungry farmhands. Go to your local Big R to get your own or find yours online: Here

Big R Guide to Canning

Yes, We Can! (A Guide to Canning)

Big R Guide to Canning

Why Canning?

There are many great reasons to take up canning and preserving your own food. Do you want to be able to keep eating tasty fruits and vegetables from your harvest throughout the year? Then canning is a good way to do just that. Do you want to enjoy high quality food that you know is free from harmful additives? Well, canning your own harvest means you’re in control of what you put in each jar. Do you want to save a little money? Canning is like meal prepping – it can save you money and time on future meals. In fact, you could call canning the original meal prep.

The science behind canning is quite simple. You add the food mix to a jar and seal the lid. Submerge the jar in a boiling water bath and wait. The process removes excess air, which is the reason that food spoils. The escaping air creates a vacuum tight seal that keeps your food fresh, flavorful and ready to enjoy any time over the next 12 months!

The process of canning can be intimidating, but with a few tools and a little patience, you can be a canning pro in no time.

How to Can in a Pressure Cooker

When it comes to creating the boiling water bath, there are two options. For highly acidic foods, like fruit jams, salsas, or pickles, you can create the water bath in a dutch oven or high walled pot. For foods with lower acidity levels, like vegetables, poultry, or meats, you’ll want to use a pressure cooker, which can heat up to 240 degrees Fahrenheit to kill foodborne bacteria. If you’re mixing high and low acid foods, be safe and employ the trusty pressure cooker.

To begin, gather the necessary tools: tongs, a wide-mouth funnel, a jar lifter,  measuring cups, and jars with 2 piece screw on lids. Don’t have these items laying around your home? You can pick up a 4 piece starter set  or 6 piece canning set, and these limited edition Ball jars at your local Big R store.

Now that we have all our tools, it’s time to assemble these cans!

  1. Choose a delicious recipe – Find something tasty on Big R’s Pinterest page or from a canning recipe book. Canning is the perfect way to save this season’s foods, so make sure to use only the freshest produce you can find – even better if they come from your own backyard!
  2. Heat the jars – Place the jars in hot (not boiling) water until ready for use. Fill a large stockpot halfway with water, making sure to fill the jars with the hot water to prevent floating, and bring to a simmer. You’ll want to keep the jars hot until you’re ready to fill them or they’ll break when filled with hot food. You can leave the lids and bands at room temperature. TIP: To simplify this process, you can also use your dishwasher to wash and heat jars.
  3. 2 step filling – First, fill the pressure canner with 2 to 3 inches of water and place over the stove to simmer. Keep the water at a simmer until you add the filled jars to the pressure cooker. To fill the hot jars with your prepared food mix, use a jar lifter to remove them from the hot water bath, and use a jar funnel to slide the mix in. If needed, remove air bubbles with the bubble remover and headspace tool.
  4. Clean the rim and threads – Use a cloth to remove any food residue that may have made its way onto the rim. Next, seal the jars and add water to the pressure cooker, which should still have 2 to 3 inches of simmering water at the bottom.
  5. Start cooking – Lock the pressure cooker’s lid, but keep the vent pipe open. Once steam is steadily escaping from the vent, allow it to vent for 10 minutes to release remaining air. Now, close the vent. Adjust the heat and pounds of pressure to the amount specified on your chosen recipe.
  6. Cooking complete – When cooking is done, you’ll need to cool the pressure cooker down by removing it from the heat. Once the cooker naturally returns to zero, wait 10 minutes before removing the weight and unlocking the lid. Wait another 10 minutes before removing the jars from the pressure cooker. Set the jars on the counter and let them be for 12 to 24 hours.
  7. Check the lid – First, remove the bands from around the jar. If you cannot lift the lid with your fingertips, then the jar is successfully sealed. Store your jars in a cool, dry and dark place for up to a year. Should your lid come off with the fingertip test, not all is lost! Instead of leaving your food in your pantry, move it to the fridge.

That’s it! You are just a few easy steps away from preserving your harvest bounty and enjoying those flavors for months to come.

Bonus Recipe

Here’s one of our favorite recipes for beef stew to jumpstart your canning inspiration! Rich beef chunks are in perfect harmony with tender potatoes, carrots, and celery. This recipe is courtesy of the canning superstars at Ball:

Ball's Beef Stew Canning Recipe | Big R

Ball’s Beef Stew Canning Recipe | Big R


  • 2 to 2-1/2 lb beef stew meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1-1/2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 6 cups cubed and peeled potatoes (about 6 medium)
  • 4 cups sliced carrots (about 8 small)
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped celery (about 3 stalks)
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped onion (about 2 small)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • Water
  • 3 (32 oz) quart jars or 7 (16 oz) pint glass jars with lids and bands


  1. Prep the pressure canner – Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil.  Wash lids in warm soapy water and set bands aside.
  2. Brown the meat – Add the meat to oil in a large saucepot. Add vegetables and seasonings to browned meat. Cover with boiling water. Bring stew to a boil. Remove from heat.
  3. Fill the jars – Ladle hot stew into hot jars leaving 1 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.
  4. Time to cook– Process the filled jars in a pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure for 1 hour and 15 minutes for pints and 1 hour and 30 minutes for quarts, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

To test your new canning skills, follow Big R on Pinterest for more delicious recipes!

County Fairs in Illinois & Indiana


It’s finally that time of the summer where county fairs pop up across the nation. The pageants, kettle corn, ferris wheels, tractor pulls, livestock shows, cotton candy and fried food are all waiting for you. Are you ready to get your fill of fair fun? Find the closest county fair in your Big R community with the list below.


  1. Iroquois County Fair: July 20th to July 25th (Watseka)
  2. Tazewell County Fair: August 2nd to August 6th (Washington and Pekin)
  3. Vermilion County Fair: July 6th to July 10th (Tilton and Danville)
  4. Ogle County Fair: August 3rd to August 7th (Rochelle)
  5. Livingston County Fair: August 18th to August 21st (Pontiac)
  6. McHenry County Fair- August 3rd to August 7th (McHenry)
  7. Will County Fair- August 24th to August 28th (Homer Glen)



  1. Montgomery County Fair – July 15th to July 21st (Crawfordsville)
  2. Wabash County Fair – July 10th to July 16th (Wabash)
  3. Kosciusko County Fair – July 10th to July 16th (Warsaw)
  4. Elkhart County Fair – July 22nd to July 30th (Elkhart)
  5. LaPorte County Fair – July 10th to July 16th (Michigan City)
  6. Fulton County Fair – July 9th to July 16th (Rochester)

Don’t forget to stock up on necessary fair gear like sunscreen and hats at your local Big R store before you go. There’s nothing like enjoying a warm, summer day with your family at the local county fair!

Best Father’s Day Gift Guide

Father’s Day is just around the corner and we know it’s difficult to pick the perfect gift for the best Dad around. Luckily, Big R’s great selection of gifts will make it easy to find the gift Dad will love. Spoil Dad on his special day for all his hard work, effort and dad jokes throughout the year. Here are a few of our favorite gifts for Dad:

Gun Safe

When he’s not out hunting or at a range, Dad needs a safe place to store his guns. That’s why a high-quality gun safe is a perfect choice for a gun-enthusiast like Dad. A high-quality safe is tamper-proof, drill resistant and can endure fire so that only Dad can access his guns. Choose a safe that looks good and takes up the right amount of space to seal the deal. With a sleek design and space for up to 10 long guns, our pick is the Winchester Safe Bandit 9

Carhartt Hoodie

Carhartt is a Dad-approved brand. So, there’s no better way to celebrate his day by gifting him one of their extremely comfortable sweaters. The 50% cotton, 50% polyester material blend feels like a dream. The corded hood and handwarmer pockets will help make this sweater one of Dad’s favorites. Just pick his favorite color

Drill Drive Set

For the handy Dad who always knows how to fix anything and everything, a drill drive set is the gift that keeps on giving. With a trusted brand like Irwin, Dad will be grateful for all the new ways he can use his power tools. The set includes 20 different multi-purpose pieces

Coleman 4-Person Tent

This four-person Coleman Sundome tent is an amazing steal for the adventurous Dad. After a great day of enjoying the outdoors, the spacious tent is welcome retreat that will fit the whole family. The tent also has built-in anti-rain technology that keeps the whole family comfortable and dry. Help Dad become one with nature

Cordless Grass Trimmer

One of Dad’s many chores includes cutting the grass. With a new cordless grass trimmer, it’s made easier! This Father’s Day gift is designed to help dad work as little as possible when he’s outside. The cordless trimmer is easy to use, effective and requires no extra tools. Get Dad a gift that simple and efficient

Char-Broil Gas Burner Grill

When he’s making BBQ or burgers, Dad is in the zone. Why not equip him with a top notch grill he’ll love? This traditional Char-Broil gas burner grill has two burners with plenty of space for Dad to create his masterpieces. The Piezo ignition system is efficient and provides a powerful spark with every push. Porcelain-coated grates add a finishing touch that Dad will appreciate. Help Dad make tasty BBQ every time with a new grill