How to Become a Beekeeper: 2 Species of Bees for Beginners

beekeeper-beekeepingSo you’ve just started to get into beekeeping — and good for you! It’s a great way to spend your time and the reward is so worth it when you discover that you’re able to help out and maintain an entire hive. But with so many bees in the world, how do you know which stock is best for you and your lifestyle? Here are a few suggestions, featuring two of the most popular bee stocks in the United States:

1. Carniolan Bees

These kinds of bees have origins in Middle Europe and start breeding early on in March, sometimes even late February if the weather gets warm early.

  • PROS

This earlier reproduction is better for the hive because they generally have a high yield. They are also more tolerant of colder climates and longer winters than other bees, making them a good first-time bee for the entire year. They are also less likely to steal honey from other colonies, preventing disease transmission. They are gentle when overcrowding is not a major problem. Carniolans tend to be proficient as they adjust worker bee population to the availability of nectar as well.

  • CONS

They are more likely to swarm and potentially be defensive if overcrowding is a problem. Carniolans struggle during the hot summer months.  There is a lot of time, money, and effort involved in making them thrive and live pleasantly.

2. Italian Bees

Italian Bees were brought to the US in the mid-19th century, so American beekeepers have had years of experience with them.

  • PROS

Italian bees are extremely efficient at producing great quality honey. They are significantly less defensive compared to other bee stocks. Their coloring is desirable and unique. They also tend not to swarm when under stress.

  • CONS

They tend to eat their own honey if there is a surplus, particularly in the springtime. They are also known to steal honey from other colonies, making disease transmission possible. In addition, they are not known to fare so well during cold winters.

Remember these tips:

  • All generalities about certain bee groups should be treated with caution, as they are still somewhat unpredictable and can act uniquely against the norm.

  • Some beekeepers allow oversimplifications about certain bee groups so that you can make the best judgement about which bee stock to get, based on their experiences.

  • Bees will act however their Queen acts — meaning, if your bee is particularly defensive, the others will act so as well. If you want to change the stock’s behavior, swap out the Queen.

To get started beekeeping, get Big R’s beginner beehive kit!


How to Take Care of Chicks in 6 Easy Steps


Thinking about bringing some baby chicks home this year? They definitely are adorable, but they can require quite a bit of work and effort on your part. Because they are so little, they are prone to lots of accidents. Constant supervision is required, so making sure that you have time in your schedule to help them grow up is important. Here are some tips on getting started with your brand new baby chicks:

1. Check up on them frequently.

Baby chicks require full responsibility — consider yourself warned! They are just as adorable and lovable as puppies, but they also require just as much — or more — work. For at least four weeks, make sure you can provide time to cater to them and watch how they are growing. You or a family member should check up on them, at least, five times a day.

2. Have a living space for them.

They will get to move outside to an outdoor coop after they’re 4-5 weeks old, but until then, you’ll have to deal with their messes in a smaller space! They are temporary indoor pets, so get a dog-sized crate, a large box, or an extra large plastic bin. Line the bin with wood shavings — but not cedar, because the smell is too much for them!

3. Use a heat lamp.

Chances are your chicks are very, very young. Typically, they get sent out to be bought when they are only a day old. A heat lamp will help these babies stay warm and grow accustomed to warmer temperatures, which will prepare them for when they will be living outside. If the chicks stay close together, they are likely cold and could use more heat. On the other hand, if they’re spread out as far as possible, that’s a sign to lower the heat. If you’re leery of using a heat lamp, consider using a heating pad, similar to this one at Big R Stores.

4. Watch their backsides.

Besides keeping your chicks fed with food and water, cleaning their cages is another big responsibility. You will soon notice within your first few days of having your chicks that they have a tendency to relieve themselves a lot – and we mean a lot. Make sure you take note that their backsides aren’t caked with their feces. If the feces gets backed up, it can be fatal. Clean your chicks with a warm, wet cloth if this happens.

5. Give them outside time.

Once the chicks are a bit older, about 2-3 weeks, you can take them outside and watch them closely as they play around in the grass! Chicks are very curious and playful, and will love being outside at this age. Just remember to keep a close eye on them as they know how to fly and escape at this age, and are very easy prey for predators.

6. Bugs and worms are treats.

Chicks are more than happy to eat any little critters in your garden, like worms and other kinds of scraps. But these are treats and not the main course, so make sure they don’t eat too much! Their primary source of food should be their feed, but a little dessert never hurt anyone, right? View Big R’s selection of feeding and watering supplies.

5 Ways to Keep Your Chickens Healthy in the Winter


As the chill of winter continues, we all stay prepared to stay warm and brace the cold with furnaces, stoves, blankets, and more. The winter months can be brutal and being prepared is essential!

Remember to do the same for any animals you live with too, especially your chickens! As the temperatures continue to drop and the winds become colder and drier, it’s important to keep your chickens comfortable during these freezing months.

Here are a few tips on keeping your feathered friends happy and healthy this season:

1. Make The Coop Cozy

Humans love coziness in their own homes — your chickens aren’t any different! Make sure to fix anything that could make your chickens unhappy in their coops. Repair leaks and cracks, make sure to get rid of any pests lurking in the coops, and ensure the temperature isn’t too hot or cold. If windows don’t manage to close completely, that’s perfectly fine. Too much heat kept in the coop will encourage mold to grow, and will make your chickens sick with respiratory diseases. The coop doesn’t have to be airtight!

2. Bring A Heat Lamp to the Coop

Some chicken owners swear by this method to keep chickens happy and toasty throughout the winter months. The heat and warmth encourage relaxation to prevent stressed out chickens. The heat lamp will really help your chickens enjoy the winter and not be bothered by the snow and wind!

3. Add Karo Syrup or Sugar to Water

Karo Syrup or sugar, when added to the chickens’ water, helps create perky and excitable chickens during the never-ending winter. For chicks, the ratio should be one part sugar and two parts water. For waterfowl, one part sugar and three parts water. Chickens and smaller birds also like their water to be a bit warmer during cold weather as well.

4. Make a Deep Litter for Warmth

This method will naturally help keep your chickens warm without exerting too much extra energy. Throughout spring, summer, and fall you’re essentially letting your chicken manure decompose and warm up with the nutrients on the floor. The litter should be made out of sawdust, pine shavings, dry leaves, hay, and other shavings. These microbes are actually beneficial for your chickens — think of them as probiotics.

5. Use Metal Containers

During the winter, rats and other invaders will try to come in and take away space and warmth from your chickens. They are more likely to come if the food is more readily available to them. Keep your chicken feed and water in metal containers so they have a more difficult time getting in.

Big R also has some great heat lamps you can buy for your chickens to keep them warm this winter. Visit the store today!

6 Tips to Horse Hoof Care in the Winter Season


The winter months are hard for everyone, especially any animals left outside! We know how to bundle ourselves up in the winter and protect ourselves from the cold, but do you know how to protect your horse’s hooves, which are susceptible to damage from the dry winter air and ice? Here are some important tips to keep your horses happy and healthy during the bitter cold winter months:

Know how to combat slower hoof growth

During the winter, your horse’s hooves will grow slower. Whether this is due to the colder temperatures slowing your horse’s system down or the work (or lack thereof) he is expected to perform, this slowing of your horse’s natural hoof growth can be troubling. Slow growth can delay the discovery of defects on your horse’s hooves, so keep your horse’s active with plenty of walks or exercise to be sure that they are not experiencing any pain.

Use sand or wood ashes to help your horse move

If your horse will be outdoors among the elements, consider placing sand, wood ashes, or wood chips to help the horse feel more comfortable. Icy situations are dangerous for your horse, so remember to proceed with caution and be patient!

Keep an open conversation with your farrier

Snow and ice – and cold weather in general – will change the growth of your horse’s hooves as mentioned above. This may result in seeing your farrier less often than usual. Be sure to ask what tools your farrier uses to fix your horse’s hooves, as they are more vulnerable during the colder seasons.

Change horseshoes if needed

Some horses may need to wear different shoes during the colder months. Anti-snowball rim pads, for example, attach onto the shoe without covering the entire hoof, and this may make it easier for your horses to stay active. Talk to your farrier about the best options for your horse, and consider the horse’s activity level as well.

Accelerate capsule growth

Making sure to accelerate the capsule growth in your horse’s feet will help weaker-footed horses stay healthier during the winter. Be sure to have your farrier and vet choose the right sole depth for your horse’s needs! By doing this, you can help protect your horse from moisture-related bacteria during long periods of rain or snow.

Remove obstacles and hazard

This is probably the cheapest way to keep your horses from getting injured during the winter! Take flower pots away from your horses if they are nearby, as they tend to suddenly break from cold temperatures. Make sure to keep the areas around your gates dry as horses can slip if they gather near it. Always stay alert to changing conditions.