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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
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Jackie Clay

Q and A: sterilizing jars and hens not laying

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Sterilizing jars

How do you sterilize Ball jars? How do you remove bubbles from the jars?

Lawrence Daly
Mays Landing, New Jersey

You sterilize canning jars by simmering them for 10 minutes in a large kettle. Most folks use a water bath canner for this. You remove bubbles from jars after filling them with food and liquid by running a plastic or wooden small knife or spatula down inside the jars where bubbles are lodged. They float to the top and are gone so they don’t affect the processing of the food. If bubbles are left in the food before processing, sometimes the food remains out of the liquid which has gone down during processing. — Jackie

Hens not laying

I love your articles and advice and have read all your books. Thank you for helping me to live out my dream in the middle of a big city. I have a wonderful garden, solar electric, a rain barrel and a bee hive. I’ve taught myself to can, dehydrate and freeze, make my own soap and cheese. My coworkers think I’m a bit of a kook, I think, but I know that being self reliant is very important in this day and age of unknown and more frequent disasters.

OK. Here is my question. I bought 3 sexlink red hen layer chicks in May. 2 of them have been great layers–an egg a day, even in the now cold weather. The other one, (Delilah) has only layed maybe 2-3 eggs at most in the same time frame (and she is dumber than a post!). Her comb is not as big and bright as the other girls and her hoo-hoo is not as ‘moist and pliable’ (as per my chicken info book!) as the others. My book suggests there may be a hormone problem. I don’t want to give her supplemental hormones, as these chickens a free ranging in the backyard and fed all organic material and food. Any ideas, other than the stewing pot?

Liz Boswell
Denver, Colorado

I’m so happy to hear I’ve helped you to begin living the good life even if you’re in the city right now. A whole lot is possible as you’ve found out. My dad’s mother, my Grandma Rhead, lived on a big lot in Detroit yet grew a great deal of her own food, canned, gardened, and made soap.

Your hen may have a hormone imbalance or just need a jolt of high protein diet. One thing that has been proven to work is to give her a little cheap dry cat food daily, mixed with her regular feed. Sounds weird, but it does often work to boost reluctant layers from hens like yours or hens that have gone through molt and are not laying. One note: from what I’m hearing from folks nationwide is that their chickens are not laying like they should be. I wonder if it’s this strange weather we’ve been having? Drought, heat, cold, snow, etc. I know mine aren’t laying like they always did and nothing else is different. Hopefully, Delilah will start popping them out like your other girls. — Jackie

6 Responses to “Q and A: sterilizing jars and hens not laying”

  1. Richard Says:

    It seems to me that Claire Wolfe obverse on the Living In Freedom blog has a canning question she’s too shy to ask about. She’d like to know “How do Grandmas do it” as in manage to can hundreds of jars in a day.

  2. kathy v Says:

    I went to a course required in my state for selling acidified products(veggies, pickles). They said that if your processing would last more than 10 minutes in either water bath or pressure canner, your jars didn’t need to be sterilized, just clean.

  3. jackie clay Says:

    Kathy V,

    True. Most canning recipes specify whether or not sterilizing jars is necessary (or a good idea). All pressure canned foods do not need sterilized jars, just very clean.


  4. jackie clay Says:


    I’ll travel over to Claire’s blog and try to give her and others a few hints on canning lots without killing yourself in the process.


  5. Terry Says:

    When her hens would quit laying, my grandma here in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas would make up a batch of “chicken bread,” cornbread made with water and no egg and sprinkled liberally with cayenne pepper. She swore that would get them to laying. We kids used to love chicken bread–it was kinda hard and crunchy, as I recall–and would beg Grandma to make a batch for us.

  6. Teri Says:

    Jackie, add me to the list of those puzzling over lower egg production. Our hens are giving very few eggs tho no one is molting, there hasn’t been any predator trauma, and it hasn’t gotten that cold yet in northern Arizona. I didn’t realize others were experiencing the same. Weird.

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