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Bird Flu and Chickens

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post on factors, such as bird flu, affecting the cost of eggs. Even as egg prices have decreased slightly where I live, HPAI still abounds. What is it? How is it spread? And are people at risk? These are just some of the questions I’ll answer as we discuss bird flu and chickens.

What is HPAI

person with blue latex gloves on holding Petri dish
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While there are 4 types of influenza viruses (A-D), type A viruses are the main ones identified in causing worldwide flu epidemics. Further, whereas types B, C, and D have been detected in other species, including humans, only type A has been recognized to infect birds. Also, avian influenza, a subtype of type A, is labeled as either high or low pathogenicity in relation to genetic features. Thus, HPAI, or highly pathogenic avian influenza is a severely contagious illness caused by influenza type A virus.

History of Bird Flu

brown goose on lake water
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According to the CDC, bird flu was first documented in 1878 in Northern Italy. Fowl plague, its moniker, was characterized by high mortality. And by 1901, it was concluded that fowl plague was caused by a filterable virus. But it wasn’t until 1955 that fowl plague was revealed to be a type A influenza virus. Moreover, in 1981, the term fowl plague was replaced by highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) at the First International Symposium on Avian Influenza.

Then, in 1996, HPAI H5N1 was first observed in domestic waterfowl in Southern China. Additionally, bird flu was subsequently detected in people in 1997, something previously not thought possible.

More recently, as of 2021-2022, a new H5N1 virus with a wild bird adapted gene popped up. Furthermore, it’s caused the biggest outbreak Europe and the US have seen to date.

How does Bird Flu Spread

black and white digital sketch of a chicken sneezing on another chicken with a sign advising them to stay 6 feet apart if ill
Digital Art, Courtesy of Sarah Smith

Given that avian flu is so infectious, how does it spread? Well, based on the USDA website, bird flu spreads directly from bird to bird. However, it can also spread indirectly by coming into contact with something that’s infected. For instance, suppose someone tracks feces from a contaminated farm back to their own farm, and then their chickens walk and peck the ground where said person tracked contaminated feces, picking up the virus. That’s just one example of how bird flu can spread to birds.

Bird flu has caused over 200 million poultry deaths in a host of countries so far.  Additionally, an unprecedented number of non-poultry birds, including wild birds, have died due to the disease. Plus, because of migration patterns of wild birds, they help the virus circulate. Thus, wild birds, rodents, and people are all possible sources of presenting the disease to domestic birds. But what about other vectors?

What are Vectors

multiple flies hovering around faces of 2 cows
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vector noun

2 a: an organism (such as an insect) that transmits a pathogen from one organism or source to another

“Vector.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Feb. 2023.

Over 2 decades ago my father-in-law was asked to assist veterinarians in Great Britain as they were dealing with foot and mouth disease. While he was there, he remarked on how there were a ton of flies on the dead and diseased cattle. He finally mentioned it to someone in charge, even asking what they were doing about the vectors. Unfortunately his observations were not well received, as he was told to keep his mouth shut.

I found this memory poignant, especially in light of all the affected birds from this latest outbreak of HPAI. What are we doing about other vectors? We’re aware of animal, human, and bird vectors that spread the disease. Though, I could only find a couple of examples online, in the US, that even hinted that flies might be vectors. However, this study done over a decade ago didn’t come right out and say that flies spread bird flu. It advised that the flies carried it in the study, so it was possible. But, more tests would be needed.

Though, in the event you want evidence that flies spread diseases, check this site out. It details HPAI outbreak in Japan during 2003-2004, and was linked to the blow fly, a relative of the common house fly. Also, according to the same study above, flies were listed as mechanical vectors. But what’s the difference between mechanical and biological vectors? And what are wild birds and mammals when they spread avian flu to chickens?

Mechanical and Biological Vectors

close up shot of a mosquito on human skin
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Mechanical vectors, such as flies, pick up an infectious agent and physically transmit it in a passive way. And a biological vector is one in whose body the pathogen develops and multiplies before passing on to another host. Mosquitos are biological vectors for West Nile virus.

Honestly I couldn’t find what wild birds were, whether biological or mechanical. However, since we’re told that birds spread the disease from bird to bird, it would seem they are also mechanical. Although, we’re told as well that wild aquatic birds are natural reservoirs for the virus. Plus, in the intervening years we don’t see the disease before it resurfaces, and it’s mutated, indicates a biological vector is at work. Interestingly enough, birds are reservoir hosts for West Nile virus.

Wildlife, especially mammals, are reservoirs for an enormous diversity of viruses.

1Faculty of Health Sciences, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
2Burnet Institute, Melbourne, Australia
3CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Private Bag 24, Geelong, Victoria 3220, Australia
John S Mackenzie: ua.ude.nitruc@eiznekcaM.J
4Address: 20A Silver Street, Malvern, Vic 3144, Australia.

And according to the CDC, aquatic birds, including shore birds and wild waterfowl like ducks are considered reservoirs, or natural hosts, for bird flu viruses.

Symptoms of H5N1 HPAI in Poultry

dead brown and red chicken on the grass

Birds infected with the virus may show one or more of the following:

  • sudden death
  • lack of energy
  • reduction in egg production
  • soft-shelled or misshapen eggs
  • swelling around head, neck, and eyes
  • purple discoloration on head and legs
  • gasping for air (difficulty breathing)
  • nasal discharge, coughing, and sneezing
  • incoordination (stumbling or falling down)
  • twisting of the head or neck
  • and/or diarrhea

What You Can Do

Biosecurity is currently the best policy if you have backyard birds. Read below for recommendations:

person washing hands
Photo by Ron Lach on
  • Disinfect clothes, shoes, egg trays, vehicles, crates, etc.
  • Don’t expose cleaned and disinfected tools and equipment to wild birds.
  • Wash hands and shoes before and after entering chicken yard (area).
  • Buy birds from reputable sources; and isolate for at least 30 days to observe for any signs of illness before mixing with the rest of your flock.
  • Restrict visitors on and off of your property, especially from having contact with your flock.
  • Don’t visit other poultry farms, and avoid visitors that have poultry.
  • Keep wild birds and rodents out of the coop and poultry areas.
  • Don’t let your birds have contact with migratory waterfowl or other wild birds.
  • Secure feed and water to guard against contamination.
  • And have a written biosecurity plan.
  • Finally, if you’re working around sick birds, wear PPE; and visit the CDC site for more info.

In the past, simply culling birds and the heat from summer seemed to keep the virus in check. However, with this latest outbreak, it hung around. And now, some countries are even considering poultry vaccines for H5N1. It’s a measure of desperation. Costs and the need to have a vaccine for all of the strains are just a couple of reasons vaccines haven’t been used before.

Are People at Risk

a person holding pen and paper with graphs
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Poultry and wild birds aren’t the only animals being affected by avian flu since 2021. Thus far, several mammals in both Europe and the US have been infected by H5N1. Red fox, opossum, raccoons, a coyote, striped skunks, harbor and grey seals, a bottlenose dolphin, a fisher, 3 types of bears, a mountain lion, a bobcat, an Amur tiger and an Amur leopard all have been found positive for the H5N1 virus in the US.

Likewise, seals in Scotland, sea lions in Peru, and lastly, mink in Spain have also been identified with the virus. Given that mink seemed to pass the virus between themselves gave virologists concern. Furthermore, past studies have revealed mink to be vulnerable to avian and human influenza A viruses.

The high seroprevalence of combined avian and human influenza viruses suggests a strong likelihood of co-infections and thus farmed mink could serve as “mixing vessels”…. 

aKey Laboratory of Animal Epidemiology and Zoonosis, Ministry of Agriculture, College of Veterinary Medicine, China Agricultural University, Beijing, People’s Republic of China
bDepartment of Biostatistics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
cChinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Key Laboratory of Pathogenic Microbiology and Immunology, Center for Influenza Research and Early-Warning (CASCIRE), Institute of Microbiology, Beijing, People’s Republic of China
dSchool of Public Health (Shenzhen), Sun Yat-sen University, Guangdong, People’s Republic of China
eSchool of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
CONTACT Jinhua Liu nc.ude.uac@hjl
*Honglei Sun and Fangtao Li contributed equally to this work.

Nevertheless, the CDC advised that humans lack the type of cell receptor in the upper respiratory tract that H5N1 viruses use to cause the disease. Plus, according to WHO, this current strain of H5N1 has caused less than 10 infections worldwide. And only 1 was in the US. In addition, it mainly affects those who have close contact with sick birds. Moreover, there have been no known human-to-human transmissions of the H5N1 virus that’s presently spreading globally among birds.

In Summary

green rotary telephone
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Bird flu has been around a long time. And each time it returns, it’s changed a little bit more. Further, there are a number of ways bird flu can spread to poultry. Additionally, even though it’s been identified in some mammals, the threat to humans is still considered low.

However, if you see any of the symptoms listed above in your birds, you are encouraged to contact your agricultural extension office/agent, local veterinarian, local animal health diagnostic laboratory, or the State veterinarian; or call USDA toll free at 1-866-536-7593.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Please comment, share, and follow.


HCM Heart Disease in Cats

HCM heart disease in cats is a condition that causes the heart muscles to thicken. Further, it can affect kittens and adults alike, as well as any breed and gender. In addition, it’s estimated that anywhere from 15% to 30% of cats have HCM. However, most cats with HCM show no signs of disease. On top of that, we had to put Meow Meow to sleep recently due to complications related to HCM. As a result, it’s my sincere hope to prevent other pet parents from losing their cats in like manner.

Typical for me, when we or our pets go through an illness or injury, I scour the web for as much information as I possibly can to understand, and to hopefully prevent or find a solution to the issue. What started as a limp in Meow Meow rapidly progressed to lameness in only a matter of a couple of days. At prior vet visits, we were never told she had heart disease; never heard the words heart murmur, mitral valve dysplasia, or arrhythmia.

What caused Meow Meow’s lameness was feline aortic thromboembolism, otherwise known as FATE or saddle thrombus. And once cats are diagnosed with FATE, such as Meow Meow was, there is rarely good news. Therefore, even though saddle thrombus essentially brought about Meow Meow’s death, HCM heart disease was at the root of it.

What Causes HCM Heart Disease in Cats

bengal cat lying on the floor
Photo by u7426 u5218 on

Genetic predisposition of HCM is the prevailing cause in many cat breeds, including Ragdoll, Sphinx, and Maine Coon. But HCM is also readily recognized in other purebred cats, including Bengal, Shorthair, Norwegian Forest, and Persian. So heredity is thought to be a determining factor with those breeds as well.

Although, other cat breeds, including mixed breeds, are speculated to have similar genetic causes to their HCM, work directed toward finding those remains unfruitful as of yet. Plus, mixed breed cats generally either don’t have well-documented family history or no family history of HCM. Thus, scientists believe there are also other, unknown causes of HCM.

Though, according to Cornell Feline Health Center, both hypertension and hyperthyroidism lead to HCM. Lastly, chronic kidney disease (CKD) and heart disease are often linked together in humans and cats; either one can provoke the other.

Symptoms of HCM in Cats

close up photo of dark gray British shorthair cat
Photo by Marianna OLE on

First of all, since cat owners don’t regularly exercise cats, unlike their dog counterparts, there might seem to be no symptoms of HCM heart disease in cats. Often dubbed the silent killer, because pet parents aren’t aware their fur baby has it until heart failure, FATE, or even sudden death.

But that doesn’t mean changes aren’t occurring. Even as the heart becomes less effective, your cat’s body makes up for the disease, concealing symptoms.  Think of small adjustments their body makes over time, ones we don’t register. Sadly, extended activation of such compensatory mechanisms damages the heart muscle and other organs in the end stages of the disease. Therefore, for clarity, I’ll divide the symptoms into 2 distinct medical conditions.

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

orange tabby cat wrapped in gray and white blanket
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CHF occurs if your cat’s heart isn’t pumping enough blood to other parts of their body, causing fluid to back up in the lungs.  Humans with CHF often compare it to drowning. And according to BMC Veterinary Research, cats affected with HCM have been shown to carry a 23.8% risk of developing congestive heart failure. Furthermore, symptoms of CHF in cats include:

  • Heart murmur
  • Abnormal heart rate or rhythm
  • Increased time spent sleeping while less time being active or playing
  • Weight loss, including decreased appetite and vomiting
  • Elevated breathing rate and/or effort
  • Pale or blue gums and cold extremities
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Open-mouth breathing or panting
  • Ungroomed appearance–upon close inspection, they might have dandruff in their fur, and/or long claws
  • And sudden death


black and white digital drawing of a cat showing thromboembolism, with heart, aorta and saddle
Digital Art, Courtesy of Sarah Smith

A thromboembolism is a blood clot that breaks off and causes a blockage.  And based on Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine, as of 2003, thromboembolism was observed in around 50% of cats with HCM. In addition, where the clot breaks off and settles determines the symptoms.

  • Stroke – a blood clot that blocks blood flow in the brain.  And signs consist of seizures, weakness, blindness, falling, muscle spasms, and coma.
  • Pulmonary embolism – a blockage that occurs in the lungs. And the signs are labored and rapid breathing. But the cat can also cough, have blue-tinged gums, faint, and/or go into shock. In addition, sudden death is also possible.
  • Aortic thromboembolism, aka saddle thrombus. 89% of cats with saddle thrombus have some form of heart disease. However, HCM is the one most often to blame. And saddle thrombus appears because a blood clot travels from the aorta and settles in the saddle, cutting off ALL circulation to one or both back legs. Additionally, it generates extreme pain and paralysis, and is often fatal.

Furthermore, in some cats, the strain of FATE deteriorates their cardiomyopathy leading to acute congestive heart failure.  So you see, a cat can have both saddle thrombus and CHF with cardiomyopathy. Though, it’s not common. And if it happens at all, it’s usually later in the disease.

How HCM Heart Disease in Cats is Diagnosed

2 vials of blood samples
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Unfortunately a DNA test is not how heart disease in cats is definitively diagnosed. Seeing that some cats that are predisposed to it don’t fall ill with HCM, even as other cats aren’t do. However, your pet’s veterinarian might hear a heart murmur at a routine office visit. Or another symptom might pop up, in which case the vet may recommend

  • proBNP blood test that measures the NT-proBNP hormone that’s released by stretched or stressed muscle cells in the heart. Despite being reported to have a 90% accuracy rate, there are other issues that can influence the test results.
  • echocardiogram is considered the gold standard when assessing the heart. This feline echo shows an image of the heart so veterinarians can then evaluate the heart size, shape, and the way it functions. Moreover, the veterinarian will be able to measure wall thickness, examine heart valves, and check blood flow. Echocardiograms can also be used to detect some heartworm infections.

Depending on your pet’s symptoms, your veterinarian may recommend a chest X-ray and/or an electrocardiogram (ECG) besides. The X-ray would look for fluid on the lungs. And the ECG would reveal any heart rhythm abnormalities.

Just be aware that if your cat doesn’t have HCM heart disease now doesn’t mean they won’t at some later time. Thus, if you have a high-risk breed, like one listed above, you should get them regularly tested.

Treatment for HCM in Cats

4 different pill bottles and 3 packets of medications next to blood pressure cough on wooden boards
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Fortunately, many medications formulated for people are also prescribed for cats with similar issues, as you’ll see below. However, don’t give any medicines to your pets until clearing it with your veterinarian first. Obviously dosages are completely different. In addition, disease progression will dictate treatment. But overall, the veterinarian may want to

  • slow your cat’s heart rate, correct arrhythmias, and lower blood pressure

Beta blockers like atenolol can slow heart rate and lower blood pressure. And calcium-channel blockers, such as Cardizem, are used for cardiac arrhythmias.

  • minimize clot formation

Plavix is usually better than aspirin at preventing further clots, according to Morris Animal Foundation. .

  • alleviate fluid build-up with CHF and change your cat’s diet

Diuretics like furosemide are used to drain excess fluid from the heart and/or lungs. Plus, oxygen therapy and needle aspiration are additional options if congestive heart failure is severe.

Also, your cat’s veterinarian likely won’t recommend changing any diet UNLESS your fur baby has congestive heart failure. That’s because unrestricted sodium intake for cats with CHF causes fluid retention. Talk to your veterinarian, or look here for ideas on what to feed your cat if they have CHF.

  • and lastly, give your cat pain medicine if needed

Prognosis of HCM Heart Disease in Cats

orange tabby cat lying on a green surface
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There are many variables involved when evaluating the prognosis for HCM in cats, like your cat’s age and how advanced the heart disease is. In addition, how well your cat responds to treatment affects the outlook as well. However, generally HCM heart disease is a progressive disease. Usually once symptoms appear, unless the first one is a blood clot, cats live about ~ 2 years. Otherwise, the odds are less than that.

Moreover, it’s vital to understand that heart medications don’t cure HCM. Although, they can prevent the disease from getting worse, and/or from causing secondary issues. Nevertheless, the best plan is to get cats diagnosed early, before any symptoms start.

HCM Heart Disease in Cats

close up of tortoiseshell cat sitting on a couch
Meow Meow Kitty Kitty

As I’ve learned about hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and all of the resulting symptoms and complications, I realized why we didn’t notice the subtle signs in Meow Meow. She was a middle-aged cat when she came to live with us. Perhaps if she was kitten or a year old back then, things might have been different. But when Meow Meow came to us, she was already deep in her habits of sleeping all day. Therefore, we had nothing with which to compare her behavior.

Again, HCM is a degenerative disease, especially once symptoms start showing up. But it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Even something as simple as excessive sleeping or an unkempt appearance should be taken as a sign that something is off. Because the sooner treatment can be started, the better your cat’s fighting chances are.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope you enjoyed it. Please post a comment, share, and don’t forget to follow.

Extras recipes

Red Velvet Heart Shape Cake

Since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, I decided to make a red velvet heart shape cake. Walmart has an array of Valentine’s Day baking goods for sale lately, including the Bundt cake pan I got. While I didn’t necessarily need a new pan, I really enjoy cooking and trying out new things. In addition, my family appreciates it too.

This was the first time I’ve made a Bundt cake in a long time. Even though I have other Bundt pans, I just haven’t used them in a while. Although I intended on it. But I would forget I had the pans and use another. Or make a different kind of cake. However, when I saw the heart shape pan, I just had to have it. And I didn’t put off using it.

Duncan Hines red velvet cake mix with heart shape Bundt cake pan and measuring spoons

So you might be wondering if you can even use a Bundt pan for a regular red velvet cake. Or any other type of cake for that matter. And the answer is yes. Though, make sure you have the right amount of batter for the size pan.

How to Figure out the Batter

In another post, I shared a link to Wilton’s blog, where there’s a chart for how much batter to add to various cake pan sizes. Additionally it gives cooking times. So with most cake pans, measure the pan’s length and depth. But this cake is a Bundt cake. And not just any Bundt cake, a heart shape Bundt cake.

So if you don’t know this, find out the size of your Bundt pan by measuring how much water it holds. Although, don’t fill any cake pan to the top, because it will overflow! For this recipe, it’s a Wilton Bundt pan, and it holds approximately 4 cups of water.

The general rule for filling Bundt cakes is to leave ~ 1 inch of clearance from the top of the batter to the top of the pan. However, that’s based on the size of the pan. And it’s recommended to only fill small Bundt pans, < 10 inches in length, half full. With that being said, I filled my heart shape pan 2/3 full, like I do with my muffins and cupcakes, and it didn’t overflow.

unfrosted red velvet heart shape cake

Red Velvet Heart Shape Cake Ingredients:

  • 1 Duncan Hines Perfectly Moist Red Velvet Cake mix
  • 1 c buttermilk or *buttermilk substitute*
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 c melted butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3.4 oz package of instant chocolate pudding
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • and a handful of lightly floured semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • a few fresh strawberries, de-stemmed and washed

*If, like me, you don’t have buttermilk when you want to make red velvet cake, then here’s a very simple buttermilk substitute. Add 1 tbsp of distilled vinegar to 1 cup of milk; let it sit for 10 minutes to thicken.

pink frosting in a bowl with beaters

Red Velvet Heart Cake Instructions:

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. And very generously spray your heart shape Bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Mix the first 8 ingredients on low speed until moistened. Then beat on medium speed for ~ 2 minutes.
  • Next, pour ~ 3 full measuring cups into your prepared Bundt pan. And bake on the center rack in the middle of the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Cool cake in the pan on a wire rack for no more than 15 minutes. Then invert cake onto a plate or serving platter, and allow to cool completely before frosting.
  • Frost with your favorite pink Buttercream or whipped cream frosting. I made a whipped cream frosting and added a few drops of red food coloring to it. Then I filled the hole with the fresh strawberries.
red velvet cake and 3 fresh strawberries on a white plate

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Extras recipes

Best Feature of Egg Cookers

Even with higher prices, eggs are a staple in most homes. Considering they can be cooked in various ways, eggs are also used in desserts and sides. But not everyone has time to make a nutritious breakfast via the stove or oven before starting their day. Thus, technology made a way with the egg cooker. Continue reading for basic characteristics of, and the best feature of egg cookers.

Perhaps you’re familiar with egg cookers. Well, up till this past Christmas I’m not sure I ever heard of them. But now I can’t imagine not having one. Why did it take so long for me to learn about egg cookers? And how did I find out about them? Likely I didn’t know about them, because I have a very small kitchen. And any extra appliances added make it that much smaller. In addition, my husband gifted me an egg cooker this past Christmas.

But before moving on to the best feature egg cookers have, I’m going to spend a couple of minutes going over some key information electric egg cookers share.

Aspects of Electric Egg Cookers

multiple parts of white and turquoise small kitchen appliance on white background

Egg cookers have been around for a long time, ca 1920s. Since then, they’ve been through many changes. And there are electric egg cookers that range in capacity from 4 to 14 eggs. Plus, they come in an array of colors. Also, you can choose metal or plastic ones. And they even have BPA-free plastic as well. Additionally, they vary in cost, anywhere from $10 to over $100, depending on the bells and whistles you choose.

Moreover, electric egg cookers are able to cook eggs in at least 3 different styles: hard-boiled, poached, and omelettes. Although, the omelettes are on the small side in my opinion. And some egg cookers even cook vegetables. In addition, egg cookers work by utilizing steam from the water that’s added to the cooker. Further, they beep to let you know when your eggs are done, ~7-15 minutes. Also, some even include automatic shut-off. Though, mine does not.

Since I’ve provided some general info regarding most egg cookers, I’ll briefly continue in more detail about my own: the Greenlife Qwik egg cooker.

My Electric Egg Cooker: GreenLife Qwik Egg Cooker

2 poached eggs on slice of toast facing a sliced of cheese on another piece of toast on a white plate

This nifty little machine, at 6.34″H x 6.30″W x 7.17″D, easily fits in a cupboard or the pantry. Because I don’t have a big kitchen, or a ton of counter space, the size is a plus for me. And it has a 28 inch long cord. Also, my egg cooker is turquoise. However, they come in red and pink as well. Though, pink is currently out of stock.

With this particular brand, we can boil 7 eggs at a time. Or make 2 omelettes or 2 poached eggs. In addition, it has a one switch design: on and off. And a clear lid to see the eggs while they’re cooking. Furthermore, all removable parts are BPA-free and dishwasher safe.

Using the Greenlife Qwik egg cooker is very simple. Plus, it only takes about 10 minutes for the eggs to be done. And I suspect we’re using less electricity using the egg cooker than when we use the stove; it simply doesn’t generate as much heat.

Best Feature of Egg Cookers

top view of turquoise, white and clear egg cooker with brown eggs steaming

One of the things I enjoy about our electric egg cooker is the consistency of the eggs. For example, every time we use the egg cooker in any capacity, the eggs are always perfect. But I suppose that’s because they’re in a controlled environment in a way.

Moreover I like that it’s small, and can be put out of the way. When you have a small kitchen without a lot of counter space, this is essential to extra appliances and gadgets.

Nevertheless, my favorite part about our egg cooker is that our boiled, farm fresh, eggs peel easy every time. Every. Single. Time. Therefore, we don’t have to wait a certain amount of time to cook them. Likewise we don’t have to perform any tricks. Given that egg cookers use steam to cook eggs in the same way that I recommended in a past post, it makes sense. Although, it’s much faster with the electric egg cooker than the stove. Thus, this was a complete game changer for me on work days.

In Summary

digital sketch of math symbols with the plus sign highlighted in the center
Digital Art, Courtesy of Sarah Smith

Egg cookers come in an assortment of sizes and colors. And you can find one from almost any price-point. Plus, they have a lot of benefits, which include cooking eggs easier and better. But, if you enjoy hardboiled eggs, the best feature of egg cookers is that boiled, farm fresh, eggs peel easy.

What’s your favorite part about of an egg cooker, provided you have one or have used one?

Thank you for taking the time to read this post! If you enjoyed it, please like it, share it, and please don’t forget to follow!

All animals Extras

Cats Gain Weight after Spaying

About 80% of American household cats are spayed or neutered, which is invaluable for the many health and social benefits. However, most studies have found that cats gain weight after spaying. But it’s possible you didn’t notice many changes if your cat was spayed when she was a kitten, since she was still growing. Though, if you had your cat spayed as an adult, you might have discovered that she’s heavier than she once was.

Even if you have a cat that put on some extra pounds post-spay, nevertheless, with your help, they aren’t destined to become obese. Continue reading for ways to combat the weight gain, and to keep obesity at bay.

tortoiseshell shorthair cat trying to drink out of fountain outside
Meow Meow is too heavy to lift herself up enough to drink out of the fountain!

Why Cats Gain Weight After being Spayed

cat eating big bowl of cat food out of blue bowl outside
Photo by itsmeseher on

I never experienced a cat in heat before Itty. But just to recap feline estrous: female cats are in heat every few days for at least 10 solid months of the year! Plus, their hormones are raging, which includes estrogen being released, on and off, during this 10 month long period.

Thus, when Itty was in heat, she had no time for food. Because she was distracted. And it wasn’t until she was out of heat that she would finally eat food. However, a few days later she would be back into her heat cycle. Until she was spayed. Since she no longer has all those hormones driving her other needs, I have theories about what caused her starvation after surgery, then over-eating, and therefore, weight gain.

Regardless of my theories, multiple studies have revealed that cats gain weight after being spayed because:

  • they lose estrogen, which decreases metabolic rate
  • metabolic rate is decreased, thus their energy needs are decreased
  • plus, spayed cats need about 20-25% less food than intact cats for ideal weight
  • in addition, appetites can increase because estrogen has been shown to decrease appetite
  • and finally, some spayed cats are under-exercised and over-fed.

Age Cat is Spayed is a Factor in Weight Gain Post-Spay

person in scrubs performs surgery on sedated cat
Photo by Pranidchakan Boonrom on

This might actually surprise you, but adult cats are more at-risk for gaining weight, resulting in obesity, post-spay than kittens. Although, depending on which site you look at, you might get a totally different answer. But I was suspicious of this myself, after witnessing the effects of hormones during Itty’s estrous cycles. And considering that spaying a cat is similar to a human hysterectomy, it has to be such a shock to their systems.

In any case, this study published in 2017, involved only kittens (15-52 weeks). And the purpose was to determine their total energy needs by inspecting the significance of spaying, age when spayed on intake, and body weight. Given the study only included kittens, half were spayed/neutered early compared to the rest, which was conventional. Or they were spayed/neutered at a later date, when they hit puberty.

The results revealed that the kittens spayed/neutered early, before reaching sexual maturity and their first heat cycle, gradually gained weight through normal growth. Whereas the kittens spayed/neutered after sexual maturity showed sudden increases in feeding, hence gaining weight more quickly, and becoming overweight. 

A Word About Hyperphagia and Leptin Resistance

Digital image of calico cat eating a big steak dinner
Digital Art, Courtesy of Sarah Smith

Hyper-what? Well, up till now I’ve just been referring to Itty’s need for food post-spay starvation. Though, it turns out there’s an actual word for the condition. Also, it appears that other pet parents are unaware of this term as well. Because when I looked up this issue about starving cat post surgery, there were tons of others with the same problem. They just didn’t have a word for it either. However, it is most commonly associated with injury to the hypothalamus.

But there’s also leptin, which is a hormone that helps our bodies maintain normal weight on a long-term basis. While normally leptin increases when food is eaten, signaling the hypothalamus to tell the brain that we and our pets are satisfied, mammals with too much or too little leptin don’t get those signals. Additionally, those with higher levels of leptin, who eat more and gain more weight, indicate leptin resistance. Therefore, from what I’ve read, there’s obviously a connection between spaying/neutering and leptin resistance. For instance, this 2002 article from The Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism says:

One means through which estrogen may affect energy balance is through influencing synthesis of the hormone leptin. Leptin is a hormone produced by adipocytes (10) that is thought to affect energy intake and expenditure (1113). 

Leptin in Postmenopausal Women: Influence of Hormone Therapy, Insulin, and Fat Distribution* 
B. A. Gower,  T. R. Nagy,  M. I. Goran,  A. Smith,  E. Kent

Scientists used to think it was just cats eating too much. Or that their owners were too lazy to play with them. However, with more research done on leptin and its function, it makes more sense that something else is going on. For example, all the starving cats post-spay. It’s the classic chicken or egg question: which came first, the eating disorder or the starving cat? Since I’ve experienced this firsthand, and I know how small Itty was prior to spaying, I can tell you how off the charts hungry she has been. She has no idea that she’s full. Thus, once cats hit puberty and are then spayed, hormonally something happens. Or doesn’t happen like it’s supposed to. And so cats eat. And eat, because they don’t know they’re full.

What You can do to Prevent Obesity Post-Spay

If your cat was spayed recently, or is going to be, just know that she is going to gain some weight. It’s a given, at least with everything I’ve read. Despite that, to prevent obesity

2 cats eating out of huge bowls outside by red door
Photo by Arzum Kaya on

Instead figure out your cat’s daily caloric needs using this site. And then adjust their food intake by giving your cat several smaller, measured meals throughout the day.

  • Also, avoid feeding your fur baby table scraps or treats
white cat eating from crystal bowl on fully furnished table
Photo by cottonbro studio on

Most of the time cats seem finicky. Until they get spayed. Next, they appear starving. And then any type of food is fair game to them then. Be strong, my friend. Be strong.

  • And promote physical activity.
2 different cats playing on big multi-level cat scratching post
Photo by Arina Krasnikova on

Get some toys and play with your cat. Or even explore your backyard together. But do something that distracts them from wanting to eat all the time.

Before Itty went into her very first heat cycle, she and I would play together all the time. However, once she hit puberty, she was no longer herself due to those crazy hormones. While Itty is now spayed and no longer distracted, she’s up to playing and exploring again.

  • Lastly, make an appointment with the vet.
2 different people holding and examining a white cat
Photo by Gustavo Fring on

If after all of these steps and you’re still fighting the daily hyperphagia, or starvation, then it’s time to see the vet. You can’t do this on your own; you need some help.

In fact, I’m planning on making an appointment for Itty as well. Because I’ve already changed her diet. Though, I’m not sure how much fat content I’m supposed to cut out of her diet, since fat is vital to their diet. And I suspect she has leptin resistance. The good news on that is there is treatment to reverse leptin resistance. But the vet probably needs blood work before starting any treatment.

In Conclusion

Most cats gain weight after being spayed due to the loss of estrogen. And the hormone leptin experiences resistance after spay as well, which leads cats to eating more, and thus, gaining more weight. However, there’s things we can do to help our cats from becoming obese: providing smaller meals, encouraging exercise, and talking with the veterinarian.

If you’ve already had your cat spayed for some time, did your cat experience hyperphagia? Also, did she gain weight? And how did you handle the changes?

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Extras personal

Back to Blogging

I’m semi-finished with my long break from blogging. To recap, I took time off to spend with my 12 year old, and have her tested due to behavior issues. However, I discovered that for girls it’s a lot more difficult to get a diagnosis. Therefore, ultimately, we got nowhere with that; at least where we live.

close up image of hand holding pen writing on notebook paper
Photo by Louis Bauer on

Nevertheless, I got a lot of work done on my house. Also, Itty was finally spayed, which I’ll write a post on. Moreover, I could probably write a comic based off of Itty’s eating behaviors since being spayed, titled, “My 600 lb cat life.” Though, seriously, it’s no joking matter. I have to monitor her every eating moment. And that’s a lot of work, especially when she gets me up every 2 or 3 hours while I’m supposed to be sleeping, all for food.

calico kitten sitting up on beige couch

In addition, I had carpal tunnel release surgery on my left hand a couple days before Christmas. For those of you unfamiliar with what that is, it’s surgery to treat carpal tunnel syndrome. I’ve had issues with that on and off since being a dental assistant for over 2 decades. Although, it was so bad my hand would sort of spasm and lock up. I suspect all the work I did on our house, with the sanders and painting, contributed toward my hand and wrist issues.

books, notebooks, and food mess scattered on table
Photo by cottonbro studio on

Even though I took a break to spend time with my daughter, having her tested, and getting nowhere, I’m still returning to blogging. Though, you’ll notice I may not blog as much as before. Furthermore, I downgraded my account, which affected the look of my site, among other things. So I have some messes on my site to clean up, which I’ve already been attending to; others I’ll need WP to help me with. As such, I beg your pardon while I deal with the issues. I hope everyone had great and safe holidays. And I look forward to blogging again!

Extras recipes

Recipe for Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

There are many things to add to banana bread: carrots, raisins, peanut butter, or dates. But the first time I made a recipe for banana bread with chocolate chips was around 10 years ago. And I think the first time I tried banana bread with chocolate chips was when working in Dallas. However I prefer the following recipe, which is also made with coconut, and the one I made a decade ago.

Ingredients for Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips:

  • 1/2 c chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips)
  • 1/3 c plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 stick (1/2 c) of butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 c packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 c all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp each, baking soda and salt
  • 1 tsp each, ground nutmeg and ginger
  • 4 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2/3 c coarsely chopped nuts (I used pistachios)
  • and 1/2 c shredded coconut
baking batter with different ingredients in a light blue bowl

Instructions for Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips:

  • First, preheat the oven to 350°, and grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Next, using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl. Then add the egg and beat till light and fluffy. Next, beat in the vanilla.
  • Further, in another bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients and spices together. Then add them alternately with the mashed banana, mixing well after each addition.
  • Next, mix in the nuts, coconut, and yogurt with chocolate chips. Then pour evenly into the prepared pan.
  • And bake the bread until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean, ~ 1 hour. Then cool in the pan 30 minutes, and invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. Finally, serve at room temperature.
loaf of bread in a brown glass loaf pan

Banana bread is great to eat alone, or as an addition to eggs. What do you like to put in your banana bread? Your comments are appreciated.

Extras personal

Taking a Break

For those of you who follow my blog, I’m going to be taking a break. I only have one daughter left at home, who’s going to be 12 next month. And she doesn’t learn the same way my two older daughters did. So next month we’re taking her for testing; it’s been scheduled for almost half a year. But, with everything I’ve read and experienced thus far, she requires more attention from me than they did. And blogging demands a lot of attention, so I can’t in good faith do both.

brown red and black Ameraucana rooster outside
Bryngyld Ameraucana rooster

However I have really enjoyed it. And I had so many more posts to write. You will be happy to know that Bakugo, our white Pekin, has found another rooster to cast her duck eyes on. And I agree that he’s pretty handsome for a roo. Of course I’m partial to the roosters already, because they’re more flamboyant than the hens.

Furthermore, I still plan to be on WordPress, just not posting to Google for the time being. Therefore, if you follow me on WordPress, I will occasionally still post there.

I really appreciate all of you who follow me and read my posts.

Extras other fowl

Why have Guinea Fowl

Around 3 years ago we bought 2 guinea keets in addition to 2 barred rock chicks. And at first all 4 were buddies to our preemie chick, Baby Nay. But we ate the male guinea, for reasons I’ll share momentarily. Since then, we’ve expanded our backyard flock to include ducks, and even more chickens. Because this is my first post about guineas, I’ll explain reasons why to have guinea fowl.

Guineas are native to Africa. Even though there are about 6 different types, the one we’ll look at is the helmeted guinea fowl, which has been established most everywhere. Did you know guineas are related to chickens? Although you wouldn’t know it just by looking at them, or by their behavior.

What do Guinea Fowl Look Like

gray helmeted guineafowl eating grass outside

If you’ve never seen any, these birds have a curious appearance. The helmeted guinea fowl have small heads that sport an exotic bony crest on top. And they have featherless faces that can be white, red, or blue skin. Also, their bodies are somewhat large and oval-shaped. Plus, their plumage comes in an array of colors. Further, their beaks are short and curved, but still sizable.

Pros to having Guinea Fowl

Below are some advantages to keeping guineas, such as

  • Insect patrol
digital art of no mosquito sign
Digital Art, Courtesy of Sarah Smith

Probably the number 1 thing you’ve heard about guineas is their pest control abilities. And I confess that we don’t have a problem with bugs in our yard. However that could also be due to the ducks.

  • An alarm
Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem on

Having guineas sometimes feels like you live in a foreign land. And that’s because of the sounds they make. They definitely let you know when something isn’t right, even if it’s just a false alarm. Yet many people believe guineas are good predator control because of their noisiness.

  • Their independence

You don’t have to do as much for guineas as for chickens when you have guinea fowl. Since, just like chickens, they forage. Though, if not trained, these birds will forage very far afield.

Plus, like ducks, guinea fowl are mostly healthy birds, which means they aren’t as susceptible to illnesses as chickens. But that doesn’t mean they can’t get sick.

  • They’re romantic
one white guinea, one gray guinea, and one gray chicken outside on the grass
The happy couple together.

Yes, you read that correctly; guineas can be romantic. Out of all the birds we have (chickens, ducks, and guineas), only guineas will do the impossible for their mate(s). And that is they mate for life. Drakes and roosters have harems which, depending on the species, can be quite large. Hence, they are not monogamous.

Furthermore, some guineas travel many lands till they find their true love. That’s what happened to Leorio 2.0, the male guinea who found himself in our garden of Eden. Seriously, I don’t know where he came from, but he decided to stay. And it wasn’t only due to the bird paradise he saw. He also was enraptured with our lone guinea hen, Kurapika. And once he heard her racket and saw her hideousness, he just had to stay.

  • Food
roasted bird on a blue plate
The only picture I took of the time we had roasted guinea.

You can eat both guinea eggs and guinea meat. However I personally have never tried a solo guinea egg, because my husband said it tasted gamey. So when we have guinea eggs, we scramble them with either chicken or duck eggs.

On the other hand, guinea meat is fantastic! Even though I’ve read others say it tastes like pheasant, (which I’ve never tried) I think guinea meat tastes like actual chicken. Like the chicken you buy in the store.

Cons to Having Guinea Fowl

Just as there are benefits to keeping guineas, there are also some disadvantages to them, which include

  • Noise pollution
close up photo of screaming man with a full beard covering his ears and closing his eyes
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Guineas make a lot more noise than a rooster. In the same way that their obnoxious sounds can be a benefit, like for predator alerts, they’re also a con.

  • Difficulty training

We didn’t have too much trouble training our guineas, (even our original male when we had him) to go in the coop at night. But guineas prefer to sleep out in the open, and up in a tree or similar. That’s what Leorio 2.0 does. Apparently his previous owners gave up on his training, thus he’s with us now.

  • Bullying
digital image of a big black bird bullying a smaller white bird
Digital Art, Courtesy of Sarah Smith

It doesn’t really matter how many guineas you have, they will bully your other backyard birds, especially the younger ones. If you only have one guinea, it will bully the others. But if you have a male, he’ll terrorize the baby birds. And that’s why our first guinea didn’t live very long. Leorio 2.o is currently not making a very good impression on me by bullying all the baby chicks. He makes the tiny ones cry; no telling what he tells them.

  • Intelligence issues
portrait of guineaflowl bird
Photo by Kirsty Chaplin on

Guineas aren’t known for being smart. For example, the guineas we have, and the one we no longer have, always go in the front yard, or on our side of the backyard. However they can never remember how to get back on their side. Therefore, they will pace and pace and pace the fence line, all while making their plaintive cries for help.

  • Terrible mothering
2 black Easter Egger hens with 4 Guinea fowl keets

It’s said that guinea hens aren’t good mothers. My guineas haven’t raised their own keets, so I have no experience in this. But just going by their lack of intelligence, I have no doubts.

On the other hand, we’ve had 2 of our broody hens hatch 4 keets. And everyone is doing wonderful. Of course the surrogate parents have no idea there are any children at all.

Best Time to Get Guinea Fowl

person holding brown and white guinea keep

The most opportune time to raise guineas is when they’re keets, or babies. And it’s ideal to raise them with some chicks; that way they learn the ropes of staying around home and all about the coop. But once they’re grown that won’t necessarily prevent them from bullying.

So, Why have Guinea Fowl

black rooster, Mallard mixed drake, and white duck by a kiddie pool under a tree
The boss rooster and top drake are the birds with the most rank. And no one messes with them.

Assuming you live on acreage, guinea fowl would make a good addition to any backyard flock, even with their cons. And if you raise them when they’re babies with chicks, you should have no problem getting them to stay on your property. Additionally, make sure you have older chickens, or ones with rank, that won’t get bullied. None of our ranking birds are harassed by the guineas; it’s just the young ones. And the males seem to be the worst bullies.

Plus, guineas are fun to watch, especially when they’re together. Furthermore, you would have another type of egg to eat. And if you wanted to, you could try guinea meat, which I think is delicious.

Do you know anyone with guineas? Or do you have any? If not, are you more inclined to get any now that you know more about them? Your comments are appreciated.

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Extras recipes

Recipe for Vegetable Omelette

Since eggs are some of the healthiest foods available, you can eat them virtually any time. Plus, there are plenty of ways to prepare them, like this recipe for vegetable omelette. It’s stuffed with bell pepper, onions, mushrooms, spinach, and shredded cheese.

Make this for breakfast or brunch. Or instead, like us, have it for dinner.

Ingredients for Vegetable Omelette

spinach, mushrooms, and other vegetables sautéing in a pan
  • 3 or 4 eggs per omelette
  • 2 to 3 tbsp butter per omelette
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 each, yellow onion and green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 to 3 c baby spinach
  • 4 oz can mushrooms, drained
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 c shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • and salt and pepper

Instructions for Vegetable Omelette

eggs cooking in a pan
  • First, add olive oil in frying pan, and then add the peppers and onions. Top with Italian seasoning.
  • Next, once vegetables soften add mushrooms and spinach, stirring until spinach wilted.
  • Then beat eggs in a bowl, and heat another skillet over medium heat. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and beat some more.
  • Next, melt some butter in heated pan, thoroughly coating pan. Add a little more butter before pouring beaten eggs into hot pan. And wait until almost cooked through before adding the sautéed vegetables and cheese.
  • Then, with a spatula, fold over twice; you may have to use two spatulas to do this part. And let it heat through for about a minute before removing to a plate.
  • Finally, enjoy!

If you couldn’t fold the omelette over twice, no worries. A lot of people just fold it in half. Further, if you wanted to add meat to this recipe, by all means, do so. Recipes are for mixing up and adding your own flair. But if you made this, what did you think? Do you have a favorite omelette recipe? Your comments are appreciated.

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