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Fresh cranberries are available during the fall and winter months, so drying them during their available season will allow you to offer them during the off seasons as well. Cranberries are a good source of Vitamin C, K and magnesium. They are also a good source of antioxidant which can help maintain a proper immune system.
Most birds love the red fruit and it is visually appealing to them. You can purchase dried cranberries but be sure they are sulfite free. Drying them yourself is easy and cheaper than purchased and you will know that nothing has been added such as preservatives. You can use the dried cranberries in grain and seed treats, add them to warm oatmeal or other cooked grains in the colder months or toss them out for the chickens to scratch and eat as a wholesome treat at any time.
1 -2 pound package fresh cranberries
Plastic wrap or dehydrator sheets
Dehydrator or oven
Cooking sheet if oven drying
Rinse the cranberries and sort for firm ripe berries and freeze or toss shriveled or discolored berries to the chickens. Prepare the dehydrator tray with plastic wrap. Pour the berries onto the tray and set the dehydrator according to manufacturers recommendations. (Mine recommends 145 degrees for up to 12 hours. The berries should be leathery but pliable like fresh raisins when they are thoroughly dehydrated. Allow to cool and place in an airtight container stored in a cool, dark cupboard or pantry. You can Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.
If oven drying, place the berries on a cooking sheet. Set the oven to the lowest temperature or around 145 degrees. It will take 8 to 12 hours to dehydrate the berries and may not be an economical option to use the oven if you have a dehydrator.
I have not tried sun drying the berries, so I can't offer information on how well that might work. It takes 2-4 days to sun dry. They will not be dry enough by night fall, so it is best to bring them indoors so the dew doesn't cause molds to form. Be sure if drying outdoors that you place the fruit in a safe place that animals and wild birds cannot get to and cover with cheese cloth to prevent insects from getting into the fruit. Allow plenty of circulation around the berries for even drying.
To speed up the process of dehydration, when preparing fresh jellied cranberry sauce for your holiday meal, cook the berries until tender (about 20 minutes), strain the juice from the berries, Pressing out the juice with the back of a spoon, then place the berries on the dehydrating tray and set the dehydrator according to manufacturer directions. This can reduce time by as much as half.
For my Corn Cob Chicken treat, refer to the link: http://justfowlingaround.weebly.com/chicken-blog/can-chickens-eat-corn-cob-yes
For my Pumpkin Chicken treat, refer to the link: http://justfowlingaround.weebly.com/chicken-blog/pumpkin-treatno-tricks
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