Whose that crazy Chicken Lady?

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Thank you for stopping in! I am Christian married to Mr. Awesome, who is my Helpmeet and cheerleader. We are a blended family of 5 kiddos and 2 beautiful Grandbabies! I am Domestic Abuse survivor/DV Advocate, Lyme Disease Warrior, avid crafter, blogger, vlogging, budding Herbalist,Birth Junkie, growing our own food, lover of dusty treasures and all around goofball.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Another chicken bites the dust and Bee update!

With heavy heart we had a chicken kick the bucket. No, not this bucket! Quite literally she is not playing in this picture! Mr. Awesome and I came out to gather eggs last week. She was just laying in the Abbey, still warm. The only thing I could think of is perhaps she was egg bound. I hadn't noticed her acting any different prior to this the days before.

There are many wee projects being done in and around the house which include fixing a leak on part of the roof on the back of the house. Electrically fixes as well as Mr. Awesome shaking his head alot as he explained to me the complexity of how confusing the repairs of wiring from the previous owner are. We will never know why things were done as they were.

What do I mean? Wires leading to nowhere. Boxes/Wires leading to spots that are supposed to be off but are still hot as well as boarded over as if they were finished?

It's a big puzzle! Much to the dismay of my partner.😨

The garden is still a work in progress. I am fighting a losing battle with the weeds again. I had hoped to have the garden mulched in but am unable to find a source that will happily deliver mulch without charging.  I did get a great tip on some but don't live close enough to get it.

We did put in 2 Pear trees! We hope to also purchase a few Peach trees in the near future as well.

The Cherry trees are full! I can't wait for harvest!

I scored some old windows for the future greenhouse. I was so excited to find them. And yes I found them in the garbage. I happily picked through a pile while my Husband advised he didn't know me and shrunk down in his seat. Sadly, there are 2 things that are problems with picking through trash... It's illegal in many locations and you may get caught! Luckily, the police officer let me off with a warning this time. Oh, I air walk on the wild side at times. I supposed if I'm going to get in trouble, why not doing something I love?




I made Dandelion Jelly, Wild Violet Jelly, Dandelion and Wild Violet Salves! I also starting drying leaves and flowers for later this year and for sale. I hadn't canned in a few years. I didn't have the strength quite literally from getting sick (Lyme Disease) this is the first time since 2014 I canned! I missed it!


The Amberlink chicks are outside now. Mr. Awesome moved them into Alcatraz today. They are of course nervous and exploring the new digs. We will move them again with the rest of the crew in about a month. With the weather getting warmer they were due.

On the 21st will be the next Fleamarket and I'll be hauling a Jewelry box that doubles as a small dresser or lingerie dresser. Also a top of a hutch, some garden things, possibly some concrete garden leaves (this one I haven't started on so they may not be ready in time) and more plants! I did really well selling my Spider plants and Peppermint that I will be bringing more. So if you have nothing to do stop by and say HI! I'll have my St. Paddy's Day flag out on top of the Jeep to mark my spot.

I will also have my Lyme Disease Awareness information available! If you have questions about Lyme I'll be happy to answer them to the best of my knowledge or perhaps you are interested in a local group? Let me know!

We did a quick bee check yesterday to view progress. We have had the bees for 3 weeks now. They are busy today! The weather is warmer then it has been. We noticed they are carrying pollen. YEA! I added the frame I took out during our initial install. I refilled their sugar water which is refilled every other day or so.

Most importantly! The kids have come by with the baby. It's
always such a joy to see Shortstack. She is getting so BIG! 9 months already! I have to pester my Step-Daughter to ask about her big boy! I wish we lived closer to visit. I mentioned to Mr. Awesome that perhaps he could visit once our super late getting back to us tax refund comes back. As much as he wants to, he doesn't feel right leaving the kids and me here while he has fun. We have the animals so just going would be hard. I also have no plans on ever flying due to my fear of it.

Our school bus project is shelved and it may just become a mobile fixture in our side yard for company. The Gypsy trailer is still in the planning stages. Many of our plans due rely on funds that we just don't have readily available. We have been blessed with donations of unwanted material and stuff from family and friends.

If you have been following my other blog Hope when there was none- A story of escaping abuse you'll be interested to know that my eldest Son has been in contact with me (see story there) and we printed off a copy of my book to edit! It's been intense as I muddle through the editing process. 😞I hope to get it published before the end of the year. I haven't decided if it is going to be in parts or just one big ebook yet.


All in all it's been a challenging busy few weeks with more to come!  Thanks for stopping by! Don't forget to view our other social media pages!

Wherever your journey is taking you may it be as wonderful as you are ❤

BIG HUGS!
Mel





Monday, April 24, 2017

Bees, bees, bees and more! *UPDATE!

I am super excited! We received a call that the bees were in on Saturday for pick up on Monday. I was tickled and anxious!

We chose to do a "No-shake" method for the bee install. We shall see if this worked well. The set up went well, though there was a bit of cursing from Mr. Awesome. I hadn't gotten some of the things ready which made it a bit more tense. I joked that next time I think I will do the installs from now on. He makes me more nervous because he is nervous.

We both had anxious butterflies beforehand. Me not having everything together was not my best idea. That added to the situation. I fly by the seat of my pants and think later... "Oh yeah! I should have...."

But what a great way to know someone really loves you when they are handling 10,000 bees! Gotta love that man! I'll check out whether the Queen broke free tomorrow or Wednesday.

We already had a big weekend gearing up for the 1st Flea market of the season for us to set up at.

Did I mention I am a terrrible procrastinator? I had to remind Mr. Awesome of a few projects I needed have done before Sunday. He jumped in with both feet of course I had forgotten that I needed to bake for a small contribution that needed to be delievered on Friday.

Glory be! My memory is not the greatest. I rely on post-it's, notes, writing on my hands, reminders on my Google Calendar, cell phone and a few other things. I say it's the Lyme but Mr. Awesome reminds me that it could also be my age.

So this weekend was busy!

This week is off to a busy start as well as we had  bee pick up today. I was invited to a Potluck later this week with The Amazing Jen, JV, a new friend and our wee monkeys. I'm pretty excited. I don't have close friends. Not meaning to sound pitiful or sad. It just seems the older I get the harder it is to find and keep friendships. Several of my friends and family are busy, live in other parts of the world or work.

I was also tickled to see my parents, sister and nephew at the flea market! They don't live too far away but it's hard to visit as much as I would love to.

Speaking of the flea market... It went very well! I sold off all of my Spider plants and Peppermint. Almost all of our large items, a variety of smalls and Dreamcatchers.

I hope to have more varieties of plants/veggies and another batch of Dreamcatchers. I had some wood
sign projects in mind for over the winter but I never got around to it. That nasty procrastination thing again!

We added 4 Amberlink chicks that are 4 weeks old. I am still mourning the death of my incubator. I really wanted to give the Duck eggs a whirl.

I haven't done much in the garden, the past few weeks though busy have been very tiring for me. I have finished a course of Doxy and now wait to schedule an appointment with my favorite doctor. Darned tax refund! It's been singled out apparently to research and recheck.

More garden progress:

Garlic is doing very well outside. The Asparagus has given us a sides on the side and continuous to grow wonderfully. I bought a few more Blueberry bushes from the flea market, have quite a few other plants ready to go into the garden soon! I do have to replace the seed starts I lost to that dang bunny.

That's all for now! I hope your week is as wonderful as you are!

BIG HUGS!
Mel

**UPDATE!**
This morning Mr. Awesome and I made the decision to check on the bees before I left for work. I was concerned over the events from the morning before. I asked my partner in crime if he was going to suit up or at least wear his veil. He smartly replied, "Nope! I'm just going to run away if I need to!"

GIGGLE!

I on the other hand wish to leave nothing to chance and suited up. He had gotten our frames, flashlight, brush and sugar water ready.

I admit both of us are nervous to do beekeeping. I wanted to do this for a variety of reasons.

1) To help do our part in saving the bees!

2) For honey and wax for candles, lotions, and more

3) Potentially for Bee Venom Therapy for treating my Lyme Disease

4) To conquer my fear of bees.

5) Help pollinating our crops                                                                                             

So I head out in awe he has gotten all this stuff ready. He is the most level headed, thoughtful, observant, quick thinking on his feet, and 2 steps ahead of me person I have ever known. I'm more, "Look something shiny!" or "Look there's a Chicken" kind of person.

We start.

I'm using slow movements and trying not to talk too much. He is not being bossy about it but trying to be helpful while also being noticeably nervous.

As we explore the hive I see the Queen cage has dropped to the bottom of the hive and now we understand why there was a cluster (bearding kind of activity) under the hive! They were doing exactly what they needed for the Queen.

I attempted to get grip on the Queen box while causing the bees to become a wee bit worried that I was harming their Queen. The gloves I wore aren't big or thick and there are about 50 bees covering my fingers as I fumble with the Queen cage. He handed me the brush to try to shimmy the cage out with the handle of it but it just kept sliding. I could literally feel the bees on the bottom of the hive playing a tug of war with me to get her.

Mr. Awesome at this point is getting flustered and wondering why am I going so slow. I am too nervous to argue or explain my actions. My gloves are slickery from the over abundant sugar water that was sprayed to help with the ticked off bees.

Mr. Awesome had the great thought of using the safety pin I had pinned on the front of my suit to attach the tab that is on the Queen cage to the back of the hive, just under the top cover. I had a dickens of a time getting it open though. First I needed to get the other cork out and the remaining bees on the cage and my gloves were not still not working with me. At this point Mr. Awesome is reminding me we have the brush to use, which I had used as well to attempt to help get the Queen cage but it didn't exactly work as it had in my head and it's covered in impatient bees!

My partner in crime is attempting to keep me calm at the same time he is getting concerned I'm not working fast enough. I could hear my heart in my ears! I'm not calm. He had to help me get the pin off my suit and he realized that it's not as easy as it looked. His hands were just as slick from the sugar water, making this task harder then it looks. Finally he had gotten it off and attaching it worked like a charm!

We put everything back but didn't put in one frame having figured we had aggravated the bees enough for one day. I plan on removing the Queen cage and inserting the frame in a few days or week.

We only had 2 passenger bees try to hitch a ride on us. One I found on Mr. Awesome and one that took a trip attached to the bottom of my boot. this brave fuzzy bee was quickly escorted them out the door.

What a way to start the morning!


Monday, April 17, 2017

Garden progress, sad farm fail, big dreams and Youtube upolads!

I can not believe it's the middle of April! Where is the time going?!

The Cherry blooms and Lilacs are blooming. The smells are light and beautiful.

First the sad farm fail. Well, it's not really a fail just one of those things. My incubator died! I had placed Duck eggs inside in hopes of wee babies. It was up to temperature but in the morning it dropped like a lead stone.

The Amazing Jen has an incubator and I hope to pester her for a favor of Duck babies. We never had the chance to make it up to the local animal auction, though this upcoming Sunday will be the Flea Market and Animal Swap! I'll be setting up my wares this year depending on both how I feel and most importantly the weather.

My mulch pile is slowly dwindling which means I have been frantically calling and trying to figure out how to find more- FREE MUCLH!

Most local tree services here seem to charge and the group I had gotten it from last Fall has dropped off the face of the earth.  

Our Asparagus is tasting wonderful! I plan to plant much more. I admit to be eating them as fast as I pick them. YUM!

A Rabbit has attacked my cool weather crop- Lettuce, Collards and Mustard Greens. We are seeking suggestions for deterring the offender before he eats more!

Mr. Awesome asked the local food bank we frequent if they could use eggs and they are happy to. I'm pretty excited as we want to give back to the community that is helping us.

He is also busy working on a variety of projects to continue to maintain, update and streamline our homestead. I wish I had an ounce of the ideas he has. He formulates ideas in his head, marches out for tools and viola! It's done!

Me? I more or less fumble and hope for the best.

The kids have came by with the baby recently. Short Stack is getting so big! China Doll surprised me with a beautiful painting she made. She is a talented Artist, now I'm not just saying that I'm serious. I'll have to share some of her stuff that was more along the lines of spooky.

We found Jas. Townsend and Son on YouTube which has given us the encouragement to look into Living History. We are both anxious to try tips and techniques we have found. Maybe someday we will dive into re-enacting! I think I may need to grow my hair out though.

The Amazing Jen invited a dear Friend- JV and kids, along for a visit earlier this week and we all had a good time so good JV and her Hubs stopped by yesterday to meet Mr. Awesome. I felt terrible I didn't think to offer them any grub. We hope to visit with them and Amazing Jen with her Hubs. (Both of these couples have a Sustainable living mindset)

Besides my awesome Sisters, I don't really hang with anyone. I was invited to another Jen's home a few weeks back for a Ladies night and we played cards- Skip-bo. I don't think I ever played that one before but had fun! I considered starting a Scared Sister kind of group. I haven't made it to Drum Circle since last year and miss that but what about creating my own? Not too many in my area that I have found that are into smudging, crystal, or earthy Momma's/Gal's. I may not be looking in the right spot!

I uploaded a few YouTube's so if you haven't visited our page please do soon. Find us as blessmeplease09 and have you found me on Instagram yet or FB Legacy Antiques & Estate Sales.

I hope your week is as wonderful as you are!




Monday, April 10, 2017

What's going on with this place?!





Mr Awesome has been keeping busy with various projects around the house and garden.

He staked out a pie shape for me to work on a Potager style garden! Worked on some electrical issues, put up trim in the kids rooms, worked on our mowers, took off the roosts from the old chicken coop, some plumbing fixes, moved several furniture pieces around the house and to the 
  barn and put up with me.






We had a visitor digging down under the front stairs so Mr. Awesome also threw more dirt down, added slate and I threw down some mulch in hopes of  deterring our visitor. We'll see if this helps!




We have an outlet outside! Hooray! All of these things are small projects to him but they add up in the grand scheme of things.

I did plant a few of my cool weather plants in, herbs, sowed flowers and more veggies! I have been busy working on more Dreamcatchers to bring to the upcoming Fleamarket! I did have 2 women offer to buy them all but they never followed through.

My Duck egg hatched is a dud! My incubator decided it's not going to work and gave itself up to ghost. So no chicks but a journey to the farm auction is a maybe. Mr. Awesome meant to go but things just keep popping up. 


I have been very off kilter, blame it on the moon or my cycle. I'm a mess! I felt like giving up the other day in regard to my health. I guess feeling a bit of despair and sorry for myself. I told Terry I feel just useless as a Wife and Mom right now. His reply is always tear jerking, super awesome, God I love this Man, sappiness and gushy.  

My memory is flaking out, my parts are hurting, I feel awfully tired, my visits to nap time are coming more frequent again, I am stumbling often and dare I say I'm fearful of being bedridden again.

I wrote a email to my family advising of some final wishes. Now I have no intentions of going anywhere soon but the feeling darkness was strong the last few weeks. I'm normally a happy-go-lucky Lady but something is not quite right.

I've went dark on some of my visits to Social Media land. Opting instead for something less news worthy... Instagram and Pinterest! I haven't chatted with anyone or visited anyone for a LONG TIME. While I feel a deep need to reconnect with my family, I am just too exhausted. Too tired to talk sometimes and how does that make sense? Even eating requires effort. Well not that much if you have seen me.  

I have opened some books I've been meaning to reed and started reading my Bible again. I need to journal and ground myself again, but felt it was a dire time to do some smudging. It's gotten to the point where I had to tell Mr. Awesome that he hasn't been so awesome (He's been a bit grumpier lately) and needs to find a job or something he can get out of the house to do. He is a stay-at-home Dad, unable to find work in his chosen profession and he considers his age, 59 years young to be a contributor of why he hasn't been able to find a position.

My job is fine. It is not rocket science. I meet wonderful people and it pays the bills. Though I managed to ask for a raise. I really don't want to go through the process of finding a new job or I may have to find another part-time one. But the hours are awesome! My side dream businesses are on the slow side leaving me to question my path/what I want to be when I grow up. 

With my brain fog I forgot to pay a few bills so now we are a bit behind. Our tax return has been in process for more then 6 weeks, despite it being electronically deposited. Grrface!

In all this I am reminded that I need to be grateful. I had a hug out of the blue from a co-worker, a compliment from a guest that came out of nowhere to serve a reminder to me that there are many folks in this world that are suffering, had a loss, unemployed, in poor health or without the joys I have right now. I feel selfish for my feelings. So smudging seemed appropriate to break the tension in CasaMel's. I did a YouTube of a few basic information, also the prayer I used, links to other negativity busting ideas and my Bible info! Find it here- Go Smudge yourself! Dang full moon...

I am picking myself up, dusting myself off, lift my eyes upward and a quit my whining. Well, at least for this month...

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ultimate fails on a Homestead

I don't always show the failures of this sustainable lifestyle. I admit I am still learning bunches about this.

Here's a bit of my garden experience:

I was trained as a Master Gardener what seems like years ago. I had a small grass cutting company I managed and ran. I wanted customers to have a better experience so I took the class out of U of I and loved it!

I was able to provide weed identification, applied fertilizers, potted plants and gave a few basic ideas for landscaping. But I didn't focus at that time on how valuable it was to feed the earth.

Fast forward to present, I can truly see how much more I could have given to my clients if I had seen the Permaculture/Sustainable/Biodiverse community at that time. I always had a heart for homesteading but didn't really know what it was until I met my 2nd Husband, Terry too had a interest in learning to live off the land someday.

We made the leap into homesteading after being apartment dwellers in 2011. We were blessed to rent a HUGE old hunt lodge that was off the Kankakee river- see some of those goings on here-Redrum hotel .

Now to get off track a little here is some info on Terry (A.K.A- Mr. Awesome) has a background with Radio/TV and as recent as a few year ago as an IT Specialist for FEMA. He was gone at least 8 months out of the year and I missed him. At the time of the change from the apartment to the hunt lodge he was gone. I did as much as I could by myself and when he could come home on the weekends, he would become a weekend warrior. But that was really heard on him and our relationship.

I missed him and made a deal that I would work so he could stay home. They money was definitely not anywhere what he was making but he was home.

During this time we started to make plans to open a B n B with antique shop inside. We were already hosting Barn sales that were building steam! We had people knocking on our door to ask when the next one would be.

We also toyed with the idea to have a small cafe that would serve tea, coffee, soups, sandwiches, and desserts. We were approached by the park service to host "Wild game dinners" this would be held a few times a year and cooked by the employees.

I wanted to host classes that covered: Hunting, Fishing, Cast iron cooking, Foraging in the backyard, Canning, Survival skills and First aid in emergency situations. Of course crafty type of classes featuring old and new skills. I had asked a small group of friends that are amazing with these skills to help us learn, connect us with others so we could make almost a fest out of it.

We were so EXCITED!  These plans came to a screeching halt when there were some changes to our handshake agreement with our rental company. Everything fell through.

We managed to be blessed a second time to find our forever home. Here we could raise the animals, garden as much we want, run naked if we wanted to. (Scary thought I know!)

So what does all this have to do with our fails and why share them?

This is kind of a "Do as I say not as I do" type of thing.

I don't think I was as prepared as I thought I would be to start raising animals, the garden took more time then I hoped, and I was battling exhaustion. (My teen helpers weren't always very helpful)

Canning had several mishaps. We lost dozens of jars due to someone who shall remain nameless
popping the caps on my jars before they were done. This person liked the sound it made while cooling. Some of my canning was mushy despite following directions. I have learned some things about that since then!

There are the bugs that infested our tomatoes so I lost almost the whole lot. The chickens that flew in and ate my herbs to nubs after being in the garden the whole day. Or the rows and rows of veggies that didn't come up or were damaged due to the weather. My water person didn't water for long enough or often enough and many plants died.

Living in old homes has it's charm but when it rains it could pour literally! There were some mold issues in our old place so bad the kids and I were miserable. Also that is the 2nd time I was infected with Lyme. Deer are pretty normal to see in the country, since living off the river it was a water source for Deer so ticks were all over. So were mosquitoes! We couldn't go out at times when they were too thick to make a run just to go to the car. And by the way it was either a mosquito or spider that infected me with Lyme.

We did fogging, DIY fan units, sprays, essential oils, keeping the lawn short, cutting down any old wood, dumping standing water and bug zappers. They were too intense.

Our new home also has some water issues, not as bad as our rental thank goodness. I have pots and containers strategically placed in our attic to collect water. The roof is a job that is not readily affordable at this time.

We knew the house was a challenge when we purchased it! We hope to barter, trade and work out some sort of agreement to help with repairs that may be a bit too large or not in Mr. Awesome expertise.

There are always cooking fails! The old joke when the smoke detector goes off food is done. I am notorious at forgetting (Brain fog darn you Lyme!) to put things in my recipes. Eggs or Butter are on my forgetful list. So you may have a brick for banana bread or the cookies just are a bit off. And we did splurge for a new oven that we realized later has to be leveled. Cakes usually come out lopsided.

We had the animal fails. I embarrassed and sad to say it was our error in many cases.

As an example, a friend had sexed a rabbit we had gotten from a animal auction. Our friend said it wasa Doe.

We should have double checked. But several weeks later much to our sad dismay Fluffy (an Angora rabbit) had babies. Unbeknownst to us at a time when we were taking apart the rabbit hutch so they were in a dog crate for temporary use on the ground.

Needless to say some of the babies wiggled out and ended up being food for hungry chickens. I felt awful! I heard a wee voice screaming and didn't know until too late what it was. We tried to save a remaining injured baby but it succumbed a few days later. 2 others did survive! They stayed by Momma and were safe and sound. (Pictured above) We no longer have them. We had planned to go across the country in a renovated School bus but ended up finding our forever home as well as becoming Grandparents for the first time. A few months later we found out we were going to be Grandparents a second time too!

There was time we ran an errand into town and left our dogs outside, chained to a in ground stake, while our chickens were ranging. Now I did ask Mr. Awesome to put the dogs in. But he figured we wouldn't be gone that long.

We came home quickly to a view of white puffy looking clouds on the grass. It looked like snow piles here and there in the grass. We jumped out of the car, quickly realizing the dogs were gone and something was horribly wrong with those piles!

Up bounded one of the dogs, Blue, with a white hen mustache in her mouth.

We had a flock of 12. Key word there is "had".

It appeared the Rooster, Combs, put up quite a fight. He seemed to die doing exactly what Roosters are supposed to do. Protect the Hens.

We were angry, sad and upset with each other and the dog. It took a lot of restraint for Terry not to take care of the dog with his pistol.

Of course the dog was just doing what part of her breed does. Hunt. They are part Lab/Australian Shepard.

We did find a good home for Blue as soon as we could and kept Vi. 

Vi has more of a Shepard in her and seems to herd our animals. Not that given the chance she won't eat wee one We closely monitor her whereabouts and never leave her alone with chicks or ducklings.

There is the great beehive disaster! Mr. Awesome built a really cool hive for our first set of bees. We made it through the Spring, Summer and Fall without injury. Buttoned up the hive for the winter and thought all was well. We had some freezing, warm and then freezing again with a sprinkle of icy rain. This lead to the wood on the hive expanding and cold rain getting into the hive. Which ultimately caused them to die. In case your wondering Mr. Awesome didn't think the hive needed the dovetails, which would have been more secure, maybe there would have been no lose of the hive. We did have about 5 lbs of wax and several jars of honey. 

We lost our Mason bees the placement was not the best at our new digs. They area had too much rain and wind. They re homed themselves.


We have lost Chickens, Ducks, Guinea Fowl, Quail, and Rabbits to:

Coyotes

Owls

Den of Foxes

Some large fish that devoured one of our 2 year old Ducks at our old house while she was swimming a week after a flood near the house.

Hawks

We have also lost these to other Chickens, Guinea Fowl, and Rabbits.How?!

Remember the pecking order? It is not uncommon for a flock to peck at a younger group brought in. They seem to know the weaker ones even if we don't. Chicks may climb all over a chick that is down, eventually killing it.

They may keep the odd one away from food and water. They may fight to the death. A momma Rabbit may not feed her litter. She may eat them, step on them, push them out of the nest and they freeze if they get too cold (if it's the Fall or Winter). Finding a half eaten baby is not something you will see me post on social media. But it's nature, it happens.

Even with our efforts to rescue these babies, it isn't always pretty or a happy ending.

A chick can end up with Splayed legs, notice down below. Even after binding this wee one up after this picture was taken. It was weak and died. I thought for a few days it was on the mend but I was wrong.

Then there were deaths that happened and we had no idea why they died. We found them in the cage/coop in the morning.

Now many of these things we could have prevented. Some things you can't. I have heard stories from other homesteaders/farmers that have dealt with larger animals deaths.

Sows that rolled on their babies, killing them.
Mother animals that walk away from their babies leaving them to fend for themselves.
Animals that die during birthing.
A group of people  bought a pregnant cow and though the cow was considered healthy she and the baby died overnight.
Animals that chocked on something too big for it.
Whole crops gone in an instant due to flood, tornado or fire.
Crops gone to severe insect infestations

While we have those moments of stupidity, anger or sadness; it is still beautiful to celebrate life, something green that we grew, and feeling grateful for a job well done. 

We have learned many valuable lessons that comes for caring for our animals. We have a roof over our head, food in the fridge, cars that run, love and support from friends and family.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

So you want to raise Ducklings?

There is something that just gets my heart going when it comes to Chickens and especially Ducks!

I had purchased our first set of ducklings without learning a few special things.

The 2 most important things-
Ducks and Ducklings are MESSY! You can clean up there area and literally within minutes you will have a mess again.

Like my chick post they will need similar items to start:

Brooder- Check out Pinterest
Heat lamp- Please remember to keep away from cardboard, plastic, anything flammable and too close to the chicks.
Thermometer- Temps need to be at 90 degrees and lowered down 5 to 7 degrees each week.
Food/Water dish
Rubber backed shelf liner- They need a non-slip surface or they could have splay legs.
Brewers Yeast or Niacin
Un-medicated feed- Chick starter 20% Protein or Gamebird starter 20%
Pine shavings or whatever your choice. No cedar or long straw.

Health- 

When you are looking at chicks at your feed store or have them shipped to you make sure you check to make sure they have:

Clear eyes
Curious
Energetic
Good legs
Bill has no discharge

We also make sure to wash our hands after handling our chicks, ducklings and grown flock.

Food and water-

Let me define into greater detail; you will food, poop and especially water. As for poop, they really stink. Worse then chicken poop, seriously. We have raised chicks and ducklings together. The issue with that is ducklings need a higher protein starter feed at least 20%, I used game bird feed for about 10 weeks and then I was able to put them on chick starter.

With my first ducklings I also used Brewers yeast and Niacin to help with bone development. Otherwise you could end up with pigeon toed ducks or they may look bow legged.

If you get day old from the mail, like chicks they don't need to eat right away, 3 days should be fine You will have to teach them how to drink, by dipping their bill into the water dish.

Make sure your using a chick sized water dish! Ducks are curious and will try to get in your dish if it's too big. 2 things on this:

1) Waterproofing doesn't come into play for 4 weeks. In the wild Momma helps with this.

2) Wee ducklings can catch a chill or tire easily if paddling in the water and could drown. Or if the water dish is too big they could also drown.

Ducks do need to have water available to drink along with their food. Ducklings can drink more water then chicks. Be forewarned they can drink up to a 1/2 gallon a day by the time they are 6 to 8 weeks old. Brewers yeast can be added to feed, 3 cups to 10 lbs of food.

Ducks do need to keep their nostrils moist so a small flat bottom bowl as they grow will be great! Water helps get rid of food and bits they have in them. Did I say already they make a mess with water? If I hadn't said it enough, here I go again reminding you.

Treats-

We give our ducks herbs, weeds, cut up fruit (though they love watermelon!), scrambled eggs, and spaghetti. These are sparingly. We treat our ducks to herbs in water, greens in their water dish and our chickens love this too!

Coops-

Like chickens a decision about coops and free ranging needs to be made. When the ducklings get better they don't "Need" a pond or kids pool but they will love you for it!

You will need to do the "Math" on how much space you need in your coop. I found this great blog and almost feel silly writing this with so much great stuff in it! Find it here-Raising Ducklings to ducks

We also don't use artificial lighting or heating in our Abbey for the ducks. They will adjust to the climate. They seem to run hotter then the chickens and withstand the colder temps more so.

Will you be free ranging, closed run, or mobile run?

Which ever you choose except for free ranging, think about space for these guys. They can go out sooner then chicks as they're feathers come in about 7 weeks and they love to stay outside as long as it doesn't get colder then 50 degrees out.

You do have to worry about predators! Despite being bigger then chicks, these babies can still make a tasty meal for Raccoons, Owls, Hawks, Coyotes, and so on.

In the run make sure you use a good hardcloth for run/coop. Raccoons and some other animals can reach through the holes in the wire and grab the neck of the bird. It's a pretty gruesome sight to see the wee one after the massacre.

Also a reminder ducks don't need to roost like chickens do! So that space isn't needed. But hardcloth or some sort of floor is needed in order to keep them safe.

How can I tell if I have a male duck?

In our experience, we have noticed males have a softer voice that seems like someone is holding a hand across their mouth to muffle them. They may also have a curl on their tail!

Do I need a male to get duck eggs?


No male is needed in order to get eggs!







When will my ducks start laying?


She will start laying starting around 16 weeks or so. Depending on the breed, stress, weather conditions and health.

Duck eggs are considerably larger then chicken eggs. I'll be sharing a YouTube on the differences soon so you can get a visual.

Duck eggs have a harder smoother shell and the white is a lot thicker then chicken eggs. If used for eating, it is better to bake with them. It is said they do make loftier baked goods.

Pond or pool-

We have been using a kiddie pool for years for our ducks. Depending on your pool or pond size you may have to consider how many are in your flock. Water in pools are needed every couple days. Stagnant water can lead to sickness, mosquito infected water and just plain yucky stuff. We have 4 and hope to add more but our kiddie pool is a mess after 10 mins after changing it.

A few other things-

Ducks can live for 10 years! Depending on what your needs are of course!

Consider the breed of duck before you buy. Muscovies are supposed to have class which could be worrisome with those with kids. Mallards will migrate and may not come back next year.

This was a crash course in Ducklings and Ducks! I hope that helps. If you have any suggestions or comments please leave them below.

Duck poop is great for your garden! Like chicken poop it has to be composted for severl months before putting it on and around your plants. We have our flock in the garden right now, tilling leftover weeds and plants. We will be taking them out soon. The weather is handling the neutralization of the poop so we can plant in May.

If this helped you please share!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

You got your Chicks now what?!



Those cutie pies are either ready to be delivered or in a box next to you from your local farm store.

Now what do you do?

If you read my previous post, So you want to raise Chickens? that will get you up and running!


Chicks are playful and mischievous buggers. They are messy! Be prepared to change their brooder/cage often. How often?

I go at least once an day to scoop out poop, change water, give food and make sure they are comfortable. I totally clean out the brooder at least once a week if not more. Your nose will definitely tell you when it needs to be changed.

Now for water and food I definitely check that more often at least 3 times a day. These wee ones get HUNGRY and THIRSTY!

Don't be surprised if you find one that is a being "Hen pecked" this can happen with animals that are noticeably weaker to the other chicks.You may find a few losses even after that chick seemed to be chipper and happy. This happens, if you fed, watered, kept them warm there is a chance of loss. Don't beat yourself up! We may lose 1 or 2 out of 6 to 12. 

We have lost some chicks to other chicks that literally were bullies or days older and they pecked the younger bunch. We learned to separate those that are 3 days a part. I didn't realize how even that small number can make such a difference. It's like throwing a infant in with a toddler. One 3 day old pecked the top beak off a day old chick. That wee one lasted a week despite our efforts to help it. 

Some folks save the babies to make Maggot feeders. Can keep in freezer until your ready to do so. Or if your like me, I give  proper burial and plant flowers above them.

Over the next 3 to 18 weeks you will see a HUGE change! Feathers will start coming in, Combs and Wattles, Roosters may find their voice as young as 3 weeks old and they will eat gobs of food.
I found this great chart here- When to switch from Starter to Grower


Remember to raise or lower your bulb by 5 degrees weekly in your brooder. When to let them outside is decided on 2 factors. The temperature outdoors in the day and night. 

If it's too cold the chick uses so much energy keeping warm it may die. In other words if it's too cold out don't leave them out! 65-70 once they are big enough is great! Sunshine is good for them!

Watch out for predators! Make sure your Coop/Chicken Run have hard clothe/Rabbit wire that is small enough that little arm or big beak can't get in to grab your chick. 


Food, Treats and Water

Make sure food and water are readily available if you let these wee ones loose. Check out my Pinterest board for ideas. Those are just a little bit of the ideas out there so search for more there or Google. 

 You can give them Meal worms from the store or that you breed yourself. I would give mine various herbs, Blackstrap Molasses and small veggies/fruit. Flock block for chicks ( I have made my own that worked well!) I'll dig up and post the recipe soon. 

If it's too chilly I have made oatmeal for the flock. They love it! I throw in dried herbs, meal worms, seed or any type of greens I have. 

Yogurt? Circulating on the web is a story about boosting your egg production by giving yogurt. We have been doing this for years but have not noticed an increase. Probiotics are not only good for people for pets and farm animals. I haven't made my own yet but that's on my list of things to learn.

I haven't made any sort of cabbage pinata or garland of veggies or fruit. Ours are out ranging so they have a lot to do so they are not bored. But I have seen some interesting ideas!

I have given 1 TBSP Apple Cider Vinegar in a gallon of water. I use a ceramic or plastic container. Metal will corrode and perhaps altering the taste. 

I use this to help give them a boost for health, raise PH levels, reduce algae growth in waterers. ACV has many great benefits for our flock and for people too!

I have given Garlic to boost immune system, wormer, help with respiratory health, it is also said to ward off ticks, mites and other bugs. I usually crush ours for chicks, they need to develop a taste for it. It can be done every day, week or once a month. I have used powered Garlic if I don't have fresh. I use one clove between 6+. If you have a smaller flock I would cut that in quarters or half. 

Diatomaceous Earth (DE)- Use food grade. Natural Fossilized Silica crushed fossils that can sprinkled in coop, nesting boxes, around run area, food and water bowls to help with Fleas, Ants, Ticks, Crickets, Aphids, Millipedes, Digestive worms and other creepy crawlies that be around while being safe for your flock!

I have added a sprinkle to their food to help with intestinal worms.
While DE is great for your flock, garden and home. It can cause lung irritation. So wear a protective mask. I have used a old herb shaker bottle. Also take care when sprinkling by your birds as it can have the same effect on their lungs!


Free range?

Remember if you are able to keep them outside to keep checking on them. I wouldn't free range any babies that aren't under a watchful eye. 10 weeks and older seemed to work well for us. But there are still chances you may lose some to predators even if your watching.

Partially free range- which is to free range for morning or evening. Or whatever works for you. This could also be ranging in a mobile chick saw or chicken coop. Works great if you need to till up a part of your old garden beds or yard. You also get to keep a watchful eye on your flock.

Confined- For whatever the reason some folks just can't free range and that's ok! They will love to be able to get moving however they can. Use the space recommendations, give treats, fruit, or worms if they are unable to have regular access to them. 

BRR! It's Cold!

Now we are in the Midwest. So winters can be brutal here for us and our flock. Mr. Awesome did make a huddle box for the chicks and later the chickens. They never used them but they had access. They usually perch together so a box wasn't needed in our experience.

We never use a heat lamp for our older chickens. I've heard too many stories from reliable friends that mentioned the experience of chickens leaving the warmth of the coop to go out and end up dying from just a bit of the cold. I'm guessing a shock to their system? They usually stay together if they are too cold. 

We do not use a heater for our water dishes either. We have found using a old frying pan without the lid works well for dropping or hitting it on the ground or hard surface to get the ice out. 

Check your birds to make sure no one is standing in the water bowl! It's not unheard of to have a chicken do this and end up with frostbite.

Baby it's HOT outside!

So I mentioned we don't use a heat lamp, and we don't use a fan for our birds when it's too hot. 

We make sure there is plenty of water. I have given ice in water bowls. My ice can have herbs, fruit, or meal worms in it. Watermelon is a favorite! The rind is usually the only thing left. 

You may see your birds kind of hanging their feathers out funny. They are cooling themselves. They also may dig deep when taking a Dirt Bath to cool off. 

Dirt Baths


As silly as it seems, taking a dirt bath is beneficial for chickens for prevention of Mites and Lice that are happy to take up residence on your chicken. If your chickens are confined without access to dirt, please consider a artificial bath. This can be made in a tote without the lid of course. Some sand and dirt will make them happy. You can even do this in the winter time. 

Chickens will find any patch of dirt that seem groovy to them. If you have a carefully manicured landscape please consider keeping your chickens out of that area. 

When will my Hens lay?

Chickens can start laying about 6 months. Some breeds sooner and some later. 
Keep in mind if they are stressed out, children running after them, loud noises, family pets, new surroundings, and weather are a handful of factors that may factor in laying.

Will I need a Rooster to have my Hens lay eggs?

No Rooster is needed to have your chickens lay. If you would like fertilized eggs you will need a Rooster.

Health

I keep my eyes open for chickens that look lethargic or don't look like themselves. 

Some things to look for:
Low egg production
Impacted Crop
Bumble foot
Lice
Mites
Pale Combs/Wattles/legs
Unusual poop
Not eating/drinking
Drinking too much
Losing weight
Oh and there's more! I do reference here-The Chicken Chick for ideas. She has got a bunch of great articles and information. 

Dealing with your Rooster

We had to cull (Ended up in the pot and went to animal auction) several of our Roosters. 

First and foremost is safety of our children. On several occasions a Rooster has went after Mini Man. 

We tried holding the Rooster(s), swatted him with a broom/stick but ended up choosing an alternative choice to handle the Rooster attacking our Son. This may seem wrong to some but Roosters have been known to make a child blind, peck horribly and chase a child. 

We love the idea of having the Hens protected and fertilized eggs but not at the expense of getting harmed. 

For some reason several of the Roosters would chase after other family members, myself included. Do you know they can fly just like a football if kicked right. 

If you have never seen a Rooster hellbent on coming out of nowhere to do Gladiator type of moves on you I'm glad you haven't. It can be scary as an Adult let alone being a child. 

Broody Hens

Some Hens just seem to have a maternal instinct. But they may not stay on the eggs so please check them regularly if you are planning on having her together with her chicks. You may consider having a special box or cage for her away from the other chickens. There is nothing more heartbreaking then seeing fertilized eggs almost ready to hatch when another Hen decides to peck at them. 

Broody Hens will stop laying eggs and lay on what's called a clutch of eggs for the next 21 days. She will turn the eggs so you don't have to. 

Of course if you don't have a Rooster you don't want her to stay on your eggs. There are various tips for breaking a Broody Hen. Separating her from the eggs, frozen veggies under her, wetting her in a tub, or blocking off the nesting box.


A few other tips

Keep eggshells! After you are done using them, rinse them off and leave them somewhere to dry. I leave mine on a paper towel for a few days. I make sure they are thoroughly dry as not to have them turn moldy. 

Once dry, I break them up as small as I can or blend them in a coffee grinder and use back in chicken feed or in the garden!

Speaking of gardens, chicken poop is awesome for your garden. It does have to compost for a bit. Right now our flock has been in and about our garden, tilling, turning, eating weeds and leftovers from last years garden. They are also fertilizing our garden. We aren't composting but using the weather to cut the burn factor. 

Placing fresh chicken manure can burn your plants so either compost in early Spring, late Fall or make sure you leave plenty of time in between before you start planting. 

Keep your chickens locked in at night. It's quite easy for a passerby (predator) to grab a snack! Oh and don't worry they will learn quickly where "home" is. 

You may consider clipping wings to keep them where you would like them to stay. 

I stopped naming our chickens. I was getting too attached to our first flock. We lost them to our dog. I'll be blogging about that in the next day or so.  This saddened us. I was reminded these are not pets. They are helping us grow food, giving yummy eggs and on occasion could fill our bellies. 

I hope this helps you in your journey. They are fun, silly and can be a comfort. We have enjoyed hearing the Rooster crow and the cluck of the Hens as they get ready to lay an egg. Well, it's not really a cluck, more of a loud singing off key. 

I'll be posting a new post about Ducks soon. Ducklings aren't too different then Chicks stay tuned for more in the next day or so. 

Thank you for stopping! If you have any suggestions or comments please leave them in the comment section, I'd love to hear from you.