Whose that crazy Chicken Lady?


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:



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.


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.


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
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.


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!


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.


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
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. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

So you want to raise chickens?

Many of the farm stores are flooded with super cute balls of fluff! You can find various breeds of Chickens, Ducks, Guinea Fowl, rare breeds and more.

Where do you start?

First and most importantly; 
if you live in the suburbs or city can you keep chickens? Consider talking with your city before you bring the fuzz balls home. There is nothing sadder then having to find new homes for these wee ones. You may have to consider a small breed such as Bantam Hens/Chicks. 

There are grassroots movements that help those that want to keep a small flock. This website had some great suggestions and tips for dealing with this situation: Legalize City Chicks

If you get the green light from the city remember to check with your neighbors. You maybe able to coax them by the lure of fresh eggs or great manure for those that love to garden. A Roosters crow can be annoying to some folks.

Your neighborhood or neighbors may not appreciate your coop if it's not kept clean it also may have to be very cute or attractive. 

How many chickens do you want or can you have?

This maybe a City ordinance or zoning subject so please check all the legal issues first! You also may need a permit. These are very important issues that should be dealt with off the bat. 

So now you have done most of your homework what next?

Supplies needed-

Brooder- You can get this beauty Brinsea Ecoglow Brooder. Of course there are some really creative ways to do this! From Aquariums, insulated ice chests, repurposed dressers, metal troughs, card board boxes and more. Pinterest has great ideas! Make sure the chicks can't escape from the top of your brooder. Place hardware cloth over if need be at least by week 2. Make sure your brooder has enough space that they do not start bullying each other or worse!

We have used a Rabbit cage, Puppy cage, Dog crate and Aquarium (cleaned very well) for our chicks. 

Chick sized water dish- Make sure you use one that is small or place marbles in it so the chicks can still drink but not drown. You may have to show your chicks how to drink if they are just hatched or day old. There are nipple feeders too. You may have to teach your chicks how to drink. You do this by dipping their beaks in gently until you notice them drink. You may have to do this a few times and hold their heads gently. They aren't usually very happy with this until they realize they are thristy.

Red bulb heat lamp or 100 watt bulb is needed- We have used the 100 watt bulb. 90 to 95 degrees is great for the first week. I have raised the lamp higher until I needed to change to a lower wattage bulb as they grow weekly a 5 degree change in temperature is good. Also, if you are using a heat lamp please make sure you are not using a flammable brooder, eg; Plastic tub, Styrofoam, or Cardboard box. 

Thermometer- To check temp in your brooder so they are not too hot or too cool. We have one of these. A simple Thermometer

Chick food- There are medicated or non-medicated. We have always used non-medicated. I have also grabbed a clump of dirt and grass for the chicks to play with. A random worm or bug can make it interesting for chicks. Warning it can be messy but hilarious to watch. After birth they can survive without food for at least 3 days. 

Rubber lined shelf liner- I found newspaper can be slippery if it gets wet. Paper towels also work well but chicks can slip and slide if it's too slick. Puppy pads or Chux pads can be used as well. 

Pine shavings- Cedar is toxic. Some advise sand, but I have found several chicken experts that state this could lead to chicks eating the sand and ending up with impacted crops. Also, sand can contain various disease, as an example; e coli.

Pedialyte, Sav-a-Chick or Manna Pro- I used these with our last batch of store bought chicks and found it helped some of the runts quite a bit to perk up.  

Free of drafts- not a supply just a word to the wise. 

Make sure other animals/pets are away from these wee ones. Some critters love to make meals out of these babies!

Some fun things can be a mirror- Please be sure to fasten down so it does not fall on chicks!

Perch- Can be screwed into place if using a Brooder that is stable. Otherwise if you are handy you can create your own. We started using one when the chicks were about a week old. There are some folks that introduce a perch sooner. Chicks have great eye sight and a perch can add a bit of entertainment for them as well as you!
As you can tell from the above picture despite the perch Mr. Awesome made, to the right, this little one decided to go on top of the waterer worked better. 

Other questions:

When they are bigger will you free range or keep them in a run? 

This takes some thought. If you free range chickens will go everywhere! Beautifully landscaped or gardened areas may suddenly be picked clean of flowers, bushes may become nesting spots and dusty bathing may happen in places you don't want them too. 

There are also predators you need to be on the look out for when they are out. We have lost chicks and older birds both free ranging and in a run. 

Chicken wire is not good for a secure run. Many predators can reach through the wire and grab your chicks or chickens! 

Even bunny wire maybe too large depending on the size. Mr. Awesome found a good size that works for the Abbey and he will use for the chicksaw when he gets that built. 

The chicks will eventually get bigger and will need a coop. What kind of coop will you need? There are rules of thumb to use when figuring out how much space in the coop, perch and run. 

Check here Natural chicken keeping

What kind of coop do you need? 

Pinterest is just teeming with ideas for this! 

You would be surprised at how little space you can actually keep chickens in! Remember the less room they have the more issues your chickens can have such as feather picking, cannibalism or the Rooster may over breed with just one or a few hens.

What to look for in chicks-

Whether you are buying from the local farm store or big box breeder make sure you check out your chicks as soon as you can. 

Chicks should be full of energy and curious! Lethargic chicks is not a good sign.

Eyes should be bright and clear with no discharge.

Legs and feet should be even and bright colored not faded and smooth.

Vent is the rear end and should be clean. Chicks can have "pasty butt" if they are too crowded from shipping or even when you have them in the brooder. Make sure you have room! Other ways for this to happen is brooder too hot, improper diet or poor health.

I do butt checks often just in case. Gloves, warm water and some baby soap help. They won't be happy but this helps. You can use running water just make sure temp is not too hot or cold. Work quickly so chick doesn't get a chill. Clean patiently, not too rough, gently ensure not to pull skin off. 

I have used petroleum jelly, antibiotic ointment and my own homemade salve after cleaning. Check frequently. Pasty butt can make your chick ill and can be fatal.

As a side note, I ran out of non-latex gloves and had very little antibiotic cream when I had to do this at some point. So I ran to the store after my girls got home from school. I also needed Rum, yes there was a time when I would enjoy Morgan and 7. I don't drink that often or a lot. I can handle a few drinks but even with that I am dancing on the table and laughing hysterically. My Sister get a kick out of how poorly I handle liquor. 

So, I get up to the register and remembered Mr. Awesome was going to do a Go bag and a condom was needed. The cashier took a look at my purchases and gave me a smile and wink. I didn't even think about what I had! 

UGH! I turned a few shades of red and let her know that it was going to be an exciting night! I thought about telling her the truth about cleaning up chicks and why I needed the other things but I didn't think it would sound real.  

Now do you want Straight run or Pullets?

I will be honest with you. I had NO idea what that meant when we first ordered our first flock. 

Straight run birds are unsexed chickens. Pullet are hens that are less then 1 year old. 

Made sense after I read it. I originally ordered from a gal from church. A group of us went in to save on shipping. I felt foolish asking what those terms meant. I can be such a dork sometimes...

Do you need a Rooster to get eggs?

You don't need a Rooster for Hens to lay eggs. You need a Rooster if you wish to have fertilized eggs. 

When will my Hens start laying? 

Breeds vary but can start as early as 18 weeks and some can start later. There are factors that may affect laying such as; weather, stress and change in surroundings.

What are combs and wattles?

Chickens do not sweat so Combs and Wattles help regulate temperature in Chickens. There are capillaries that run through them. So there can be a chance of frostbite if you live in cold region. Some folks swear by putting something on them to prevent this. We never used anything to test it out. I did notice tips on one Rooster were darker in color after a cold snap when we first started raising them. I never noticed anything other then that. 

Combs remind me of puberty on a chicken. Different breeds may have them appear sooner then others. There are others that swear this is a good way to sex your birds as well. I am not sure about that one. 

How can I sex my straight run birds?

Well, I'm not the best at it. If you read this previous blog post you may not want to take my advice. Guess whose not a Hen? 

With a trained eye there are ways to look at the bottom of a chick and tell. We haven't tried that yet. Though noticing if they have hackle feathers when they start coming in or spurs later on is a good sign you have a Rooster! 

There are some great YouTube videos on sexing chicks by checking their wings when feathers start coming. 

So how much do chicks cost?

The cost can be as little as $2.00 to $5.00 per chick. It depends on breed and where you get them. You may have to purchase 25 or more chicks to make an order. The neato thing is most mail order houses have other types of birds such as; Ducks, Guinea Fowl, Quail and more exotic or endangered breeds. 

We are lucky and do have a farm animal auction and soon the local animal swap/flea market will be open soon. Here you can find not only birds but Horses, Sheep, Goats and more! (Jasper County Fairgrounds in Rensselaer, IN. )

I think I covered the basics and maybe a bit more. I hope this helps in decision making. 

If you have a tip or suggestion perhaps I didn't cover please leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Guess whose not Hen!? Help us name our Rooster!

I'm big enough to admit that there was a mistake thinking Henny Penny was a Hen. We never noticed her laying, but this isn't unheard of. Our feathered flock is well-known for laying eggs in some random spot they take a hankering for or just popping them out in the middle of the yard only to be stepped on, found until they are very ripe or eaten by our dogs. 

We have been handling our feathered flocks for about 6 years or so give or take. We thought we nailed down noticing whose a Rooster or a Hen. 

OOPPSS! It's not the first time we had sexing go wrong. When we first had Rabbits a friend of ours, that had rabbits before advised after looking over the ball of fuzz that we had 2 Girls. Well 1 of those "Girls" had a litter of adorable bunnies! 

So getting the right sex of an animal, unless it is darned noticeable as in a bigger animal can go wrong. 

We didn't notice the Sickle feathers around his neck, see spurs
since he is a fancy Banty he has feathers around his feet or did we ever really hear him crow! 

He is about  year old. I purchase him and the ducks right before we moved. I swear if I was the only 1 that heard him the family may not have believed me; luckily everyone heard the crow. I have to admit I was hoping it wasn't a zombie Rooster back from the grave. Our other Banty Roo passed away a month or so ago. Kind of freaked me out to hear the crow. I peeked around the corner of the coop half expecting to see something creepy or gross and I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw it was Henny Penny. 

Of course we were all standing around with our mouths open in disbelief. Then everything clicked into place and made sense why we found no eggs, why some of the other hens kept hanging out with him and the big one was answered! Why we never saw our other Roo have relations. DUH!

I admit I felt really dumb. But it's a wee mistake. These things happen on a homestead. 

 This sparked an idea! I'll be shooting a few vlogs about Chickens/Ducks soon. With many farm stores offering chicks now it seems like a great time to vlog about subjects such as:

* Definitions of some of the terms used in raising your flock before you buy them you may need to know

* How to get started raising your flock

* Difference between Chicken and Duck eggs

This and more! 

Well, I hope this made you giggle! I am still shaking my head. Oh! We need a name for our Rooster! Can you help us pick one out?

If yours is chosen you will get bragging rights and a honorable mention on my social media, vlog and blog! I'll also send you a surprise via snail mail for you! 

I hope your day is wonderful!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Someone I think you should know- Amanda Carvelli

I was inspired to write my Guest post series on a whim about people that give me faith, hope and encouragement. 

These folks are regular people that have overcome an obstacle, illness, a successful small business or just some spark that ignited my own!  

This Maven of Vinyl has blossomed what seems overnight and she has an amazing small business as well as battling Chronic Illness that hasn't stopped her from becoming successful. I hope you enjoy learning more about Amanda Carvelli!

She describes herself as; "A 34 year old stay at home mama of 1 (for now), married going on 9 years this March. My husband and I have been together since I was 15 years old, off and on.I have Rheumatoid Arthritis which leaves me with chronic pain and unable to work a regular 9-5 job."

"I started doing my t-shirt business during a time family distress when my Aunt was struggling with Pulmonary Fibrosis. I saw how much my cousin, her daughter, was being affected by her health deteriorating and decided to make her a T shirt, of all things, to help encourage her to keep fighting." 

"I designed it all on my own and had a local lady friend of mine actually cut the vinyl and give it to me, then using my hand iron at the kitchen table pressed it on to a shirt and hand delivered it to my cousin and aunt in the hospital. My Aunt smiled so big, as did my cousin and other family members, and for a minute we were able to forget about how hard my aunt was struggling. I thought if this little gesture could bring this much joy to them, imagine how much joy I could bring to others that are needing personalized and customized items. I’ve been in business a whole year now since the end of January 2016!"

She states,"Running a small business from home is an investment in both time and money. The plus side is I get to stay at home with my kiddo and work on my own time. I don’t expect to become a millionaire, but it does allow me to make a little extra spending cash."

I asked her, "How have you overcome the challenges of working with a 2 year old running around?" She replied,"My home office is also my sons playroom so when I work, he’s usually in there hanging out too. On big orders, I sometimes call in reinforcements, my dad, or wait until my Husbands home to get work done."

A lesson she has learned along the way;
"Don’t sell yourself short and my time is definitely worth something. I sometimes tend to under charge people."

She feels her greatest success is,having repeat customers and personal recommendations. That’s how you know you’ve made it! She added; "My favorite story is when I was at the Dr with my mom, my dad, and my son the other day. We all take off our jackets and notice we are all wearing t-shirts that I made! The nurse commented on them all and asked where we got them, says she loves them and asked for my business card! It felt amazing!"

I asked her, what she felt was her greatest regret? She honestly replied; "Getting caught up in addictions. I treated my pain as an excuse to use heavy drugs since the prescription drugs didn’t take the pain away."

When asked what the best part of her job was, she said, "Being able to make my own hours, work from home and having my handsome son model cute shirts for me!"

She says, the best thing exciting about in her life right now is,"Being a MOM! It’s all I have ever wanted to be. My son helps me to forget I’m in pain and makes me smile just about every minute of every day."

If she could go back and tell her 17 year old self she would tell her to;
"Tell myself to SLOW DOWN!!  I was in such a hurry to grow up and be a grown up at that age. I would’ve kept a closer relationship with God instead of with the local bar keeps, would’ve JUST SAID NO to many temptations."

Amanda describes herself in 3 words as: Wife, Mom, and Badass! (She is my middle Sister in life so I know that last one is TRUE!)

What will you find this amazing Guru doing on a typical 9:00 weekday evening? 
She says, "This is a good question…By 9 I’m snuggled up in bed with my little one, watching reruns of 2 Broke Girls, nodding in and out of sleep."

There are several big Causes that she is passionate about are: Finding cures for Rheumatoid Disease, and Infertility. She has struggled with Infertility for a time (That will be another Guest post in the future! Keep an eye out!) A few more that she holds near and dear are Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness as well as
Breast Cancer Awareness.

If you are interested in contacting Amanda for orders of customized Shirts, Mugs and gobs of other one of a kind items she is working on getting an Etsy shop going but can be reached by Facebook at Crafty Cow Custom Creations, by email at craftycowcustomcreations@yahoo.com , by phone at 708-224-8595, and by carrier pigeon, BIG CHEESY GRIN.