Keeping Laying Hens {an easy how-to guide}

Keeping Chickens

Image Credit Pixabay License CC0

You may have read the benefits of raising healthy, free range laying hens-those eggs can be pricey, so raising your own chickens is a great option. You don’t need a great deal of space to keep chickens; a few square feet per chicken in the coop, double that for a run, and you have plenty of space! Owning your own chickens could be a very achievable dream. 

Where To Get Your Chickens

One of the best places to look for chickens will be local farms-you can find these on craigslist, and even facebook marketplace. You will find plenty of people selling chickens of all different ages that are suitable for your needs. Animal rescues will come across chickens for rehoming, as well, so keep your eye out.

Wherever you choose to buy your chickens, you should always look them over first to ensure they are healthy. You especially don’t want to take an unhealthy bird home if you have others in the coop already. Look to make sure their eyes and nostrils are clear, that the scales on their legs are smooth, their feet aren’t crooked or infected on the bottom, and that their beak is straight and closes. You also want to check feathers, and look for any mites that may be living under the downy. Having a safe place to quarantine for 2-3 weeks before introducing to an established flock is recommended to prevent the spread of any illnesses.

Where To Keep Your Chickens

You will need to be aware that your chickens will look like a tasty treat for any local foxes or vermin. With that in mind, you will need to make sure that no predators will be able to get inside your chicken coop. Make sure there are no gaps in the structure; when using wire for the run, a most suggest hardwire mesh, because chicken wire is flimsy and easy for owls, raccoons, and other predators to tear through.

You can build build a structure from scratch, or you could repurpose an existing shed that you may have. Consider the number of hens you will be homing; the more space you can provide for them, the better the quality of life they will have. Cramming lots of birds into a small space can lead to poor health and some very unhappy animals- this can stress them out causing illness. They also won’t lay when stressed.

What To Feed Your Chickens

You will want to make sure that your birds are healthy by providing natural ingredients in their core feed (find more information from companies such as naturafeed). The average hen will need around 100g per day. Be sure to feed morning and night in a sturdy feeder that won’t be knocked over easily, check water pans or waterers (keep them clean!), and don’t forget the treats-aka table scraps! Chickens love cold cabbage, watermelon, and other garden goodies on hot summer days!

Cleaning Out The Coop

Depending on your setup, you will need to make sure to give the coop a full clean out every two weeks or so to protect against red mites. You can choose to don a deep litter method, which is what I do. You still need to keep droppings cleaned up from inside and nest boxes cleaned out, but instead of deep cleaning every few weeks, just add more litter. This is great in the winter to provide warmth.

General Health

To keep your hens healthy, you will need to allow them lots of free time out of the run. Don’t keep them cooped up all of the time-let them roam in your yard, and enjoy watching them! They’re funny. If you have happy chickens, you will have healthy chickens!

Disclaimer: Some links on this blog are affiliate links; when you use those links you help support my family, at no additional cost to you.  Thank you!

The end of Summer- Friday on the Farm

August marks the end of summer. It is time to prepare the farm for fall! This means a lot of work, all to prepare for next spring’s planting.

End of summer on the Farm 2018 {chores list}

We will spend the next several weeks:

  • Pulling out the summer’s garden plants, composting them
  • Possibly planting a fall crop, or cover crop to replace nutrients (has yet to be decided)
  • Cleaning up the corral area where the goats and cows currently live
  • Deep cleaning the barn, feed room, and feeding containers
  • Cutting firewood for winter
  • And putting in some new berry patch beds (we are adding grapes to the orchard!)

As far as the animals go, I need to:

  • copper bolus my 4 Nubian goats
  • prepare the older 2 does for breeding in the next 4 weeks by upping nutrition and herbs
  • slowly increase the Dexter steers’ alfalfa intake
  • Treat chickens with DE as preventative, up their nutrition to prepare for egg production slow down in the fall (which has already begun)

End of summer on the farm Chores

I will pull up the summer flowers in pots, and replace with mums and pansies ? we need to cut back some of the flower bed shrubs, and re-weed part of the beds. The weeds go back to the goats. They love it!

D is for Ducks {on the homestead}

We have thoroughly enjoyed our ducks here on the farm. We raised 5 ducklings this spring, and they have turned into lovely crested blue swedish adults. Judging by the behavior of our male Campbell, I am going to say we ended up with 1 female, and the rest drakes.

Joy.

But so far they’re all getting along fine, so we will see how it goes. I am not against finding some more females to add to our flock. =) Ducks are just too much fun to watch as they wobble about the yard!

This year, our Mammy duck made her nest in the chicken coop (which is her usual spot) and hatched a chicken egg! So now she is raising a 4-5 week old baby chick. What’s hilarious is the chick is surrounded by 30 chickens, but thinks Mammy and our drake (Mr. Quack) are its parents! He follows them around everywhere, but they never take him to the pond … it’s like they *know* he is a chicken and can’t swim? They keep him near the coop, call for him, and he calls for them! Mr. Quack will take the other 5 ducks down to the pond, and has in general taught them to be ducks, but he and mammy protect that chick something fierce!

I never realized drakes could be good daddy ducks?! Who knew …

 

Disclaimer: Some links on this blog are affiliate links; when you use those links you help support my family, at no additional cost to you.  Thank you!

Friday on the farm {Gardening & Meat Chickens}

After a looong winter, We are finally preparing to plant the garden. We are putting down a heavy plastic for weed control, and covering with hay once the plants get up a little taller. My husband is also setting up a sprinkler for the center of the garden that won’t require us to disconnect and reconnect hoses, sprinklers, etc.

This year we added a permanent fence around the garden to keep out the chickens, dogs, and cows (when they escape, which is monthly).

Putting in the Garden 2018

My husband made a steal stencil for burning holes into the plastic to help with more precise planting. It is really cool, and I am so thankful he is an engineer! He thinks of the coolest ideas.

The meat chickens were moved from the brooder out to pasture last week. The weather was iffy, and the first evening out there was pretty cold (36 degrees!) But they survived and feathered out quickly. Being in the pasture makes them sooo happy; they can spread out, eat bugs, and because we can move them they get a clean dry space every day or so. (It has been a week and they are already MUCH bigger than this picture.)

meat chickens 2018

We have planted new blackberry bushes, some elder berries (Eeee!), and a few more fruit trees. This year the garden will hopefully produce:

  • watermelons
  • cucumbers
  • egg plant
  • a bazillion peppers
  • 3 bazillion tomatoes
  • squash
  • asparagus (a perennial that is producing right now!)
  • and i can’t remember what else my husband planted …

I am already thinking about our fall garden! I can’t wait to do broccoli, cabbages, potatoes, garlic, and cauliflower again!

Back Yard Tractor Coop for 6-8 Chickens

Originally written May 2012
our first born is now 7, and Scarlet is no longer with us; we have moved across the country and currently have around 30 chickens in a larger coop. We easily go through a dozen eggs a day with our family of 6.
———————
I thought I would share a picture of the completed chicken coop.  I say completed … We were rushed to get it finished before a family trip, so there are a few things left to re-do.  The ramp will be widened for the chickens,  we are hanging the feeders today.
 We move the coop every weekend to a different spot in the yard.  We have been using the truck for this, but this fall we plan to service the four-wheelers and use one of them for the job.

Nope, this is no typical (small) tractor coop.  This bad boy is currently housing 8 chickens.  The run is 60sqft and the coop is 24sqft.  We were going to hinge the bottom, but the egg collection door (on the back) is so nice and big, we decided there’s no need.  It has two roosts on the inside running along either side with plenty of room for the nest boxes.

We will add the nest boxes once the girls are older- we are expecting eggs from the barred rocks come the end of July/first of August and eggs from my babies the first of September.  with 8 chickens we should get 6-8 eggs a day!  That’s more than we can eat, so I am hoping to sell a dozen or two a week. If nothing else it can pay for their feed.  =)

Scarlet keeps watch over them at all times.  We weren’t sure how she would react (since she was raised hunting and kills cats/squirrels/moles when she can catch them), but she just lays by them all day.  I think she is more jealous that they have food all day and cabbages to eat!  haha  Fingers crossed, no opossums or coons will be messing with our feathery girls, thanks to Mama Bear.

Miss Priss having Scarlet “kisses belly”  haha  They love each other!

 

Lexie talking to the chicks while Scarlet loves on her.

 

 

FMF: Visit {& Processing Meat Chickens for the Freezer}

This week’s Five Minute Friday prompt is Visit

.

.

and go!
I am outside on this beautiful Memorial Day weekend writing my FMF post, because I didn’t have 5 minutes yesterday … on Friday.

Visit is a great prompt for me this week; my mom is coming to visit.  She’s a school teacher, so she just got out of school for summer break, which works out perfectly because we are butchering our meat chickens this weekend.

(pictures courteous of my 6.5 year old)

Cornish Cross Meat Chickens ready for Butchering

 

Today is set up day, where we get all the equipment ready, gather our tools, etc.  Then tomorrow morning we will get up and get busy!  My mom will keep the kids occupied and out of the way so we can work as quickly as possible without interruptions (like making lunches, snacks, playing, etc).  Butchering and processing, bagging, and freezing 50 chickens is a LOT of work and takes a pretty long time without 4 tiny humans needing you every few minutes.

Raising our own meat on the farm means a lot to our family; for our children it is just a way of life.  For my husband and I it encompasses everything we want our children to learn about life in general.  Raising, and caring for animals the way they were meant to be raised, in a clean & happy environment, then butchering them humanely, in a process that preserves the integrity of their purpose is important. Not wasting parts of the animal, not covering them in dangerous chemicals for the purpose of mass production and shipping … those things are important to us.

You work for what you get, even when it costs more in the long run that buying it at the store, (and it is worth it), is a lesson we like passing on to our kids.

So, we are excited to see Mia, and thankful she can help us with the tiny humans, while we work.  The kids will enjoy her and it should be a nice week of weather for her visit.  After the work, we will spend the rest of the week playing.

(I will have a post with pictures and steps, on how we process our meat birds soon!)

Link up with the Five Minute Friday community this week, at:

Disclaimer: Some links on this blog are affiliate links; when you use those links you help support my family, at no additional cost to you.  Thank you!

Friday on The Farm {Babies, Babies, Babies!}

Ok y’all, I know it isn’t Friday.  =)  But I didn’t have time this past Friday to write anything, so here I am on a Monday evening writing about a wonderful day I had with my kiddos.

Spring has been around the farm for a while, but it is finally LOOKING a LOT like spring, and the babies GALORE prove it.

Oh the beauty!  The grass is green, there is a nice breeze, the garden is GROWING, the chickens are happy, the dogs are laying, the sun is shining, and the kids picked up their wagons and toys so the yard is semi-clutter-free.  =)

50 meat chickens

the meat chickens in tractor coop, just before we moved them to a new area with fresh grass

These are our new baby chicks!  we have 3, but left one in the brooder with a fellow left over chick … there is a story here.

We ordered 60 meat chickens, they sent about 65 or so + one lone little “exotic” (they’re usually roosters).  So we have 55 or so meat chickens left, living out in the tractor coop so they can pasture.  But we had this one little chick who is much smaller than the Big old waddling meat chickens, and s/he needed another chick with it, (because they don’t do well alone).  Initially husband said no; after a trip to the farm store this weekend with the kids they came home with 3 silver laced wyandotte pullets.

So here are two of them.

Image may contain: grass, bird, plant, outdoor and natureWhat else …

The garden is coming along so great!  I really need to look up how to harvest lettuce.  I am most excited about what we planted this year.  We are doing a lot of plants we either haven’t done in years or have never done, including broccoli, okra, watermelon, cantaloupe, sugar snap peas, banana peppers, lettuces, and cabbage!  We also planted some daikon radishes from seed (hoping they come up), so I have everything for my fermented kraut except carrots (which aren’t worth the time they take to grow haha).

the compost bin (which we will soon be updating, somehow) and the Arkansas rose bush that we have literally moved all over this country)

I think these are the cabbages …

peas that will hopefully grow up the trellis

 

my little lettuces! I’m so excited about them

 

We’ve been enjoying lots of asparagus and eggs.

Oh!  EGGS!  Ya’ll! My mammy duck is broody!  One of the really dark campbell ducks (possibly a cayuga cross), spent a month laying eggs and getting her nest all … nest-ed.  About 8-10 days ago she started sitting!  I’ve only caught her off one time and it was too bright out to candle the eggs, so I still don’t know if they are any good.  Drake Campbells only have a 30% fertility rate, so unless some of those 18+ eggs are crossed with our pekin drakes, there probably aren’t many fertile eggs.

Mammy {the broody campbell duck}

Anyway, I am excited!  Hopefully we will have ducklings in a few more weeks (or 3…).

And, speaking of baby things-this little one here is Heidi.  She is our 12 week old Great Pyrenees. (I think I mentioned in a previous post that Anne had a lot of genetic issues with her mouth and jaws so she was returned.  She should have never been sold to begin with … anyway).

Heidi is pretty dang cute, and feisty … and nothing like Huck!  haha  She has a lot to learn.  Like, a lot. But she will get there, just slower than Huck I think, mostly because she is truly puppy.  Huck has always been an old man.  He does a good job of keeping her in line and teaching her about pack manners and such.

Sometimes he literally just lays on her lead so she can’t keep pouncing off.  haha (see the 2nd picture below)

Heidi {great pyrenees LGD 12 wo}

 

I can ask Huck, “Where’s your puppy?!” and he will almost always go right to her and just lay on her. =)  So far she is learning to do okay around the chickens.  She doesn’t chase or play when around them, but when in the pen part of the chicken run she will try to chase through the pen.  So that behavior has to stop.  I am working on it, and will let you know how that goes.

 

He most definitely interacts with Heidi differently than he did Anne, which is interesting to me.  He knows she is different in character and treats her as such.  They’re such awesome dogs.

Huck and Heidi

 

Each of my babies and me today:

Friday on The Farm

 

 

We spent the afternoon doing chores, loving on dogs, chicks, and cats, then rolled the ball back and forth.  Dinner was in the oven and everything was perfect … then the cows got out.  That was frustrating and exciting and exhausting.  But they’re back in now.  Stubborn hamburgers.  I love them dearly, and I will miss them after freezer camp, but am looking forward to a freezer full of grassfed, hormone free beef for my family.

 

SIlver Laced Wyandotte QuietInTheChaos.com

www.Quietinthechaos.com

he started acting all wild and barn-catty right after this … cause he’s a barn cat

www.Quietinthechaos.com

www.Quietinthechaos.com

dirty babies and chicks!

 

The One With a Puppy {Simple Woman’s Daybook 29}

Outside my Window …
It is warm and cloudy; why is it in the 70’s in February?!  I won’t complain about the fog and early morning drizzle, we need the rain. And I won’t complain about the warmth, but I mean really?!  If this means we will have snow in May, I’d rather it be cold now!
I am thinking…
I have so much to get done this week!

I am thankful…
that we had a friend from AR come visit this weekend, that we had rain this morning, that we have a little farm, and that we added a new buddy to the farm this past week!

In the kitchen…
There is bone broth in the crock pot, eggs on the counter, and leftovers for dinner.

I am wearing…
leggings and a shirt

I am creating…
a few things in my sewing room

I am going…
to Costco and the library this week

I am wondering…
if we are going to have anymore winter between now and spring?!

I am reading…
Teaching From Rest, as recommended by so many homeschoolers … it is a good book.  Except I have already implemented most of what I am reading so far, and my train of thought is already there, so I am wishing I had picked it up at the library and not purchased it.

I am hoping…
I find more info in the book that is helpful, and not just a bunch of ideas and thoughts I already have, agree with, implement in my home. =/

I am looking forward to…
The warm week-warmth means mama and Baby can go out more (she does NOT like the cold, even bundled up, so I’ve been inside more than I’d like this winter).

I am learning…
how to work with a puppy, specifically and LGD puppy that is going to hopefully bond with and protect my chickens and family- he is NOT for playing with.  He has play time, in the evenings, but the rest of the time he is watching chickens, sleeping with chickens, and sitting with me as we learn about chickens.  The cows are too big for him to be with right now, but I wouldn’t be against adding a few calves for him to bond with soon.  =)

Around the house…
It just is.  Things are pretty clean, tidy.  I just have a ton of laundry to get through.

A favorite quote for today…
Dog best friend
One of my favorite things…

Meet Huck!  As in Huckleberry Finn.  He sure is a sweet, sensitive boy that likes adventure.  We are sure the 40 acres will be a good place for him to learn, grow, and protect.
I won’t write about how we are training him, because honestly there is a LOT that is going into it, and I don’t know if it will all be successful.  I have spoken with a consultant that has assured me Thora’s escalating resource aggression wasn’t a result of anything we did.  So I am hoping that what we do for Huck can prevent any issues and create a great guardian.  Because these kinds of dogs don’t necessarily “bond” with chickens like they will mammals, we have to do a little extra work to ensure he is okay around them.

However, so far he gets very upset when he is not in the run with the chickens.  He was raised with his parents and chickens for 14 weeks, until we got him, so he is used to them.  It is just avoiding playing with them at this point, that is important.

Huck is part Great Pyrenees, and part Anatolian Shepherd.  Anatolian Shepherds are more aggressive with predators than a Great Pyr, and are better able to take on a coyote than a GP might.  They are also more likely to stay closer to home than a GP, or so I read. So we will see how he does. =)

A few plans for the rest of the week:
Run errands, do school, get some sewing done, work with Huck, menu plan, and work around the farm in the WARMTH!  woo hoo

A peek into my day…
See Huck’s photo collage above.

Peek Into My Day {SD 29}

We did school, then went for a walk in the woods after lunch.  Aaah, fresh air, and fun!

Simple Woman {Daybook}

Jesus, Peace, Freedom & our Homeschool

The theme this week is Seeking Beauty: the Fine Arts, and Everything that Brings Beauty into our Homeschools.  Find other posts HERE, and visit the host Susan, HERE.

Jesus Peace & Freedom

 

I had no idea what I would title this post, often I have the title before the actual content comes to mind, it is how my brain works .. As I went through writing it I was still going back and forth on what to call it.

Then I saw it~

We began homeschooling for many reasons, and like most homeschoolers quickly found that what we fell in love with about homeschool was the building of relationships, the freedom to choose, and the peace.

Isn’t it funny how when you know and come to Jesus, peace and freedom follow?

OK, maybe not funny, but amazing and wonderful.

Our days are often not as ideal as I’d like, but for the most part, they are pretty enjoyable and peaceful.  Our mornings aren’t rushed, our relationships are strong and growing daily (praise the Lord), and we try to keep Jesus the center of our home and education.

Each morning I really do feel a peace about our day starting out (it may or may not stay that way depending on the 2 year old’s disposition =P) .. I wake up and I don’t dread it.  The absolute beauty in our homeschool is that we enjoy it.  It comes with Jesus, peace, and freedom.

What Brings Beauty to Our Homeschool

Jesus.

Truly, Jesus brings the most beauty in our home and homeschool.  From reminding me to give grace, to giving me grace, Jesus is why I am confident this homeschooling thing will work out.  I have no doubt in my mind that if we raise our 4 babies with Jesus and lead them by example that God will take care of the details.  He is going to make sure everything else falls into place; as long as we do our part we can sleep well at night.  I don’t need to worry or fret, and I especially don’t need to be concerned with what other people think of our decision.  We’ve got this, because He’s got this. His grace is enough.

The homestead.

I know people every where homeschool, and we would regardless on having the farm.  But the farm makes is so much fun.  There is so much beauty in going outside and being free of confinement.  No walls, no city streets, no city noises. Just freedom and peace.  Our family really enjoys that, and it enriches our homeschool day.

Books.

I would specifically say Sonlight here, but this year we took a break from SL for age purposes.  But I would definitely say Sonlight enriches and brings so much beauty to our homeschool.  And then books in general.  There are so many obvious reasons for this, but my favorite include the lessons, the imagination & creativity, and again, freedom, that books bring to our home and school.  I am very excited because my 2 year old is finally getting into the “I will sit still and be quiet long enough for everyone to enjoy a book,” which means we can get back to reading aloud more often.  I am already looking forward to next year when we redo Sonlight’s Core A with my then 7 and 5 year olds.  We also love the Before Five in a Row and Five in a Row books.

Freedom.

I keep mentioning this- maybe THAT should be my word for 2017 (ha).  One reason we homeschool is so we have time for what we love.  We school on a year round schedule, so we can take every other Friday off for co-op, and every other Wednesday off for cleaning day.  This also helps with catch up days.  I try to block off one week every 6 weeks for a week off.  So far this year they have been used when family came in town, when we went on vacation, or when we needed to catch up from a sick week.  But there is freedom in our weekly schedule.

There is also freedom in our daily routine- we can do as much or as little as needed, focus on what we want, do extra studies of interest, read any book we like (banned from public school or not), learn with books, the computer, create lapbooks.

We get to talk about Jesus, sin, death, life, babies being born, how to butcher a cow, what taxes really are (haha), what it means to serve others, and how anything works any time we want to.

We can stop what we’re doing for a video, a dance session, a board game; we can do school in our pajamas (or sans clothes if you are a certain 2year old), outside, read on the swing, under a tree, school in the morning, in the afternoon, take naps, eat nutritious home cooked meals and snacks, play in the mud before school starts, and of course have our chickens tag along.  Freedom.

And of course that freedom encompasses so much more, but I just touched on a few of the obvious choices.

Community.

We have recently found a comfortable community that is accepting and fun, loves Jesus, and is our own little comfy place.  We meet every other Friday for co-op classes that (for now at least) are fitting our schedule and needs.  The kids are doing fun things we don’t always have time for at home, and mama gets a brain break (though it is physically exhausting and takes a lot of prep on my end).
I have been craving a community & I feel like God took care of that.  I heard him telling me to just be still, and wait.  And once I finally let go, and let Him just hold us, he took care of it all.  Duh.

Then there is the online homeschool community, which mostly just rocks.  There is no limit to the questions I can ask and have help with in one of my favorite Sonlight groups.  There is also the homeschool opportunities we will get to be more involved in as my children get older.  Just 1-2 years will make a huge different in what they can participate in, in terms of activities and groups.  They are still little, and we don’t believe in a go-go-go lifestyle for our young family, but there will be a time and place to take advantage of those things.

So much goes into our homeschool, but mostly it is a lifestyle. And we really enjoy it.  Becoming lifelong learners that don’t stress over learning because it is just what we do makes this fun for all of us.

Putting Jesus front and center brings the peace and freedom that forms our homeschool.

Beauty in Our Homeschool VCF Week 5

What brings beauty to your homeschool?

 



Disclaimer: Some links on this blog are affiliate links; when you use those links you help support my family, at no additional cost to you.  Thank you!

Five Minute Friday on the farm

fmf-enjoy

Today I would like to participate in a little blog hop- called Five Minute Friday.

The topic today is Enjoy.

This week I have enjoyed the leaves and fall weather.  It won’t be here much longer, as the cold is setting in and the wind has picked up.  The leaves are now falling from the trees and soon they will all be bare.  It is hard to believe our first year at the farm has passed.

Ducks fall 2016

I enjoy our children and animals.  We added 6 more ducks to the farm (via a friend in Arkansas), and they are very happy it seems.  Four of them are Pekins, 1 a white Campbell, and the 6th a khaki Campbell like the 7 ducks we already have!  They are all known for their great egg laying and meaty bodies.

Ducks fall 2016

I enjoy scratching on the calves and feeding them when my husband is traveling.  Usually he goes out and feeds them while I clean the kitchen after dinner.  But when he is gone I feed them and love on them.  They’re sweet, although rowdy at times.

 

What do you enjoy?

Link up below!

 

Disclaimer: Some links on this blog are affiliate links; when you use those links you help support my family, at no additional cost to you.  Thank you!

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