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Love and Loss on a Homestead

Barred Rock Hen~Midnight~Growing a large family

 

 

Having a homestead brings so much joy to your life. You care for the animals and become attached. Some even become family.

But with love and joy, there are also heartache and loss.

We loss 2 of our hens a year ago because of a poisonous plant.

Then we loss 2 of our dogs to old age.

And today we loss another hen.

She was egg bound. I tried everything on the internet I could find to help her. I even turned to some Facebook homesteading groups. But nothing would help.

I made the decision to just put her back outside with the others. I knew she would inevitably die, but I thought if I knew my time was coming, I would want to die being me. So I let her live out her final days being a chicken. Lounging in the sunshine and pecking at bugs and scratch on the ground.

I will miss my fat girl. She had the funniest waddle and was always everywhere I was because she knew Momma had treats.

My hubby and I had made the decision to put her out of her suffering today. Actually he made the decision that I should do it. So she must have known that it would be hard for me to do it. Her being my favorite and all. I found her this morning quietly gone in the run.

My only regret is not hatching more of her eggs and keeping some of the babies.

RIP Midnight.

This blog post is partying over at Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop

Sleepless Nights, My Garden and El Nino

Gardening~Growing a large family

 

Living in Florida, we are used to dealing with hurricanes. They take several days to get here and we have plenty of time to stock up and plan.

But dealing with El Nino, this past month has been stressful. You don’t how severe it’s going to be or how soon it’s going to get to your location. And the worse part has been 99% of the severe storms have been at night. I hate when they hit at night.

First off, I live in the boondocks so you can’t see anything on a clear night, but now you have added in a wicked storm, so I really am left in the dark. I always take my phone in my room for all the alerts. But that’s the problem, I’m up all night checking out the alerts and warnings. And of course, the one alert that didn’t come through on my phone was the tornado on the ground alert. Thankfully all my kids sleep with radios on. And thankfully one of them does wake up when the emergency beeping comes on.

Now here in Florida, we are used to water spouts or quick tornadoes. They touch down, last for a few minutes and then they’re gone. But when the weatherman and National Weather Service is saying take cover, a very large and dangerous tornado is on the ground. It makes you think What the …… These are words my local weatherman were using, along with, this is a tornado you would see in the midwest and we have never seen anything like it. It lasted through 2 counties!

I mean it came to the bottom of my county. In my mind, I’m mentally giving out assignments to my 2 children, that at this point were scared to death and looking like a deer caught in headlights. Luckily it dissipated. But it came awful close to my Mother-in-Law’s house. Which my kids were at the night before and she doesn’t own a smart phone or a TV. And lives in a mobile home.

Needless to say, I will be investing in 2 weather radios. One for my house and one for hers.

So what does this have to do with my garden. Well it’s been to hell and back! First, our weather was too hot for winter. I mean, its was 85 degrees on Christmas, who does that!?! Now it turned cooler and my plants were so happy.  Then all the rain came. And that was ok, my garden never flooded. But then the winds came. We have had strong winds as least 2-3 times this year. I am talking, don’t let your kids out or they’ll blow away strong. And well everything fell over!

On the positive side, all the rain loosened the ground so Brianna could finish getting the grass up on the other side of the garden. And I did get a ton of cherry tomatoes before the winds, along with 2 cabbage, 3 broccoli and some green beans. So I am going to replant on the other side and see what happens.

Spring Garden~Growing a large family

Here’s hoping Spring comes soon.

At least that’s what Punxsutawney Phil said.

This blog post is partying over at Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop

The low down dirty, stinky truth about hatching chicks!

As soon as we got our first 6 baby chicks a couple of years ago, I knew I was hooked and adding more. Which is why I bought 6 more! Then hubby and I realized there wasn’t a coop as nice and cheap as I would like for the amount of chicks I bought.  He got mad saying I put the cart before the horse (or something like that). So we had to scramble to build a coop.

So ever since then, I promised him that I would not do that again. I want to know what I am doing before I run out and do it. I want all the known facts. So I read all about incubating for the last few months. I wanted to make sure my eggs thrived and the chicks were healthy.

But I am here to tell you about the things that people have left out. The things I never knew or read about. The things I had to find out the hard way.

The low down dirty, stinky truth and nothing but the truth about hatching chicks!

It’s so exciting seeing your first little crack in the egg!

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Until you realize that little chick is going to take HOURS! So you keep getting up every 5 minutes for the next 24-48 hours checking on that one egg. Yup! I have done this 6 times and did this every time.

When the chick does hatch, it is not the prettiest thing. It’s covered in slime and has an umbilical cord attached. Just like a newborn baby. The inside of the egg-shell was actually really cool. My kids thought it was awesome to be able to see the blood veins in the egg-shell and to see the different layers.

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And once your chick has hatched it is tired and will lay there like it is dead. Just flopped down face first! Don’t worry it’s not. This is how babies rest. And on that note, get use to it because this is how they will sleep for quite a few weeks.

Once the baby hatches, you have to leave them in there for at least 24 hours or just until their feathers are dry.

While your baby dries, it will gain strength and play tag with your other eggs. The eggs will get bumped and moved; possibly even rolled from one side to the other. Don’t panic, this is doesn’t affect your eggs hatching.

 

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Now your little baby is dry and ready to come out. Fantastic! But beware of the smelly incubator. When you open it up, it’s enough to make you gag! Everything has been baking! And baked umbilical cord is not a good smell! Just saying!

Chicken eggs take 21 days to hatch. I usually leave my eggs in the incubator until day 25 or 26. If no more hatches by then, I call it and throw away the dud eggs. Now is the fun part, cleaning the incubator.

You have all the bad eggs, the broken eggs shells and membranes, the disconnected cords and maybe some poop. It’s great fun! I recommend doing this outside or in a separate sink from your everyday sinks. I have a laundry room sink which is quickly becoming the chickens sink. I use it for giving them baths, washing their dishes and now cleaning their incubator. I also recommend a pair of rubber gloves. Just to take away some of the yuck factor. And I use baby soap on mine. It’s what I use to clean them with so I figure its safe, plus it’s what was sitting there the first time I did this.

It’s going to take a good amount of arm muscle to scrub some of the stuff off. Once your done, dry it the best you can and then let it sit out to air dry.  Its best if you can leave it out in the sun because this will really take care of anything left behind. You are ready for your next time of incubating.

Turken~ Growing a large family

Now that I have told about all the gross things of hatching. I am going to give you a tip that I have yet to follow. I have read several places online recommend putting down some rubber shelf liner. It helps the babies gain their footing and aren’t slipping everywhere, but I would think it would help with the clean up also. Maybe keep the bottom from getting so stained and allow easy clean up by just throwing everything on top away.

So what are you incubating next? Because you know even after all this, you will be incubating again. The babies are too cute and seeing a life form and be born is amazing.

Once you hatch, you never go back!

This post is partying over at the Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop

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Holiday hatchlings

Well I did it again. I couldn’t resist watching little baby chicks hatching. So I got out my incubator and put some eggs in to see what would happen. At first, I put in some of my Cayuga eggs, but they weren’t fertile.

And then I put a dozen chicken eggs in there, only 1 was a dud. So I waited another 2 weeks and then I got this result.

Growing a large family

 

9 out of 11 eggs hatched. They hatched the middle of November.

I’m not trying to brag but the coloring of my chicks are beautiful. Since I don’t specialize in one breed of chicken, mine are considered mixed. But let me tell you. They are pretty!

Chicks~Growing a large family

 

It was also a good lesson in genetics. We keep playing Whose your Daddy as their feathers come in. I was a little disappointed in the fact that I only got 1 turken out of the bunch. But that’s okay because we have another hatching coming up on New Years Day.

I just put 31 eggs in the incubator. I was going to try some of Lucky’s eggs but she was hiding them from me and I found them too late. So I put 15 of my own, 15 I bought from a friend and 1 from the neighbor.

 

This post is partying over at The Chicken Chick Blog Hop.

Chickens with Bumblefoot

Growing a large family

 

*Graphic Pics in this post. Warning for the faint of heart*

Never in a million years did I think I would be a chicken keeper! Never in a million years did I think I would love birds! Never in a million years did I think I would have the knowledge to perform a surgery on a chicken! But all of those things I can and do.

Having chickens are really not for the faint of heart. Yes they are very easy to take care of…until there is a problem.

One of the first major problems I had to encounter was bumblefoot. And I have had to deal with it on several occasions with the same 2 bozos.

Growing a large family

Thing 1 and Thing 2. These 2 seem to get it like they get bugs in the leaves. It’s crazy.

Basically bumblefoot is an infection. If they land on something and cut their foot, it could lead to bumblefoot because of all the dirt that they walk around in. Almost like a staph infection. Signs of bumblefoot are swelling, redness, a black or brown scab on the bottom and sometimes limping or holding the leg up. If left untreated it could be fatal.

On this particular day, I had, not 1, not 2, but 3 cases of bumblefoot. Thing 1 had one of her feet and, always trying to one up her sister, Thing 2 got a double case!

So I gathered my team of homeschooling homesteaders, my supplies and got to work.

Growing a large family

This is your basic supplies for bumblefoot: Epsom Salt, Honey, scalpel, vetricyn wound spray, gauze and vet wrap. As you can see some of this you will have at home. The rest I picked up at Tractor Supply. You will need a bucket or bowl so you can soak the chickens foot.

Growing a large family

Sorry for the foggy picture. I used this activity as a photography lesson for Cailin.

First, you need to get warm water in your container and add some epsom salt. I don’t measure the salt. I just pour a little and let it dissolve. This is just to soften the area around where the surgery will take place. Hold them there for a minute or two.

Now comes the fun part. Keeping them still on your lap so you can perform the surgery without hurting them.

What I do is put a towel down on my lap, then I take them out of the water and lay them on their back on my lap. I have one of my daughters immediately cover their head with a towel. Chickens can’t really see in the dark. So the towel simulates this and keeps them calm. Once in a while they will kick their leg. But usually I have my youngest daughter holding on to them so my hands are free.

Growing a large family

This was a very mild case of bumblefoot. I probably wouldn’t have known she had it, had her sister not been limping and I decided to check both of them. But for this post I am going to show you the most severe case I have had.

Growing a large family

As you can see Thing 2’s right foot is extremely swollen.

Bumblefoot~ Growing a large family

That black spot is what we need to cut out. That is the infection. Again this is the worse case I have ever had on our homestead.

Growing a large family

You take your scalpel and cut around the edge of the black scab. You shouldn’t see blood or any fluids coming out. It is literally just a scab that is holding in an infection. You will see the scab start to come loose from foot.

Growing a large family

Once you cut away the scab, you need to scoop and squeeze to make sure there is no pus still in there. I very rarely get extra pus out. But at this point you have an open wound.

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Spray with wound care, put a little honey on the gauze and place over the incision area.

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Wrap with vet wrap. You will want to change the wrap at least once a day. If you see it has fallen off, then soak in warm water to kill any germs and repeat with meds. You may even need to use some medical tape to keep it on. Within 3-5 days it should be better and can remove the bandage.

Growing a large family

 

This post is partying over at the Simple Homestead Blog Hop

 

 

Cayuga Ducks

I have 2 Cayuga Ducks on my homestead right now. I love these ducks. I have 1 male and 1 female. I named them Hook and Dark Swan in honor of the show, Once upon a time.

Hook is such a sweetheart. He is one of the ducklings we hatched.

Cayuga Ducks~Growing a large family

He likes to chase after our feet and nibble at our boots. He is also very spoiled by his Mama. He always waits for his food because he knows I let him eat out of the food container. He is also very curious of everything, like my camera.

Cayuga~ Growing a large family

The male Cayugas have more green coloring on their heads than females do. Also you know a duck is a male because they will get a few feathers that flip back towards their head near their tail.

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Male Cayuga~notice coloring on head and flip tail feather

Females are also more vocal. That is how I knew my Lucky Duck was a girl. Now my female Cayuga isn’t as vocal as Lucky, but very much has the features of a girl.

Female Cayugas have darker beaks and are mostly black with very little variation in coloring. Also the biggest giveaway is no flip feather on their tail.

Dark Swan is more standoffish when it comes to people. But if you have food or treats then watch out. She pushes most of the chickens out of the way to get to them. She is more calm and doesn’t freak out when you walk near her, which some males have a tendency of doing.

Cayuga Duck~ Growing a large family

Female Cayuga~ no flip tail feather and the coloring is more on the feathers and less on the head.

For a year, I told my hubby that I wanted Pekins. They were the best ducks for my homestead. But one day, I was reading a duck magazine and when I read about Cayugas and the amazing thing they do, I had to have them.

Cayuga Egg~Growing a large Family

That is the best first egg I have ever gotten. Only the first egg comes out black then they start getting lighter in color. My one Cayuga female has been laying for a few weeks now and has laid more eggs than some of my chickens. Ducks will out lay them and keep laying during the winter.

Another exciting moment was when I found the egg in the nesting boxes! Most of the time ducks will just lay an egg where ever they want and you have to hunt it down. Not with my girl! She has laid every egg either in the nesting box, coop or run. It makes my life so much easier! Hopefully she can train any other girl ducks we get to do the same.

Duck eggs are best used for baking. It gives it a much richer taste. Some people will use duck eggs just like a chicken egg. But then others say it has more of a game taste or is much saltier, depending on your breed. I personally have only use them for baking.

And of course this……

Cayuga Eggs in Incubator~Growing a large family

 

My Hubby is going to kill me.

 

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From the Farm

The Chicken Chick

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Introducing Harley the Farm Dog

At the end of June, we had to say good-bye to our Great Dane, Duece. He was 9 years old and having hip problems, eating problems and all kinds of other problems. He would constantly fall and trying to pick up a dog bigger than you was no easy task. He would spend endless nights just staring at me while I was sleeping and whining. We had to stop his suffering.

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But now we were left with just a toy poodle and an old, fat cocker spaniel to protect our homestead. Having Duece gave us peace of mind because everyone was scared of him. And I had been wanting a puppy that I could train to be with my chickens and whatever other livestock I get. My other dogs would bark and chase after them. I had been looking for months but couldn’t decide what I wanted.

And then almost a month after we said good-bye to Duece, we met Harley.

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He is a Golden Retriever. He was 8 weeks old when we got him. This dog is playful, crazy and really smart. He learns very quickly. And half the time he learns it on his own without any training. He is really good with my kids. Especially Dakota, who goes around calling him his little brother.  But he grew so fast. One minute he was this little cute puppy to this big 40lb, thinks he needs to be in Mama’s lap, dog. And he is only 5 months old!

Growing a large family

NOW!

NOW!

 

He knows Mama will protect him when he is scared, but he also knows Mama is the disciplinarian. He is also very well-trained to protect considering he almost ripped my hubby’s lip off. He still doesn’t have any feeling in it. But hey, like I told Hubby, you shouldn’t be messing with my puppy. Lesson learned!

 

He is really curious about my chickens. He wants to go in with them, but has never chased or barked at them. He actually wants to play and eat their food. Never even touches the chicken poop. Which from what I read is a miracle because most dogs think it’s better than caviar!

So I think we have found our perfect farm dog. Introducing Harley the farm dog.

 

This post is part of the Simple Homestead Blog Hop.