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The importance of knowing your plants

When you have little kids, farm animals or just everyday pets, it is important to know what is in your yard. Especially the plants. I have been silent this last week because I made a huge mistake and have been trying to fix it ever since. Last Tuesday, Brianna and I were browsing at Walmart while waiting for Cailin to get done at bookclub. We found this really beautiful flower plant that I thought would be perfect in her butterfly garden. We bought it not really thinking of the consequences. A couple days later, 2 of my chickens came down sick. They were lethargic and not eating or drinking anything. I thought it was impact crop or sour crop. I tried to find answers online. Until I finally did an inspection of their free range area.

Foxglove~ extremely poisonous

Foxglove~ extremely poisonous

They had eaten some of the leaves off of my daughters plant. We didn’t even know what kind of plant it was when we bought it. That was our first mistake. I started doing image searches online and after many hours finally found what it was and cross searched with being poisonous to chickens. It is, extremely poisonous. Even to humans if eaten!

I brought my 2 babies in the house and had a little hospital room going on. I force-fed them water and electrolytes and basically just tried to keep them warm. But honestly they ate so much there was nothing I could really do other than make them feel comfortable and loved.

RIP Nutmeg and Big Bertha

RIP Nutmeg and Big Bertha

Just hours after I took this picture, my little nutmeg said her good-bye.

Nutmeg as a baby

Nutmeg as a baby

I know a momma shouldn’t have favorites, but she was mine.

And as I was beginning this post, Big Bertha had a seizure and died right next to me.

Big Bertha then

Big Bertha as a baby

Big Bertha was my best layer. I will definitely miss those big beautiful brown eggs.

I honestly feel responsible. My chickens depended on me to keep them safe. And they also trusted me wholeheartedly. I truly believed they thought everything in the garden area is good for them because I would never do anything to hurt them. My carelessness has cost me 2 of my beloved chickens.

But going forward, I will be very careful and do my research first. I will not buy any plant just because it is pretty.

We’re Incubating!!!

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That’s right people! I am expecting!!!! Expecting feathered babies in the next few weeks! We started incubating some eggs from our neighbor on Saturday. And can I just say I am so excited!

But at the same time, I feel as though I am expecting! The first 48 hours felt like the whole first trimester! I was nauseous, anxious, nervous and overwhelmed. Plus I couldn’t sleep at all. Now that I got the temperature just right and I see everything is working the way it is suppose too, it feels like the 2nd trimester has kicked in. I am so calm and relaxed. Just peeking in every so often to see how things are cooking. I don’t even want to know how I am going to be during the hatching! I may need a lamaze training to gear up for this. It’s been 5 years for me you know. And this time I can’t even get an epidural! GOOD GRIEF!

But anyways back to my eggs. I have 6 chicken eggs and 3 duck eggs in there right now. And did mention the kids are learning about birds right now. So guess what counts as science too! WOOT WOOT!

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I wanted to start off small and see how hard it is to hatch eggs. But I can guarantee you that if this is a success, I will be getting some more eggs to go in there. What kind I have no idea! But I would love to turn my hobby into a little business eventually.

At least, that is my dream for the future.

 

Don’t rush! Building a homestead takes time.

It’s been about a year that I have become interested in homesteading. I mean I have always said I wanted a farm or ranch, but 2014 was the year that I really got involved and learning about the hows and whys.

This time last year, I thought, I’m going to get some chickens and throw some seeds in the ground and there will be my farm.

UM…..NO! Doesn’t work like that.

My chickens have had illnesses and injuries. I have also had to do things to heal them that I never thought I would ever do. (Hello, bumblefoot surgery!) I also ran out and bought 12 chicks without having a plan for a coop.

And guess what my seeds didn’t grow very well. In fact nothing did! All of my plants would start off strong and then stop. My dirt is mostly sand and not enough nutrients.

I started off thinking that for 2015 I would expand. I would get some pigs, ducks and anything else I could convince my hubby to let me have. I would double the garden and eventually have enough to feed us and sell.

But in the last few days of looking at my garden, I realized I needed to take a step back. None of those dreams are going to be possible without a little research and preparations.

So I readjusting my goals for the year.

  1. Add a few more chicks (layers) and add some ducks.
  2. Tear up the majority of my garden and start working the dirt. I am getting some worms and adding compost and other nutrients.
  3. Start composting! Build a compost bin.
  4. Research caring for pigs, find a butcher and locate local organic feed.
  5. Try to go back to basics on as much as possible (food, cleaners, and hygiene) and continue to remove all GMO products from our house.

Don’t try to do everything at one time. Take the time to research and know what your doing and why your doing it. In the long run, you want to become self sufficient and time is your friend. Because the more you rush, the more screw ups you’ll have and the more money you would’ve wasted. Eventually not seeing progress and seeing money fly down the toilet will make you want to give up and quit.

Roosters~love them or eat them

 

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Let me start by saying I am by no means an expert. This is my first year raising chickens. But in that years time, I have learned a lot.

I got 12 chicks total. Not knowing what they were; male or female. Two didn’t survive and I was left with 10 that thrived.

Out of those 10, I ended up with 3 males and 7 females.

Our first confirmed male, Speckles, got rehomed really quick because he was beating up my girls pretty bad. That is something you don’t want. You want your girls relaxed and comfortable and safe in their home so they can lay eggs comfortably. Under the constant stress, the chances of eggs go down. They will not lay to their full potential, which I know for most folks is the whole purpose of owning chickens. Plus beating up my baby girls to point of drawing blood was not cool with me.

 

Here are my 2 roosters that I have left.

Lil Baby~ light brahma rooster

Lil Baby~ light brahma rooster

Ninja~Frizzle Cochin

Ninja~Frizzle Cochin

 

Pros of having a rooster:

  • Protects your flock when free ranging.
  • Gives you fertilized eggs, which then gives you babies (YAY!)

Cons of having a rooster:

  • Can be rough with your girls or the other roosters. We had an incident which may or may not have been a fight between the two roosters. One was pretty badly beat up and I thought I was going to lose him but he pulled through.
  • Can become aggressive with you or your kids. I have one rooster who likes to chase my one daughter. She is special needs so I don’t know if he has picked up on that, but it’s only her, never me or anyone else. And when they kick at you it hurts. Especially with those nails.
  • Can be very skittish and not real lovable. Even as chicks, they ran and hated being picked up. And now they steer away from us and are not very friendly at all.
  • Do not follow directions at all (typical MAN!). If I shake the worm bag or call the chickens, all of the girls come right away. The boys not so much and we end up having to trap them into running into the enclosed area. Too much work!

Now the next reason can be a pro or con depending on the type of person you are. I personally love to hear them crowing. But others might not. I will say mine start between 4-5 am. BUT I can’t hear them in my room and neither can my kids. So it doesn’t bother us. Others might not be so happy with that.

While most people would say eat them. I am not that brave or experienced yet in butchering one of our own chickens. And I highly doubt that I can find someone to come out and butcher just one. I am not at all against it. I am hoping to add some meat birds later on down the road. But one step at a time. If you are experienced or knows someone who is, then butchering could be an option for you.

I am on the fenced about getting rid of Lil Baby. He is the trouble maker and he is the one that dislikes my daughter. She loves being with them. So most likely I am going to try to trade or sell him.

So my conclusion is a rooster is not necessary, but some people like them while others don’t. I don’t see Ninja going anywhere. He is the sweetest little thing I have ever seen. So much smaller than a normal rooster; probably a bantam. And just keeps to himself and treats the girls very nicely. I most likely won’t have fertilized eggs anymore, but that is a price I will pay. I can always order more chicks or go to local feed store!

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So tired

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So very very tired

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I’m awake!

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Darn wind!

 

 

Fun weekend!

It’s the little things in life that make me smile. This weekend was one of those times that just made me giddy.

Saturday was the big day! The day I have been waiting for since April, when I bought all those fuzzy chicks home. That’s right folks! I got an egg!

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Here is proud egg layer!

Thing 1

Thing 1

The first egg arrived on Saturday morning. I happen to hear one of the other hens singing the egg song so I went rushing out there thinking she laid an egg. But really she just likes announcing when others have made a nest and our laying their eggs. That is when I found Thing 1, not in the nesting boxes, but in her own little homemade nest. So for about an hour, I kept peeking at her and finally it was there. And I squealed like a girl. But hey, farmer’s can be girly!

Then Sunday, she took almost all day to lay again. And I sent little man out to gather the egg. But she wasn’t done yet. So we found these beauties in the garden instead.

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Thirty minutes later, little man and I went out again and found our 2nd egg.

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Needless to say, my kids are so excited about having to check for eggs everyday.

Check in with my flock

It’s been a while since I have done a chicken post. Mostly because I have been waiting for an egg, but they are almost 19 weeks and nothing so far. So that will have to be another post later; whenever it happens. Let me start by saying that everyone is right. Having chickens is addicting! I am already planning a bigger run for them because they are spoiled rotten. But anyone that knows me knew that was gonna happen.

Photo Bomb! I’m the center of attention!

 

This journey hasn’t been without bumps in the road though. In the beginning, we lost two of our baby chicks to Coccidiosis. It is fatal to chickens, but thankfully because of the internet and some wonderful bloggers, I was able to treat the rest and have had no problems with that.

Then there was the too many rooster problems. I ended up with 3 and one became aggressive towards the others. We had a lot of injuries. So it was time to relocate him to our next door neighbors, where he found a hen that is his twin and fell deeply in love.

Be nice to your new girlfriend, Speckles.

Be nice to your new girlfriend, Speckles.

 

Next, was the summer cold of 2014. It hit a few of our girls pretty hard. I didn’t want too, but had to give out antibiotics. Within a day, they were all good. I am trying to do the natural thing, but with this the oregano, which acts as a natural antibiotic, wasn’t cutting it.

Lastly, I had to escapees. Two different times, two different hens! They got so excited that Mommy was coming in with treats that they ran out the door. As soon as they realized they were out and the others were in, they paced the fence trying to get back. So I was able to easily catch them.

Okay~ on to the chickens now.

Little baby at the beginning of summer.

Little baby at the beginning of summer.

Little baby now

Little baby now

Big Bertha then

Big Bertha then

Nutmeg then

Nutmeg then

Big Bertha (right) and Nutmeg (left)

Big Bertha (right) and Nutmeg (left)

Midnight then

Midnight then

Midnight now

Midnight now

Precious then

Precious then

Precious now

Precious now

Thing 1 and Thing 2 then

Thing 1 and Thing 2 then

Thing 1 now

Thing 1 now

Thing 2 now

Thing 2 now

Luna then

Luna then

Luna now

Luna now

And last, but not least

Ninja then

Ninja then

Ninja now

Ninja now

And I just want to add he is the perfect Rooster. Let’s the girls eat first, watches out for predators and is the first out in the morning and the last one in at night.

UPDATE: I started writing this 2 days ago and as of 15 minutes ago, Thing 1 is in the coop making a nest. We are hoping for an egg by the end of the day. Follow me on Facebook or Instagram for updates.

 

Here comes the chicks…..

Now that our babies are getting bigger and have their feathers coming in, I am able to give them proper names to fit them and their personality.

Introducing our flock……

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This is Big Bertha. She is the oldest by a few days and the biggest of our chickens.

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This is Luna. It took me forever to come up with a name for her. She is starting to get more comfortable with me and will jump on me every once and a while.

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This is Precious. This one belongs to Brianna. Which is appropriate because she is the same age as Luna but so much smaller, just like her owner.

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Twinsies! They were easy to name because they are always into something. Thing 1 is at the top, she has a smaller and lighter colored beak. Thing 2 at the bottom, much larger beak and even has some black lines running through it.

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This is Speckles. This one belongs to Alissa. UMMM I am not sure what it is; girl or boy! But it’s pretty.

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This is Nutmeg. She has adopted herself as mine. When she sees me, she finds a way to jump on my back. She likes to look me eye to eye and talk to me. She is a gossiper.

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This is Midnight. She too has become a Momma’s girl. Her and Nutmeg like to fight over who sits where on Momma’s back.

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This is Ninja and in case you can’t tell; yup he’s a rooster. No eggs from this little fellow. He belongs to Cailin. And she changed his name from Fizzy to Ninja when he started running around and karate kicking the other chickens. Now before you say what happened to his feathers. It’s okay; He is a Frizzle chicken. Let me just say if anyone was going to pick the odd ball of the bunch it was going to be Cailin. And she is very proud of herself.

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Last but not least, Lil Baby. This one was named by Dakota. He took a liking to the youngest of the group. I am 95% sure Lil baby is a rooster. But he is so darn cute!

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Look at that he could be a chicken model! Adorable!

So here they are! We have had no health problems and they are the highlight of our day. Someone is always checking on them, feeding them snacks or thinking of something new to make for them. It really has been a fun family project.