Category Archives: Producing Our Own Food

Whether it’s planting a garden, gathering eggs, or butchering our humanely raised animals, we strive to produce it ourselves

2019 Chick Hatching Update

All 4 of Welly’s eggs hatched! One had some issues and we spent a couple days nursing it back to health.

Poor thing was so weak. It couldn’t even hold it’s head up.

Doing better after warming and feeding it an electrolyte solution.

12 hours after hatching it was apparent it was going to survive but it was not as vigorous as it’s siblings, so we kept it inside for another couple of days.

We named that one Nugget. After a day or so, we brought one of its siblings in to teach it to eat and drink from the waterer. Since we had been hand feeding it the electrolyte solution, it wasn’t catching on by itself. After another day or two, you couldn’t tell Nugget from the other except that we put a leg band on it, so we but them all back in with Welly.

So now we had 9 chicks. Three of them we knew were males. Time would tell for the others.

At just 4 weeks old, the Sex-link’s combs were substantially bigger than the Speckled Sussex’s. Hoped that meant the Sussex were female – it did!

And at 6 weeks old, it was VERY obvious that two of Welly’s chicks were male, and two were female. These are the two males.

Oh, and you know little Nugget that we put so much time and effort into reviving? Yep, one of the males!

So, we ended up with 5 males and 4 females. Figures!

And one of the white females got out of her pen when a neighboring dog happened to be visiting and got herself killed. 😢

So, now we have 5 males that are bound for the stew pot this fall, and 3 females that will be added to the flock.

Right now we are working on integrating the two chick flocks to each other. The mammas are back in with their original flock. We are not going to bother integrating all those boys to one of the main flocks when they will be gone in a couple months anyway. But in the meantime, we need them all to be in the same coop/run. And soon it will be time to introduce the three pullets into their new flock.

Ah, the joys of raising chickens!

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2019 Broody Hen Watch: Days 20/21- HATCH DAY! (And Day 12 for the 2nd group)

They hatched!

They hatched!

Well, 5 of them did anyway. 5 out of 9 is not the best ratio, but it’s better than last year’s hatch ratio. (2/7)

So we checked on the eggs on the morning of Day 20 (June 7th). And we found a pip!

That meant that there was a chick pecking it’s way out from the inside!

We also found one half hatched and slightly squished. I thought it was dead, so I picked it up and removed it from it’s shell to see if I could tell what kind it was when I felt it move in my hand! It wasn’t doing well at all though, so we brought it inside and tried to warm it up and nurse it to health.

But, sadly, it passed away.

But it wasn’t long until the one that had pipped earlier had hatched.

And, another was right there with it.

Still slightly wet

All told, we had three hatch on Day 20 and two more hatch the next day. There were 4 fully formed chicks in eggs that did not make it for some reason.😢

Of the five that hatched, three are sex-link hybrids and are all boys. Of course! 🙄 The other two are pure breed Speckled Sussex and we won’t know for several more weeks of they are male or female.

White spots mean boys

Overall, I’m fairly pleased that we got 5 chicks out of this hatch. I still would like to figure out what’s going on that we don’t get a better hatching success rate. I am leaning toward the idea that it might have something to do with our very low humidity here in the high desert. But five is better than none, or even just one or two, so I’m counting my blessings. I just really hope that at least one of those Speckled Sussex chicks is a girl!

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On June 9th (Day 12), we candled the eggs from our other broody hen.

There were 11 eggs remaining (one went missing) and it was very obvious which eggs were developing and which were not. There were a couple eggs that were just not fertilized. As I thought, Uno the rooster just couldn’t get around to all the ladies all the time.

Unfertile egg.

There were also some that had developed a bit but then died of for unknown reasons.

Blood in the fluid, no visible veins

If it had been day 5 or so, I would have said this one looked normal. But at day 12, it should look quite different, as you’ll see in a moment.

The black spot at the top was a developing embryo in the very beginning stages when it died.

There were 5 eggs that looked like the following pictures. Notice the obvious veins/blood vessels.

Because these eggs had white shells, the blood vessels were very easy to see with the light. We could even see the movement of the fluid inside as the chick moved around! Check out the video below!

That was an awesome experience!

A day or two after candling, another of the eggs got broken, so we are down to 4. But Welly is being a good broody Mama, so we are hopeful to get some chicks out of theses ones, too.

Her hatch date is tomorrow!

2019 Broody Hen Hatch Watch: Day 1

May 19, 2019

You may remember last summer when we tried to have some of our broody hens hatch some eggs for us. (You can read those posts here.)

We tried six times and only ended up with 2 chicks (both roosters, of course!). Sadly, after some research, I think a couple of those failures were from us handling and moving the eggs after day 17, which is when the eggs should be left alone until hatching. So we might had inadvertently cause some of the in-egg deaths. I’m crushed. 😟

But, we are trying again, and we know better this time.

One of our Austra-Whites, Bluebell, went broody last week. She was the mama that raised store bought chicks for us in 2017. Her sister, another Austra-White named Speckles, was the hen who successfully hatched the two chicks last summer.

Our 2018 chicks – a Black Sex-link male, and a Speckled Sussex male who is now one of our breeding roosters.

We never had any success in hatching with the three Welsummers or the Golden-laced Wyandotte who went broody, so when Bluebell decided to be broody again this year, I was happy. I know she is a reliable brooder and a good mama.

So, here we go.

We moved her to the brooder coop nest box, blocked off from the 8 week old chicks who are using the rest of the coop.

Our brooder box setup. Just shut the right door to keep the hen in, and the left one is opened or closed as needed for security or ventilation and to access food and water.

She was sitting on golf balls for a few days in order to adjust to the move before we gave her eggs.

Classic broody hen stink-eye

But after one night she had settled right in. So I figured it was safe to put eggs under her.

The next day (that was yesterday) we swapped out 9 golf balls for a dozen eggs we had been collecting from our breeding group from several days.

I’m pretty sure all the ones on the right are from our Speckled Sussex hen, Lizzie. She lays very light tan eggs, and usually it’s pretty easy to tell hers from the eggs that Feathers lays. But sometimes it wasn’t quite as obvious. Most of the ones on the left are from Feathers who is a Plymoth Barred Rock. They are both in with a Speckled Sussex rooster, Nigel. So Lizzie’s chicks will be pure breed Speckled Sussex. Feathers’ will be Black Sex-links, which means we will be able to tell immediately at hatching if they are male or female. And then there are a couple that I think are from our other Speckled Sussex in our other flock, which means they would also be pure breed. However, they could be from our Black Australorp, or our Golden Laced Wyandotte in that flock as well. In which case, the chicks would just be normal ol’ farmyard hybrids. Nothing special other than the fact that they would probably still lay some great eggs.

Hey, we should come up with a name for our sex-link hybrids. Every hatchery calls theirs something different dependant on the breeds of the parents. Black sex-links are almost always a Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire Red rooster and a Barred Rock hen and the offspring is almost always called a Black Star or Black Rock. Red/Gold sex-links have a much larger variety of breeds as parents, thus have many different “brand” names: Red Star, ISA Brown, Cinnamon Queen, Golden Comet, etc. Hmmmm…, Something to think about.

At any rate, we’ll hopefully have some Speckled Sussex and some sex-link and a couple mystery chicks hatching out in about 3 weeks. I will candle the eggs in about 12 days (I’m not confident in my abilities to candle on day 7) and their projected Hatch Date is June 8th.

I am sooo hoping this works this time. We really want an easy and natural way to replenish our flocks in order to be as sustainable as possible. If we can reliably hatch chicks, we wouldn’t have to purchase new ones, and we could sell some to offset costs.

I’ll keep you updated as we progress.

And this time, no moving of the eggs in the last 4-5 days!

The Great Potato Experiment of 2019: Days 10 and 15

They are growing!

May 12: Day 10

The first little sprout started looking it’s head through the soil.

I was starting to get a little worried. No signs of life. Would they actually grow from those sprouts I planted or were they too far gone? Had they expended too much energy already just trying to get out of the box and then been shocked by being smothered in the ground?

Well, at least one is growing, so I’m happy.

May 17: Day 15

More growth!

The main bed showing the red potato spouts showing through the soil.

A purple potato sprout. I love that even the leaves start out purple, my favorite color.

I had a couple of the red seed potatoes that didn’t fit into the main bed, so I planted them in some old pots I had. They are growing, too!

I am loving this “experiment”. Not only am I trying something that is essentially new to me, but as I walk through my terraced beds every day to work on the house, I am filled with joy that I have a garden this year.

Yes, it’s tiny and not even fully planted yet, but it’s there. And seeing all the new growth fills a spot in my soul that reminds me how much I love gardening and producing our own food.

Soon I’ll have to share my tomato experiment of this year. 😯

The Great Potato Experiment of 2019: Day 1

I definitely waited way too long to get my seed potatoes in the ground. But I bought them when I had bigger plans for the garden, which I scaled back drastically when we decided it was more prudent for me to be working on the house rather than building and maintaining brand new gardens.

But I already had these seed potatoes. And I am continuing to develop the terraced garden beds as I have time and just have to get in some outside work.

So I finally figured out WHERE I wanted to plant them. And that’s when I discovered they had a headstart on my gardening for the year. (See above picture! 😄) So, I dug some trenches, and threw three potatoes in each, sprouts and all.
We’ll see how it goes. I’ve only grown potatoes once before, years ago, and that was before I learned to cover them up as they grow.

Method: dig 3 foot long trenches 8 inches deep. Lay 3 potatoes with sprouts end-to-end in the trenches. Cover with several inches of soil. As (if?) they grow, when they get to be about 6 inches tall, I’ll cover the bottom 3 inches with soil. I’ll continue doing that until…ummmm, I’m actually not sure when they are ready to harvest. More research is needed, obviously. But for now, at least they are in the ground!

House update: miscellaneous jobs

You know when you have that big project on the horizon that you need/want to start working on, but for whatever reason you can’t yet but there’s a long list of projects to do so you gotta get them taken care of and when you finally do them you realize it actually feels good to be able to cross something off the list and you wonder why you procrastinated so long because, I mean, you’re not working on the “big project” right now anyway?

*Takes a deep breath after that extremely long run-on sentence.* 😉

Yeah, we’ve crossed quite a few need-to-do little projects off the list in the last couple of months since getting the septic finished. Some of them so small, I didn’t even bother to take pictures. But some of them were significant enough that they have made our life so much easier.

Like our garden hose hydrant. We dug a trench (more trenching!) from where our water line crosses the driveway over to where we wanted the hose faucet next to the landscaping rocks.

The trench.

Tee into the water main

Princess Girl got in on the action

The gravel in the bottom of the pit is to aid in drainage since this is a frost-free hydrant. That means that every time the water is shut off, the water that is in the top of the pipe drains out of a small hole at the bottom of the trench so there is no water up in the pipe or faucet to freeze in the winter. We did put in a shut-off valve just in case we ever need to shut the water off to the faucet for any reason, but theoretically, we shouldn’t ever have to use it.

We have water!

And it works like a charm! And made our water situation around here so much easier! Watering the gardens were a breeze with 1700 gallons on tap. Yep, that’s how big our cistern is. We fill it up from the well as needed (every couple of weeks at the end of summer) and it supplies all our outdoor and animal watering needs. Right now it is mid-November and we haven’t gotten any moisture all season long. Great for working outside, not so great for our fruit trees and perennial plants. So we’re still having to water the trees and gardens every once in a while. This hydrant also makes it super easy to re-fill our rain barrels (because, you know, no rain). We use the water in the rain barrels for the animals. Before having the hydrant, we would have to turn on the big generator and well in order to fill barrels, etc. Now, with 1700 gallons of water at our disposal, we only need to fire up the genny and well pump every…actually, we don’t know how long it will take us to go through that much water this time of year. Suffice to say, it will take a while. And since it’s all under ground, it won’t freeze during the winter. Yay!

Another project we were able to check off the list was to move the electrical conduit for the garage. We hired out having the garage built, and we ended up needed to scoot the whole building back a few feet, which means the place where we originally had the conduit coming up was no longer in the correct spot.

New perimeter lines drawn

You can see in the pic above that the conduit was now several feet away from the wall of the garage. So, once the construction crew dug the footers, we came in and extended the conduit so it comes up inside the garage near the wall where our solar power system will be installed.

Electrical conduit extended

Again, not a huge job, but it HAD to get done.

Another small job that made our life so much easier was installing shop lights in the house.

Let there be light!

Now that the days are shorter, we needed light in the house so we can keep on working after the sun goes down.

And speaking of the days being shorter, and therefore colder, we finally got our laundry room door ordered and then installed.

A real door!

We could have had this door in place since January since it’s frame is part of the steel building, not the interior wood frame like all the other doors will be. But last winter and spring we were on hold with the house and the house only had this one wall anyway. And over the summer it wasn’t needed because of the weather. It was only when it got cold enough that we needed to stop the breeze from blowing through the house that we got our butts in gear and got it done.

And yet another small job we got done recently was replacing the rain gutter on our mud room. We had scabbed together something when we first built it, but after two winters it needed to be replaced. So we got a real gutter system. And now we’re set for this winter. And hopefully we’ll get a lot of rain and snow this year. We need it!

Princess Girl is learning all sorts of skills living here on the homestead.

So much nicer than the old system.

And that’s about it for now. As I said, there were plenty of other odd jobs done that I just didn’t document. And in the middle of all that, there was one major project that we worked on over the course of a couple weeks…

The floors!

But that’s a post all on its own. For now I am going to sign off.

I gots things to do!

Broody Hen Saga: Day 14

I candled our hen-incubating eggs on day 7 like everyone says to do. But I just couldn’t tell. They all looked too similar. However, I had a feeling that only half of them were developing. So I figured I’d give it another week or so and try again.

And this time the differences were striking! The 5 eggs (I was right!) that have developing chicks in them, very obviously have something in them.

Day 15, rather obvious

The 5 eggs that never developed (or stopped early) still look like a regular, non-developing eggs when candled. I did notice that several of them had cracks in the shell like the picture below. No telling when that happened, but I’m sure it didn’t help.

Non-viable with cracks in shell

So, out of the 10 eggs that were originally under Summer, only 5 are viable. I sure hope those five actually hatch. One more week to go…