Category Archives: Trailer Living

Raising chicks while living off-grid

So yeah. I’m a sucker for chicks. That is a fully established fact.

Yup. That’s two MORE chicks to add to our menagerie.

I was not planning on buying more chicks. But the feed store I was in had these 5 week old Ameraucanas for sale for only $2 more than they were selling brand new chicks.

And two of our four Ameraucana chicks had died (being crushed) within the first week. I really wanted more Ameraucanas. So when I saw these 5 week old chicks, who are almost the same age as our original chicks, and at a reasonable price?

Well, how could I resist?

[Did I mention that I went to that feed store, miles out of my way,  because I heard they had 5 week old Ameraucanas? No? Oh, well, that will be our little secret, k?]

So as Flower Girl sat in the parking strip grass next to the laundromat today, cuddling one of the new chickies, I figured it was high time to detail out how we have raised our chicks while living off-grid in a camping trailer.

She’s the chicken whisperer for sure!

On April 19, we brought our first chicks home and fostered them to a broody hen who had been sitting on golf balls for about 6 weeks. It worked great. You can read that post HERE

A few days later we tried again with another broody hen. It didn’t work at all. So we had to implement our backup plan.

We knew we needed to raise these chicks in a brooder. We had just emptied a large plastic tote, so that would work perfect. But there was no way that our solar power system could run a traditional heat lamp.

As the weather warmed up, we were able to use the warmth of the sun during the day. 

Solar powered warmth for the chicks – at least on sunny days 😊 (PS, this pic was take  after we got our bantams – the original chicks were about 10 days old, and the bantams ranged from less than a week old to about 2ish weeks old)

But what about at night? Or when it was overcast or cold? Sure, their brooder box would be in the mud room, out of the elements, but April in Northern Nevada is still pretty chilly. Too chilly for newly hatched chicks.

I had seen some warming plates online that advertised that they only use 15watts, but even with Amazon’s 2-day shipping, it would still be several nights before we could get one and set it up. 

So, to keep our little chickies warm, we built a little hut out of some reflectix we had laying around. (Reflectix is a insulative mylar and bubble wrap material, basically what a lot of car windshield shades are made from.)

Reflectix hut inside the brooder box

We cut a hole just big enough for the chicks to get in and out.

So we had the hut made, but we still needed a heat source. So, we heated some water and put it in a quart size canning jar and placed it in the warming hut, making sure that the door was not blocked so the chicks could get in and out.

The hut was sized just right so that a quart size jar and 6 chicks could all fit in the hut together.

This worked great, except that the water needed to be reheated every 4 hours. Even in the middle of the night. Which meant that for three nights, I was getting up at 2am to reheat the water for the chicks. 

It reminded me of middle of the night feedings of the girls when they were babies. πŸ˜„

So after three nights of getting up at 2am, I was very glad to see this come in the mail. (This is not an affiliate link. I am not being paid or reimbursed or compensated by Amazon or Premier. I’m just giving an honest review of a product I actually bought.)

Warming plate for chicks

The under side gets to be about 110Β°F, just a bit warmer than a mamma hen. It’s easily adjustable in height to accommodate growing chicks, and advertised that it only takes 15 watts to run. 

Considering we are set up on solar power, and this would be running all night, a minimal power draw was essential. But we were skeptical, especially seeing that it was designed for a 220volt system (maybe because it’s made in Germany?) and we are running 110 through our inverter.

But we plugged it in and gave it a go. 

And it worked as advertised. Actually, the power consumption was even less. We hooked it up to our power meter, and it never drew more than 12watts. It and the refergerator could run all night long on our battery bank no problem. Providing the batteries were fully charged, of course.

When the chicks were about 3 weeks old, we got a new (to us) little coop and decided to put the chicks out there. The warming plate went with them, of course.

See the orange extension cord going through the closed window? That’s for the warming plate​ inside.

(Edited to add this photo since I finally found it.)


When they were between 4 and 5 weeks old, I noticed that they were no longer sleeping under the plate at right, rather preferring to cuddle up in a corner. After several nights of that, and with overnight lows expected to hold steady for a while, I turned off the warming plate. They haven’t needed it since. Even our smallest chick, our bantam frizzle, who is still so very tiny, would snuggle her way into the middle of the pile to stay warm. I thought for sure she’d be crushed. But she’s a tough little thing. (As a side note, at 4 weeks was also about the time our mamma hen stopped mothering the chicks in the other flock. Seems 4-5 weeks is the magic age for chicks to be mature enough to “be on their own”.)

The chicks are now between 6 and 7 weeks old (except for our newest ones who are 5ish weeks). They recently got a small run to roam around in outside.

New small run on the Brooder Coop

Soon we’ll start letting them free range in the afternoons with all the other hens and chicks (and Cogburn the Rooster). And this week, the bantams are going to their new home at my parents’ house (that’s been the plan all along), so there will be more room for everyone as they continue to grow. 

So there you have it. How we raised chicks in a brooder while living in a camping trailer off-grid. 

And now the question begs to be asked. Which way do I prefer – letting a mamma hen raise the chicks or raising them in a brooder? Honestly, I can’t decide. There are pros and cons to both systems, especially the way we have things set up here. Let me think on it and get back to you, k? πŸ˜‰

Fostering chicks

So. We live in an off-grid tiny home (ie a 280 square foot camping trailer) and we’re busy building a house. Just the situation and time to bring home 17 baby chicks from the feed store, right?

No? You don’t think so?

I think you’re probably right. But we brought them home anyway. 

You see, we had a plan!

We had two hens go broody, and while we eventually decided that we didn’t want them to hatch any of our own eggs (we don’t want our rooster procreating), the idea of baby chicks had taken hold.

So, we put one of the hens in her own penthouse suite (ie, and old dog crate), and let the other sit in one of the egg laying nests in the main coop.

Broody hen in her kennel

Both hens were sitting on a few golf balls. These make excellent, cheap imitation eggs. 

Our plan was to let them sit on their “eggs” for a few weeks, then buy chicks from the feed store and do a little switcheroo and the hen will think her “eggs” hatched.

Or so the theory goes. 

And I’m here to tell you that it works! 

Kinda.

Here’s our story.

On Wednesday, April 19 we bought 9 chicks (4 Gold Sexlinks, 4 Ameracaunas, and 1 Golden Laced Wyandotte). We gave the chicks to our broody Austra White, “Bluebell” (so named because she has a blue band on her leg) at about 4pm. 

Bluebell and a couple of her new chicks

She was a bit confused at first, and the chicks didn’t know what she was, but within about 10 minutes, all the babies were snuggled up under their new mamma and she was happily clucking away to them.
The next morning, they were all out in the enclosure I set up inside the coop so that they had a bit of space to move around, but would be separated from the rest of the flock. They hung out in this space for a couple days. I figured by using crates, the other hens would be able to get used to the chicks so that by the time I started letting them out into the larger area and even out into the run, there shouldn’t be any problems.

Inside their enclosure inside the coop.

At this point, everything was going so well. I was exstatic that it was working out just as I’d read about. Bluebell was a good mamma. She kept the babies warm when needed, and was even careful how she stepped around them.

Good mamma, keeping her babies warm!

I was excited for Phase 2: more chicks to give to “Roadie”, our other broody hen.
On Friday, April 21, we bought another 8 chicks (4 Welsummers, 2 Barred Rocks, and 2 Delawares.)

We attempted to repeat our success.

And that’s where everything went to pot.

Roadie rejected the chicks! 😞 She kept pecking them away. More on that later.

So now we had 17 chicks and only one mamma hen. I have heard stories of a hen hatching out and caring for a large brood, so I figured we’d try giving the other chicks to Bluebell and hope she could raise them. At least for the night until we got a brooder of some sort set up for some of them.

It worked. Kinda. 

On Saturday morning, I found a chick dead in the nest box. It had been crushed. 😒 Seems 17 was just too many. Go figure.

And a weird thing that morning is that Bluebell was pecking at two of the new chicks. Just the two Barred Rocks. None of the others. So we rescued those two and set up a brooder box for them. And we figured that since we had to do it for two of them, we’d pick out several others and lighten Bluebell’s load. 

So, besides the two Barred Rocks, we grabbed a Welsummer, a Sexlink, the Wyandotte, and one of the Ameracaunas. The Wyandotte and that particular Ameracauna are special to Flower Girl and Princess Girl. 

That left 10 chicks with Bluebell. Five of them are from the older group, and 5 are from the younger group. Two days age difference doesn’t make hardly any difference at all.

And she has been a great mamma. They are just over a week old now and have started roaming outside and even free-ranging with the flock. 

Mamma in the chicken run, babies small enough to free range through the fence. (But they never get too far from mamma!)

The other hens and the rooster leave the chicks alone, even Roadie who is back in with the flock. I have seen Bluebell run off the other hens if she doesn’t want them around, and she gets antsy if the chicks wander too far away from her, especially if they are on the other side of the fence from her!

It is great to have all those little chickies running around! 

I feel kinda bad for the ones in the brood box in our mudroom. They don’t get to run and scratch and play outside like Bluebell’s brood. Maybe I’ll have Flower Girl take them outside tomorrow and set up a little space where they can get some of the same experience. πŸ˜ƒ

Chicks in the brooder box

So, remember when I mentioned that Roadie was pecking at the chicks and Bluebell pecked at only certain ones? I have a theory why that happened.

In Roadie’s kennel crate, I had noticed that mice were getting in to eat her food. Annoying, but I didn’t think to much of it till she started pecking at the chicks. I betcha that she didn’t know the difference between her babies and the pesky mice that would come to eat her out of house and home. And the Barred Rock chicks are black, so maybe Bluebell also thought they were mice since I see evidence of them in the coop from time to time. I dunno. I could be crazy. Roadie could just be a bad mom. And Bluebell could just not like the color black. Either way, I think before I try the kennel again for a broody hen, I’ll have to find a way to solve the mouse problem.

So that is our success story, and our failure. I learned a lot and hope you did, too. 

I’ll write up another post about how we have the brooder set up, and what we did until we got a heat source that would work on our off-grid solar system.

Will this winter ever end??

3-5-17 Snowing again

This past week, we had a few days of dry, sunny weather. The birds started singing again. The trees started budding again. And Spring seemed just around the corner.

And now we’re 5 inches deep in snow again. I know, I know, that’s not much compared to some (we have friends who live higher up in the mountains who literally have a tunnel through the snow to their front door!)

But for us, at the elevation we live, in the particular mountain range we are in, 5 inches is…Well, it still isn’t much. But it’s the 10th or so storm system to move through since New Years. That’s more than one system per week. In a place that normally gets less than 10 inches of precipitation annually, that’s saying something. 

The wettest winter in our area in the last 50+ years, and we’re trying to build a house. Last year, while we were still sitting up in Oregon eagerly awaiting our return to the homestead, they had roughly 5 storms the entire winter here. This year, it’s just one after the other.

So, what are we doing about it?

Well, there’s not much we can do. God brings the storms in his timing. All we can do is trust him that he has a purpose for the delay. And maybe learn something in the waiting.

The Danish have a word: hygge. It loosely translated as “cozy” or “coziness” but from my understanding it is so much more than just that. “In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life…Hygge is a philosophy; a way of life that has helped Danes understand the importance of simplicity, time to unwind and slowing down the pace of life.” (Source)

I feel like this winter has been one of discovering and reveling in hygge.

Today, as I sit in my cozy trailer with my chai tea latte and watch the snow fall, I contemplate the rest I have been given this winter. Had we been able to get the shell of the house up this Fall like we had wanted to, we would have been busy, busy, busy building over the winter. But that did not happen, and instead, we’ve had long periods of forced inactivity. (Well, there’s still animals and the family to take care of, and normal day-to-day stuff, but you know what I mean. If we were building, and when we DO build, we will have to do all that on  top of building our house.)
So, this winter, in my spare time, I taught myself to crochet. I’ve always wanted to learn how, and I finally have the time. In fact, as soon as I’m done with this post, that’s what I’m gonna be doing.

In my warm tiny home. With my 4 year old snuggling next to me on the couch. Candles lit, and relaxing music playing. On this snowy winter day. Hygge all the way, baby!

One of these days, things will dry out and we’ll start construction on our house. Life will get crazy busy and hectic. But today is not that day. And there’s a teeny bit of me that hopes winter lasts another two months. 

Stay warm and cozy, my friends.

Maridy

Rain, rain, go away

February 7 – Rainy day

What a winter this has been so far! We had a small snow storm just before Christmas and knew that we NEEDED to get our mudroom built. The day after Christmas, we started building it. We got the roof on just before the next bigger snow on January 4th. And we’ve had back-to-back snow and rain systems since then. In fact, as I sit here typing this, it is pouring outside. We’re supposed to get about 15% of our  yearly rainfall in this one storm. And we’ve already gotten over half in the last month alone. The bigger mountains around us have the most snow anyone living there has ever seen. What a blessing that mudroom has been.

January 5 – got the roof on just in time for the next snowstorm

Since the push to get the roof on, we’ve slowly been finishing up as we have time and inclination.

January 6 – enclosing the last bit of wall section. I always was a monkey.

January 6 – the fun-ness of construction in the winter – scraping ice off your materials

January 9 – the snow is gone, the rains have come. Time to add the gutter and rain barrels.

January 13 – oh look, more snow. And the beginnings of a door for the mudroom.

January 17 – still snowy – working on a floor for the mudroom

January 17 – mudroom floor before. At least when I was doing this project, the ground was mostly frozen, not the gushy quagmire it had been.

January 17 – mudroom floor after. We used heavy duty shipping pallets we found on Craiglist.

Once the floor was in, the mudroom was just about completed. It took us three weeks to build something that should have only taken one. But that’s construction in the winter for ya. The Hubby is toying around with a small wood stove to put in there so that on days like today (rain, rain, rain), we have a place to dry things out if need be. But even without a woodstove in there, it’s so very nice to have a place to kick off your wet and/or muddy shoes before coming in the trailer. It also keeps our fridge protected from the elements.

January 23 – speaking of the elements…more snow! There are three more solar panels under there somewhere.

We had a few days of warmer and drier weather over the past week and were able to get a few other projects done.

January 30 – sunshine! A beautiful day to clean out the chicken coop.

February 4 – more sunshine (but very windy) – finally built some steps into the hillside between Pajii’s trailer and ours. That will come in handy the next time it’s covered in snow. Slipping and sliding is fun when sledding, not so much when carrying dinner to your father-in-law’s house.

February 6 – despite the bone chilling wind (45mph), Princess Girl and I put up a fence around the rabbit hutch to keep the neighbor dogs out. Just glad it wasn’t raining like today.

So, at the rate this winter is going, it’s looking like things won’t dry out till March or possibly April. Hopefully no longer than that. In the meantime, we are planning and dreaming and looking forward to the day we can start construction on our house. 

And on days like today, when my plans for the day were ruined because of the rain, I see it as time to relax, and catch up on other projects that get put off too often. You know, like dishes. πŸ˜‰

I hope you enjoy your day, no matter what the weather is where you are.

Light on the Homestead

This is my Hubby’s first post on the website! Thanks, Babe!
—————
Being off grid and out in the country means having to provide for many needs that would traditionally be met by urbanized infrastructure. One of the things that all of the adults keep in pocket every day and night, is a good flashlight. The lights we carry are not super bright, but they balance intensity and portability well. Turn to Amazon, eBay, or any one of the many outdoor gear websites and you’ll run across the crop of lights that are not your dad’s 1990’s maglite.
LED technology and lithium (sometimes rechargeable) batteries have made today’s flashlights light, compact, bright, and long lasting. The lights that I bought for the Mrs, and Princess Girl is the Olight i3. It is a AAA powered flashlight blasting out 120 lumens and barely larger than the battery itself, making it easy to have on you at all times either on a keychain, a necklace, or in a jean 5th pocket.

The Wife was initially skeptical of carrying a flashlight around the homestead, but

late-night-egg-check-barely-see-the-flashlight-in-right-hand

Late night egg check. You can barely make out the super small Olight i3 in her right hand.

she has grown to find it an indispensable tool for everyday use. From finding her way to the trailer from the car at night, to peering into the cabinets to find a pan for lunchtime. The small size makes it easy to grip in her lips for both hands free, and the pocket clip allows for it to be clipped to the brim of a cap to act as a headlamp. I made sure to power it off of an Energizer Lithium AAA battery. This gives it better temperature resistance, longer runtime and slightly lighter weight.

There are certainly many types of lights to choose from, my recommendation for a basic light would be a single AAA or AA type, with a light output around the 100 lumen mark. Olight, 4Sevens, Thrunight, Nitecore, Surefire, Fenix, Streamlight are all companies putting out great lights.

maglite-2aa-led-hf-cheapie-3aaa-led-olight-s20r-energizer-headlamp1

Maglite 2AA LED, HarborFreight cheapie 3AAA LED, Olight S20R, Energizer headlamp

Maglite has stepped up their game as well with a line of LED bulb lights. Even the “giveaway” type LED flashlights (like from HarborFreight) that run off of a trio of AAA batteries have their place: small, light, bright, and so cheap to the point of Β being nearly disposable.

My rechargeable light (Olight S20R) is larger and more expensive than the i3, but it has features that make the greater size and weight worth it. Its rechargeable 18650 battery can be juiced up at my desk while I’m at work, on a snazzy magnetic charging base no less. It can put out enough light to illuminate the hillside, or little enough to peer under the theater seat without disturbing other patrons. It can get a bit tiring in a mouth grip or heavy attached to a hat brim, but its versatility makes up for these factors.
easy-to-find-the-dark-red-olight-i3-connected-to-victorinox-cadet-nd-maglite-solitaire-led

Olight i3 in red makes finding in the dark a little easier, small size pairs easily with a Victorinox Cadet to round out a front pocket light/blade EDC combo. The blue Maglite Solitaire LED also runs on a single AAA, and is easily found at just about any kind of store.

For working tasks I highly recommend having a headlamp in addition to a pocket flashlight. A light specifically made to wear on the head is much more comfortable, and one designed to provide a flood of light rather than a spot beam makes working with your hands easier.
While we have many flashlights hanging out around the homestead, nothing beats having one in your pockets, right at your fingertips ready at a moment’s notice.

How do we…take showers

We are a family of 5 (while our godson is living with us) living in an off-grid camping trailer while we build our house. 

And we ripped the shower and toilet out of the trailer long before we ever started living in it.

So, how do we de-stinkify ourselves when the need arises? (And believe me, living all together in 280 square feet, the need arises quite frequently!)

However, in reality, we all take fewer full showers than most people do. Being that we have to haul in our own water, we try to conserve as much as possible. The girls and I only wash our hair once a week, and the water always gets turned off while soaping up. And in between those several full showers a week are the “rinse offs”. This is where we basically only wash off the truly stinky parts. You know, those areas you’d hit with a quick sponge bath.

When we lived here two years ago for those few idyllic months, we mainly took sponge baths and went to my mom’s house when a full shower was needed.

But we knew that couldn’t last for too long, so when we moved back to the homestead this summer, we knew we needed something more permanent. And yes, there’s always Pajii’s trailer, but we don’t want to constantly be using his water and power or crowding his space every time we need to clean up. Not to mention how tiny those trailer showers are!

So Hubby built us a shower room constructed from 2×4’s and plywood.

This 4×4 mini-shed makes a very spacious and wonderful shower. We use a 20 amp hour, 12 volt battery connected to an RV water pump which sits on top of one of our 50 gallon barrels of water. 


A 100 watt solar panel is hooked to the battery to keep it topped up. The pump brings water through a propane powered instant hot water heater.


Right now, we only have the ability to turn the water on and off while inside the shower, not adjust the temperature. So showering can be quite the adventure depending on how warm the ambient air is as well as how warm the water inside the barrel has gotten. If you’re taking a shower mid-afternoon on a warm day, you’d better turn that puppy waaaay down before you get in there. πŸ˜€ We have plans to rig it up so we can adjust the temperature from inside. But we’ve had a few, more pressing projects.

And speaking of the inside…


The reason we have a shower curtain in there is so we can hang our clothes and towel on the hooks and close the curtain around them so they don’t get wet. 

There is no floor built into the shower. Rather, we placed pavers on the ground inside so the water can drain easily. 


So far, the whole system has worked almost seamlessly. Once the temps drop, we will need to do something to keep things from freezing, but for now, and probably at least another month or so, we’ll be fine.

And hopefully we’ll have the well in by then and can move our whole base of operations down to the house pad (we’re still camped out on the upper pad about a quarter mile away from where the house is going to go.)

Oh, and the latest news on the well is that the drilling company has a broken rig, putting them further behind schedule and they’ll contact is when they can get us back on the schedule. *Sigh*

But it will happen when it happens. There’s nothing we can do about it, so why stress over it? God has his reasons. In the mean time, we’re keeping busy.

So anyway, now you know how we get clean here on the homestead.

Adding on and making room

We have an addition to the family. At least for a few months. Meet our godson, Raven Boy.

He’s 13 years old, can drive a vehicle, is great with electronics and tools, and is a ginormous help around the homestead. He and his family visited for the summer, and when his family went home, it was decided that he would stay here with us for a while to help out with building the house and other projects. 

So, as I looked around our trailer, I realized we didn’t have enough room for another full sized person to sit anywhere when we’re hanging out inside. (He has a separate “bedroom”in our extra trailer that we use as storage.)  And with winter approaching, spending all our time outside isn’t going to be an option for too much longer.

So, Hubby and I had a talk, and figured out that with a little bit of rearranging in the living room, we could build a bench to comfortably seat another person or two. And it wouldn’t take up any more space than was currently being used.

I forgot to get a before picture with all our stuff there, but here’s the area cleared out. We had Scooter’s kennel, a couple of file boxes, and the toy chest in this corner.


We cleared out and cleaned the floor. Then started building the frame for the bench. This is where Raven Boy really shined. He already knows so much about using tools, etc that he cut all the wood for the bench, as well as helped put it all together.


Once the frame was together, and the door in for Scooter’s cubby, we covered most of it in plywood.


The left side was left open and put on hinges so that we can lift it out of the way and still deploy our couch into a bed. It was Raven Boy who came up with the design for that section.



We also left the top plywood unattached on the right side in order to easily access the area underneath for storage (and to be able to clean out the dog cubby when needed).


We bought pillows and pillowcases as the cushions for the bench. And we downsized Flower Girl’s toys to fit in a small tote and put the rest of them and the family heirloom toy chest into the storage unit.


I plan on painting the bench and sewing up the ends of the pillow cases so they look a bit more like cushions.

Overall, though, I’m very pleased with it. And since the weather has cooled off considerably recently, it’s been nice that the five of us can sit comfortably in our living room. We can also go over to Pagee’s (now spelled Pajii) trailer to watch a movie or something.

And Pajii put the full dinette back in his trailer after Bachan passed away, and all 6 of us can sit around the dining table when the weather (or yellowjackets) is not conducive to eating outside.

So that’s one more thing checked off our list of things to do to in order to live comfortably in the trailers for the winter. Next up is heat! Pajii’s trailer has a working furnace. Ours does not. We have several ideas of how not to freeze over the winter. I’ll keep you up to date on what we come up with.