Tag Archives: Chickens

A time for everything

A friend of ours was looking to re-home his chickens and rabbits.

So, who did he call to see if we wanted to take them? Why, us, of course! And it just so happened that THIS week is the week we needed to take them.

Despite the fact that we did not have a chicken coop. At. All.

And our rabbit hutch is in disrepair.

But did we let that deter us? Not a chance!

If you follow us on Facebook, you’ve probably seen the progress we made on a chicken coop.

First we gathered materials.

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We’re pretty excited that so far, we have not had to buy a single thing to put together our chicken coop. Most of the wood is reclaimed wood from a friend’s old play house and some shelves we demolished which we found on freecycle. A few 2×4’s are “new”, as in, never been used, but we’ve had them hanging around for a while. We’ll eventually need to put a bit of money into it for roofing and paint, but it won’t cost us very much. We feel so blessed.

Over the course of a few days, I worked to get a coop up enough that the chickens would at least have a place to sleep.

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My “office” for a few days. How blessed am I?!

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Making sure things are level and plumb.

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Putting on the floor.

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My co-workers for the day. Lot of help they are!

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Getting closer. This is what the coop looked like when we brought the chickens home on Tuesday at 2pm.

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Nailing on the roof.

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It took everyone to work to finish the coop before sundown.

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It’s not finished, but it will work for a few days to get us through till we have time to work some more on it.

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Time to bring in the chickens.

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Flower girl wanted to help, of course.

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Happy in their new home.

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Happy in their new home.

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They’ll free-range till we can get a run built for them.

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And the rabbits are living in a little box trailer we have till we can get their hutch repaired.

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This is April. She actually belonged to us several years ago till we gave her to our friend, who gave her back to us. She is the most docile of the group. The other 4 are her offspring, several generations removed. She is no longer a breeder since she’s so old, but she’s so sweet we’re not sure if we want to cull her or not.

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Sharing their meal.

And that’s our new adventure. I’ve had fun over the last couple of days trying to figure out what breeds of chickens we have. Eventually we want to get into breeding them, and doing so selectively. But for now, it’s enough that we have chickens again.

And the rabbits. Yes. That is three females and two males all running around in a box trailer together. Yes, that means babies in about a month. But the deed was done before we got home. They had all gotten out of their cages and were running around in the trailer with the chickens. Figured that since the deed was already done, it wouldn’t hurt for them to live in colony until we can get their hutch repaired. That’s our project for this weekend. And in just a month, we’re gonna have babies. Lots of cute, cuddly, fluffy baby bunnies. Just in time for Christmas.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!

Happy New Year

I know, I know.

I’m a little late with my holiday greetings. But as I said in my family newsletter (which I just sent out a few days ago), better late than never, right?

I’ve been doing a lot of reflection the past couple of weeks, as is typical this time of year. And also looking toward the future of this year. Are any of you already planning for your spring and summer gardens? Now’s the time to order your seeds and in some cases, get them started indoors.

I just read this online article (How to Pick Your Vegetable Seeds Without Going Crazy) and it’s got me dreaming!

But alas, my biggest decision this year is that I am scaling way back on my plans for our garden. Any when you have a tiny plot anyway, “scaling way back” means that I don’t plan to do much of any gardening this year.

The reason why is actually pretty exciting. We are hoping to be in the process of actually building our house this summer. Which means frequent trips between Oregon and Nevada. And as I learned last year, my garden doesn’t do so well if I’m not around to care for it. Imagine that. ๐Ÿ™‚

So, I’ll probably throw some carrot seeds in the ground and call it good. Those were what did the best and we ate the most of last year. And I love that they are frost tolerant and you can leave them in the ground all season and just go out and grab some as you need them.

It kills me not to really be making plans for the garden. But the trade off is worth it as we make progress onย our house.

A couple days ago was a fairly mild day here in the Portland area, overcast but dry and not too cold. So I used the opportunity to get outside and do some yard work.

Almost done! And it's a good thing, too, because the debris can is almost full!

Almost done! And it’s a good thing, too, because the debris can is almost full!

I scooped up the walnut leaves and put them in the yard debris can. Yes, we have a compost pile, but not the right set up to cook the toxins out of walnut leaves.

Just after New Years, we had snow here. It was a rare treat for us in the Pacific Northwest. Normally, any time there’s snow here, it’s covered in ice. This was a light, fluffy, “dry” snow. At the beginning of the day it wouldn’t even compact into snowballs. The girls and I spent 3 hours playing outside.

Our back yard looked quite different with a thin layer of snow.

 

And then, that night, a freezing rain came in, covering everything in a layer of ice.

For this girl from the desert, ice storms are pretty magical. It is surreal to see ice coating everything. However, I am glad no one in our family had to go anywhere. One of those times I am thankful that my man works from home.

The hens don't mind a bit of snow.

The hens don’t mind a bit of snow.

We had a bit of sad news recently. One of our hens (“Pepper”) was killed by a predator of some sort. Considering it was during the middle of the day in broad daylight, we think it was one of the many neighborhood cats.

Flower Girl with Pepper this past spring.

Flower Girl with Pepper this past spring.

Now we’re down to three hens, one of which doesn’t lay very many eggs per year and none in the winterย (our English Game Hen). The other two, however, have laid fairly steadily this winter (after their molt), even without supplemental lighting (for more information on supplemental light in the chicken coop, see this great article from Jill at The Prairie Homestead). I would love to add to our little backyard flock, but then I think of how much we are hoping to be gone this summer. And I think of transporting them back to Nevada when we do finally go. And I think, three chickens is enough. For now. ๐Ÿ™‚

And in the mean time, we’re dreaming. We’re dreaming big!

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

First Frost

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We had our first frost here in the Portland area this morning. November 22nd and we just now froze! Gosh, the growing season is long here!

I love frosty mornings even if it does mean a bit more work to care for the animals.

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This morning’s chore was pretty easy, though. I just broke the ice layer in the chicken’s water dish and plucked it out. Not so easy when it get’s frozen solid.

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Frost sure is beautiful. God’s design frequently amazes me.

How’s the weather in your neck of the woods?

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Garden update

While we were in Nevada, Dad decided that the big garden was done for the season. This is good news for the chickens.

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They are happily roaming the backyard again.

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Scaredy thinks the garden is her personal dust bath.

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Our small garden is going pretty well. The kale is finally taking off. I’m thinking I might still plant some spinach in the spot that the lettuce was in this spring. But I don’t know.

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The carrots have done well. We have really enjoyed eating those straight out of the garden this year (after a washing, of course!). I don’t think my squash is going to do anything. But you never know. We still have a month or so left of growing season (I know, right?!) Yes, it’s fall season, but on average, we won’t get our first frost for another month or so.

My container garden did not do so well this year. At least not nearly as well as I would have liked.

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The tomato plants were tall and scraggly and only produced a few tomatoes each.

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Nearly all the bean plants and flowers have struggled or flat out died.

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Really, the only thing I can say did half way decent was the jalapeno plant.

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And even then, the only reason I think it did well is because I don’t use jalapenos very often, so it has produced more than enough.

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Oh, and the garlic actually survived. I was shocked to see it growing back after not being watered all summer.

So, nothing did very well in the containers. I’ve been trying to figure out why and I think I have it nailed down.

Neglect.

Yep, that’s right. When a person travels at least one week out of nearly every month, things at home tend to get neglected. Especially since for me, all the days in between are filled with catching up or preparing for next time. Somehow, making sure the plants had the right nutrients, enough water, the proper sunlight as the season change, etc wasn’t high on my list.

Though I was glad to see that the crushed egg shells I put on the tomato plants stopped any more blossom end rot. And I did give them all a compost tea at some point. But it just wasn’t enough, I don’t think. That and maybe I didn’t have big enough containers. Or maybe they got too much sun. Or not enough.

And now here it is, the beginning of October and I really haven’t gotten much out of my plants.

But. They still have fruit on them, and I’m reluctant to give up on them when I know they can survive a while longer.

However, where they were on the deck was getting too shady with the waning season. So I moved them down to a corner of the otherwise barren big garden.

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They still look forlorn and scraggly, but I’m hoping that at least this was they’ll get the sunlight they need to survive for a while longer. Hopefully long enough to get me a few more tomatoes.

Well that’s it for now. How did your garden do this year?

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Summer Doings

I know I’ve been horrible at posting for months.

So, what have we been up to this summer?

Take a look and see!

We went camping:

We traveled to Nevada to work, see family, and spend time on the Homestead (click or hover over pictures to see captions):

We worked on house plans:Exterior views

And found a building almost the exact size of the one we are going to build:20150610_155031It’s cool (and helpful) to see the dimensions in real life rather than on paper.

We harvested cherries from our very own cherry tree:

Dad and Flower Girl planted the garden.20150609_161319

Princess Girl and her BFF ran a lemonade stand and made quite a lot of money!20150613_170558

One of my sisters came to visit and we made raspberry jam after picking the raspberries from her extended family’s farm!20150701_103628

We had some weird stuff happen in the chicken coop:20150702_102452

We were messy like a typical 2 and a half year old (there’s STILL specks of paint in the bathroom from this!):20150702_153057

We had our first tomato (and a couple more since then). Mmmmmm….

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We played with sparklers to celebrate the 4th of July:

We traveled back to Nevada once again, then to Missouri for a family reunion (click or hover for captions).

We did other typical summer type stuff (click or hover for captions):

And we traveled back to Nevada once again so I can work – ย (click or hover for captions).

So, you know. We’ve kept busy.

๐Ÿ™‚

My groupies

I went out to feed the chickens this morning and decided to let them out of their run since I finally got some bird netting around my small garden.

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The three hens who were not busy laying quickly headed for the compost heap on the other side of the yard. I put some feed out for them in their run and made sure they had water, but I had forgotten to bring out the kitchen scraps. I brought those out and emptied them in the big tray in their run and then went to stand on the back deck admiring the wisteria.

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Soon, however, Scaredy hopped up an the deck with me. I shooed her off. Then Pepper hopped up. I shooed her off. Then either Sugar or Salt (don’t know which is which) joined the crowd, and I think Scaredy jumped back up as well.

What are these chickens doing? They hardly ever come up on the deck, and here they were, all very insistent to join me up there. Over and over, no matter how many times I chased them off.

And then I realized something.

Just to test my theory, I walked over to the compost. My three groupies followed me. I walked across the yard and they quickly made their way over.

What did I realize?

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That’s right, I realized I was still holding the scrap bucket!

The empty scrap bucket.

But they didn’t know it was empty. They kept waiting for me to empty out it’s bountiful goodness.

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So, I walked to the chicken run where I had already dumped the contents and in no time at all, the girls were happily munching on radish and carrot tops from the garden.

As I walked away with the bucket in hand, no one followed me. They had gotten what they wanted. My groupies no longer cared about me.

And that is as it should be.

PS, I posted this on Facebook this morning. Four eggs yesterday! First time having 100% lay rate since the young ones started laying. Hopefully that will become the norm. ๐Ÿ™‚

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And look how dark those brown ones are. Absolutely beautiful!

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

It begins!

I’m so excited. We got our first egg from one of our pullets. We received the chicks in November at about 3 weeks of age. I figured they’d start laying in April sometime. Looks like I was right!

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I just love the deep brown color of this egg. The only brown ones we've ever gotten through the years have been light colored.

Our English Game Hen (who is about 2 years old) started laying again a couple months ago after the winter. But she only lays about 4 eggs a week, and since she is Princess Girl’s pet chicken, the eggs were reserved for Princess Girl to eat. So I’m very excited to start getting eggs from our other girls for the rest of us to eat. With only 4 hens, though, they won’t produce enough eggs for all of us on a regular basis, but they’ll offset how many we have to buy. And we buy a lot of eggs!

Dreaming of the day when we have room for a larger flock. ๐Ÿ™‚

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Misadventures of an Urban Homesteader

So, this is how my day started:

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“Taco” our 4 month old cockerel who is destined for the crockpot.

And this is how it ended:

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Yummy chicken tacos

You can guess what happened in the middle. Or can you…?

I started out the day expecting to slaughter a chicken, take some pictures, and load up a tutorial of sorts, What I ended up with is some important lessons in homesteading, preparedness, and emergency first aid. Yes, first aid. Now you might have an inkling that things did not go so well.

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS GRAPHIC PICTURES. IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO SEE THEM, DO NOT CONTINUE!

So, this morning, the rooster, affectionately named “Taco,” finally found his voice and gave several full fledged cocka-doodle-doo’s. We were able to sell his brothers through Craigslist, but this guy, for whatever reason did not sell. So, before we got a neighbor complaint and ended up with a fine from the city, we decided to turn him into his namesake.

I set the stock pot on the stove to boil and got to girls to tear some old phone book pages into a bag in a bucket (to soak up the blood during the butchering.)

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Then, I grabbed Taco and got prepared. 20150225_095836

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And this is where it all went wrong. Well, kinda.

I successfully detached the head, he started wiggling, like I knew he would, and I brought my other hand around to hold him still. The hand which had forgotten to let go of the very sharp knife.

Speed forward about an hour, and there I am at the Emergency Room.

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Hmmm… what’s under the gauze?

 

WARNING, THE NEXT PICTURE IS RATHER GRIZZLY!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yikes!

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The worst laceration I’ve ever had. Seven stitches. Oy!

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All bandaged and splinted up. The splint is so I don’t bend my hand and pull on the stitches.

So, what have I learned from all this?

First and foremost, DROP THE KNIFE! I should have immediately put the knife down as soon as the head was detached. This oversight comes from not thinking through the process well enough from beginning to end. It’s been a while since we’ve done this and it would have been good to walk through the entire process in my mind first. Think it through. This goes for any new thing you are attempting. Not everything will have Emergency Room potential, but even just mitigating mistakes and re-do’s will be worth the time it takes to think things through in the first place. And, of course, avoiding a trip to the ER is preferable in all situations.

Secondly, have a wound care nurse on hand in the event of an emergency. If you don’t have a nurse hanging around (because, who does?), at least know updated first aid practices. Yes, we did have a nurse in the house, she was here tending to my mother-in-law. But the Hubby and I did all the right things and knew all the information. Don’t panic, apply immediate pressure, rinse the wound if it got dirty, cover the wound, don’t take bandages off to peek, wrap the area applying pressure, and seek immediate professional care. I took a 1st Aid course less than a year ago and was rather gratified that I knew what to do (once I got over the shock of it happening). I don’t know many people who would dispute that knowing first aid is a good thing. But when you are a homesteader, I believe it is even more important. The potential for accidents is exponentially greater the more you get up off your couch – you know, when you do all your homesteading chores. And, if you are aiming for self-sufficiency, knowing how to do as much as you can is important, as is knowing when you need to head to the ER and when super glue or steri-strips will do the job. Obviously today necessitated a trip to the ER.

Third, while I was rather proud of myself that I had the correct knowledge in my head to take care of myself, all the knowledge in the world isn’t going to help me treat myself if I don’t have the correct supplies or can’t find them. It was brought to light that we don’t have a good first aid kit put together. We have most of the things we need, but they are scattered in different areas of the house and vehicles. Could we have improvised? Certainly. Should we have needed to? No.

And that brings up my 4th point. Every adult and child old enough living in the house needs know where the first aid kit is and how to use it. This is another area that I am lacking in. Sure, I have the knowledge, but if Hubby is the one who knows where all the supplies are and he’s not available, then what? And Princess Girl is old enough now that she needs to know 1st aid for herself. What if something happens and the adults are incapacitated? Or, as in the case of a bad laceration such as mine, it’s hard to do what needs to be done with only one hand. Sure, I can direct if I’m able, but having a helper with the knowledge is preferable, and Princess Girl could be that helper if she was trained.

Lastly, don’t be surprised when you pencil things out and raising your own food is more expensive than buying the cheap stuff from the store. We fed “Taco” for nearly three and a half months. We got one good meal and some leftovers out of him, plus his bones will go into the next batch of bone broth I make. It doesn’t add up financially. Add in ER costs and those were some of the most expensive tacos I’ve ever eaten! But the monetary costs aren’t important. Sure, it’s prudent to cut costs and save money where you can and not get in over your head financially, but I truly believe this way of life is good, it’s valuable, with benefits far above what the markings on a piece of paper can tell you. As embarrassing as it was too have to tell my story over and over at the ER, there is a part of me that is proud that I sustained this injury from something as uncommon and awesome as slaughtering my own “farm raised” chicken. I’ve heard other homesteaders say that one of the things they love about this way of life is that they can tell the story of their food. Boy, do I have a story to tell! And I’ll have the scar to prove it.

Well, I think that’s it. This has been a long post to type with one hand. ๐Ÿ™‚ In fact, I’m finishing this up the next morning because I got too tired last night. And guess what I had in my scrambled eggs this morning. That’s right, left over taco meat. It was yummy.

A Busy, Everyday Day

Today was one of those days that just feel good at the end of it, ya know? It was just an everyday type of day. Nothing extra special, but I feel like I accomplished something -several things actually – and used my time wisely and had some fun.

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First, as we were getting dressed this morning, we saw that the water district guys had started the flushing we had seen signs about. Since the hydrant is right outside our house, we got a front row view. And Princess Girl got an impromptu lesson in how the city water system works. She came up with about 10 questions to ask and the men very patiently answered them and even offered information freely. Plus, the girls got to play in the water. Win, win. But it did bring to mind the fact that we don’t really have the right systems in place for a water emergency. What if, during their flushing and testing, something came up and we couldn’t use the water coming out of our pipes? Not likely, but what if? We don’t have nearly enough water stored for a family of 6. Good food for thought.

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Our homeschooling day continued with some online research for her Geography lesson. Princess Girl’s daddy got a look at her outfit and thought she was being silly to be wearing her butterfly wings and bee dress while doing her school work. I love that while homeschooling, she CAN. No uniforms here.

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Half way through the day I got some Apple Butter cooking in the crockpot. It’s the absolutely easiest way to cook it. It only requires stirring every once in a while. However, I had forgotten about doing it, so I really got it started too late. Here it is after 9pm and I’m looking at at least another hour or cooking, then the canning process. It’s gonna be a late night. ๐Ÿ™‚

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I spent some time getting some jams together for a friend. She is buying them for her coworkers for Christmas. I also boxed up a few things I sold on Ebay and need to mail tomorrow. I ran a few errands and made potato soup for dinner.

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Then I decided it was time to introduce you all to the newest members of our ever growing family. So I went out to the garage and got some pics of our six chicks.

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We don’t know what breeds they are. They all come from the same nest of eggs, but the friends who they belonged to said it was a hidden nest and could have had eggs from several hens. They didn’t even know they had a broody hen until they saw the babies a couple weeks ago.

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They have a very mixed flock and don’t even know exactly what breeds they have. But they knew they didn’t want 6 more chickens. They mentioned it to us and we told them we could take the chicks off their hands if we could borrow their chick nursery setup since we don’t have any equipment and no money to buy even the basics, what with the holidays fast approaching. They said sure and even bought us a new heat lamp!

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So, now we have 6 chicks in a cage inside a box out in the garage. It’s so cold in the garage that I’ve been checking on them roughly 20 times a day (maybe a slight exaggeration). I even dreamed about them last night. But with the heat lamp, they are staying warm enough. Actually, my fear would be that they would get too warm, since there’s not much room in their little cage to get away from the heat lamp if they get hot. But they are happy and doing well.

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We brought a few of them in the house to play with this evening. I am always amazed at how gentle Flower Girl is with helpless creatures. She just about mauls Scooter when they play (and Scooter loves it all!), but she seems to know instictively to be careful with the chicks. So adorable.

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This one is so cute. It’s the only dark one. Any guesses as to what breed it might be?

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It looks like it will be a speckled brown when it gets fully feathered.

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How about this one? Pretty much pure blonde.

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Silly girl! (And well behaved chick ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

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I love this picture. The chick had just pooped on her. ๐Ÿ˜‰

So, yeah, we hadn’t planned on getting chicks this winter, we were going to wait till Spring, like normal people. But like so many things in our lives lately, it didn’t go exactly as we planned. And I’m good with that.

And yes, of course we are well aware that some or all of these could be roosters. We are hoping not of course, but if we do get some males, we know what to do with them.

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Alright, it’s getting late and I have some Apple Butter to can. Guess I’d better go. I hope you have had a wonderful Autumn day.

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.” Ps 121:1-2

Chicken Run

If you follow us on facebook, you might have seenย  a comment about our chickens. Yep, we have chickens again!

Actually, we have one of our old chickens back. When we moved up to Castle Rock, we gave our chickens to my parents since we were not prepared to have them on the homestead yet. The deal was that since they lived just a few miles away, they would still be partially our chickens, we still got eggs, Princess Girl cleaned the coop, and we’d care for them when Mom and Pops were out of town (which is often). And then we moved to Portland, OR unexpectedly.ย  And mom found another home for the chickens since they travel so much. When Princess Girl heard that her pet chicken, Scaredy, had been given away, she was very distraught. So, my mom called up the lady to whom she had given the chickens and asked for Scaredy back. The lady was very obliging, and when the girls and I were in Nevada recently, we picked up Scaredy and brought her back to Mom’s house. But you can’t have just one chicken. There’s some law against it, right? I mean, they are social creatures. It was just sad to see her all alone in the run. So, we found another hen on Craigslist. The owner assured me that she’s only 3 years old and is still laying, but we have yet to get an egg out of her. But, hey, she was cheap and is providing good company for Scaredy.

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She is a White Leghorn and of course Princess Girl named her Snow (and Flower Girl calls her “No-man” ๐Ÿ™‚ ). After a very brief period of deciding who rules the roost, they are now devoted sisters. So much so that on the 13 hour drive home, there wasn’t a single squable out of them.

So anyway, I brought two chickens back from Nevada with me. And we had no place to put them. We had discused the possibility of chickens with the in-laws, but it was still hypothetical. Until suddenly it wasn’t. Well, we found a box they could roost and nest in and they ran about in the back yard for a few days as we decided the best place to put them. What better use of a small (and I mean tiny) unused side yard than as a chicken run?

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I found some free wood in the form of fence panels on Freecycle. We decided to use that wood to build the chicken run.

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With a little bit of work, we had a pile of wood to use for various projects.

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We got some half rolls of chicken wire given to us (my parents are amazing like that!) and we used that and the fence wood to put up the supports to enclose the run.

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The Princess even put a few staples in. And yes, I realized after taking the pictures that she didn’t have on proper safety gear. We put up the tarp because…well…because we live in the Pacific Northwest and don’t want our chickens cold and wet ALL the time! The tarp gives their run a dry area which they can hang out in.

We got one door (which we built out of fence wood and chicken wire) put on this evening but still need to hang the other (which was a screen door for a sliding glass door). We’re pretty proud of the fact that other than the nails and staples, we didn’t have to buy anything for the run. Tomorrow I finish closing up a few more holes with chicken wire, then we need to build them a proper roost. Right now, we just have one box which they roost and nest in. Not ideal.

At any rate, that’s our current goings-on. I’ll try toย  post some more pictures of the run and coop as we finish it.

Oh, and here’s a picture of The Princess and her latest fire she and her daddy made using a magnesium rod fire starter. They report that those things are hard to use!

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Part of Princess’ schooling is taught by her daddy and is all about outdoor skills. Sure, we may live on a tiny lot in the middle of suburbia, but eventually we’ll be back on the homestead and she will need those skills then, if not before. Besides, they are just good, basic skills to have.

What skills do you think every kid should learn as they grow up?

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.” Ps 121:1-2