Entries categorized "chickens"

10 Reasons to Keep Chickens

Backyard chickens 1

Backyard chickens 2

Backyard chickens 3

Backyard chickens 4

Backyard chickens 5

This Friday from 1-3 pm Sophie & I will be at the Providence Children's Museum with some of our chicks and hens for their annual Farm Friends event. Kids will be able to pet the chicks and feed our hens some sunflower seeds. The event usually draws a couple hundred people and I'm bound to run out of flyers about why chickens are such great backyard pets. I know many of you readers keep small and large flocks yourselves and I have a favor to ask, can you leave a comment with your favorite reason for keeping hens? I figure we have the opportunity to convert a whole new group of chicken keepers between the lot of us!

 

Here are my top ten reasons for keeping chickens : 

 

1. Eggs!! After you start collecting and eating eggs from your own backyard you will never look at grocery store eggs the same way again. You will become an egg snob. Free-range eggs from happy hens taste so much better

 

2. They eat bugs. So. Many. Bugs. Everything from spiders to caterpillars to ticks. Less is bugs is good.

 

3. They are entertaining. We call it chicken t.v. here. Those feathered girls crack us up.

 

4. They are easy pets. We spend about 1.5 hours a week caring for them. This is about ten minutes a day for food and water and half an hour on the weekend to clean out their nest box. Sometimes it takes longer because we get distracted. (see #3)

 

5. Kids love them. My kids. The neighbors' kids. My friends' kids. Pretty much every kid I've met. Kids love to help care for chickens and even more so love to check for eggs every day. In fact, sometimes my neighbor boys check for me and bring me the eggs they found! Plus it's great for kids to be connected to where their food comes from. 

 

6. They make great compost for the garden. Even if you only grow flowers, your plants will be so happy you decided to keep chickens as pets.

 

7. They're inexpensive. We feed our girls a high-quality organic, soy-free food (and bugs, see #2). A 50-pound bag of food costs $24 and lasts at least two months, in which time they lay at least 12 dozen eggs, averaging out to $2 a dozen for the best darn eggs you've ever eaten.

 

8. They eat your kitchen scraps. Any wilted lettuce, winter squash seeds, vegetable peelings, fruit cores, stale bread and other kitchen scraps are eaten up and turned into eggs!

 

9. They're beautiful. Well, first they are cute and then they are beautiful. Not everyone gets excited about egg color and breed type, but I sure do. I love the blue eggs and the dark brown eggs and searching out a rare breed to add to my flock. Aside from beauty, keeping rare chickens also helps preserve the breed. 

 

10. You just might find your tribe. Or at least add to it. Chicken lovers tend to find each other. Or at least convince their non-chicken friends into becoming chicken owners. (and before you know it you might look at your breakfast of homegrown eggs and toast one morning and decide what that toast really, really needs....... is backyard honey....)

 

11. You can try it first. If you aren't sure if you want to commit, rent some chickens for the summer! If you're in our area of New England, visit our friends Twin Cedar Farms in Acushnet who have some of the most beautiful birds and a super awesome chicken coop setup. They provide everything and you get to see if chickens are a good fit for your family. (see that, I gave you a bonus reason!) 

 

I can't wait to meet a lot of new faces on Friday! If you stop in here after visiting us at the museum, do leave a comment and say hello. 

 

xo,

s

  


all in a week.....

Chick brooder

Baby chicken flock

Art studio

Art class

Organic herbal tea

Working at home

Sweetbrier farm products

Baby chicks

Color affection shawl

There's an ebb and flow of busy-ness these days. I recently found my plate to be too full and had to let some things go. It's easy to bite off more than I can chew... especially when really wonderful things come available. But the older I get, the more I realize I need down time and days that have no plans at all to balance the busy ones. It's tricky though....

Art class started again the beginning of March. Once a week my studio is filled with 8 extra girls along with my own. I feel pretty lucky to hang out with these super cool young ladies and do my best to find art projects to inspire them. This next session is 12 weeks long and we've decided (the girls & I, that is) to hold a little art show at the end to share with their families. So I'll be compiling about half of our art over the next 2 months and then displaying it all at the end of May. I'll share some bits and pieces as we go along.

The chicks are growing! The first picture is from last week and the second from today. It happens so quickly! I can't believe it's been a week since our little one hatched out and we purchased a few friends to join her. If luck is in our favor there are at least 8 hens in the little flock of ten we have inside. We know there is one rooster for sure, and two of our chicks were straight run so it's a wait and see sort of thing. We're hoping if one of the Swedish Flowers is a rooster we can take him up to Grandpa's farm. This year we chose Cream Legbars, Swedish Flowers, Cuckoo Marans & Blue Cochins to join the flock. I must admit we really get excited about having different types of chickens in our flock. We purchased ours locally, but I linked to photos if you would like to see them. We bought a huge galvanized tub as a brooder this year, Joe said he was tired of buying plastic totes, and that at least we could use it as our future bath tub!! It sure is a nice place for the little peeps to hang out for now. (yes, I quite enjoy having my farm critters in the living room for now - ask me in a month and I might have a different opinion.)

I redesigned our tea labels this week. We got new bags with windows and I had to tweak everything a bit to make it all fit. I'm happy with the new look! I also got a heat gun and shrink labels for the salves & tinctures. That's a bit of a learning curve! It sure makes everything look more professional. I *think* I have two wholesale accounts in the works (eek!), so it's a must to have things sealed properly. And markets! I just signed us up for a monthly farmer's market throughout the summer. Things are filling up, and I'm trying to keep balance in planning out summer dates.... making sure there are still lots of days for lounging in hammocks and heading to our favorite beach spot. The important stuff you know.....

Knitting is calling.... trying to sneak in a few rows on the shawl before my pillow is calling.

xo,

s

 


how to hard boil fresh eggs (that actually peel easily)

It's the little things in life some days.

Yesterday morning when I opened the fridge I was greeted with nearly three dozen eggs from our backyard hens. There has been baking, I have been making a huge frittata once a week, and we've been eating eggs for breakfast too.... but the hens were getting ahead of us. I have had no luck with anyone's method of hard-boiling eggs. Some of them helped (pin hole, vinegar, salt, ice bath, let them age) but none of them really yielded an easily peeled egg. Let alone one the kids could peel on their own. And I just can't let my eggs sit in the fridge for a few weeks before I boil them.... the beauty of backyard hens is fresh eggs, right?

So I googled it. And the one thing I had not tried was steaming them. Following the instructions from this, I steamed about a dozen and a half eggs from the weekend........

how to hard boil fresh eggs (that actually peel easily)

how to hard boil fresh eggs (that actually peel easily)

how to hard boil fresh eggs (that actually peel easily)

how to hard boil fresh eggs (that actually peel easily)

how to hard boil fresh eggs (that actually peel easily)

how to hard boil fresh eggs (that actually peel easily)

how to hard boil fresh eggs (that actually peel easily)

You need some sort of steamer basket for this. I used one of those fold up style baskets that fit in a variety of pot sizes. Add just enough water to cover the bottom, the eggs shouldn't sit in the water. Put the lid on & bring the pot to a boil. Fill with as many eggs as you want to cook & steam for 15 minutes with the lid on. Keep an eye to make sure you don't run out of water. I know that seems like a long time.... but you can see that it yields perfectly cooked eggs. I was wary, but it's just right. Spoon the eggs into iced cold water & chill until they are cool to the touch. Peel easily, without saying any bad words. (that's the best part.) And if you (like me) are so excited about this epiphany that you are jumping up and down and you offer a hard-steamed egg to every family member while squeaking "what until you peel it!"..... then we were meant to be the best of friends.... and I wish you lived closer.

It's egg salad for lunch here today.

Have a lovely Tuesday......

xo,

s

  

(ps - if you like the centers soft, boil for 10-12 minutes! we love them this way too!)


eggs!!!

eggs!!!

eggs!!!

eggs!!!

eggs!!!

Happy Dance around these parts.

We have eggs!! The Welsummers laid first.... that light brown speckled one you see was egg number one. After that they've been dark brown. We're not sure if one or both of them are laying, because we've gotten just one dark brown egg each day. The Wyandotte was second, she lays the light brown eggs. Once the Easter Egger's begin laying, we'll have green & blue as well. So exciting!!!

I keep humming a song I heard forever ago. The story probably won't translate well here, but I'll tell you anyway.

When we lived in the little town of Sitka Alaska, we used to attend a winter monthly event called The Grind. Sitka is remote. Like, island-in-Alaska-no-road-out sort of remote. It's got roughly 9k-ish people and cabin fever sets in sometime after the holidays. There is only so much rain and darkness a person can take before insanity or creativity bangs on the door. The Grind is a mix of both. It runs about 6 months out of the year. It's a "family friendly non political event" that costs 5 bucks or a homemade dessert to get in. Local talent performs comedy and music. Halfway through there is a dessert contest and then the desserts are eaten along with coffee, tea, or cocoa to finish out the show. It is an absolute hoot and we miss it so very much. We actually hope to start one someday when we finally settle down in a small town of our own somewhere. Anyhow..... the event always has a loose theme. One month was "Nautical" and a local band jokingly interpreted it as "Naughty-Gals". They sang a little song they wrote titled Eggs. The chorus went something like this, "Eggs, what do they mean to you? They make me think about babies, sex and food." Talk about bordering the family friendly criteria, right? I remember Joe and I staring at each other wide-eyed. And of course our then 7 & 9 year old thought it was hilarious and continued singing it. Despite my discouragement.

That was eight years ago people. EIGHT years. And wouldn't you know it crept back into my head at the sight of the first egg from our backyard. I have no idea why. I can't even remember the name of the band that sang it. As I typed up this ridiculous story for you, I sang the first half of the line to my seventeen year old in the next room and he sang the chorus back to me, omitting the s-e-x word for his younger brother. I was surprised by his tact and we both laughed at the memory.

Anyhow, I'm sure that story did not translate well. And really I wish I could just sing you the chorus so you could hear how it goes.... mostly so it might get stuck forever in the corner of your brain too. And then it will just start playing when you are plucking eggs from the backyard. Or grocery store. And you'll shake your head and giggle and think "what, why, where did that come from?"

That's all for now.... have a good night.

xoxo~

s

{ps ~ is anyone else having trouble commenting? if so, do drop me an email. i'm looking into it!}

 


morning chores......

morning chores

morning chores

morning chores

morning chores

morning chores

morning chores

morning chores

morning chores

morning chores

morning chores

Each morning one or more of us tumble out of doors into the coldness to check on chickens and rabbits. Sometimes through snow. Often breaking the ice in their water bucket and replacing it with fresh water. They always seem so grateful for this. We invested in a heated water bottle for the rabbits and it's worked out really well. They always come out of their little den to say hello in the morning.

The hens have been eating layer pellets by Green Mountain that I found at a little feed store just over the MA/RI border. I've been supplementing them with a cracked corn & barley too. Especially on colder days. They get lots of kitchen scraps. Veggie peelings and squash are their favorite. They've enjoyed eating a bit of alfalfa hay too. I've read in a few places that giving them hay during the winter will help keep their yolks bright yellow. I guess we'll know soon enough when we get some eggs. They're nearly six months and could start laying anytime now! We're curious about which breed will lay first. (Easter Egger, Welsummer, or Wyandotte)

Joe built another compost pile & we stopped adding to the huge heap where the garden will be. He turns it often and it is amazing how much heat & steam comes off of it. Even on the coldest of days! This spring the floor of the chicken coop will go into the new pile and we'll be on our way to making good dirt. Everything I've read says patience is key...... in time you will have good dirt. Poop, compost, patience.

This is the month to dream of gardens, right? Swoon over seed catalogs & dream of fruit trees. We ordered our fruit trees & berry bushes from this company & so far all of my vegetable garden seeds are from here. I'm trying to keep things fairly simple, it's so easy to dream bigger than I can manage. 

And speaking of dreaming big...... Bee School starts February 11th. I've waited months for this. I'm really beyond excited. If all goes well we should be getting bees this spring. Oh goodness..... this little homestead dream seems to be coming together.

xo~

s

 


the girls get a house ~ part two

the girls get a house ~ part two

 

the girls get a house ~ part two

 

the girls get a house ~ part two

 

the girls get a house ~ part two

 

the girls get a house ~ part two

 

the girls get a house ~ part two

 

the girls get a house ~ part two

 

the girls get a house ~ part two

 

the girls get a house ~ part two

 

the girls get a house ~ part two

 

the girls get a house ~ part two

 

the girls get a house ~ part two

 

the girls get a house ~ part two

 

the girls get a house ~ part two

 

the girls get a house ~ part two

 

The rain stopped and the outside dried up a bit & I finally got the girls' coop/nestbox/nighthouse painted up. Joe got super creative with the sweet little door he & Sophie cut out. He said we should probably cut a few holes around the top for ventilation, then I got all excited about stars and such. Joe looked at me and laughed and said, "Woman, there's a pair of safety glasses and a jigsaw. Have at it."

Hmmmmm......

So I got out a pencil and a big eraser and started drawing around the coop and before I knew it, there were stars and some other random curvy designs. Then came the saw.... it was time consuming, but in a fun sort of way. I was so glad to get it painted and outline the shapes and such. I really love their little house.

The spot where the coop is was all bushes when we moved in. Joe has spent hours clearing it out and making room & sun for the chickens..... and he built a nice little fire pit area too. In the second photo, you can see a patch of sun to the left. That was also trees and brush. We cleared that out for the garden! We'll be building raised beds for that soon. I think he's cut down about 8 trees to open up the canopy for sun? It's hard to cut them down.... but so good to make room for food growing! I get so excited thinking about next year's garden....

As for the rest of the coop details, Joe salvaged a door from the house. It opens by pulling out, making it a tiny bit safer for the hens if someone forgets to lock the door up. Joe used a bungee cord to make the door shut itself and he twisted up a piece of copper tubing for a "lock". We have a sweet neighbor dog that is always loose, and we recently saw a coyote in the yard too.... for this reason we opted for hardware cloth on the bottom half of the coop and chicken wire along the top. There is a strip of wood for extra stability where the different wire types meet. Joe built them a ladder from limbs we had lying around and a roost inside and outside their nestbox. You can see the nestbox access on the outside, plus the other side comes completely out for easy cleaning too. We used pretty much all new material for this and it cost about $425 to build. I don't even want to think about how many years I could buy farm fresh eggs for that price! (about 2) 

I guess that's really it. I'm thinking Joe & I could probably build a house after this, right? I mean, it's kind of similar.....

If you have any questions, we'll do our best to answer them!

Also, thank you to my sweet man for stapling/nailing extra wire around the tiny open space at the top when I got all neurotic and worried about fisher cats eating my chicken girls. He's good like that.

Enjoy the last bit of your weekend....

xo,

s

 


the girls get a house ~ part one

the girls get a house ~ part one

 

the girls get a house ~ part one

 

the girls get a house ~ part one

 

the girls get a house ~ part one

 

the girls get a house ~ part one

 

the girls get a house ~ part one

 

the girls get a house ~ part one

 

the girls get a house ~ part one

 

the girls get a house ~ part one

 

When we started this project, I had this grand idea about how Joe would write a guest post and share the details of our new coop. Halfway through it, I found myself giggling. Joe and I operate on different wave lengths. I need a hard plan. Blue prints. Every detail down to the quarter inch figured out. Joe needs a picture in his head and someone like me to count how many 2x4x12 boards he needs. He can count the boards mind you, he just likes to keep my monkey of a brain busy. We make a good team. Which is something we're really just now able to do on a regular basis with the youngest of the house being seven. It used to be I chase the little ones and he builds. Now we build together. It's been pretty great to collaborate on this level.

So while I can't offer you detailed a tidy blue print for a backyard coop, I can tell you the basics.

We roughly sketched the coop plan with this photo in mind and the rest is total S+J improv. The foot print is 6x12 feet. 72 square feet. If your chickens are staying inside their coop, they should have 10 square feet per bird, so it's perfect for our flock of seven. The front is 8 feet tall & the back is 6. We used clear roofing and faced the front south to get as much sun as possible. I'll share details on wire and nest box tomorrow with more pictures......

xo,

s

 


a cool bug + the ladies are growing up.....

Firstly, Luke wanted you to see his bug. Sometimes he randomly requests for things to be blogged. This bug was one of those things. 

 

a cool bug + the ladies are growing up.....

 

Now for another ridiculous chicken photo-shoot..... Turns out, it only gets harder as they get bigger and faster. Always worth the giggles though.....

 

 

a cool bug + the ladies are growing up.....

 

a cool bug + the ladies are growing up.....

lace winged wyandotte

 

a cool bug + the ladies are growing up.....

easter egger

 

a cool bug + the ladies are growing up.....

most of the flock (that's a welsummer in the top left, her sister is directly behind her)

 

a cool bug + the ladies are growing up.....

our four easter eggers (seen previously here)

 

a cool bug + the ladies are growing up.....

 

a cool bug + the ladies are growing up.....

Luke's favorite one in the front (previously here), we were so surprised she ended up being white. Luke had his heart set on a white chicken named Moonlight and there she is! The other black and white chicken was the darkest of the four easter eggers as a chick. I think these chickens are so fun because their feather color is the first surprise and then their egg color is the next. Most likely blue or green.... but we'll see in a few more months.

 

a cool bug + the ladies are growing up.....

*The Look* (an easter egger)

 

I've got a bit of painting to do with the coop, so I'll be sharing it next week (wait until you see my creativity + power tools, good stuff!) But it's finished! I am so glad to have them out of the studio/apartment. I do miss their evening cooing in the corner as I was sewing or writing in the evening though.... such as sweet little noise. 

In other news.... Joe has been clearing trees in the back all summer to make room for garden beds. He's cut down eight maybe? We had several enormous piles of brush/branches, so we rented a wood chipper for the day. The big boy, Joe, & I hustled to get the job done in time to return the chipper for a half day rental fee. We made it with about two minutes to spare! Now we've got four small piles instead of four giant piles. Joe has been spreading the wood chips in the forest paths to help with the mud. I think we'll keep some for paths between raised beds in the garden too.

We got three cords of wood delivered this week. Which reminds me.... I need to share a picture of our wood stove insert. It's a beauty..... I'm kind of in love. Knitting, fire, snow falling outside.... it sounds pretty wonderful. 

What other random bits do I have for you......

Oh yes, the big kids have had a great start at the local public high school this week. Hard to believe these two are in 9th and 12th grade. They ran out the door this morning for the bus at 6:50 giggling and laughing and racing. So much like they did as little kids years and years ago. They haven't been to school together since 2nd & 4th grade, so it's really sweet to see them doing this together again. Mostly though, I am glad to see my big girl be so excited about this new part of her journey. I wasn't sure how the first few days would go and she's having a ball and staying true to herself all in one. It's really the most a mama can hope for, you know? I think we have a lot of fun ahead of us.

I'm planning our first week of home school this weekend... I'll have some bits to share on that next week. Including an outline for an Education Plan if any of you would like that resource.

I guess that's all for tonight. I think I caught you up on everything here.

Off to make some tea and maybe start a bit of knitting....

xo,

s

ps ~ you have one more day to enter Linda's generous giveaway here.... good luck!

 


chick wrangling.....

Well. 

Here it is.

Luke & I had a rather hilarious attempt at getting pictures of the chicks to share with you. There is a funny tiny room off of our kitchen with glass french doors. It has a skylight and it's completely enclosed. Luke, the chicks, & I are all squeezed into this tiny space. It's been the perfect setup for chick viewing. Especially when they start escaping from their box.

Somehow the whole event was *much* harder than I expected. They move a lot more at nearly 3 weeks old than a week old. Solo capture, not so bad. Group photo, insane. It involved a lot of squawking, feathers, and chicken poop. This made my helper laugh so hard he was unable to assist me in any way. You know, seven year old boys and poop... funniest thing ever!

But hey, we tried. And even though these look nothing like those people that photograph chicks in hats, we thought you'd still enjoy them.....

 

chick wrangling.....

she's Luke's favorite..... but don't tell the others.

 

chick wrangling.....

easiest way to tell your chick box needs a lid, they start escaping....

 

chick wrangling.....

getting feathers! and perching on the side of the tote!

 

chick wrangling.....

attepmting to get them all together....

 

chick wrangling.....

that's the bossy one on Luke's lap

 

chick wrangling.....

boy off giggling.... no improvement on group photo attempt....

 

chick wrangling.....

the easter eggers ~ they'll lay blue or green eggs (or maybe pink)

 

chick wrangling.....

the welsummers ~ they'll lay speckled deep brown eggs

 

chick wrangling.....

laced winged wyandotte in the front, she'll lay brown eggs... she was the least impressed with the photo shoot!

 

chick wrangling.....

I don't speak chicken.... but I'm guessing this means "feed me, or leave!"

 

how to hypnotize a chick, by Luke

 

So there you have it.

Hope it brought a smile to your day.

xo,

s

 


beyond the fluff.....

beyond the fluff.....

 

This is one of those stories that I thought about not sharing here. 

It's sad. 

And hard.

But you know.... there's a lot of us trying our hand at this backyard homestead thing and I think it's good to share our travels on this journey. Perhaps especially when it just plain sucks. 

I come from a long line of farmers, and this story would probably make them chuckle and shake their head. But for me, and maybe you.... it's a first.

(as a warning.... it involves animal death.... feel free to come back another day when I'm talking about sewing or making jam...)

When our chicks arrived, one was obviously not well. She couldn't stand. She didn't peck at the water. She kept arching her back and flopping over. Peeping and peeping. I helped her drink water. I checked on her the first night. After 24 hours she made not a tiny speck of improvement. She was dying. Eventually, if we left her, she would starve or get dehydrated. 

We can't let her suffer, Joe said.

I know, I told him. I'll take care of her.

We discussed the plan and decided the quickest way was a meat cleaver and a wood block by the shed. He offered to do it. I almost let him. And then I thought... I wanted these chickens. I ordered them. I'm the pushing force behind this backyard homestead we're planning. I need to take care of the hard stuff too.... 'cause it isn't always full of cute peeping and fluff.

We explained to the kids that we had a responsibility to not let our animal suffer, that this was the right thing to do. They took the entire thing so much better than I thought. It goes to show I worry too much sometimes. Luke asked if he could watch, I said no. I didn't want anyone to watch me.

Joe sharpened the cleaver and handed it to me. I can do it, he said again. I know, I told him.

I carried the chick in her box and the cleaver out to the woods behind the house. I laid her on the wood block, said a little prayer for a quick death and end to suffering..... and a heap of confidence for my trembling hands. I told her I was sorry. And then I did it. One swoop of the cleaver and it was over. I was worried I'd mess it up, but I didn't. It was over so quickly. I turned the wood block over and wrapped her up in a little rag I'd brought from the house. We buried her at the end of our property.... just beyond the edge of the invisible fence so no curious dog would unearth her. Aside from fish, this is the first animal I have ever killed. It was hard. My eyes welled up with tears.... but I felt more confident as the keeper of this flock knowing I could do it. That if something happens I would be able to follow through, end suffering of my animal, that I wouldn't have to wait for Joe to come home. 

I was somber walking back into the house. My little chicken man asked me right away, Mama, are you okay?

Yes, I said.

Good, he said, hugging me. But it musta been hard, right Mama?

It was, I told him.

He patted my arm, and then he was off.

xo,

s