As we were beginning this homesteading adventure, I read Made from Scratch by Jenna Woginrich. This book was not worth reading. It was all I could do to finish it, and I would not recommend it.
The biggest issue I have with this book is how the author writes about mistakes that she made, but all of these mistakes were easily preventable by anyone who took the time to do any research before blundering in. All of her mistakes caused the deaths of animals. Wonginrich says in the book that she’s a Buddhist vegetarian, yet she obviously made no effort to learn about what she was doing and take simple steps to protect the animals under her care. In one situation, Woginrich gets beehives. She lives in bear country, and everyone knows that bears love beehives, well everyone except for Woginrich apparently. It is common among beekeepers to put electrified wire around hives if they live in bear country, but somehow the author missed the memo! Her beehives get ravaged by a bear. Woginrich makes similarly avoidable mistakes that cost the lives of chicks and rabbits. It’s disgusting. To me, she seems like an dolt, and why would you read a book written by someone stupider than you?
Another issue I had with this book is that the author does not write by relaying her experiences, but rather by telling the reader what to do. I don’t want to be told what to do by someone who’s not doing such a good job herself. Her writing style comes across in a way that is demeaning to the reader.
Do yourself a favor, and avoid this book. Right now homesteading is such a hot topic, there’s a lot available on the topic, and not all of it’s good. I’ll let you know when I read something that’s worth the time!
WARNING: If you don’t want to learn about where GOOD food really comes from and wish to remain ignorant to how chickens are harvested on a homestead then do not read any further!
Homestead Meat Chickens
Our new homesteading friends invited us to their homestead this weekend to participate in their chicken harvest.They had a couple other friends over to help with the process, so the six of us worked through the afternoon processing their 15 meat chickens, culminating everything with a wonderful dinner of fried chicken that could not be any more fresh and independent!
You can take a moment to see the chickens just before we harvested them here:
Unfortunate circumstances have come about that have caused us to find new homes for our chickens. The cost to fight these issues is greater than we have the time and finances for at this time so we reached out to our friends to find new homes for our hens. This ended up being a mixed blessing for us in the end and worked out for the best.
Martha was able to reach out to a co-worker who she had heard kept chickens. We asked if they would be willing to take in our hens since we could no longer keep them. Thankfully they graciously accepted to take them and offered to give us fresh eggs from time-to-time as well. On top of all this it tuns out they are also homesteaders who strive to have an independent lifestyle, much like us! Continue reading
Our bees were spotted covering the front of the outside of their hive this weekend (called bearding) and we made a decision about our hens. So we wanted to share a quick video update on the bees and hens.
Sad news today. One of our Golden Comet hens died this afternoon. I had been home today and saw all of them up and about as usual in the morning. But just afternoon I looked out and saw one laying on the ground with her legs splayed out, an unusual position that caused me to go investigate.
Upon arrival at the coop I found her laying by herself with her neck bent in a strange way with her eyes closed. Her head and neck feathers were moist. Having heard that chickens can sometimes peck at their fallen sisters and then develop a taste for pecking even live chickens I quickly removed the dead hen from the coop. I grabbed a plastic bag and placed her in it.
When Martha got home we looked the fallen hen over to see if anything would tell us what happened. The only thing we could see was what I described earlier, there were no wounds we could see on her body, no pests, nothing unusual except the crooked neck and moist head and neck.
At this point we are really at a loss as to why she died. They all have been kept together so are eating the same things, sleeping in the same place (literally, they all squeeze into the nesting box at night), and hang out in the same coop. We have not seen them fight with each other or act with hostility towards one another at all either.
Based on some online searches on popular back yard chicken forums it seems there is very little hope of us ever knowing the true cause of death. Hopefully it was something that just effected the lost hen and the rest of our flock will live long and prosperous lives.
The chicks have been growing incredibly fast! The cardboard nesting box we built for them was once spacious and luxurious for the little chicks, now these little hens are all bunched up and nearly able to jump over the walls when we take the top off to replace their food and water. Luckily for them, spring has come to Northern Virginia early this year! We’ve had many warm days so have taken the chicks into our yard to explore the new surroundings, under strict supervision of course.
This weekend we went to give the chicks fresh food and water and saw a bunch of little hens! All six of them had all their down feathers completely hidden by feathers. They were also continually getting their water dirty and knocking down their perches by pushing at the walls of the cardboard nesting box. I think they were sending us a message, time to move out! Continue reading
Our chicks are now approximately five and three weeks old (if you recall we have two varieties: Araucanas and Golden Comets). We recently made another trip to the local feed store to get some more chick food. The twenty-five pound bag we purchased when we bought the chicks is almost all gone already, so we purchased another three twenty-five pound bags of non-medicated chick food. This should last them until they are ready to go outside and eat “layer” feed.
Chicks Enjoying Their Perch
The chicks have all been developing very quickly (relatively of course, since we have no prior reference, being new to chickens). We’ve noticed that they have all been roosting a lot more on the perches we put in their brood box. They are also a lot bigger and have a lot more feathers. The Araucanas are almost completely feathered with almost no down visible anymore. Continue reading
Our little chicks are doing quite well in their brooder. We change the water a few times a day as they do get shredded paper (and occasionally poop) in it. We also replenish the food as needed.
The chicks walk around the box, hop up on the roosts, cluck, and just hangout. We take them out one at a time and hold them while we watch TV. I want them to be used to being handled, and to be friendly. When we hold them they are anxious at first, but get quite relaxed. As a stroke a chick her eyes will close, and she’ll be quiet. It’s quite enjoyable for me, too.
Chick Sleeping With George
The chicks are getting more and more feathers. At times they look silly as their pin feathers come in. I’m kind of sad that the Golden Comets aren’t these cute little yellow fluffballs anymore, but their feathers are quite pretty. We haven’t assigned names yet as it’s kind of hard to tell one fluffball from another. As their feathers are coming in, it’ll be time to name them soon. Look forward to a post with a picture of each lovely lady and her name!
After we came home with our chicks, it was time to assemble the brooder box. We had everything we would need, but we hadn’t put it together yet. While it’s often recommended that you have everything ready to go before bringing home the chicks, I’m glad we waited until we had the chicks. We were better able to consider the size of the chicks in our plans when they were there in front of us. Plus it took about 5 minutes to assemble everything, so it’s not like the birds were in the traveling box for an inordinate amount of time.
First Brooder Box Light Setup
We had saved some cardboard boxes in anticipation of using them as the brooder box, but we quickly realized that all the boxes would be too small. We had an unused Rubbermaid bin, and it was large enough to be the brooder, so we setup that. We laid down newspaper, and then covered it with shredded paper. It’s important that chicks have a textured surface to walk on, or they can develop leg problems. So just laying newspaper would have been bad, but the shredded paper made it great. We also set in the food container and the waterer we made, which is described below. We also setup some lights since it’s important the chicks be kept warm. A couple regular houselamps with 100 watt bulbs did the trick. We set them up right at the edge of the bin so they were as close as possible. Continue reading
Once we decided that we were going to have laying hens for eggs, we had to get them. We had to wait until after our Spring Break trip to get the chicks as we didn’t want to find a sitter to care for them for a week. When we returned, we called around to the local feed stores to see if they still had chicks, and if so what breeds. The two major feed stores in our area are Southern States and Tractor Supply Co. I called Tractor Supply first. The lady who answered the phone knew they had chicks, but wasn’t sure of the breed or the price. I then called Southern States, and that guy was much more informative. He was able to tell me both breeds they had, the highlights of each, the age of the chicks they had, and the prices. Since Southern States was also closer, we decided to go there since the breeds were good layers, and we knew what we would get.
Let me take a minute to describe the breeds of chicken we acquired. We bought 6 chickens total, 3 Aracaunas and 3 Golden Comets. The Aracauna breed is notable because they lay blue eggs. I thought that would be a really neat thing to have, and we would be enjoying something that is not commercially available. They are also supposed to be very good layers overall with a good annual output. Continue reading