Archive for Chickens

What Do I Mean By Vegan Homestead?


When I bought our property in 2012, we were eating basically a “traditional foods” diet–Paleo but with a small amount of grains such as brown rice or oatmeal. I thought we would be able to try to grow most of our food on our 4 acres, fishing in the pond, eating eggs from our ducks and chickens, getting dairy from our own cow and goats, beef from our own cow, chicken and duck from our older birds, and pastured pig. Life was looking grand.

Until I actually got livestock.

We started off taking 2 free-lease ponies, added 2 miniature cattle (bull and heifer), Image5874 piglets (2 boys, 2 girls), 5 goats (1 boy, 4 girls), and many ducklings and chicks. We discovered that (a) not many people really need to own a bull, especially people with no cattle experience, (b) pigs really are smart and actually can be very nice, (c) everything else in the world wants to eat your birds, and (d) goats are really cute!

So we sold the cattle, which I had no business owning, and the pigs, which would come running to lay down for belly rubs whenever we yelled “piggy love!” We would have kept the pigs for pets if I’d been able to keep them separately and afford to feed them. However, something would have had to been done about the rooting. I know it’s what they’re designed to do, but I now have areas of our pasture where I can’t take the riding mower due to how deep the ruts are and I’m actually afraid that a horse would break a leg in that part of the field. Someday I hope to get it disced.

My daughter, Kaida, had already stopped eating chicken and duck after we got our own birds and she saw how cute they were. She became friends with some of them, being able to hold and pet several of our hens as well as our then-head-rooster, Halloween. Note: all of our original chickens and half of our ducks have been eaten by predators, mostly fox. We did get more chicks recently because they not only helped with bugs, but apparently helped keep the weeds in check. The backyard needs them, badly!

After selling the cows, we were still kind of okay eating beef, but had already stopped eating pork. We just lost interest in eating it; we would always picture our piggies laying down with their eyes closed for belly rubs every time we tried to eat bacon or ground pork. I had to sell the pigs, but I at least sold them to someone who would let them live on pasture without rings in their noses. The goats got to stay because they’re cheaper to feed.

By this time, I knew that I would not be able to butcher anything so I decided that if I couldn’t do it, I at least had to watch how the butchering was done and see if I could be a party to that. No, I could not. A fast shot between the eyes while still out in the field eating would be the ideal way to kill for food, but I decided that we were done with eating animal products since it wasn’t physically necessary. Luckily, Kaida was fine with that since she already didn’t really like eating meat.

Vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes would become our staples. fruits_&_veggies

There were also health benefits that encouraged me to pull back from eating animal products. There have been challenges too, but I will cover them in another post.

Progress on Projects

I was off this past week to work on fencing and other projects. So far, I’ve removed the old dishwasher and installed the new one. It leaks a bit, a drop at a time, where I had to use multiple fittings to connect the standard plumbing to the mobile home plumbing. I tried attaching them twice, the second time adding more teflon tape and putting on each fitting one at a time. I think I will leave the drip-drip-drip leak for a plumber to fix; I was afraid of breaking the plastic mobile home fitting and not being able to shut off the water under the sink at all. I took the old dishwasher to the dump. *UPDATE: It is hardly leaking at all now. The pan has been dry several times that I’ve checked.

I’ve installed 8 fence posts by hand. That will complete the posts in the section behind the shed/barn and across the creek as soon as I get the brace posts in. I will have to wait until after some other projects to actually run the field fence since I will have to block off the lean-to shelter to run the fencing. I had bought the one-man auger, but returned it without trying it. I looked at the instructions and you had to hold the throttle down with your right hand while pulling the string start with your left. I assumed that my left arm would not be strong enough to start it.

I finished the end wall on the expanded coop and have put on roofing for that section. I bought the pressure treated 2×4 to make the next section of higher wall.

We are supposed to have a guy coming tomorrow before work to look at all of the pigs. He may buy the entire bunch! He’s fine with the price of $700 for all 12 piglets and I’ve priced the adults at $200/each. That would get me $1500 if he buys everything! Please, please!

This time included running errands, to buy equipment, trash things, return things. We also went to the Science Museum in Roanoke yesterday. Entrance was free because it was the last day of the VA Science Festival that had activities from Roanoke down to Blacksburg over the past week. When I look at it all typed out, I guess I did OK this week!

What are you working on?

Night Laying Eggs!

At night? No, her name is Night. The rooster that came with her is named Halloween. They are black copper marans with feathered legs. They’re beautiful! (Photo of these beautiful chickens coming soon!)

There’s another neat thing about them other than their fancy feathered legs – the hens lay really dark brown eggs! They look like chocolate Easter eggs! I had read about them but had never seen one. Here it is, her first.

Night's First Egg

Here it is beside eggs being laid by the older hens (1 year old in April) just to show the size comparison and to help appreciate just how dark these beautiful eggs are! Gorgeous!

Night's First Egg Comparison

We’re hopefully getting new chicks and ducklings this coming week at Tractor Supply. I only want to get orpington chickens and welsh harlequin ducks. The orpingtons and welsh harlequins that we have are so nice I just want more! I’m hoping to start enough this next week that I don’t have to raise any more chicks or ducklings inside pretty much every again. They get stinky fast and they are dusty to boot! There is dust all over everything…

Still trying to get rid of rehome our black australorp rooster. He been attacking me as soon as I open the coop to let him out. I pick him up when he does it and we can hold all of our other chickens, including the other rooster (the marans) and he’s too dangerous to allow out of the coop while Sweet Baby is playing with the other birds. I just remind myself that it will get resolved, one way or another. Meanwhile, I’ve been keeping him in the coop and just trying to let the hens out.

Got chicks yet? What kind did you get?

A Downside to Living Here

School’s closed…again. Paycheck will shrink…again. For what? Dust. At least around me, it’s just dust. The mountainous areas may have more but it just feels ridiculous to look outside and see .25″ of snow and have school closed. I need more money than that! Stop cancelling school! I just had to cut about $60 from January’s budget, which was already low due to being closed during the winter holiday. I want to be able to afford to get homeowner’s insurance! It would be a shame to have a paid-off house and have something happen to endanger that.

It would also be nice to actually afford to do some repairs and projects around here. The hawk took another duck yesterday, our favorite – Little Roller (one of two boys), and I want to build a large run for the chickens and ducks. I was thinking of doing an 8-ft wide run along the back length of fencing between the inside yard and outside field, then plant fruit trees in the run so that the ducks and chickens can eat any bugs that try to crawl up the trees. Plus the trees would get fertilized! Win for everyone, except the ducks would no longer have their pond and I would have to buy more feed because they’d all be confined. OK, maybe not such a win for everyone.

Maybe letting the birds out around noon would give the hawk enough time to go somewhere else for breakfast? Anyone have experience with protecting free-range poultry?

Chickens – the Good, the Bad and the Egg.

We picked up our chickens last Monday. We were supposed to be getting 6 – 3 black australorps (1 rooster, 2 hens) and 3 buff orpingtons (3 hens), but ended up only getting 5. One of the buff hens we were going to get wouldn’t open her eyes even when the owner picked her up and touched her on her neck. I only noticed it after we had loaded her into the dog crate in our car so we took her out of there and the owner said she’d never heard of that and that she would google it.

We got the rest home and into the coop/run. They all immediately got names. We had been told not to expect any eggs for a few days due to the stress of being caught, moved and being in a new place. Tuesday we went out about mid-morning to look at the chickens (okay, pet them too!) and found a little pullet egg. The hen that had recently started laying had gifted us with a little egg! We dutifully added it to breakfast.

Starting Saturday we started letting all of the chickens out, first into the inner yard around the house and later into the big field. They stay within about 40-50 feet of the coop so far and like to peck around and scratch under the 2 trees that are closest.

She gave us an egg for the next few days. Sunday her left eye was closed and the sac below it was swollen when we went out in the morning. She had not laid an egg that morning either. I found some screw ends sticking out in the coop and thought that maybe she had scratched her face on one. After googling and finding many different conditions that it could be I decided to go with “injury” (since it only seemed to be affecting her in one eye). I caught her, wiped off the side of here face with a damp washrag and put Neosporin on it. It was the only antibiotic that I had on-hand. I thought that I would go with it since it was Sunday and I don’t know of any feed stores (the closest being about 40 minutes away) that would be open on Sunday.

I saw two other chickens peck at her so I put her in the larger dog crate with grass/weeds, scratch and water. I left the dog crate in the coop.

Yesterday she looked a little better. She was able to open her left eye and the swelling looked a little better. Unfortunately, she shook her head and shook out some kind of fluid when I let her out into the run while I worked on the screw ends with a saw. She also started closing her right eye. I got her back in the dog kennel and moved the kennel into the back of the run-in. It’s 25′ deep so I know she won’t be in any drafts. It also has gates about 15′ in so that I can store hay in the back.

I gave her a banana, a little beef cube, some regular scratch, some apple cider vinegar in her water and some raw sauerkraut (for probiotics) in another bowl of scratch. As of last check last night she had eaten some banana, it looked like two pecks in the beef, and some of the sauerkraut/scratch mix. She was sleeping when we first went out, looked around for a little while and was going back to sleep with her face tucked in her wing when I checked her again at about 10 AM. I hope that the sleep will help her beat whatever she’s got going on. I also hope that the other ones don’t get sick as well.

Moral of the story (learn from my rookie mistake) – quarantine first then try to figure it out!