Typically in my world when I am talking about Hens & Chicks I am referring to the succulent plants that I grow in the summer. They are drought resistant and grow on anything. ha!
But now I am actually referring to REAL hens and chicks.
This is our current coop. It was made with pressed particle board and the original front doors of this house. It’s just a shed type of thing.
When we put an offer in on this house I sent a letter ( I am not sure it was read) and I also told them that if they had to rehome their chickens I would gladly keep them. They have a chicken coop and a sectioned off yard. But these chickens were actually free range because they would come in and out through a hole in the fence. That was until we discovered that our pomeranian, Elvis is a chicken hunter. Kali and Red could care less about the ladies. Venus just wants to play so she took cues from Elvis and now we have 2 dogs that aren’t chicken friendly. Elvis causes me all sorts of trouble. Honestly. Do you know that he takes a turn around that chicken yard everyday to make sure there is no new opening? He will never give up. So the only way we can have “free range” chickens is to have them confined. For now that is not possible. But I am looking into building some chicken tractors. There is a homesteading family in Bonner’s Ferry, ID that have built these huge A frame chicken tractors that I want to copy. They are so durable and great for winter ect.
This is the chicken yard for now. We will be expanding this but we had to protect them for the time being.
It would be great to let them work our gardens and move around. So I will figure out our plan for next summer. I am planning a big garden area. I think this winter I am going to take an online course on permaculture.
I have been watching and listening to videos on chickens, chicks…and everything in between. It’s been interesting to learn. As I am learning I am recognizing the different things in my own chickens. They are social. They have their friend groups. Some are very vocal. One is very nervous. She is almost cartoonish in her behaviors because she is so nervous. Her name is Nugget and I am sure it’s 10 fold worse then her original demeanor. But she was one of the injured birds that Elvis got a hold of in the first week and she has been healing nicely. But she takes zero chances now. She wants nothing to do with anyone or any other animal. She stays far away at all times. She just started coming out of the coop.
One of the ladies, Bertie. She was attacked…but she fought back and she never even had nervous tendencies after. Lucky was injured pretty badly. I honestly didn’t think she was going to make it. it took her awhile but she is doing so well and she is back to normal habits.
As I am learning about chickens I am learning all of these things and trying to figure out our plan of action. We are going to homestead. I am not in a complete rush to go completely off the grid and go full on zombie apocalypse. But I do think it’s good for us to start growing our own food, get off the processed foods as much as we can…and honestly I have always just been domestic minded. I think many of us are thinking this way now because of the world situations. But Rob and I have been this way for awhile. I will be honest and tell you that I will struggle. I have been living in a farming community for most of my life. I know how the food chain works. I am not vegan or vegetarian. I grew up eating fish, moose, deer whatever we could kill and use to stock our freezer and can. IN Alaska we killed wild game. So I didn’t grow up having to feed and water an animal to eat it. Let’s face it my parents couldn’t nurture anything.
However, I can’t nurture an animal and kill it, process it and eat it myself. I know that makes zero sense. But my Mamma heart can’t do that. Raising these chickens they are named. I love them and I try to do things to make them happy. I get excited to feed them fresh fruits and vegetables and I love watching them. I can’t eat them. There is just no way. On top of that egg laying chickens don’t have much meat anyway. So killing them just can’t be for me. Maybe this will change as time goes on. But my mind can’t process that.
I went to the Farm Swap this morning and it was full of goats, chickens, ducks, cows, pigs, dogs, kittens…and canned goods ect. I thought everything was so cute and I just couldn’t imagine eating them. Again. I know how it works. I love bacon more than the average person. so many people had rabbits. I am never doing that. I can’t.
This is the farm where we got the hatching eggs. :) She was so helpful in sharing the information.
I know my cousin shares rabbit recipes on FB because he is also doing the homestead life and he will eat anything. But I think they kill rabbits nightly. LOL!
Anyway. Through the course of listening to all of the podcasts and watching the videos ect I have learned that I have a broody hen. She is laying on all of the eggs. My chickens tend to lay all of their eggs in one box. I just bought some decoy eggs so I can see if I can get that to change. She doesn’t want to let me at them. She even pecked my hand when I was trying to get them from under her. She wasn’t aggressive but she wasn’t happy with me. I feel guilty taking them from her. I know as a mamma it’s her instinct to protect those.
This is Betty White my broody hen. She is the smallest one in the coop. She is currently not in “her” nesting box because a few others had gone into lay their eggs so I was able to sneak the good eggs out and I slipped in the hatching eggs. 2 more chickens came in after to lay their eggs after I left. I am hoping she will think all of these were her original eggs. We were told to put them under her while she is sleeping. But Rob thought maybe if everyone was taking their shift laying eggs we might as well let her think that. I will check to see if she is laying on them later.
We marked them so we will know which eggs are supposed to hatch.
While at the farm swap this morning I bought some hatching eggs. It won’t hurt to see if she will accept them. If not I am out 10$. If she does accept them…then I be learning a whole lot in the next few months. HAHA! But from everything I have read and seen it looks like it is way easier to have a mamma hen have and raise chicks then it is to buy chicks because she takes care of them and trains them. If I get chicks I have to do all of the work. I am open to doing that. But apparently these skills are being bred out of chickens due to the food industry. So I think it’s best to try to let them learn these things. Ideally I am thinking the best time for us to actually get chicks is in the fall. Most people get them in Spring. But Fall is better because then they will be ready to lay eggs in the spring and summer. Those are the peak egg laying times. Winter slows down egg production because there is less daylight hours. So if I want to get the most out of my chickens it’s best to time it that way. Some people will put lights in the coops ect to trick the hens into laying more eggs in winter. But I think I would rather just let the chicks run their natural course the way God designed them. I will just preserve eggs in the Spring and summer during their peak times.
But I thought if I have a broody hen who will adopt eggs I might as well try and see if this will work.
If not that’s ok …I can get my plan into place and go the traditional route. No biggie.
At some point I may get a milking cow for our dairy. Make our own butter ect. But I am going to learn one or 2 skills at a time so I can feel secure before moving on to the next thing. Right now I am full on in chicken mode. This fall I am going to work more on canning and brush up on those skills because it’s been a hot minute since I have done any of that. I have the supplies and I did when my kids were small. But somewhere along the way I started a quilting business, had football and ballet practice ect and canning didn’t get the time.
As I am listening to all of these podcasts and reading, I feel like I have actually been preparing for this type of life my whole life and I didn’t even know it. I have always bought in bulk, cooked from scratch ect. It’s a mindset. Part of it is probably growing up poor….and then raising 6 kids. You can’t waste anything and you find ways to use everything, preserve everything ect. I also like learning new things and pushing myself. But I also think it’s something about having roots, working with the land and nature. It’s fullfilling. There is something to do that. It feeds the soul.
I will keep you posted.