Chickens and Ducks

So it has been a while since I posted here…  Work was extremely busy most of the spring and summer, leaving little free time.  What time I did have I spent trying to keep up with the garden.  I even added a dozen new chicks to my flock this spring.  Eventually this summer I got burned out, though.  I decided to take a break, selling all of the chickens.  I was going to wait until spring and get some chicks and ducklings, but a local family in need led me to getting some adult birds sooner.
A week or two ago a local woman posted on Facebook that she had some chickens, ducks, and coops available.  She had lost her son in the beginning of November.  They were taking care of two young grandsons and the animals on their own.  I offered up some help but didn’t hear back until this weekend.  She offered all of the remaining birds, which I accepted.  My coop is now home to 12 chickens and 16 ducks.  I still need to figure out what breeds of each I have.  She told me some while we were putting them in the crates but in the confusion I forgot most of them.

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Some of the new chickens

 

I am just excited to have a fresh start with some birds that are already laying.  A couple roosters may have to go, something to figure out another day.  With the pond I’m sure that the ducks will love their new home.  The new coop project I started last summer will be finished up as soon as there is time so the ducks can have better accommodations than the old coop, which tends to flood in the spring and has rotting wood siding.  I’m considering a chicken tractor so that I can control where the chickens are allowed and put them to work on the weeds in the garden.

 

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Chickens and ducks

Better pictures will come when there is more light.  Hopefully there will be more posts too.  I’m hoping for a good year on The Rural Side, which will start fairly soon with tapping maple trees for syrup.

New Year Goals

We are already a few days into 2015 but I would like to wish everyone a happy new year. I’ve been thinking a lot about the past year and the one that is upcoming over the last few days, trying to figure out my goals for the upcoming year. Looking back at my 2014 Goals, I didn’t accomplish any of the things I had written. There are reasons for each with money and time spent elsewhere being the two biggest factors. Another reason I have been stuck in a rut with some of the projects is because I didn’t know if I would be staying here at all. Up until I moved back for my new job, I was thinking about selling the place to focus on getting out of debt. Now, I think I will be around for a while, but the thought of selling the place hasn’t left.

So, big projects like a new greenhouse, permanent chicken coop and a nice dock for the pond, are not on my priority list. Yes, we could really use a new coop, especially since Heather bought a bunch of new chickens a couple weeks ago to produce more eggs and hopefully keep up with the demand she has had at work. We have only gotten two eggs so far out of 8 new hens that are supposed to be laying, but I think the stress of the move and weather are a big factor in that. By springtime the other 5 (hopefully) hens she got should be laying as well so we should have more than enough eggs then.

As for my 2015 goals, I’m trying to stay simple this year. And simple is one of my goals. Simplifying my life that is. Easy as it sounds, it may be difficult to do.  A tiny house has been on my mind lately, with part of the thought being that I have too much stuff if I ever wanted to live in one.  I’ve started to downsize the amount of stuff that I have by listing things I don’t need or want on Craigslist. It will be an ongoing process but will hopefully bring in a few extra dollars towards my next goal, paying down debt. Between school loans, credit cards and my truck, my life would be a lot simpler with a few less creditors. I’m still listening to Dave Ramsey and have already started (or attempting anyways) to use cash only as part of my monthly budget. The next step is to save my $1000 emergency fund, followed by paying whatever extra I have every month towards the lowest balance loan. I’m hoping to get rid of my credit cards and maybe my smallest school loan this year. The truck doesn’t have a sign in the window yet, but it will be for sale as soon as I can get a cheap car or truck.

I would also like to clean up and fix up the property as much as I can on a limited budget. Cleaning the pond is something I can do by hand, even though it isn’t much fun. The muck, which is made up of all the dead leaves, algae and whatever else has fallen into the pond over the years, should make a good fertilizer for my garden. Continuing to build the garden soil, build raised beds from materials I have laying around and maybe try a hugelkultur type bed or two with the sticks and branches laying around are also inexpensive tasks I hope to accomplish this year.

In list form, here are my goals for 2015, which includes a few that I haven’t talked about yet, but shouldn’t need much explanation.

  1. Simplify life
  2. Save $1000 emergency fund
  3. Pay off debt
  4. Lose 40 pounds
  5. Sell/donate  unneeded/unwanted things
  6. Cycle instead of drive
  7. Buy cheaper vehicle/ sell truck
  8. Volunteer
  9. Clean pond
  10. Build raised beds/ build garden soil
  11. Cook more/ stop eating out
  12. Take a multi day hiking camping and/or canoeing trip
  13. Sell more eggs

And one from last year that I want to work harder towards…

14.  Produce at least 25% of food requirements here.  I don’t think I quite met this goal last year, even though I was able to put up more food than I expected from the garden, especially with not being here a good portion of the summer.  I also had the 15 meat birds, some of which are still in the freezer, along with some frozen corn and green beans (soon to be dinner).  Meat chickens and rabbits will contribute towards my protein needs this year and with any luck I’ll have a bountiful harvest with enough to can for the winter.

Plugging Away

I have again been busy for most of the past week.  The weather has been nice so I’ve been working outside quite a bit.  Veggies are going in the ground. Sunday, I planted about 50 tomatoes, 9 broccoli, 9 Brussels sprouts and a couple sweet potatoes before I was stopped by a thunderstorm.  Monday evening I planted cauliflower and cabbage before dark and the mosquitoes got too bad.  I planted about 24 of each of those.  The cabbage is destined to be sauerkraut if it grows well.  I still have to plant peppers, celery, eggplant, strawberries, watermelon, pumpkin, and a few tomatoes to replace ones that didn’t make it already.  I think that is all of the seedlings I have left.  I also have to finish making the rest of the tomato cages (a post for another day) and see if I actually have enough to support all of the tomatoes I planted.  More seeds will go in the ground soon as well.  I’m working Wednesday and Thursday evenings at the CSA so I REALLY need to kick it into high gear tonight and get the rest of the seedlings planted.

I need to post an update on all of our chickens sometime soon.  The cornish are getting pretty big.  Heather’s flock of d’uccles is doing good, except one little guy (her favorite of course) that had a bad toe, which we fixed, and now he won’t use his right leg, which I can’t see any obvious injury to.  And the girls have been laying 7-9 eggs a day.

5 Tuxedos – Officially Addicted

This was quite a busy weekend on and away from the Rural Side.  Saturday I worked down at the CSA pulling and hoeing weeds in one of the gardens.  After a few hours of that I went and helped a friend get mulch for around his house.  When I got home I worked around the property before supper and continued for a little bit after.

Sunday morning we went to Troy Swap, an animal swap and flea market in Troy, Ohio.  I have been looking for some rabbits since we figured out we got two bucks and a doe.  There weren’t as many vendors as last year when we went, with most of this year’s vendors selling flea market type stuff instead of animals.  There were a couple pens of rabbits but none that I was interested in for how much they were asking.  We didn’t go home empty handed, though…  The last vendor in the line had some chickens.  They were mostly roosters in cages with some day-old chicks in a pen.  As soon as Heather saw that they had D’uccle chicks she was interested.  At first she found five that she liked, 3 black and white and two lavender.  We put those in the truck and walked around a bit longer and she decided to get two more of the black and white.  So from the swap we ended up with seven chicks.  She decided on the way home she was going to call them her “5 Tuxedo” chicks because of the black and white chicks.

We stopped at Ludlow Falls which is near Troy on the way home.  There is a cool waterfall that Heather had never been to, so I wanted to take her there.  We walked around, went down to the base of the falls, hiked down the stream a bit, relaxed in the sun on a rock, before heading back to the truck to head home.  On the way home we stopped at Rural King to get some chick feed.  Of course they had to have D’uccle chicks in, which they had not had any of every time we went this spring.  They had Mille Fleur and porcelain colors so Heather got two of each, along with two brahma chicks.  We got the food and finally got home with our newest additions to the homestead.  I think we are officially addicted to chickens!

The cornish were still in the brooder because I was waiting until the afternoon when it was warmer to move them out to the coop.  I had made a temporary partition on the remaining side of the coop to keep them for the next month or so until they go to freezer camp.  I moved the cornish out to the coop, we cleaned out the brooder, sanitized it, let it dry, added new bedding and finally put the new chicks in.  The heat lamp had been acting funny and flickering sometimes so I was looking at that when I discovered that the metal end of the bulb was melted and blackened.  Not wanting to continue using that lamp we went to buy a new one quick so the chicks would stay warm.  Here are the new chicks in the brooder and Heather sitting in the brooder playing with them.photo 2 photo 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After everybody was settled in I started working around the homestead.  I finished moving the railroad ties from by the garden to by the driveway so that someone can easily take them all away whenever I post them on Craigslist.  Some of them are really heavy so it was quite a bit of work flipping nine of them end-over-end about fifty feet.  Taking a break between moving some of those I picked up sticks in the yard, mowed some of the grass, dead-headed flowers, and turned some compost.  My plan is to get rid of a lot of grass, keeping the area around the house and out to the road.  There might be the strips between the rows of grape vines left and a couple rows around the pond, too.  I’d like to mulch the area that will become the orchard and the west and south sides of the pond I would like to let be natural, if I can keep honeysuckle from taking it over.

After eating some dinner and finally relaxing, we had one more little task to take care of for the evening.  One of the tuxedo chicks had a toe that was curled under its foot.  We crafted a splint out of a piece of card-stock, tape and a band-aid.  This will hopefully get the toe to grown out straight, so that there are no issues in the future with the chick.  It even got an Angry Birds band-aid!

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Piranhas

Our Cornish Rock chicks are over 3 weeks old now and they are starting to act like piranhas!  We have been limiting the amount of food they get to keep them from growing too fast and having the leg/ heart issues these birds are known for.  It doesn’t matter how much you feed them, they will eat until the food is gone.  They are still in the brooder so they are confined to a fairly small space yet so anytime you reach in to grab the feeder they have started jumping up and pecking you.  This morning was particularly bad because the bottom part of the feeder was separated from the top.  Literally swarming around my hand as I’m trying to grab it out, jumping up, pecking me.  If I had been smart I would have put a pile of food on the other side of the brooder to distract them.  When you finally put the food back in for them they swarm around it, jumping all over each other, pecking furiously at the feed, trying to get as much as possible in their mouths at one time.  It looks like a bunch of piranha going after a piece of meat.  I should take a video of it to post one of these nights.  It is kinda funny to watch but on the other hand I hope none of them get hurt.  Would hate to lose any.

We just finished the first bag of feed, so total cost so far is about $30.  I’m expecting two to three more bags of feed which would bring our cost to about $100.  With processing, if they dress out at a conservative four pounds that keeps us under $2.50 a pound.  At five pounds we would be under $2 a pound.  If those numbers keep true I will definitely raise more.  It’s only a bit more than I have seen chicken for in the stores lately and I know how these were raised and what they were fed.

New Chicks

I would like to start off by introducing you to the newest members of our flock here on The Rural Side.  Say “Hello” to 15 Cornish Cross chicks.IMG_0371Now that the introductions are over, I want to say that you shouldn’t get too cozy with these little guys and gals.  In about eight weeks they will be heading off to the butcher to provide us with the first meat raised here.  I picked them up at Tractor Supply today for a buck a chick, marked down because they are a little over a week old and not as cute as the other chicks anymore.  They also had some other chicks for a dollar as well, but I don’t know if I want to add more egg layers to our flock yet.  If I get the new coop started soon and find some steady customers to buy the eggs, I might get some more.

If you are wondering, no, Heather has not even touched these yet, except to carry the boxes out of the store.  I should lock her out of the garage where their brooder is currently, but thats also where the rabbits are and she usually takes care of those.  She has said that she doesn’t know if she can eat something we raise.  She gets emotionally attached to any little creature she sees.  However, she knows that the cornish cross is bred to be a quick grower, prone to leg issues and heart issues from growing so fast, and that it would be better to butcher them before they suffer.  But to be safe, I want to keep her from holding them and I especially want to keep her from naming any!

I had planned on getting some Freedom Rangers or maybe a heritage breed that is good for meat this summer, which I still might if I get the new coop built soon (a common theme, I know). Freedom Rangers are a breed that are supposed to be better foragers.  I would like to be able to have pasture raised chicken that aren’t completely reliant on me providing them food, instead eating bugs and grass for most of their diet.  I’ve read that some people have been able to raise cornish cross that way but others say they haven’t had any success.  My main reason for raising them on pasture is to cut cost.  Compared to supermarket chicken, home raised chicken will probably be more expensive.  That I am okay with because I know how my chickens will be raised, what feed they are given and how they are treated during their short time span on this earth.  But wanting to be self sustainable here as well as frugal, having to buy a lot of food from the store doesn’t really work.

 

Birthday Weekend

Saturday was my 27th birthday.  I didn’t do anything around the house most of the weekend, but that was mostly because we got another 5 inches of snow on Friday.  But on Saturday I went and picked up a Singer Treadle Sewing machine that I had saw on Ebay Classifieds for $25 (quite a steal, really- I checked out Craigslist and there were several similar on there for $250+).  Turned out to be made in 1934 and still in very good shape.  The elderly lady I bought it from said that she used it to make all of her daughter’s clothes, but she was moving out of her townhouse and needed to sell a lot of stuff.  After getting that home I went and sold some antiques and pottery that I had purchased at auction a while back to a small store that buys/sells that kind of stuff.

I was buying stuff when I was laid off to eventually sell at the flea market or online, but since going back to work I haven’t been able to go to the auction and continue getting stuff.  I made a small profit on the items I sold but I was hoping they would buy all of the stuff I had so I wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.  It surprised me what items they were interested in (like some chinese made wooden toys) and which they passed by without a second thought (like some prints from a famous artist whose name escapes me at the moment).  So I will have to find someone else who might be interested in the rest.

Sunday we went to the “My Furry Valentine” pet adoption event, which is where Heather had adopted our dog Cooper at last year.  We wanted to go talk to the rescue and tell them how he is doing.  I made sure to tell Heather before we got there that she is NOT allowed to sit on the floor and let any animals curl up in her lap this year, which was the moment last year that I knew we would be going home with a new little plott hound puppy.  He has grown to be an annoyingly needy 55 pound wannabe lap dog, who is jealous if Zoe, the almost 13 year old plott hound mix, or Alexis, the cat, is getting the attention instead of him.  And his favorite toy lately has been his food bowl, which I have to admit is kind of cute when he sits looking like a little beggar, as in the picture below.

Cooper

After eating some pizza for lunch we went to Home Depot for some more tubing so I can finish tapping the maple trees.  I also picked up a bunch of wood off their bargain cart, which was 70% off.  Mostly I got some 2x4s that are slightly bowed, or on a couple of the 16′ 2x4s the last 2-3′ were bent but the rest was fine.  The plan is to use them along with the free lumber I got a couple weeks ago to frame up the chicken coop and woodshed.  Now I just need to find some cheap/free siding and roofing to finish it all off (let me know if have any sources for those).

Today it is back to the grind and the dreadful hour-each-way commute that I have every day.  I like my job but HATE the commute, so even though it looks like they will hire me on when my 3 month contract is up at the end of the month, I am still looking for something closer to the house.  Look for a post about “What I Want to be When I Grow Up” that is soon to come.

Until later…

Chuck (away)From the Rural Side

 

Craigslist

Craigslist is a website that I will say I am addicted to, along with others like Homesteading Today, MSN and Yahoo.  I log on to CL about a dozen times a day, mostly looking to see if there are any free items that I could use.  A couple days ago a guy had a post for 2×3 lumber for $20.  The picture looked like a good stack of wood so I emailed.  I heard back from him yesterday and he was frustrated with other people not showing up wasting his time.  He said if I could come by that evening I could have all of it for free.  SCORE!  So I went last night and picked it up.  It ended up being 2×3 rough cut, mostly poplar, in lengths from 6-10′.  He had bought it off an auction hoping to use it to frame out his basement but a lot of the boards are not perfectly straight.  I got about 70 of these laying at the house now, waiting for me to use them on the next project.  I think I can frame most of the new chicken coop and a woodshed with them.  I had been collecting pallets for this purpose but now I think I will use them to keep the firewood off the ground.

Spam is one of the worst things I have dealt with on CL.  I have dealt with some of the people off CL who say they will be there and never show up- something I have never done to those I have told I would be there.  Then there are people who try to get something of value for nothing.  My other pet peeve is when I email somebody and never hear back even though they repost the item as still being available- like a posting for free patio pavers and rock that I replied to 3-4 times back in the fall and never heard anything back even though they posted it every couple days for a few weeks.

I had a posting up earlier this week for free railroad ties and telephone poles that I want to get rid of and got a bunch of emails.  I am supposed to have somebody come out Saturday to get them and he has a line of people behind him if he doesn’t show up.  I emailed everybody back to tell them they were in line, but I won’t wait hours to tell the next person to come get them.  The weather is supposed to be warmer this weekend so I want to get the things out of there and get my garden cleaned up.  I also have a bunch of branches to clean up from the trees I cut down Sunday- something I will talk about in my next post.

Until Later…

Chuck From the Rural Side

Coyote Spotting

We had two big coyotes go through the back side of the property this morning.  This is the first time I have seen any larger wildlife in the yard.  We have had plenty of deer tracks along the back side of the pond and a few in the garden but haven’t seen any deer actually inside our fence.  The coyotes worry me more than deer do because I would like to allow my chickens to free range and I view coyotes, fox and raccoons as threats to the chickens.  The coyotes were moving through at about 10am, which is when chickens would be out during warmer weather.  We had our little d’uccle rooster eaten by a creature back at the beginning of summer and I trapped and killed several raccoons after that to help protect our flock.  If I had a rifle this morning I would have shot one, or both coyotes if I could have, to help keep our dogs, cat, and chickens safe as well as the neighbors that have dogs and chickens.

Now it’s time for some breakfast of bacon and eggs.  Later I think I might warm up the garage and try to do some woodworking.  It’s been too long since I have made any sawdust.  I have my mom’s canoe to finish up, another canoe I am milling the strips for and a door I need to get stained for in the house.  I will have to post about my woodworking sometime soon…

Until later!

Chuck on The Rural Side

A Week in Review

I have neglected writing anything here for a week so I wanted to do a quick post.  Not much has been going on around the homestead lately.  I picked up my first batch of seeds (about half of what I am planning to plant this year).  I am chomping at the bit to start seeds and for it to be spring already!  But Mother Nature has hew own plans so I’m thinking warm thoughts as it is supposed to be getting cold again with Thursday’s high/low expected to be 12/-1.  I didn’t tap the maple trees yet when I saw this forecast.  I still need to get some buckets and hose for when I do tap the trees.  The chickens haven’t seemed to mind the cold and continue to lay eggs regularly.  I went skiing with friends on Saturday.  It had been three years since we had last gone.  I had a couple wipe outs when I was trying to do more than I am really capable of (once going off a jump and the other trying to maneuver in a woods).  No injuries though.  Sunday was a pretty lazy day, sleeping in until 11am, (which anybody that knows me would know I used to never get up BEFORE noon on weekends or during summer break, went to an antique shop I had never been to, followed by watching football.  We did move about 10 wheel barrows full of firewood over to the side of the house so that it is more accessible, but that was the most productive thing we did all weekend…

I’m putting the finishing touches on my next Homestead Needs post so it shouldn’t be a week before I post again.

See ya later