Tag Archives: homestead

Rooster

image-300x225 This past season Hubster and I decided that if either of the two roosters we’ve raised decided to start acting overly testosterone driven that they would go to freezer camp before having the chance to attack us.

Well, it looks like we’ll be down to one rooster soon. Amp, as gorgeous as he is and as great of a job as he does, he’s starting in with some nasty habits: chasing girls that won’t let him mount them, forcing some girls away from the feed, following us and grumbling when we let them out, and placing himself between us and the girls. His stink-eye and habits just won’t do.

Now, there will be those reading this that will ask, “Why don’t you just rehome him?” Roosters are not known to be broken of Nast habits once they manifest. Come spring, Amps attitude will be much worse as she hits a natural testosterone high. Rehoming him would only make him someone else’s problem. As far as homesteading is concerned, butchering Amp makes more sense as he isn’t a problem for someone else and we recoupe part of the cost of raising him through providing food for our family. He’s an 8.5lb bird that, if he dresses out to 5lbs, will give us about six meals.

As sad as it will to see him go, it’s necessary. Amp is frightening the girls to the point that we’re losing more eggs than what we should be this time of year. He’s keeping some of the girls from the food to the point that a couple of them are growing very lean. Amp is handsome, but looks don’t make up for being an asshole. Since the butcher isn’t doing up another batch of birds until January, he has until then, unless things get really iffy, at which point we’ll do him in ourselves.

Our (Brief) Chicken Story

IMG_0033We started off with two comets – Edith and Louise – about three years ago now. We bought them for $50 in a chicken tractor. It was a 4-H project that a little girl on a goat farm had done. We brought them home in a cat carrier and they were really unhappy to woke up when we got them home at about 10pm.

A month later we got a third hen, a little three month old Araucana who had been beat up by her current flock. We bought the three of them a cute little coop that had been made out of a dog house and let them free range.

Thus started the cascade. One year later we bought 8 Easter Egger chicks from the local hardware store. One turned out to be a rooster. Two never showed up one night for bed time. By winter we had a flock of nine hens and one roo. We renovated our old shed to a mini-barn and bought a new shed for everything else.

This spring brought trouble: we had a fox attack that took off one of our sweeter birds and injured another. A month later another attack took Louise, one of our pet birds that was going to live her life out here.(The bird that survived a racoon chasing her, a dog attack, and various battles with her sibling, Edith) In that second attack the roo was a bit ruffled up and fled, and Skee (our little rescue bird). The third attack was a coyote. It napped Skee and then kept trying to come back. I had to work outside for close to two hours before it wandered off.

In amongst all that we had to have our rooster dispatched. He became overly aggressive and was attacking us. I had to carry a stick around the yard with me. If it was just my husband and I, that would be one thing, but we have a young child. The roo had to go.

This summer we raised meat bird for the first time – all heritage breeds – and added four ladies back into our flock of layers. The three Rhode Island Reds and one Barred Rock have melded in nicely.

Right now we have 22 birds on the premise: 9 layers, 12 meat roos, and one roo that we’ll be keeping. In order to make a smoother transition for Jovi we’re trying to find a young hen to match him up with.

And thus it begins…

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As the snow finally melts away, we are left with what remained at the end of last season. It’s a new war that is dawning: an adventure to parallel the likes of the Ring Bearer making his way to Mount Doom. The last few years have been trial and error when it came to what we need for gardens and how to fence them in. This year will be the year of massive planning and retrofitting the existing beds to work for a more long term mindset.

When we first moved into our home it was with the idea that we wouldn’t be here for more than a few years. Things change. We decided that starting a family was (and still is) more important than waiting until things are “prefect” – which they never really are. With that in mind, we’ve both finally come to terms with the fact that we’ll be here for another five, possibly ten, years.
(I will admit, it took me a lot longer than the Hubster to come to terms with that.) I finish my Master’s this December, so this is the last season that I will definitely be on site pretty much 24/7. These two things mean that this is the year to really hammer out the homestead. Or at least get the gardens up to snuff.

The plans, in no particular order, include:

* Re-fencing both existing southern gardens (seen in the photo)
* Tilling, fencing, prepping, and planting the new 10’x30′ plot. (This will go to the far right on the other side of the bed that’s going to be turned into two raised beds with trellises. We started work on this last fall.)
* Re-fencing the north garden
* Starting two potato towers made from locally sourced, free, untreated pallets.
* Mulching the bahgeebers out of the garlic patch.
* Fencing in the cucumber bed
* Re-fencing the old pepper bed for Little Mister’s growing spot

None of this includes making the “run way” for the sun flowers, herb boxes, lettuce boxes, of the mini greenhouse for the hot peppers.

On top of all the gardening, there will be foraging, wood splitting, house repair, animal raising, and all the other crazy goodness that comes with the spring.

We might not win every battle, but we’ll surely win the war. ;-)

We’re down to eight.

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This is a photo from the back stairs this morning around 10ish. That blinding light is what I had to fight through to see an unknown critter run off with one our layers. You’ll notice that the coop is closed now. The remaining seven layers and their man are tucked in for the day. They were all dazed enough to let me put them back in.

I wish I could say I knew exactly what took them. I’m not sure. Any time an animal has come on to the property after the chickens the ladies have sounded the alarm when the critter is on the boundaries. Not today. Apparently, when they sounded the alarm whatever it was had sneaked from around the bulkhead (to the right side of this photo) and almost grabbed Beardie (so nicknamed because of her lovely beard). Apparently I scared it when I tried to open the door. Unfortunately I also scared Minski off the stair as well. She took to the air and before I knew what was happening, had been caught and carried down past the coop, out beyond the two smaller willows. I still couldn’t tell what had her. All I could do was watch until it snapped her neck and went off through the woods. I had to watch. I had to make sure whatever it was had been the only attacker.

The “chicks” as we still lovingly call them, had no idea what to do. The rooster was out front with the older girls, from the best I can tell. Our older ladies – who are definitely pets for us – have survived a raccoon chasing them, a dog attacking them in the back yard, and a fox charging over the tracks at them. They knew what to do. I hope these young girls catch on. They stood there and watched with me. They’ll miss Minski…we all will, but there’s a lesson for all of us in this.

Our little flock of layers are staying warm in the coop for today. I gave them all a thorough look over. Beadie’s missing a patch of feathers the size of the bottom of a coffee cup, but is already back to pecking me when I try to grab the eggs, so I think she’ll be fine.

In the three years that we’ve had chickens, this is the third bird we lost. The other two were last fall, and we’re not entirely sure what happened.

While it’s sad to see this happen, and I’m still trying to process it, I know that the first thing that came to mind was this: I cannot stop free ranging our flock. Even if we lost each and everyone this year to an attack, I feel allowing them to explore and get the best out of their lives is by far better than them living in a coop for their entire lives. (As far as runs go, I tend to think they’re more dangerous as the chickens have no where to go if a predator gets in. At least in this case – and in previous cases – they were able to run.)

Now it’s time to think and see if there is anything that we can do to help protect our flock better. A couple options….

1. A dog that barks. (Diamond, who hasn’t even been with us a year, slept through the whole thing. Even though she’s a rescue and we don’t know her past, I’d bet dollars to doughnuts she’s a city dog who’s used to noise and that’s why it didn’t phase her.)

2. A gander. (We can’t trust Diamond out by herself with the chickens even if she did bark. She likes to play with anything that moves and we’re working really hard with her not “death shake” toys.)

Any other ideas, PLEASE add in the comments!

Meat Birds – Take 2

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Last year we tried our luck at doing meat birds. Things didn’t go so well. We’re at it for take two. If things go well, we’ll be raising 24 birds for ourselves over the course of the season, along with birds of a few friends and family.

We’re currently attempting to find a butcher to use. Once we get the numbers for the cost of butchering, we’ll be able to figure out roughly the cost per bird. This will be a flat rate cost, not per pound. We’re hoping to have final details – including if this is definitely a go or not – and a limit to how many birds out homestead can take by the middle of March.

We can’t call these birds “organic” as the feed we’re using isn’t technically organic. But they will be FREE RANGE, NO HORMONES, HUMANELY treated animals.

Right now it looks like we’ll be going with Murray McMurray for our chicks as they have a great heavy birds assortment that includes Black Australorps; Lt. Brahmas; Dark Cornish; Black and White Giants; Buff and White Orpingtons; New Hampshire, Rhode Island Reds, Barred, White, Partridge, Buff Rocks; Sussex, Turkens; White, Silver Laced, & Columbian Wyandottes, Red Star and Black Stars. We could go with the Cornish X mixes, but the idea of raising an overly breed hybrid doesn’t really strike me as necessary.

If all goes well, we’ll be up to our ears in roasters for the winter!