Friday, August 22, 2014

Supervised Free Range Chickens

After talking to some knowledgeable friends, I have decided to try letting the girls out on supervised free range expeditions. I hope this cuts down on my feed bill. Even if it doesn't, I bet the chickens will be happier and healthier.

Let me tell you, they love it! At first they just milled about the coop entrance, but as soon as the first adventurous hen decided to to try out her wings, they were all over the yard in minutes. When it was time to go up for the night 14 of 16 went straight to the coop and put themselves up. We only had to corral 2 of them. They probably would have figured it out eventually.

I am a little worried about the dog chasing them and some of them flying over the 4 foot fence. I had the puppy on the tie out for this trial run. They came right up to him and he just looked at them. But, when they run from him, his instincts to herd take over and he chases. It may be a while before I trust him around them off the tie out.

Our whole back yard is fenced with two large oaks and a few evergreens to give them shade and hiding spots. My other concern is hawks. I will only let them out when I can be in the back yard to watch over them. Supposedly the peahen is a good guardian. If she see hawks she will fluff up her feathers and dance around to ward them away. I have not witnessed this behavior yet, lets hope it is true.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Finally! We now have eggs! Only two of our hens are laying so far. None of the Araucana's are laying yet, we are just getting brown eggs so far. Can't wait to get some blue / green eggs!

How much do you pay for local farm fresh eggs? I paid about $800 for these two. Once the flock really starts laying, they will eventually recoup their cost and make us a profit. We already have a bunch of co-workers who are interested in buying eggs from us. Do you keep chickens? How much did your first egg cost you?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Getting Ready For Eggs!

Dara and Higgs are putting fake ceramic eggs in the nest boxes. The chickens will see these and know where to lay the real eggs.

These fake eggs look very real. Every time I open the nest boxes, I get excited until I realize these eggs are ceramic.

Some people use golf balls or plastic Easter eggs. I saw these ceramic eggs at the local Ag store and couldn't resist. If you have chickens, what do you use? How long after your chickens started laying did you leave the fake eggs in? Leave a comment and let me know.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Chicken Update

The chickens are pretty much full grown now. They are all healthy, happy ladies.

For some reason they always peck at my water boots when I go in the chicken tractor. Speaking of which, it is taking me much longer than I thought to write my blog post on building the chicken tractor. Look for it soon.

They don't seem to mind the puppy. He is more interested in eating their poop when I move the tractor than the birds.

The chickens love the dust bath I made for them. I have to keep filling it back up because they throw out the sand and peat every time they go in it.

Here is a sneak peek of the chicken tractor. I have a very detailed post coming soon on how you build one and how I really messed up!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Low Maintenance Perennials

I really wish I had more time to work around the homestead. There are so many things I need to get done and not enough hours in the day. Here are a few things I have planted that don't take a lot of maintenance.

Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is so easy to grow. I mean it is almost effortless. The only catch is you have to let it establish a good root system before you can harvest from it. Most recommendations are to let it grow for 2-3 seasons before you harvest. I let ours go for three springs before I harvested. This plot has 10 crowns that I planted 4 years ago. I have 20 more crowns I just got in the mail. I need to find two more good spots, away from this one, so pests have a harder time moving around. Asparagus will produce for 30 years or so. Make sure you get yours in this year.

This is a Chicago Fig (Ficus carica). It is supposedly hardy to zone 5. I had another "cold hardy" fig that I lost over the harsh winter we just went through. I am pretty sure we just had a zone 5 winter. I hope this fig will do better than the one I lost.

Another plant and forget perennial is the Filbert (Corylus americana) or American Hazelnut. Pictured behind our puppy who was behaving in a rare moment of calm. I have 12 planted in the back yard and another hedge of 10 planted in the front yard. The trick is to get to the nuts before the critters do.

People tell me it is hard to grow blueberries (Vaccinium Cyanococcus) in a backyard setting. I say, look at this. Now, I do have a couple blueberries that are not producing as prolifically as this one, I just think it is a matter of finding the right variety that works well in your climate. Again the trick is to get to the fruit before the critters do.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Strawberries, Snakes And Puppies

In the words of the great George Takei; Oh my...

Our strawberries are going crazy this year. I have eaten a bunch out of hand and Dara has collected a couple bowls like this so far. There are still hundreds of strawberries that will be ripe in the next couple days. Plus, I just bought 75 more strawberry plants.

This is the Common Northern Water Snake or Nerodia sipedon. This guy was crossing my neighbors driveway, probably going to his backyard pond. It is non-venomous and will leave you alone if you leave it alone. Not all water snakes are poisonous. One easy way to tell them apart is; the heads of venomous water snakes are broad and distinctively larger than their neck. Also, venomous water snakes have vertical pupils, non-venomous water snakes have round pupils.

This is the Common Southwest Ohio Lake Pup. You can distinguish it from other species by its bright orange doggy life-vest, complete with carry handle.

Higgs only tried to jump into the lake a few times. We can't wait to take him backpacking!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Animal Rescue Experience

Let me just start off by saying, I am happy there are animal rescues. I'm happy there are people out there who devote their time protecting animals that can't easily survive without human accompaniment. I only wish they understood these animals better and could match the specific dogs' needs with the human applicants' needs to maximize the happiness of both (this statement is based solely on the experience I had with a select few rescues/shelters).

Before we got Higgs I did a lot of research to determine the best dog for us. Here is our list of needs:
• Medium sized
• Moderate energy
• Good with livestock (a puppy that we can raise with chickens)
• Double coat for cold winters
• Guardian
• Hiking companion and possibly a water dog

Initially, we planned to keep our dogs as outside only dogs. The plan was, at any given time we'd have 2–3 dogs in the yard. They would have an insulated doghouse and access to the entire backyard. I see no problem with this at all. They would have the companionship of their dog pack and then be with us in the evening and weekends for yard work, livestock care, hiking... They would have everything they need: leaders, a dog pack, shelter, and purpose.

I was denied by the first shelter I applied to because of this. Because these dogs "might be working breeds but they belong in the house with people".  I'm sorry, what?! I decided if we were going to adopt a rescue we'd have to put in a doggie door. I applied to another rescue stating that we would have the doggie door for the dogs and they would have access to the kitchen at all times as well as an outdoor doghouse. I was questioned profusely again. I was questioned over why they had a doghouse and a doggie door. First, we already built it and second... I'm pretty sure a double coated dog might actually enjoy the winter and prefer being outside. This time they stated the rejection was because we were out of state and they have problems with out of state adoptions when dogs need to be returned. I think there was more to it than that.

The overall experience has been annoying. I felt bad for wanting outdoor dogs... which is silly. Why can't a farm dog be happy? Why can't he also be a companion?

Instead of adopting a puppy from a rescue or shelter, I began to think I'd have to buy a puppy. Which would be fine, it's just, why increase demand for breeding when there are so many dogs without homes?

Fortunately, I heard of a family with a litter of pups they were trying to find homes for. I am so grateful to this family, and also to my friend, Jannelle, who connected us. Higgs is an amazing animal. I planned on having two puppies this summer but Higgs' sister died very young, before we even got Higgs, so I'm still looking for another pup. I think I am done dealing with rescues, however. I feel like I'm being interrogated, I have to agree to random drop-ins by volunteers, and I've found it can take weeks for a representative to contact me. I don't like feeling like a bad person for trying to do something good. This has just been my experience with a few rescues. Maybe I just had bad luck. And, for the record, I did correspond with a couple that I had no real problems with, except for the volunteers stating that if I planned on keeping a dog outside all the time I'd be denied.

If any of our readers have a litter, or you have a friend or even a friend of a friend with a litter, please let us know. We're still looking and I promise to give that pup a good home (indoor and outdoor).