We’ve got Egg Problems

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While homesteading can be a fun and rewarding experience, it like many other things comes with its challenges. Our most recent challenge (or should I say, mystery) is our chickens have ALL stopped laying eggs. With 10 chickens you would think we would get at least one egg a day! We are currently on our last dozen of eggs and I’m dreading paying $5, much less anything, for more eggs. My husband and I have been scratching our heads and hemming and hawing, trying to understand what could possible be happening. After ruling out a few theories we believe we have finally come to a conclusion. Unfortunately, it’s not a solution.

Our first guess as to why we weren’t getting any eggs was that something else might be getting to eggs first. We have already had issues with snakes and rats eating our eggs. The only difference this time is there is no evidence of any eggs ever being laid. The rats would normally try to eat the egg right out of the nesting box, leaving shell pieces and raw egg behind. The snake would typically leave some eggs behind and we found it was actually living inside the coop. This lead us to our next thought. Maybe they aren’t laying in their nesting boxes anymore. Several times we have found eggs hiding in the tall grass. We have ruled that one out by searching high and low with no luck. Unless the Easter Bunny is hoarding them.

Another possibility we thought, might be inadequate nutrition. Don’t worry, we aren’t neglecting or mistreating our chickens. We had recently decided to cut back on their grain feed to encourage them to forage for bugs and munch on plants. The space we have provided them is flush with weeds, wild flowers, and other plants. After much research, we found that pasture raised chickens are healthier and produce better, heartier eggs. It is possible that with our recent cutback it might have thrown them off. The only issue with this conclusion is we increased their grain to try to rule that. Obviously we haven’t seen any change.

Our last thought was that molting and a decrease in daylight may be the reason for our lack of eggs. Fall definitely came early this year and we started seeing more and more feathers on the ground. We thought for a while that the rooster and the male guinea might be picking on the girls, but we never saw any marks or blood on the chickens. A cold front came in about the same time we noticed we weren’t getting any eggs. There was rain for several days and very little sunlight. When chickens molt they are not able to lay eggs at the same time. Their bodies are restoring their plumage (feathers) and rejuvenating their reproductive systems. After the molting period is over the chickens should lay more productively. Unfortunately for us, the molting period lasts several weeks. I guess now it’s time to ask around for fresh eggs!

One thing I love about the homesteading life, is the opportunity to learn something new just outside your door. Between the chickens, goats, and the baby, we are constantly problem solving, trying to maintain a more simple and healthy lifestyle. I appreciate you taking the time to learn with us and I hope to see you again soon!

Malorie

Fun on the Homestead: A Visitor’s Paradise

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One of the biggest changes I have noticed after moving from city life to homesteading life is the attractions and activities we have to offer our friends and family that come to visit. Let me first mention that the main reason for everyone’s visits this year is to see my sweet baby girl, BUT the farm life is a bonus. In the city we worried about how to entertain. Where should we take them to eat? What big attractions should we visit? Should we go shopping or see a movie? Here it’s much easier. We come up with our own creative fun. After all, it literally takes less than 10 minutes to drive from one end of the town to the other. Here are some of the fun, simple activities we have for our guests here at the Harrod Homestead.

Animals

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The animals are the easiest form of entertainment here. We are already feeding them everyday so we might as well have a little fun with them! It can be as simple as collecting eggs and throwing scraps to the chickens and watching them chase each other around for one piece of crust. One of my favorite activities is taking the goats, dogs, cat (yes our cat), and baby for a long walk around the trail. There’s nothing cuter than seeing a parade of animals trot through the woods. Some of our visitors have never been around farm animals and some grew up with them, but its been years since they last stayed on a farm. One of the things I enjoy the most is hearing stories from years ago of how their parents raised animals and grew their own food.

Golf Carts and Lawn Mowers

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As soon as we found this property we invested in a golf cart so we could explore our property as often as we’d like, sweat and chigger free! We can take our guests through the woods, into the fields, and even for some off roading adventures. The kids enjoy driving the cart as well! We also recently purchased a riding lawnmower (a much needed investment). Not only is it a productive task, but for those that haven’t ever driven one, it can be an enjoyable activity as well!

Critters and Creatures

Although I am not a fan of any unwelcome critters creeping into my house, I love listening to them late at night while sitting on our porch or even spotting animals on our property. As soon as dusk hits in the spring and summer you can hear the thousands of frogs and toads start singing simultaneously. You can hear the coyotes calling to one another in the distance. And if you are really quiet while taking a night ride around the trail, you can hear the crunching of the leaves of some mysterious creature hiding behind the trees. No matter how many times I see a Little Blue Heron or a Black Racer snake, I am still fascinated by their existence. Being so close to nature all the time is one of the most beautiful things about living in the country. Our guests come to get away from all the hustle and bustle, but WE LIVE HERE. It still takes my breath away ever day.

Other Entertainment

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Here are a some other activities we have come up with:

  • Fishing
  • Feeding the goldfish
  • Shooting the BB gun. Most recently we shot at an old watermelon
  • Firecrackers. We also recently tried to blow up the watermelon… it failed
  • Build a fire and roast marshmallows
  • Canning!
  • Board games
  • Gardening
  • Pick blackberries (obviously this is a seasonal one)
  • Play chase with the goats
  • Egg toss. Although we try not to waste too many eggs, its ok to have a little fun with them sometimes
  • Catch a chicken. This is a tricky one
  • Corn Hole

 

One thing I love about living out here is you find your creative side. You are forced to look at things differently. While you could hop in the car and drive 45 minutes to the nearest mall, you’d much rather stay here and enjoy God’s beautiful creation. Thanks again for reading! Come back again next week!

Malorie

Don’t be such a chicken!

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I tell just about every person I know or meet, that EVERYONE should own chickens. Of course, most people brush it off, but if you realized how easy and beneficial it is to keep chickens, I bet you would be game! Trust me, I didn’t see it coming myself.

One gorgeous morning in Colorado Springs, Justin woke up and said “Hey! Do you want to go on an Urban Chicken Coop Tour?”. I said, “Uh, sure?” Justin is really good at coming up with random, fun adventures, and I’m typically down for whatever he has in mind. So that Saturday morning we got in the car and drove to the Take a Peak Coop Tour in Colorado Springs. At that point I had never even thought about people raising backyard chickens, much less wanting to own any myself. The tour was a blast and the people were incredibly helpful. It was really interesting getting to see how some people had very simple coops (one basically being  a small box with a lid to lay their eggs in), while others went all out! One person built their chicken coop by hand using mud. What?!

While visiting each home, we asked the same question to every owner. “What was the most surprising part about owning chickens and getting things started?” You know what their answers were? “Just how easy it is”. Yes! Every. Single. Person.  I thought it had to be some sort of conspiracy. I started doing a little more research and began to see that it really could be that simple!

Before I get ahead of myself, let’s go over some of the MANY benefits to owning chickens:

  • FRESH EGGS (Duh)
  • You know exactly where your eggs come from and how old they are.
    • Did you know that most supermarket eggs are a month old? Uh, no thanks.
  • Store-bought “Organic” and “Free Range/Cage Free” eggs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be (no pun intended)
    • I urge you to do some research on this. I chose not to provide links on this subject as it may be disturbing to some people. Let’s face it… I just started this blog. I wouldn’t want to scare anyone off yet 🙂
  • It’s a great learning experience for kids and adults alike!
  • It can be profitable or at the least, you will break even.
    • People love the idea of buying “farm fresh eggs”. If you have enough chickens you could provide eggs for all of your neighbors and then some!
  • It’s easy! Did I already mention that?

You might be reading this thinking, yea, that sounds great and all Malorie, but ain’t nobody got time for that! Trust me, you do! Here are the things chickens require:

  1. Shelter
  2. Water
  3. Food

That’s it! Easy! The beauty of it is, if you provide them with enough food and water at one time, you will only need to refill it once or twice a week. If that!

I would recommend starting with 3 or 4 chickens. That will provide you with plenty of eggs for your family and a few others. Justin and I started with 10 and I think we were being a little over zealous. Thankfully I worked at school during that time so we had plenty of customers!

So, if by now you are convinced that you simply MUST have chickens (which you should be, unless you hate eggs), the only thing that could be standing in your way are the zoning laws preventing you from keeping chickens (click here to find your zoning laws). There are a few ways to work around this:

  • Try to get the law changed (Here is a link about this process)
  • 4H Club- If you have children that are old enough to qualify for the 4H Club, you may be able obtain a waiver of sorts to keep chickens in your backyard for learning purposes. I don’t know the process for this, but I DO know it can be done.
  • If you feel comfortable enough with it, you can talk with your neighbors about the idea of having chickens, offer them fresh eggs, and if they approve, I say go for it!
    • Roosters are typically not allowed within city limits, but they are not necessary unless you are breeding your chickens. If you were concerned about the noise level, you can rest assure that hens are no louder than dogs. They typically only make loud noises when they lay their eggs once a day.

Well, that about wraps up today’s blog. Stay tuned for more tips on how to raise backyard chickens. Feel free to ask questions or make suggestions for future posts, especially those pertaining to chickens. Don’t forget to subscribe and  follow my blog to get updates on future posts! Thanks again for reading!

Malorie

 

 

Guinea-one know what a Guinea Fowl is?

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What on earth is a guinea fowl, and an even better question is why on earth do you have them? Guinea fowl are not among the most attractive animals on this planet, but they can serve a great purpose. One of the main perks to owning guinea fowl is pest control. Our property is the home to many, many, MANY ticks! Most of you know that ticks can carry diseases, such as Lyme disease. They also feed on the blood of humans and animals. I can’t stand those little things. After moving here we quickly realized how much of a problem they were. We have found them on our dogs, ourselves, the goats, and in our beds. After the third or fourth tick I found, I started looking for solutions. That’s when I came across guineas! We were already raising chickens so we had the housing and the food (not to mention the ticks) ready for them! Guineas feast on mostly insects, weed seeds, and plants. All of which we have plenty of! Organic farmers often keep guineas on their property to keep pests away from their gardens. It is recommended that you place guineas in an established garden, as they WILL eat the seeds and seedlings in your young garden.

Guineas are also good alarms for predators approaching their territory. When hawks, snakes, and other predators approach their area they will sound off their “alarm”. Believe you me, these little creatures are loud! If you don’t believe me, just Google it! These two reasons alone made it an easy decision for us to raise guinea fowl.

My husband and I purchased a male and a female in order to breed and raise our own flock. Our goal is to have some living in the area with the chickens and goats and then more living in the fields and woods surrounding our house. In early May the guinea hen started laying her eggs, and after laying about 20 some odd eggs she finally decided to sit. Well, unfortunately, this mama guinea is not a very good sitter. She was up and down frequently throughout the day and never sat long enough to allow her eggs to hatch. We were pretty bummed, but still determined to start a flock of our own. This lead us to buy an incubator. I am currently in the process of setting it up and maintaining the correct temperature for incubation. This process is completely new to me so bear with me!

To start, I purchased a still air incubator and egg turner similar to this one:
Little Giant Farm & Ag Miller Manufacturing 9200 Still Air Incubator

Next, I read ALL of the instructions and set it up exactly as they described. The next step will be to watch the temperature and humidity inside the incubator and then place my eggs! Then its just a waiting game. Eeeek!

Well folks, that’s all I have for you today! I hope this post was informative and gives you a better understanding what a guinea fowl is. Stay tuned and follow my blog for updates on the process of incubating and (hopefully) successfully hatching guinea keets (aka: baby guineas), as well as other fun events and ideas happening here at the “Harrod Homestead”.