Those crazy chickens

 

IMG_0018 I loooooove my chickens. I’m not personally attached to any, but I just love hearing them clucking, the silkie bantam rooster crowing, the guineas squawking when they see something unfamiliar, and drinking out of the alpaca’s water buckets. (The chickens have their own water fonts, but for some reason they like to hop up on the old tire that sits around the 5 gal. Tractor Supply buckets and swig away).

I was absolutely petrified about keeping them but then decided what have I got to lose (except maybe a few if I was a real klutz about it). I did my research to see what kinds I should have, and that went out the window when Ideal Poultry had a special on rare breed chickens package (all pullets). I love my rare breed chickens. I also love, love, love the Partridge Silkie bantams. They were a risk as they were straight runs (not sexed, you could end up with all males), but I was extremely lucky and had only one male. Of course you don’t know until they are full grown what you have.

I got a total of 30 (10 Silkies, 10 rare breed, 10 guineas). From zero to 30 is quite a leap but I wanted to have enough that if some did die I would have some left. I lost 3 after several weeks had gone by just because I think they were not thrifty. The others graduated into the coops just fine. Then, recently, with warm evenings, I was keeping the chicken hatch doors open on the coops and that’s when disaster struck. I found one guinea and one chicken dead on separate days (headless, the birds were apparently too big for the hunter to carry off). Then I started counting and found 4 of my Silkies missing (no scattered feathers, so I assume they were small enough the hunter could quickly snatch at night and carry off). Now I do close them up and everything has been fine.

We designed our own coops (very simple A-frames to economically utilize materials and enable good air flow from low venting up and out the top screened vent gables). If you would like more info on the design, let me know. If you need any support in getting started, I have some books and hints that can help you. You can contact me. The only thing is to first check your zoning laws if you are in the city limits, and also your homeowner assocation laws or property deed restrictions.

I advertised on LocalHarvest and got 2 regular egg customers that ends up paying for the feed which is just fine. I’m not looking to get rich, but if it helps pay for something it helps. I sell them for less than the store and one buyer has a co-worker who puts in an order and she takes to her. Local Harvest is the best place to advertise. Selling at farmer’s markets requires some paperwork and I am not quite ready to get out that early and sell yet. You can also find chickens to buy if you don’t want to go through the dependent chick stage. Get a chicken breed that fits you best; do some internet research. Ideal Poultry has a section on breeds descriptions. Give it a try and you will love it

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A Handmade Christmas: Success

We got a very nice thank you from my husband-the-architect’s boss and wife, who appreciated very much the “food basket” we gave them for Christmas.  We decided to be very observant of the economy and focus on gifting from local suppliers. 

We found (accidentally stumbled upon) a little country store in Farmersville, TX,  that actually has rented  space in a storage facility. The facility is not fenced so it is easy to enter, and their space faces out to the fairly busy Highway 78.  They have made nice signs and the big roll-up door is open all the way where they have set up simple tables and shelves inside to display the  many wares.  They have a commercial refrigerator like the stores, with clear doors and have some fresh produce and milk,locally supplied  eggs,  etc., to choose from.  But mostly it is jams, jellies,  honey, salsas, nuts,  that is supplied from area farmers, and fruits like oranges and apples that are much larger and nicer than the stores. 

We endorsed and supported our area farmers this Christmas with our purchases.  Then to get such raving appreciation was a good feeling.   Plus, they like the products so much they are going to get some products by the case to gift to their friends.  How about that?  You never know how one action will affect someone, and in this case, it was several people: the boss and their friends, the store, and the farmers.

We packaged up the products in a very nice sturdy basket with a strong handle to adequately support all the jars. The baskets were unused in our attic, so we recycled them. I made some very nice hanging kitchen handtowels 

My handmade Christmas themed hanging kitchen towel

My handmade Christmas themed hanging kitchen towel

 to include in the gift as a cover over all, kind of like Little Red Riding Hood’s basket of goodies for grandma.

It was nice of them to let us know how much they loved the gift and we will be sure to do more of the same gifting in the future. 

Be sure to look up products for sale in your area under Local Harvest, the link is in the left column.  When inside, enter your zip or city,state, etc. You can see all the products categorized and sign up for regular updates too.

An Alpaca Spirit Ranch Christmas

Well, today is winding down and finds all of our animals healthy and happy.  They all look forward to their evening meal of pellet feed and fresh hay.  They see me coming towards the barn near dusk and start racing through the barn and around the pastures.  I honestly don’t know what keeps them from running into each other or stumbling over the uneven surfaces.  They delight in this race  and the girls pasture is neck and neck with the boys racing in their pasture and through their side of the  barn.  Today was in the 60’s and with some brief sunshine until the clouds rolled in this afternoon.  Some drizzle and maybe light rain tomorrow, Friday and off and on through the weekend.

The chickens delighted in the really nice weather today and were all over the pastures.  I am not sure what they were able to find to eat, but they were sure busy trying to find something good.  They are such fun to watch scampering around. 

I think I may let some of the broody hens raise some chicks in the spring when it is warmer and sell them.  I did look into selling eggs at the local Farmer’s Market and I must get a permit from the city to do so. I will have that in place when the market starts up again in the spring.  I am looking into some other items to make and sell at the market.

Have a nice holiday and a Happy New Year.   Get some tax breaks by purchasing an alpaca by the end of this year.  You don’t have to have a place for him; he can be boarded.  Check with your tax adviser and visit a nearby alpaca ranch before the end of the year to find an alpaca or two to own.

Farmer’s markets become more popular

I’ve mentioned before in previous blogs about sites like LocalHarvest ,http://www.localharvest.org/, that can be researched online to find a farm near you selling goods you may want to buy. Take a look and see all the kinds of things offered. Some places ship goods, or you can search by zipcode for a farm or market near you.  The usual things like milk, eggs, beef, lamb, chicken, or the unusual like honey and lavendar are waiting to be enjoyed.  The economy and uncertainty of where some of our food comes from makes it even more necessary to see what is homegrown in your state or nearby town. 

Sign up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) offered by a farm near you.  For a small fee they will sign you up as a customer; once they fill their quota of customers they will close the sign up for the year or season.  They have to make sure they have enough goods for their customers so they won’t have so many they can’t fill orders. 

Right now people are ordering their holiday turkeys.  See where the nearest pumpkin farm is.  Who is marketing fall vegetables.  Need compost?  Look no further.  How about handmade soaps or fragrances?  The list of services is endless.  Some take their products to a weekly farmer’s market.  The popularity of farmer’s markets means you should find one near you most weekends.   Take a look and enjoy food and goods from your community.