A Fire What ?

Yep…it’s our Fire Pit Yardscape!!!  We have finally started our fire pit area!!!  We purchased our fire pit last fall and have been planning our “pit  area” for a long time now!!  This is only the beginning!

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Not too long ago there sat an old worn out shed on this spot.  When we found an awesome lady that wanted the old shed – for a chicken coop no less – she came to our place and my hubby helped her take down the shed, loaded it on her trailer, and waved bye bye to them both.

shed spot

We were left with a 10’ x 10’ area that was nothing but dirt.  Then a  light bulb went off!  We had been planning for our fire pit area to be on our concrete patio, but this area would be so perfect!!!

Hubby and I moved the fire pit over to the “sandlot” and it looked so pitiful there all by itself.  We needed seating and had thought about building benches or getting some cool looking lawn chairs…but then, my daughter and son-in-law had a HUGE tree cut down in their front yard!!  Another light bulb exploded in my head – STUMPS !

fire pit

So, here is the beginning of our Fire Pit Yardscape! We are going to get four more tree stumps from my daughter soon.   I will be moving my outdoor chandelier to this area and also adding solar lighting on the ground and eventually some lighting on poles around the pit.  This is going to be awesome for hanging out with friends, roasting marshmallows with the grandkids, and just enjoying an evening fire with my hubby.

Now…if we can just get all of that done before cooler weather we’ll be OK!

Cleaning the Coop Naturally

 

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Since we are new to chicken “farming”, we wanted to incorporate our love of essential oils in our poultry care! We knew that Lemon Essential Oil is awesome for its cleaning properties and it is all natural, so we decided to use it to deodorize our chicken coop!

This spray works great, is safe for our chickens, and best of all it is  100% chemical free!

  • Using a 16 ounce spray bottle – glass is best – fill 1/2 way with white vinegar
  • add 25 drops of Lemon Essential Oil – you can buy it here – swirling the bottle to mix
  • Fill the rest of the bottle with water

We clean our nesting boxes, roosting bars, and for general coop clean up !

*If you would like more information on how to get your hands on essential oils or how to use them, you can contact me here !

I’m so thankful…and surprised!

blogger recognition

I can’t believe I was nominated for the Blogger Recognition Reward

by the **awesome** LowcountryHippie!

Thank you !!!!  

You have been my #1 fan since my first post!  I appreciate that!

 

How was this blog born?

When we got our chickens there was soooo much to learn and so our blog was born!  As we learned, I wanted to pass those “chicken tips” along to other newbies!  Since we have become more natural and are attempting to be self-sustainable, naturally healthy, and cleaning our home and coop with chemical free homemade cleaners, I thought a blog incorporating all of these would be a great way for me to keep track of everything!  I’m no spring chicken (pun intended) and my memory fails me most days, so having a place to go to document our recipes, DIY projects, etc. sounded like a great idea.   So our “brand” is homesteading, essential oil using, healthy (most times) eating, chicken loving old folks living!  Oh, and DIY stuff too!

For the new bloggers – a tip or two.

Hmmmm…..first, don’t stress about posting!  Pick one or two days a week that you will post and do that until you feel you have the time/topics to post more.

Secondly, have tons of topics listed and a bunch of posts written and ready to post when you start!  I didn’t. So I stressed.  Until I realized this isn’t a job…it’s for fun!

I have a full time job so I knew I couldn’t post each day so I started with my Fun Fact Friday series.  Take it slow unless you are completely ready to dive in!

I’m nominating these blogs…

Hot Mess Homesteading – we have like interests and I love reading about the goats, that’s something we want to add to our “urban farm” when we purchase our own property!

I also LOVE Three Story Homestead !!!!  Again, right up my alley!  Such an informative and beautiful blog!  Thanks for all you Share!

For those nominated, here are the rules for this award.  Keep the love going!

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Write a post to show your award.
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  5. Select (up to 15) other bloggers for this award.
  6. Comment on each blog to let them know you nominated them and provide a link to the post you created.

 

Happy Blogging everyone and Thanks to my faithful readers!

 

Fun Fact Friday – “Are there any common chicken practices that you believe to be harmful or just less-than-ideal? Certain coop setups, feed, nesting materials, etc.”

This week’s read question is “Are there any common chicken practices that you believe to be harmful or just less-than-ideal? Certain coop setups, feed, nesting materials, etc.”

As far as “chicken practices”, I am only assuming that the reader means commercial practices in hatcheries and chicken processing plants.  Since we are small backyard chicken parents, I will be the first to admit that I know nothing about the practices in commercial facilities, so I really can’t speak to that.  I have seen articles on Facebook about overcrowding, feeding them steroids for bigger chickens (meaning bigger chicken pieces to sell to consumers), etc. and I don’t agree with any of those things at all! I realize that we eat these little guys and gals and that we, as consumers, contribute to the demand for chicken to eat, but I believe there are farms that are more caring and I am going to make it a point to find some local organic chicken farms to purchase my chickens for eating!  Thanks for that question, it has really made me more aware of what I am eating and where and how the chickens were raised!

Now, coop setup.  This totally depends on how much room and money you have!  Just my opinion.  We have 2 chain link fence dog kennels configured into a 10’x30’ are for our chickens.

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PICTURE HERE

 

We live in a neighborhood, so they can’t free range all over the place, but we do let them in our fences in back yard to semi free range in the evenings while we are outside cleaning coops, tending to the plants, and letting our little dog Mike run around.

 

Ideally, when we have our own property, I plan to purchase a small, pre-built shed to turn into a “chicken house” with a large totally enclosed run for them with a door in the shed to go in and out.  To me, this is the ideal coop set up!  With a walk in door in the shed it makes it much easier to clean, gather eggs, and I will use the front end of the shed to store feed/cleaning items.  Sort of like these (on a smaller scale)…

Photos found on Pinterest

 

Some coop/bedding choices are:

  • Straw and Hay – a very popular choice, soft for the hens and eggs, inexpensive, and durable.
  • Pine Shavings – readily available and very affordable, this is what we use. They dry very quickly, and can be scooped out easily.  They are also great for the compost pile after cleaning out the coop!
  • Cedar Shavings – they work much like pine shavings, except for the scent and chickens respiratory systems. There are differing opinions on whether cedar is safe for chickens,  therefore, not an option for us.
  • Sand – a great choice as nesting box bedding if you are committed to spend time sifting it! I have a cat and I detest the litter box, so this is not an option for me as we have to sift litter inside already!  As a ground layer for the outside run, I would LOVE to have sand, when we own the property where our chickens live 😉   It dries super fast and the hens would love it for dust bathing!
  • Grass Clippings – they could be free but clippings tend to stay more moist. This will make them smell more.  Also, if you don’t know where the clippings came from, they may be full of pesticides or chemicals!  The chickens will pick at it and that could be dangerous!
  • Recycled Paper – again, not a favorite option of mine since there is ink in the paper and can also be slippery when wet. The main drawback is that when a hen lays, the egg is wet and the paper will stick and dry to the egg!

For the Nest Box – pine shavings are our choice.  One nesting box for 3-4 chickens is ideal.

Some ideas for nesting boxes are:

  • Covered or uncovered cat litter boxes
  • Pet carriers (you can find these at yard sales or thrift stores)
  • 5-gallon buckets obtained from restaurants or other sources, on its side
  • Plastic dish tubs
  • Plastic milk and soda crates
  • Wooden crate (harder to clean than plastic)
  • Old drawers from a dresser or desk
  • Plastic storage tub – cut a hole in the lid and lay on its side

Chicken Feed:  totally a personal choice as to what you think is best for your flock.  We chose Nutrena Layer Feed from Tractor Supply.  It has all the nutrients and egg hardening properties for “adult” (over 16 weeks) hen!   We do have 2 that are just under 16 weeks and have also been eating this feed.  I’m thinking now I should go buy this. I just realized they are NOT 16 weeks old yet  – still a few weeks to go!  We tried the pellets first, but our flock seems to like the crumbles better!

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So, I think this week’s Fun Fact Friday is a wrap!  I hope I answered the questions of “Are there any common chicken practices that you believe to be harmful or just less-than-ideal? Certain coop setups, feed, nesting materials, etc.”!!

Next Friday we will be looking into our final reader question…”What would be your number one tip for new chicken owners?” – please come back next week and join us!

 

 

Fun Fact Friday – Do you ever sell chicks or eggs? Is that regulated at all?

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Our next reader question is – Do you ever sell chicks or eggs? Is that regulated at all?   Great questions!!

We don’t raise chickens, so as far as selling chicks, I had to research that and here  is the North Carolina Statutes on Chick Dealers and Hatcheries.  I learned a lot reading through this…thank goodness we never intended, nor had a desire, to hatch or sell chicks!

So, yes, there are laws governing selling chicks and hatching eggs (eggs that have been fertilized and are being sold for hatching purposes).

Selling eggs for eating (unfertilized eggs) we do!  North Carolina law – the “Egg Law” – can be found here.  The short version of the Egg Law is “a producer marketing eggs of his own production shall be exempt from this section when such marketing occurs on the premises where the eggs are produced, processed, or when ungraded sales do not exceed 30 dozen per week.”

Our Oily Homestead Eggs

 

The way I read that is that if a farm sell eggs that their chickens lay and the sale takes place on the property where the eggs were laid, they are exempt from the grading of eggs, or if they sell less than 30 dozen ungraded eggs a week (that’s a bunch of chickens y’all  – 360 eggs a week – that would be a max of 360 hens!!!)  Also, containers must have the word “Eggs” on the container along with the farm’s name.  We purchase our egg cartons at our local Tractor Supply Store.

We sell eggs to our friends that know the value of fresh eggs!  We only do this when we have an abundance of eggs – our main reason for having our hens is so that we are more self-sustainable – but when we have more than we will eat, we sell a dozen or two!

eggs2

 

That’s pretty much it in an “eggshell” – NC laws for selling chicks and eggs – at least that is what my research turned up!

Fun Fact Friday next week will tackle the question – “Are there any common chicken practices that you believe to be harmful or just less-than-ideal? Certain coop setups, feed, nesting materials, etc.”

See you next week !

15 Egg Facts You May Not Know

 

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Fry them, poach them, boil or bake them – any way you crack them, eggs are delicious. As much as we rely on them for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and dessert, of course!), there are many interesting facts about eggs that aren’t common knowledge. Enjoy some of these lesser-known tidbits:

1. Chef hats traditionally have pleats equal to the number of ways that you can cook an egg.

2.  Harriet, a hen from the United Kingdom, laid the world’s largest egg in 2010. Her astonishing egg measured 9.1 inches in diameter.

3.  It takes a hen between 24 and 26 hours to develop an egg. Once she lays an egg, the development of a new egg normally starts within 30 minutes.

4.  Chickens don’t produce one egg at a time. Instead, producing hens normally have several eggs in various stages of development.

5.  Eggshell colors have nothing to do with flavor or nutritional value of the egg. Brown, white and even blue and green egg shells are simply indicative of the breed of hen.

6.  The hen’s diet determines the color of the yolk. Some producers feed natural supplements like marigold petals so that their hens lay eggs with brighter yolks.

7.  There are several reasons why we eat chicken eggs instead of duck or turkey eggs. Chickens lay more eggs, they need less nesting space and they don’t have the strong mothering instincts of turkeys and ducks, which makes egg collection easier.

8. White eggs are more popular among commercial producers because chickens that lay white eggs tend to be smaller than their brown egg-laying cousins, therefore needing less food to produce the same number of eggs.

9.  Most of today’s egg-laying hens are White Leghorns (white eggs) or Rhode Island Reds and Barred Plymouth Rocks (brown eggs).

10.  Not all chickens create eggs equally. Some breeds lay eggs almost every day. Other breeds lay eggs every other day or once to twice per week.

11.  When it comes to the number of eggs laid each year, Iowa leads the nation with more than 14.8 billion eggs produced annually. Ohio is the next state in line, producing 7.9 billion eggs each year.

12.  Eating raw eggs won’t help you build muscle. Only 51% of the proteins in raw eggs are digestible, while 91% of the proteins in cooked eggs are digestible.

13.  Can’t tell if that egg in the refrigerator is raw or hardboiled? Try spinning it! Raw eggs wobble as the liquid inside shifts, but hardboiled eggs spin smoothly.

14.  Because older eggs have larger air cells, they’re much easier to peel than fresh eggs.

15.  Cloudy egg whites mean that the eggs are extremely fresh, while clear egg whites are an indicator of older eggs. Cloudiness of raw white is due to the natural presence of carbon dioxide that has not had time to escape through the shell and is an indication of a very fresh egg. As an egg ages, the carbon dioxide escapes and the white becomes more transparent. Other colors in the egg white may be a sign of spoilage, so if it’s not cloudy-white or clear, don’t eat it!

Reposted from –  http://farmersalmanac.com/blog/2015/05/04/15-egg-facts-you-may-not-know/

Fun Fact Friday – “Chicken Regulations”

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Our next reader question is… “Are there regulations in your area for how many you can own in proportion to the size of the property you own?”

Yes, there are regulations for those that live inside the city limits of Goldsboro, NC.  The restrictions are as follows:

“The chickens must be kept in a well-ventilated enclosure large enough to give 10 square feet of space for each chicken and at least 15 feet from all property lines and roosters are not permitted unless the property is a bona fide farm or at least 200 yards away from any dwelling, hospital, school, church or eating establishment.”

Source:  Goldsboro News Argus (http://www.newsargus.com/news/archives/2012/10/21/chickens_allowed_within_city_limits/ )

Residents that live outside the city limits (that’s us!) but inside Wayne County (the county we reside in), have no restrictions other than moral/neighborly ones!   We {thankfully} live in the county, we do not own our land, we rent the land our mobile home in on, but since we are not in the city limits, we have no restrictions.  We do, however, consider our neighbors and do not have any roosters – we like our neighbors and don’t want to infringe on their peace and quiet…and we don’t want chicks !!!

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Because our chickens are more like pets that feed us breakfast, we also follow the recommended guidelines for the amount of space that a chicken needs individually – at least 10 square feet per chicken.  Since we have 12 hens, we would need 120 square feet of space for them, and we provide them with 300 square feet of run space – along with daily “yard time” with us and our dog, Mike.

mike and chickens2

So there you have it…the “chicken rules” for our neck of the woods ! Very simple regulations, but they were very difficult to find!  I called our animal control department, searched the web and the only thing I came up with was the news article!

Next week we will be covering selling chicks and/or eggs !!! Stay tuned !

Just for giggles….here are  a few fun facts for this Friday –

  • A female chicken is a “pullet” until she is old enough to lay eggs, when she becomes a “hen”
  • Male chickens are called “roosters”
  • Most eggs are laid between 9 and 11 am
  • You can tell if an egg is fresh or stale by dropping it in water…fresh ones will sink
  • Chickens have full-color vision
  • Chickens establish a “pecking order” in social situations
  • Chickens can run at a speed of 9 mph {I’ve seen ours run…and this is TRUE!}

Our Oily Homestead Chicken Enchiladas

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My awesome hubby, David, is the cook at our place – I LOVE to cook breakfast, but that’s it!  He is very creative in the kitchen and makes the BEST everything 😉  This was an awesome recipe so I had to share his creation with you !  No, it’s not extremely healthy, but ya just gotta enjoy eating now and then! We try to keep it healthy most of the time, but there are exceptions now and then – and this was one of them.

Here is the recipe as he remembers it:

Ingredients:

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp bacon drippings (optional – may substitute with additional tbsp of butter)

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 – 3 cloves of garlic, minced

½ of sweet pepper (red, orange, or yellow), finely chopped

1 tsp dried oregano

2 tbsp chili powder

2 tsp cumin

4 thin Organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and coarsely chopped or shredded

1 can diced tomatoes and green chiles (10 oz)

1 can of diced green chiles (4 oz)

1 – 2 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro (from our herb garden!)

Salt to taste

7 oz bag of  shredded Mexican blend cheese

8 – 10 flour tortillas (fajita size)

4 oz shredded sharp cheddar

Directions:

In a large skillet, heat butter and bacon drippings on medium-high. Add onion, garlic, and sweet pepper. Sauté until tender. Add half of the oregano, chili powder, and cumin. Stir until spices are well mixed.  Add chicken, tomatoes, green chiles, cilantro, and salt. Stir and let heat for 1 – 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add remaining oregano, chili powder, and cumin,  and stir well. Continue heating for a couple more minutes, then remove from heat. Let stand for five minutes.

In the meantime, get a large plate, tortillas, and a 13 x 9 baking dish ready (we LOVE our Pampered Chef 13×9 baking dish – our is not the pretty enamel one though!).  Add a little more than half of the Mexican blend cheese to the chicken mixture and mix well.

Carefully drain as much of the liquid from the chicken mixture into the 13 x 9 baking dish (enough to lightly cover the bottom of the dish. This will help to prevent the tortillas from sticking).

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Place one flour tortilla on the plate. With a large slotted spoon, take enough chicken mixture from skillet and spread out across the middle of the tortilla in an even line*. Bring the bottom of the tortilla up toward the middle and carefully roll it up. Place enchilada seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat for all tortillas or until chicken mixture has all been used.

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Pour any excess liquid remaining in the skillet from chicken mixture over the enchiladas.   If any chicken mixture is left over (not enough for a whole enchilada), then spread it over the enchiladas as well.  Cover enchiladas with remaining Mexican blend cheese, followed by the sharp cheddar.

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Cover dish with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 for 25 – 30 minutes, or until cheese is completely melted and liquid is bubbling hot. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes.

*when scooping chicken mixture, drain excess liquid, reserve in skillet.

And there you have it…the recipe for deliciousness!  I hope that you enjoy it as much as we did!  If you try it, let us know what you think!

Fun Fact Friday – How many chickens do you need?

The first reader question we got was “How did you decide how many chickens you need? I mean how many would fit?”

That’s a GREAT question !  One that is very important to decide from the start!

In our research, of both the internet and local “chicken parent” friends, we determined that 6 hens would be a good number for us to start out our backyard flock.  Based on averages for our area, a good laying breed, such as the White Leghorn, will lay 5-6 eggs per week – if they are overachievers you may even get an egg every day from them !  Rhode Island Reds are also good layers we hear.

Since our family consists of my awesome hubby and me, we decided on 6 hens to start off so we’d hopefully get a couple dozen eggs each week.  We both love eggs and eat them daily!  We did get 3 hens before we really researched well, and luckily those 3 (a Delaware – named Della – and 2 Welsummers – Brownie and Broody) are great layers too and we wanted some brown eggs along with the white ones from the Leghorns (all named “Holly Hen” since we got them from our friend Holly)!!!  No, we are not very original with our chicken names, don’t judge! 🙂

So, from our 6 ladies we usually get 4-6 eggs a day…those leghorns really ARE great layers – which gives us an average of about 3 dozen per week.

We have recently added 6 Ameraucana pullets, but they are only 2 months old now and have not yet been incorporated into our little flock yet.  They will lay blue/green eggs when they do start producing, one of the reasons that we got them – and they were hand raised by our good friends, Hannah and her son Jacob, at Humble Hollow Farm.

mike and chickens

We decided on the extra hens for several reasons – the first one being that we are addicted to our chickens and wanted more!!!  Seriously, we LOVE have chickens in our backyard – even our little dog Mike likes the hens!  When we let them out of the run to free range a little during the day, he loves to lay and watch them too !  Another reason is that we have family and friends that love fresh eggs, so we wanted to be able to give some to family and sell some too (which is another question we will be answering in our series on Fun Fact Fridays – “do you ever sell chicks or eggs and are there any regulations”.

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That’s our dog Mike with the chickens…he thinks he is a black and white rooster!                          He loves the hens!

So, the short answer to the question of  “How did you decide how many chickens you need? I mean how many would fit?” is that we wanted about 3 dozen eggs a week so we chose 6 hens to make sure we got the amount we wanted.

The answer to the second part of that question is this:  we purchased our coop/run after we decided on 6 hens and bought/built according to the size appropriate for 6 hens.  Our first coop (we bought a second one for the 6 new pullets) will hold 6-8 hens at night and has 4 nesting boxes (you really only need about 2 for 6 hens as they share nesting boxes very well!). We also expanded our “run” to accommodate 12 hens to 300 square feet.

Chickens need approximately 4 square feet of coop space (nighttime roosting and egg laying) and 10 square feet of run space per chicken.  Of course the more room you can give them, the happier they will be and happy hens = good laying hens!

I hope that answered the question well….hubby and I really enjoy learning more about our chickens, so these questions have been alot of fun !!!!  Keep asking and we will be back next Friday for another Fun Fact Friday!

hubby and Blanche

Fun Fact Friday is coming!

Fun Fact FridayWe are doing a series on “chicken questions” – things that some readers wanted to know! Although we are in no way chicken experts, quite the contrary, we are learning as we go! These questions are helping us also.

Here is a list of the questions we have been asked so far…we will be answering the first one on “Fun Fact Friday”!  Each Friday during our series we will learn some fun facts – the first series will be facts about chickens with these questions from our readers !

  • How did you decide how many chickens you need? I mean how many would fit?
  • Are there regulations in your area for how many you can own in proportion to the size of the property you own?
  • Do you ever sell chicks or eggs? Is that regulated at all?
  • Are there any common chicken practices that you believe to be harmful or just less-than-ideal? Certain coop setups, feed, nesting materials, etc.
  • What would be your number one tip for new chicken owners?

So stay tuned for this Friday when we tackle the first question…how we determined the number of chickens we thought was appropriate for our little urban homestead!

See you Friday!